USS Maine Bugle
1898, American History Museum
A memorable explosion was the trigger—or pretext—for a war of expansion
The battleship Maine, in Cuba to protect American interests during the island’s revolt against Spain, blew up in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, killing three-quarters of the crew. The explosion may have been an accident, but the U. S. treated it as a hostile act and declared war on Spain. The “splendid little war” lasted only ten weeks and strategically expanded U.S. territory, adding Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.