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   from the issue of February 15, 2007

From the Archives

USS Maine



Frank Pacal Collection

A massive explosion of unknown origin sank the battleship USS Maine in Cuba's Havana harbor, killing 260 of the less than 400 American crew members on Feb. 15, 1898.

The loss of the Maine, one of the first American battleships, costing more than $2 million, led to the Spanish-American War with U.S. troops rallying under a "Remember the Maine" banner.

The First Nebraska Volunteers were among the United States troops to fight in the Spanish-American War, which started in April 1898 and ended in August 1898. Among the First Nebraska Volunteers was Frank Pacal (pictured at top, soldier kneeling at center), a non-commissioned officer in Company D.

Pacal immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1883 from Bohemia and settled in Lincoln.


His war mementos are in the University Archives as the Frank Pacal Collection, donated in April 1988 by his grandson, Arnold F. Polak.

The extensive collection includes (above, clockwise from far left) a welcome home ribbon; a crossed rifles pin from the First Neb. Volunteers, Company D; a U.S. Volunteers collar pin; a "Remember the Maine" lapel pin; and a lapel pin connected with a Spanish American War star, inscribed with Co. D, 1st Nebr., and Pacal's name.

Through negotiations and outlined in the Treaty of Paris, the war victory granted the United States its first overseas empire with former Spanish possessions, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

According to University Archives records, after the war Pacal married and opened a men's clothing store in Wymore, Neb. He retired to south Texas in 1935.

This is a regular feature of the Scarlet. The image was provided by University Archives. Submit items to or call 472-8515.



From the Archives