Sunday, September 20, 2015

America Invades Samoa!

Samoa: Island Paradise
Rugby Powerhouse

Samoa beat the USA 25 to 16 in their first game of the Rugby World Cup in Brighton on September 20.  USA versus Samoa is more than just a Rugby match though.

Have American forces ever invaded Samoa?  In our book America Invades you can learn the surprising answer...

"The South Pacific Samoan islands are divided into two groups, each a separate country, American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa, or more commonly, just Samoa. Until 1997, Samoa was called Western Samoa, a term still in use.

Naturally we have strong connections with American Samoa, but we’ve actually also had quite a lot of military involvement with the Independent State of Samoa.

As early as February 1841, marines from the USS Peacock landed on the island of Upolu and burned three villages there after the death of an American sailor. But it was later in the nineteenth century that we managed to get even more seriously involved.

In 1888, the First Samoan Civil War was raging with local factions fighting each other but Western powers, including us, playing a role as well. Since we had an interest in and interests on the islands, we sent ashore marines to Apia to protect American lives and property. Things were already tense between us and the Germans (one of the other Western powers involved) when shelling had damaged American-owned property, and in 1889, we could have ended up in armed conflict with Germany, long before World War I. The Germans had sent warships, SMS Adler, SMS Olga, and SMS Eber to Apia Harbor, and we had USS Nipsic, USS Vandalia, and USS Trenton there. The British, the third Western power involved, had sent HMS Calliope. The German and US ships were in a tense stand-off for months until finally the weather decided matters. A devastating cyclone hit on March 15, sinking four of the US and German ships and forcing the remaining two onto the beach. Only HMS Calliope was left afloat. By the time it was all over, nobody could really be bothered to fight, and they didn’t have anything much left to fight with.

Ensign John Monaghan USN
Spokane, WA
However, that was not to be the end of the nineteenth century superpower dispute over Samoa. By 1899, fighting between local factions was raging once again, with the United States and Britain throwing their weight behind Prince Tanu and with the Germans supporting his opponent, Mata’afa losefo. British and US naval forces, including the USS Philadelphia, shelled Apia in March 1899, and then US and British marines and sailors along with Tanu’s followers pursued Mata’afa losefo’s forces. What followed was the Battle of Vailele, in which the American, British, and Tanu’s party were ambushed by large numbers of attackers. Our men fought bravely, but their commander and three other Americans were killed (including Ensign John Monaghan, a graduate of Gonzaga University and the US Naval Academy who was later commemorated with a statue in Spokane, Washington), and the attacking party had to withdraw. Shortly afterwards, a peace deal was reached, which split Samoa into German and American areas while Britain got territory elsewhere. The American part became American Samoa, and the German portion was captured by New Zealand forces at the beginning of World War I, long before we entered the war.

During World War II, in addition to having forces in American Samoa, we had marines based in the other part of Samoa, as well as built an airfield and seaplane base there. The country became independent as Western Samoa in 1962.

The US military has been involved in humanitarian projects there. And in 2013, the amphibious dock-landing USS Pearl Harbor visited Apia for Pacific Partnership 2013."

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