The pre-dreadnought battleship USS Maine was sent to Havana Harbor in January 1898. The United States hoped that her presence would stabilize the political situation and quell guerrilla operations. If the situation deteriorated, the Maine would evacuate American citizens. The warship exploded without warning on the night of February 15, 1898. The general consensus was that an underwater mine destroyed the ship. The tragedy caused a furor in the United States. It was a pivotal event that instigated the Spanish-American War. The wreckage was raised over a two-year period. In 1912, the remains of 229 crew members were laid to rest in Arlington.
The memorial that marks the burial site is designed to evoke the image of a main gun turret. The monument was built by the Worcester, MA company Norcross Brothers. It was consecrated in 1915 and is approximately 33 feet in diameter. The granite structure has a tile floor and marble interior walls. Visitors can enter the monument through two large bronze doors. The inner door is adorned by half of the ship’s bell and the outer by an anchor. Granite urns flank the entrance way. The Navy salvaged the main mast from the battleship. It is affixed to the top of the monument. The names of those who perished that night are inscribed along the walls with several sentiments honoring their sacrifice.