Other reporters struggled with how best to serve their country: whether to continue their coverage of the war or enlist in the military. Richard Harding Davis refused an army commission. His boss, William Randolph Hearst, yearned to join the navy.
Unfortunately, Hearst was a huge opponent of McKinley. So there was no way he was going to get a commission. He had to try to find a way in. He wrote McKinley and he offered to volunteer to give McKinley his fully-equipped yachts if only he could be allowed to sign on board as a naval officer. Nothing happened. Finally, at the last minute, it was becoming more and more embarrassing, he commissioned himself as a foreign correspondent and outfitted a fully-equipped steamer with darkroom supplies, enough champagne for two weeks to cover the war on his own.
On the second floor of the White House, President McKinley set up his own war room. It was the prototype for the modern military command center.
There were 25 telegraph lines coming into the White House. There were three telephone lines and McKinley exploited them all. He was the first president who understood how you use these new communications, especially the telephone.
The war room learned on May 19th that a Spanish fleet under Admiral Pascual Cervera had landed in Santiago Bay on the southeast coast of Cuba. The bay’s entrance was just 400 feet wide and easily blockaded. Secretary of the Navy Long sent seven warships to bottle up Cervera’s fleet. The expeditionary force under General Shafter would attack Santiago by land, forcing the Spanish fleet to either surrender or run the blockade. Twenty-five-thousand soldiers made their way to Tampa, Florida, chosen as the staging point for the invasion. Officers lounged and gossiped outside their new headquarters: the extravagantly Moorish Tampa Bay Hotel.