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USS Maine

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Of interest here is that a society called 'The Cuban League of the United States' had offices in 115 Broadway in 1897 and was vocally behind the rebels in Cuba. ( http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30B15FC3F5512738DDDA80A94DD405B8785F0D3 )

On February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine blew up in the harbor at Havana, Cuba, killing 268 American sailors

Early in April 1898, the American ambassador to Spain reported to President William McKinley that Spanish leaders were willing to give Cuba its independence or even cede it to the U.S. On April 11, McKinley, "making only a casual and deceptive reference to the reassuring dispatch just received from Madrid," (Samuel Eliot Morrison, Oxford History of the American People, Volume 3) sent a message to Congress that concluded: "I have exhausted every effort to relieve the intolerable condition of affairs which is at our doors....I await your action." That action was a Congressional declaration of war.

The U.S. Navy Department immediately formed a board of inquiry to determine the reason for Maine's destruction. The inquiry, conducted in Havana, lasted four weeks. The condition of the submerged wreck and the lack of technical expertise prevented the board from being as thorough as later investigations. In the end, they concluded that a mine had detonated under the ship. The board did not attempt to fix blame for the placement of the device.

When the Navy's verdict was announced, the American public reacted with predictable outrage. Fed by inflammatory articles in the "Yellow Press" blaming Spain for the disaster, the public had already placed guilt on the Spanish government.

Technical experts at the time disagreed with the findings, believing that spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker adjacent to the reserve six-inch magazine was the most likely cause of the explosion on board the ship. In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover published his book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. The admiral became interested in the disaster and wondered if the application of modern scientific knowledge could determine the cause. He called on two experts on explosions and their effects on ship hulls. Using documentation gathered from the two official inquiries, as well as information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, the experts concluded that the damage caused to the ship was inconsistent with the external explosion of a mine. The most likely cause, they speculated, was spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker next to the magazine.

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