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CUBA: The Spanish American War - the sinking of the "Maine"



Carlos Lopez has sent me the article from Thalassos "What really sank the Maine? ":

In answer to our book review of H.G. Rickover, How the battleship Maine was destroyed, in which we stated that, "A Lo que los norteamericanos nunca han aceptado es la mejor evidencia que pueden presentar los ibéricos: que las fuerzas españolas en Cuba no tenían ni la tecnología ni los medios para causar la explosión de que se les acusaba. We have received additional information from Captain Jorge Navarro Custin, a Cuban naval historian.

Admiral Rickover's team failed to investigate an important possibility: the Cuban connection. Cuban agents had been active in Lima, Perú, trying to get support for the war against Spain, they knew was coming. Peruvian railroad engineers and naval officers had experimented with underwater mines and during the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884, had successfully exploded Atorpedoes and sunk the Chilean gunboats Loa and Covadonga. Federico Blume, a Danish citizen, had developed an improved mine that was expected to float with the tide towards the Chilean squadron that maintained a blockade outside the port of Callao. The sophisticated mine consisted of two cylindrical containers loaded with dynamite activated by electric batteries. At least two versions of the contact mechanism are known. The first was a pair of balanced curved rods that would come in contact with the steel hull of the Chilean ironclads. These connectors were spring loaded and would detonate the charge when the desired angle of contact was reached. A second detonator was connected to a wheel. On contact with the hull, the wheel would rotate by wave action and would set off the charge. A third method was a clock mechanism in a mine that would be sank in or near the spot where the Chileans anchored during the day. But these ingenious artifacts were discovered by the Chileans, exploded by gunfire, towed to the shallows and some even recovered intact.

It is known that the Chief of the Cuban Army, Major General Máximo Gómez, traveled to Perú in December of 1887 looking for help and met Blume. He was followed by General Antonio Maceo who did not meet Blume but he did promise to help. Later, the Cuban representative in Lima, Dr. Aristides Aguero received from Blume plans, descriptions and other materials related to the destruction of the Chilean ships, the mines and even a submarine he had built. Blum even offered to build a new submarine. These materials were forwarded to New York and the mines were made in the United States and eventually found their way to Cuba. They were assembled near Havana by the Chandler brothers along with several American technicians working for the Cubans in charge of sabotage. These artifacts were put to good use as the Cubans blew up the gunboat Relámpago, a small merchantman and damaged several Spanish ships. Their ultimate goal was the battleship Pelayo. Captain Navarro Custín firmly believes that a mine of this type was set on the Maine, and although not powerful enough to sink the ship, it set off a secondary explosion of the magazine that destroyed the American battleship. Captain Navarro is currently working on a book dealing with the the sinking of the Maine."

My comment: Incredible, but true? The implication is that Americans worked with Cubans to disable the Spanish ships, then deliberately provoked the esplosion on the "Maine" in order to have a justification for US aggression. I assume that Captain Navarro is still in Cuba, and in the good graces of Fidel Castro. Is this just a fabrication sponsored by Castro as part of his anti-U.S. campaign? Is the implication that newspaper publisher Hearst was behind the scheme? We urgently need the response of US historians to the Navarro article.

Ronald Hilton - 8/6/01


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