The USS Maine Mast Memorial

USS Maine Mast Memorial

The mast of the USS Maine Memorial is in Section 24, Map Grid O-23 1/2 of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. The Maine Mast Monument, bounded on two sides by Sigsbee Drive, is named after Adm. Charles Dwight Sigsbee, who commanded the vessel as a captain at the time of its destruction. The mast is the actual main mast from the USS Maine, which was sunk in Havana Harbor, Cuba, Feb. 15, 1898. The mizzenmast is at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

The monument was dedicated Feb. 15, 1915, and was built by Norcross Brothers Company of Worcester, Mass., at a cost of $56,147.94 (based upon a report of the quartermaster general for fiscal year 1915). Congress originally appropriated $44,818.

The base of the memorial has a diameter of 33 feet, 6-inches.

The walls are 3 feet 6 inches thick and 7 feet 1 inch high inside the memorial. The base is constructed of granite, with marble interior walls and a tile floor.

Two bronze doors are used to secure the base. The inner door is solid, measuring 3 feet 3 inches wide and 7 feet high. Welded into the door is half of the Maine's bell, with the inscription:

"USS MAINE, Navy Yard, New York, 1894."

The outer door is a grille-type, 3 feet 6 inches wide by 7 feet high. A semicircular piece of bronze with an anchor is attached to the top and a rectangular piece of bronze along the bottom has three anchors displayed.

On each side of the doorway are two granite urns with a tripod, measuring 3 feet 5 inches tall and 2 feet wide at the top. They rest on a marble base 2 feet 6 inches square, by 1 foot 5 inches thick.

The base of the monument represents the turret of a battleship; through its center is the main mast from the USS Maine. Around the sides of the turret are inscribed the names of all who lost their lives in the disaster, and over the door is the inscription:

Erected in Memory of the Officers and Men
Who Lost Their Lives in the Destruction
Of the USS Maine at
Havana, Cuba, February Fifteenth MDCCCXCVIII

The remains brought to Arlington for burial are in Section 24, just north of the monument. On the south side are two bronze cannons that were captured from the Spanish. The anchor is not from the Maine, but is similar to it; it was brought to Arlington National Cemetery from the Boston Navy Yard. A bronze plaque on the anchor reads:

Blown Up
February Fifteenth 1898
Here Lie the Remains of One Hundred and Sixty Three
Men of the Maine's Crew
Brought from Havana, Cuba
Reinterred at Arlington
December Twenty Eight 1899

USS Maine History

The battleship Maine sailed into Havana Harbor on Jan. 25, 1898, because American authorities believed that the presence of an American warship would be a stabilizing influence on the Spanish control of the colony and would assist in curtailing guerrilla activities.

USS Maine Mast Memorial inscription

As the commander of the Maine, Capt. Sigsbee, also had the mission of evacuating American citizens from Havana if necessary.

The Maine exploded on the night of Feb. 15, 1898. After all survivors were rescued, Sigsbee left the ship and boarded the City of Washington, a pleasure ship in Havana Harbor, where he reported the happenings by message to the secretary of the Navy. His message read:

"Maine blown up in Havana Harbor at 9:40 tonight and destroyed. Many wounded and doubtless more killed or drowned. Wounded and others on board Spanish Man-of-War and Ward Line Streamer. Send Light House Tender from Key West for crew and a few pieces of equipment above water. No one has clothing other than that upon him. Public opinion should be suspended until further notice."

The press in the United States played up this event in placing full blame on the Spanish. "Remember the Maine" became the rallying cry for the war with Spain.

At the time of the disaster, the compliment of the ship was 26 officers, 290 sailors and 39 Marines. Of these, two officers and 251 men were killed at the time of the explosion. There were 102 saved, but seven later died because of wounds incurred in the explosion. All dead were buried in a cemetery in Havana.

On March 30, 1898, Congress approved a bill making provisions for the Americans killed in the Maine explosion and instructing that their remains be disinterred and transferred from Havana to Arlington National Cemetery. This action was delayed until Dec. 28, 1899, because of the war with Spain. On that date, 165 remains were reinterred in Section 24 of Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. One sailor's remains were exhumed after Arlington burial and returned to his home, but the others remained. Of those 165, 63 were known, 102 were unknown; they were the first members of the U.S. force killed overseas and brought back for burial in Arlington.

Eleven years after those burials, Congress enacted a bill authorizing the raising of the Maine from Havana Harbor and recovering the remains of the sailors still aboard for interment in Arlington. Additionally, the secretary of war was authorized and directed to remove the mast of the ship and place it upon a proper foundation in the cemetery.

The raising of the Maine took nearly two years, and from the wreck, 66 bodies were recovered. Of the 66, there was only one known sailor, and his remains were returned to his home for burial. The remaining 65 were taken to Arlington and interred March 23, 1912. After refloating what remained of the Maine, the ship was towed out to sea and scuttled with full honors in water 600 fathoms deep March 16, 1912.

There are now 229 Maine casualties buried in section 24 at Arlington beside the memorial. Of these, the identities of 62 are known, and the rest remain unknown.