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Legion finds USS Maine plaque, historic documents

By Susan Mustapich | Sep 17, 2020
Photo by: Susan Mustapich An authentic plaque made from metal recovered from the USS Maine was found several months ago in a basement storage area at the American Legion War Memorial Post 30 on Pearl Street in Camden.

CAMDEN — A USS Maine plaque forged in 1913 was discovered in June by members of War Memorial Post 30 American Legion, while deep cleaning a storage area in the basement of their Pearl Street building.

No meetings were being held at the Post at that time, so members decided to do some cleaning of a storage area, according to Jeff Sukeforth who serves as the Post Adjutant.

The plaque was found along with framed documents of the Post's original charter, a Spanish-American War document and a photograph of Camden's original Honor Roll.

Since that time, the plaque has been appraised and deemed authentic by Thomaston Auction Place.

The plaque is made from the hull of the USS Maine, a U.S. Navy ship sunk in Havana Harbor in February 1898. Memorial plaques, commissioned by the Bureau of Engraving, were made from the ship's metal. Each plaque is numbered and stamped on the back.

Post 30 American Legion's plaque is numbered 1311 and is once again hung on the memorial wall inside the building.

"Obviously it was hanging up here at one time," Sukeforth said. "Talking with members at the meeting, no one knew when, where, how it got here. We said, well, we’re going to put it back up for sure."

Sukeforth said the members of Post 30 would like to hear from anyone who has more information about the plaque. Many of these plaques can still be seen across the United States in Veterans Parks and on memorials, according to his research.

On the right side of the plaque is a robed female wearing a helmet and carrying a circular shield. The center of the shield is decorated with an eagle clutching arrows in its talons atop the seal of the United States. Beneath the seal is a laurel branch and an oak leaf branch. A circle of stars containing the words patriotism and devotion surrounds the eagle and seal. The female's right arm is outstretched towards a palm branch. In the background is seen a mast and last remnant of the hull of the USS Maine sinking into the sea.

The USS Maine was commissioned in 1895 and was the first U.S. Navy battle ship to be named after the state of Maine. The ship was sent to Havana Harbor during the Cuban War of Independence. She blew up and sank Feb. 15, 1989, taking with her three-quarters of her crew. The sinking contributed to the outbreak of the Spanish American War.

The cause of the sinking was determined to be a mine explosion by a Navy board of inquiry. Some Navy officers disagreed with the inquiry ruling and suggested that the ship's magazines were ignited by a spontaneous fire in a coal bunker.

The salvage of the USS Maine in 1911 and 1912 was a complex engineering effort. Most importantly, it made possible the recovery of the remaining bodies of the crew. Altogether, 229 members of the crew of the ship are buried in Arlington Cemetery. The salvage effort found that the front section of the ship was entirely destroyed. In 1912, it was raised and towed four miles off the Cuban coast, and sunk in 600 fathoms of water.

As Adjutant, Sukeforth's duties include publishing announcements and stories. He also tirelessly recruits new members and promotes Legion Post 30 as a place for veterans to meet and get to know one another.

For more information about War Memorial Post 30 events or membership, or to share any information about the USS Maine plaque, call Sukeforth at 236-3310.

This Soldier's Memorial of Tilson's Light Infantry Company "H" 1st Maine, Spanish-American War 1898, was also found during deep cleaning of a basement storage area at War Memorial Post 30 in Camden this spring. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
The Charter Membership Roll of American Legion War Memorial Post 30 was another find from cleaning out a storage area in the Post's building. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
The USS Maine plaque, cast from metal recovered from the Navy battleship sunk in Havana Harbor in 1898, once again hangs on the memorial wall at Post 30 American Legion in Camden. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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Comments (2)
Posted by: Knight Marine Service | Sep 17, 2020 08:55

That is absolutely incredible!!  Celia Knight

Posted by: Michael Mullins | Sep 17, 2020 08:25

Remember the Maine!  Terrific news, I didn’t know this plaque existed.  Post to come on this.

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