By Commander Tom Nelson (Ret), U.S. Naval Reserves
Memorial Day Remarks - May 25, 2009
Gypsy Hill Park Gazebo, Staunton, Virginia
Number of deaths: 2,446
In January 1898, a riot by Cuban volunteers, most of who were Spanish loyalists, broke out in Havana and led to the destruction of the printing presses of three local newspapers.
These riots prompted the presence of an American Marine force on the island of Cuba although there had been no attack on Americans during the rioting ... but there were still fears for the lives of Americans living in Havana. Concern focused on the pro-Spanish Cubans who harbored resentment of the growing support in the United States for Cuban independence.
Washington informed the Consul-General in Havana, Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of Robert E. Lee, that the USS Maine would be sent to protect United States interests should tensions escalate further.
The USS Maine arrived in Havana on January 25, 1898. Her stay was uneventful until the following month. On February 15, 1898, at 9:40 pm, the Maine sank in Havana Harbor after an explosion, resulting in the deaths of 266 men.
HONOR: The 266 Men who died on the USS Maine