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Annexation of Samoa / 2nd Apia Expedition

In the centuries prior to European contact, warfare over titled positions on the islands of Western Samoa was endemic. Tutuila was at times under the jurisdiction of the eastern districts of 'Upolu, and Tutuilans may have been required by chiefs on 'Upolu to fight in their wars. Warfare was also prevalent among the Manu'a islands. Oral traditions in the Manu'a islands refer to leaders of islands to the west (Fiji, Western Samoa, etc.) visiting Manu'a on sometimes hostile missions. Defensive fortification sites, often located high on ridges and mountains, are characteristic of this period. These fortifications were used as refuges to which those individuals not directly involved moved and where the warriors retreated when necessary.

The first recorded European contact occurred in 1722, when Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen sighted several of the islands. He was followed by French explorers Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1768 and Jean-Francois de La Perouse in 1787. A monument in Aasu, Massacre Bay, to the 12 members of La PÈrouse's crew who were killed there, is on the National Register. The first European Christian missionary, Englishman John Williams of the London Missionary Society, arrived in 1830.

America's initial interest in Samoa was one of global balance of influence among competing continental colonial powers. By the 1880s the two major European empire building nations of the time -- Great Britain and Germany -- had already established "claims" on the "Navigator Isles," centered in Upolu.

Late in 1898 intertribal warfare broke out in the Samoan Islands, which was jointly administered by the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. American and British landing parties, the former from the protected cruiser USS Philadelphia (C 4), was put ashore to guard their consulates. On 01 April 1899, an Anglo-American patrol was ambushed in the jungle near Apia, on Upola Island. Four Americans and three British are killed and seven wounded.

By the Treaty of Berlin, signed December 2, 1899, and ratified February 16, 1900, the U.S. was internationally acknowledged to have rights extending over all the islands of the Samoa group east of Longitude 1,715 west of Greenwich. The Samoa group west of Longitude 1,715 west of Greenwich was ceded to Germany (and named German Samoa until 1917 when it was renamed Western Samoa). On April 17, 1900, the chiefs of Tutuila and Aunu'u ceded those islands to the US. On April 17, 1900 the U.S. flag was raised for the first time over Fagatogo and the document officially creating the American Samoa territory was read.

Located in the South Pacific and midway between Hawaii and New Zealand, Samoa consists of two entities; Independent Samoa (formerly, Western Samoa) - an independent nation since 1961, and American Samoa - a U.S. Territory since 1900.

Under U.S. Navy control from 1900 to 1951, American Samoa was initially a coaling station for the fleet in the Age of Steam. During World War II, the "U.S. Naval Station Tutuila", now a Historic District listed on the National Register, was the headquarters of the Samoan Defense Group, which included several adjacent island groups, and was the largest of the Pacific defense groups. As the war moved north and west, American Samoa became a strategic backwater. Historic properties from World War II are found throughout the islands in the form of military facilities such as medical facilities, the Tafuna Air Base, the Marine Training facility in Leone, and pillboxes that dot the coastlines.

In the postwar era, American Samoa's military importance continued to decline, and in 1951, the Territory was transferred to the Department of the Interior, under whose control it remains. In 1954 the Van Camp Seafood Co. of California opened a cannery on the eastern shore of Pago Bay, followed some years later by Starkist Inc. The canneries make significant contributions to the economy of American Samoa and employment opportunities draw people from Western Samoa. The fishing industry has also involved other minority groups, such as Japanese and Korean fishermen. From 1951 until 1977, Territorial Governors were appointed by the Secretary of the Interior; since 1977, they have been elected by universal suffrage

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:35:00 Zulu