Apprentice First Class Ambrose Ham was signal boy of the watch when the USS Maine arrived at the Spanish-owned island of Cuba on 25 January 1898. Tensions were high in the battleship as she slowly steamed into Havana Harbor, and though Ham remembered that "everything looked peaceful," he heard another Sailor tell two friends, "We'll never get out of here alive."
Cuban revolutionaries had long been trying to overthrow their Spanish masters, and the Maine had been sent to protect American citizens then in Havana.
Because of the high state of tension, the crew was not allowed to go ashore, and Ham noted that "time was beginning to drag." For more than two weeks, the 358-man crew went about their routines, aware of their part in a tense international situation, yet unable to do anything other than show their flag.