Better Late Than Never?: Rickover Clears Spain of the Maine Explosion
"On February 15, 1898, an explosion ripped through the American battleship Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor, sinking the ship and killing 260 sailors. Americans responded with outrage, assuming that Spain, which controlled Cuba as a colony, had sunk the ship. Many newspapers presented Spanish culpability as fact, with headlines such as "The War Ship Maine was Split in Two by an Enemy’s Secret Infernal Machine.“ Two months later, the slogan ”Remember the Maine" carried the U.S. into war with Spain. In the midst of the hysteria, few Americans paid much attention to the report issued two weeks before the U.S. entry into the war by a Court of Inquiry appointed by President McKinley. The report stated that the committee could not definitively assign blame to Spain for the sinking of the Maine. In 1911, the Maine was raised in Havana harbor and a new board of inquiry again avoided a definite conclusion. In 1976, however, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Admiral Hyman Rickover conducted a new investigation. Rickover, something of a maverick in the Navy, came to the conclusion that the explosion was caused by spontaneous combustion in the ship’s coal bins, a problem that afflicted other ships of the period."