Today In History Spotlights Feb. 15, 1898, USS Maine Explodes

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Today’s History Spotlight

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The USS Maine explodes and sinks in Havana Harbor, Cuba. This was the catalyzing event that lead to the US declaration of war against Spain. President William McKinley had hoped to avoid war, while his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, pushed for it. Stationed in Cuba during the Cuban War for Independence, the USS Maine was originally thought to have been sunk at the hands of the Spanish. Two months later, President McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war.

The explosion killed 260 men, with six more later dying from their wounds. The Spanish-American War began on April 21, 1898, and lasted nearly four months. The sinking triggered a boost in Yellow Journalism during the era. “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain” became a popular rallying cry. Even today, the cause of the sinking is debated.

What Happened On This Day – February 15

  • 2003 The largest peace demonstration in history takes place. Up to 30 million people in 600 cities around the world protested against the Iraq War.
  • 2001 The first draft of the human genome is published. The human genome contains the complete human genetic information.
  • 1989 The Soviet Union pulls out of Afghanistan. Despite their military superiority, the Soviet and Afghan armies did not succeed in breaking the Mujahideen insurgents’ resistance.
  • 1971 The United Kingdom and Ireland decimalize their currencies. Before the change, a pound sterling was made up of 240 pence, or 20 shillings.
  • 1965 Canada adopts its current national flag showing a maple leaf. The leaf symbolizes the country’s forests, the middle white stripe the arctic snow, and the red stripes the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Births On This Day – February 15

  • 1954 Matt Groening – American animator, screenwriter, producer
  • 1934 Graham Kennedy – Australian actor
  • 1874 Ernest Shackleton – Irish explorer
  • 1710 Louis XV of France
  • 1564 Galileo Galilei – Italian astronomer, physicist

Deaths On This Day – February 15

  • 2005 Samuel T. Francis – American journalist
  • 1988 Richard Feynman – American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate
  • 1965 Nat King Cole – American singer, pianist, television host
  • 1928 H. H. Asquith – English politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • 1781 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing – German author, philosopher

The sections “What Happened On This Day,” “Births On This Day,” and “Deaths On This Day” originally appeared at and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Garrett Smith
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