Guantánamo Bay

On June 10, 1898, U.S. Marines landed at Guantánamo Bay. For the next month, American troops fought a land war in Cuba that resulted in the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Western Hemisphere. Cuban rebels had gained the sympathy of the American public while the explosion and sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, widely blamed on the Spanish despite the absence of conclusive evidence, further boosted American nationalistic fervor.

Panoramic View of Havana, showing the entrance to the harbor and inner harbor… R.A.C. Smith, c1898. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division
Hoisting the Flag at Guantánamo, June 12, 1898. Edward H. Hart, photographer, [between 1898 and 1901]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Popular demand for intervention in the Cuban-Spanish conflict led Congress to pass resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Spanish armed forces from Cuba, authorizing U.S. aid to effect this, and promising American support for Cuban self-rule. Spain declared war against the United States on April 24, 1898, and the United States promptly replied with a counter-declaration.

Spanish Prisoners an[sic] board collier Aberenda, Guantánamo, June 14, 1898. Edward H. Hart, photographer, [between1898 and 1901]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

While Spain was unprepared to sustain a war in its distant territories, America was ready and eager to show off its military strength. The navy, under Admiral George Dewey’s command, easily broke Spanish control of the Philippine Islands in an engagement at Manila Bay on May 1. American attention then turned to the liberation of Cuba.

On July 17, just five weeks after the landing at Guantánamo Bay, the Spanish forces under Admiral Pascual Cervera surrendered at Santiago. In the Treaty of Paris of 1898, the United States gained sovereignty of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Spain lost its colonial empire, and the United States emerged with greater influence in international affairs and an increased sense of national pride.

Troops Making Military Road in front of Santiago. William Paley, camera; United States: Edison Manufacturing Co., 1898. The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

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