The USS Maine became popular initially because it was the first ship to be named after an American State. It was the sinking of the USS Maine on February 15, 1898 which made the USS Maine History. An explosion, the cause of which to this day has not been conclusively determined, killed most of the crew, which had been resting or sleeping in the same section of the ship in which the explosion occurred.
At the time of the explosion, the USS Maine was in Cuba to protect U.S. interests at a time of civil disturbances. There had already been an outcry by the American Public to stop Spain from what they viewed as terroristic domain over Cuba. America’s sympathies were with the Cuban rebels. The sinking of the USS Maine was the precipitating factor in the Spanish American War. Many thought Spain responsible for the explosion even though immediately after the attack, the Spanish were instrumental in aiding the American men aboard the ship.
The war cry of many Americans was “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain” and the war was begun. Since the sinking of the USS Maine there have been four formal investigations into what caused the explosion and two theories (though none conclusive) have been brought forth. One was that a mine exploded under the USS Maine, and the other concluded that spontaneous combustion led to the explosion. The only thing known for certain is that there was an explosion of some of the ships magazines. It may never be known what caused the explosion.
Although at the time, American’s believed the Spanish responsible for the explosion, consequent theories have stated that if it were a mine, it may have been planted by the Cubans, who knew that an explosion aboard the American ship would be blamed on the Spanish.