On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The Maine was in Havana to protect U.S. interests in Cuba, which included control of massive sugar plantations. Cuba was struggling for independence from Spain, and the Maine also showed U.S. support for the Cuban rebels. 
 
“Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!” was the rallying cry of war “hawks”—those who supported armed conflict with Spain. They got their wish. The Spanish American War broke out months later, and resulted in a near-total U.S. victory. The U.S. expanded its influence to the former Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. (Although Cuba was nominally granted independence, the U.S. maintained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs.)
 
About 260 military personnel lost their lives as a result of the Maine explosion. Historians do not agree why the ship blew up. Some think it tripped a naval mine in Havana Harbor, while others think the Maine exploded as a result of an internal fire.
conflict
Noun

a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

Noun

part of a body of water deep enough for ships to dock.

hawk
Noun

person who advocates war or other armed confict.

independence
Noun

state or situation of being free.

intervene
Verb

to mediate or modify the outcome of an event.

massive
Adjective

very large or heavy.

military
Noun

armed forces.

naval mine
Noun

explosive device placed in water, to destroy ships or submarines.

nominally
Adverb

theoretical or true in name only (not in practice).

plantation
Noun

large estate or farm involving large landholdings and many workers.

rebel
noun, adjective

person who resists the authority of government.

U.S.S. Maine
Noun

American battleship that exploded and sunk in Havana, Cuba (1898).