On this day in 1898, 266 sailors lost their lives in Havana Harbor, Cuba when a huge explosion ripped the armored cruiser USS Maine (ACR-1)apart and sent her to the bottom of the bay. She was stationed there to protect American interests during the Cuban revolution against Spain. Speculation is that it was an accidental fire in the powder magazine that had ripped the ship asunder. But at the time, most Americans thought it was Spanish saboteurs who had done the deed. Regardless, “Remember the Maine. To Hell with Spain” became the rallying call for war against Spain.
The memorial at Arlington National Cemetery above is to the sailors who lost their lives and the base of the mast recovered from the Maine is inscribed with their names and accompanied by an anchor from the wreck.
The Washington Post reports that the Monument to the Maine and her crew in Havana is being restored by the Cuban government after decades of neglect;
The Maine monument was inaugurated in 1925 and bears the names of all 266 sailors. Two statues standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the base represent a maternal America guiding the maiden Cuba into independence.
Words etched into the marble quote an 1898 U.S. congressional resolution recognizing Cuba’s right to be free, and the massive bronze eagle that long capped the monument faced due north in a symbol of Washington’s promise to return home after helping the island break from Spain.
“To me it signifies a legacy of loyalty…friendship between two peoples,” said Julio Dominguez Santos, the monument’s night watchman of 17 years.