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. 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. Publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer used their many newspapers to stir public opinion over the sinking of the Maine into a frenzy, hastenening U.S. entry into the conflict. This February 17, 1898, front page story from Pulitzer’s New York World suggested, on the basis of little evidence, the hand of the enemy in the destruction of the Maine.
NOT AN ACCIDENT, CAPT. SIGSBEE SAYS.
Intimates in a Suppressed Despatch to Long that the Disaster Was Due to an Enemy-Is Now Investigating and Not Prepared to Speak Authoritatively.
(Special to the World)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16.—A suppressed cable despatch received by Secretary Long from Capt. Sigsbee announced the Captain’s conclusion, after a hasty examination, that the disaster to the Maine was not caused by accident.
He expressed the belief that whether the explosion originated from without or within, it was made possible by an enemy.
He requested that this intimation of his suspicions be considered confidential until he could conduct a more extended investigation.
This despatch was laid before the President, at whose suggestion Assistant Secretary Day cabled Consul-General Lee to make whatever examination was possible himself and render assistance to Capt. Sigsbee.
On the same dispatch Capt. Sigsbee said that not more than one hour prior to the explosion the magazines and boilers had been carefully inspected, thus, in his judgment, precluding the possibility of accident.
Source: New York World, 17 February 1898.