On February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine exploded and sank in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the 400 American crew members on board.
A naval inquiry determined the ship was exploded by a mine, and although the official report did not blame Spain directly, the American public and most of Congress determined that Spain was responsible.
A Cuban exile group based in New York was propagandizing about the cruel and inhumane treatment Spanish rulers were imposing on the Cuban people. The mainstream media, led by William Randolph-Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, were exaggerating and fabricating stories of Spanish barbarism. When sent to cover the situation for Hearst’s newspapers, artist and correspondent Frederick Remington wrote back, “There is no war. Request to be recalled.” Hearst replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.”
Cubans wanted their independence from Spain and there had been several revolts following the Ten Year’s War (1868-78), and it was in the interests of some of America’s biggest agribusiness and industrial leaders to end the conflict and move Spain out of the picture. America had essentially taken over the Cuban sugar market. A few wealthy investors had about $50 million invested in the Cuban sugar and tobacco crops and the iron industry. By 1894, 90 percent of Cuban sugar went to the U.S. rather than Spain, and 40 percent of what Cuba imported came from America.
And one other thing: The United States was contemplating building a canal to facilitate travel from the Caribbean Ocean to the Pacific, and it was widely understood a naval base was needed nearby to protect the canal.
Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti recognized America’s designs on the island, claiming that there existed an “iniquitous plan to put pressure on the island and drive it to war so as to fabricate a pretext to intervene in its affairs and with the credit earned as guarantor and mediator keep it as its own.”
The Maine was in Cuba ostensibly to protect Americans living there from the ongoing hostilities. And more U.S. vessels were stationed nearby and in the Pacific in case war came to the island.
In April of 1898, Congress passed a resolution demanding Spain withdraw from Cuba. Spain responded by severing diplomatic ties after receiving the ultimatum. The U.S. then established a naval blockade of Cuba on April 21, and on April 23, Spain declared war on America. Congress determined to one-up Spain, and declared a state of war had existed since the establishment of the blockade.
The war with Spain lasted just 10 weeks. The American Navy quickly dispatched two Spanish fleets, and when it was over, the U.S. held Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.
For its part, Cuba achieved only partial independence. It was established as a U.S. protectorate. It was allowed to form its own government, but the U.S. imposed various restrictions that included prohibiting it from forming alliances with other governments and the U.S. reserved the right to intervene in government affairs. The U.S. also established a permanent lease of Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. was now an empire, and it had shown that it would not hesitate to interfere in the affairs of other countries, up to and including establishing their forms of government and determining their leaders.
The USS Maine explosion is widely regarded as one of a number of false flags the U.S. and other countries have used to start wars. In 1976, Admiral Hyman Rickover investigated and determined that an internal fire in the coal room caused the explosion. In 1999, National Geographic conducted an investigation that concluded an external explosion and internal coal room fires caused the sinking.
In 2007, Cuban historian Captain Jorge Navarro Custin published a book in Spanish that claimed U.S. industrialists and Cubans conspired to blow up the ship using a small mine invented by Frederico Blume. According to Custin’s theory, the design for the explosive was sent through Cuban patriots in New York to Cuba for the purpose of sinking the Maine.