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On March 4, 1898 the United States Naval Court of Inquiry continues into the Feb. 15, 1898 sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Cuba harbor which was at that time a part of the Spanish Empire along with Puerto Rico, the Philippines Islands, Guam, and other islands.

"...On March 28, 1898, the United States Naval Court of Inquiry found that the Maine was destroyed by a submerged mine. Although blame was never formally placed on the Spanish, implication [by the U.S.] was clear.

Recent research suggests that the explosion may have been an accident, involving a spontaneous combustion fire in the coal bunker. Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested that sensational journalist William Randolph Hearst may have set the explosion in order to precipitate a war. While historians will never know exactly what happened the night the Maine went down, it is clear that the incident was a significant force that propelled the United States into the Spanish-American War..."

What ever the case the United States used the Maine as an excuse to formally declare war on Spain on April 25, 1898.
 

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1895 Winchester-Lee rifles. There's a SN list somewhere to ID which ones were recovered from the Maine's arsenal when they re-floated her. Sold by Bannerman's back in the day if I remember correctly. About 50 in all. You see them come up for sale now and again.
 

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Well-done, Gents. Always learning from these threads!
Yes!

I had in my mind that fairly recent dives on the wreck of the Maine led to the conclusion that the ship expired via coal fire/ammo bunker. This thread made me look it up - the cause is certainly not settled science.
 

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Amazing cofferdam recovery. Crazy logistics back then.
I would like to learn of the timeline of events. Some reading to be had.
Seems the weapons were salvaged way before the rest of the ship.
They recovered the sailor's remains and sent them home.
 

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Amazing cofferdam recovery. Crazy logistics back then.
I would like to learn of the timeline of events. Some reading to be had.
Seems the weapons were salvaged way before the rest of the ship.
They recovered the sailor's remains and sent them home.
National Geographic had a great write up at the time along with amazing photos

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Mast of The Maine at Arlington.
The USS Maine Memorial overlooks the remains of those who died when the ship exploded off the coast of Havana, Cuba on February 15, 1898. As Cubans were fighting for independence from Spanish colonial rule, President William McKinley ordered the Maine to Cuba to protect U.S. political and economic interests on the nearby island. On the night of February 15, an explosion in Havana Harbor tore through the ship's hull, killing more than 260 sailors on board. One hundred and two members of the crew survived.


Historians are still unsure what caused the Maine's explosion, but popular sentiment at the time, encouraged by sensational journalism, blamed the disaster on the Spanish. Fueled by public outrage over the Maine's destruction, as well as concern for the Cuban rebels and opposition to European colonization of the Americas, on April 25, 1898, the United States declared war against Spain. "Remember the Maine!" became pro-war Americans' signature rallying cry.


While brief — hostilities concluded by August 13, 1898 — the Spanish-American War had major historical consequences. The first significant military conflict after the Civil War, the Spanish-American War played a key role in reuniting the nation and strengthening American nationalism. It also expanded U.S. territory beyond the American continent: Spain ceded Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States, while Cuba (though nominally independent) became a U.S. protectorate. Famously described by Secretary of State John Hay as a "splendid little war," the Spanish-American War confirmed that by the turn of the twentieth century, the United States had become a global power.


Those who died in the Maine's explosion were initially buried in a Havana cemetery. On March 30, 1898, Congress approved a bill authorizing for their remains to be disinterred and transferred to Arlington National Cemetery. On December 28, 1899, 165 remains (63 known, 102 unknown) were reinterred in Section 24, with a full military honors service.


The USS Maine, meanwhile, lay at the bottom of Havana Harbor for over a decade. Calls to raise the ship heightened in 1908, the 10th anniversary of its destruction. In 1910, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to raise the Maine, recovering 66 bodies from the wreck. Two years later, in March 1912, the Navy transported the ship's mast to Arlington, where it was placed onto a granite base meant to represent the turret of a battleship. The names of those who died aboard the Maine were inscribed onto the base. The monument is located on Sigsbee Drive, named after Admiral Charles Dwight Sigsbee, who commanded the vessel at the time of the explosion (and survived). Located behind the memorial are two bronze mortars captured from the Spanish during the war. The memorial was unveiled and dedicated by President Woodrow Wilson in a large public ceremony held on May 30, 1915.


Welded into the door of the base is the Maine's bell, with an inscription that reads: "USS MAINE, Navy Yard, New York, 1894." Above the door that leads into the base, another inscription reads: "Erected in memory of the officers and men who lost their lives in the destruction of the USS Maine at Havana Cuba, February Fifteenth MDCCCXCVIII." The anchor is similar to the one that was on the Maine.

The USS Maine and Its Crew

The Maine was an armored cruiser, 324'4" long and 57' wide, made of steel and divided into 214 watertight compartments. It was powered by two steam engines with a total designed output of 9,293 horsepower. It carried four 10-inch guns, six 6-inch guns, seven 57-millimeter anti-torpedo boat guns and four 18-inch above-water torpedo tubes.


The names on the side of the USS Maine Memorial indicate the ethnic diversity of its crew. Some joined when the ship was in port in Japan, China or the Philippines. The crew also included thirty African Americans. Because the explosion occurred on the forward part of the ship, below enlisted sailors' quarters, only two of the approximately 260 killed were officers; the rest were enlisted men. Their jobs (engraved with their names on the memorial) included coxswain, fireman, coal passer, oiler and more.


Sky Cloud Blue Tree Monument
 

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I've been to the USS Maine memorial at Arlington to pay respects; thanks for posting Mike.

Nauticus has a torpedo from the war at the exhibit entitled:

1907: The Jamestown Exposition & Launching of the Steel Navy

(And the museum is likely to soon receive the "Wisconsin Badger" on loan from the US Naval Academy-it is crafted from melted-down cannons seized from Cuba :)

A captured trophy cannon from Spanish naval cruiser Viscaya is on outdoor display in Columbia Tennessee across the street from President Polk's home:
 

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There is a book, nominally written by Admiral Hyman Rickover, that was well-researched by members of his staff and deals pretty extensively with all aspects of the loss. Concludes accidental internal explosion (spontaneous combustion in a coal bunker that over-heated a secondary armament magazine adjacent, which set off main battery magazine and destroyed the ship). Then there was a series of articles in Proceedings of the US Naval Institute in the 1980s or 1990s. I actually made some money out of that - wrote a letter to Proceedings in reaction to the articles, and it pays if published. it was and they did ($20 or so).

I think that a modern Board of inquiry, with all the information now to be had, would to a high degree of probability conclude accidental loss, not an external source. If there was a mine (and I think there was not), probability of sources would seem to be (1) Cuban rebels; (2) American newspaper publisher, possibly Hearst; (3) last and least likely, Spanish authorities.
 

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There was a great Remington UMC ad about how recovered ammo was still good after 13 years under the water.

View attachment 3804540


Must have been some trapdoor Springfields on board as well if that ad is true! I saw one of those historical event investigation shows a few years ago regarding the Maine explosion. They tried to recreate the smoldering fire in a simulated coal bunker to determine how long it took to heat up the bulkhead to a sufficient temperature to ignite the gunpowder in an adjacent magazine room. Don't recall too many details of the show though.
 

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Must have been some trapdoor Springfields on board as well if that ad is true! I saw one of those historical event investigation shows a few years ago regarding the Maine explosion. They tried to recreate the smoldering fire in a simulated coal bunker to determine how long it took to heat up the bulkhead to a sufficient temperature to ignite the gunpowder in an adjacent magazine room. Don't recall too many details of the show though.
Well, would have to have done some serious historical investigation to do the re-creation. And since the propellant charges were brown ("Cocoa") powder instead of Holy Black, not sure where you could get any of that for the experiment.

I recommend both the Rickover book (How the Battleship Maine was destroyed by Hyman George. Rickover) and the articles in USNIP (sorry, can't say which issues, any library with the magazines can likely find them).
 

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I wonder if it wasn't like the USS Mount Hood-somebody sneaking a smoke when they shouldn't have. The Mount Hood was vaporized with no survivors on board, the Maine explosion was in the forward part of the ship under the crew's quarters.
 

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I wonder if it wasn't like the USS Mount Hood-somebody sneaking a smoke when they shouldn't have. The Mount Hood was vaporized with no survivors on board, the Maine explosion was in the forward part of the ship under the crew's quarters.
Possible, but given the history and construction details of the ship (the Rickover book is helpful in those matters), spontaneous combustion in the coal bunker seems likely. Coupled with failure to do all inspections supposed to have been done by the fire/security watch during off-duty hours. Apparently (IIRC - been a while since I read the book and articles)) there was a history of (a) fires in the coal bunkers and (b) rather lackadaisical fire rounds. Having spent a few months doing that sort of thing while working as a rent-a-cop, I think I can understand that. Boring, easy to just not really pay attention to things on the round, just walk around a punch the time clock. Tried to be conscientious, but sure was boring most of the time.
 

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Spontaneous combustion and a fire in a bunker was part of the cause of the Titanic disaster, by affecting the strength of the hull.
The fact there was a fire prior to and when she sailed was supressed at the time.
 

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Must have been some trapdoor Springfields on board as well if that ad is true! I saw one of those historical event investigation shows a few years ago regarding the Maine explosion. They tried to recreate the smoldering fire in a simulated coal bunker to determine how long it took to heat up the bulkhead to a sufficient temperature to ignite the gunpowder in an adjacent magazine room. Don't recall too many details of the show though.

When they recovered the Maine's guns they recovered Mostly Lee rifles and like 4 trap doors... But the Maine was armed with Gatling guns and those were in 45/70 also.. And you know from the Ad it seems like they only recovered one 45/70 shell and you know there had to be a bunch on board.
 
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