9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You

Samoan natives near Apia photographed in 1902. The lushness of the Samoan jungle is apparent. Wikipedia

Second Samoan Civil War 1898-1899

In the late 19th century, the European Empires and the United States were particularly concerned over the fates of various Pacific Island nations, in large part because of the need to maintain coaling stations at intervals to fuel their growing fleets. Samoa was engaged in a Civil war between competing chiefdoms, with one side supported by the United States and the British Empire, and the other supported by the rising naval power of the Kaiser’s Germany.

American and British ships and marines took an active part in the fighting to destroy the enemies supported by the Kaiser. When an early battle involving a naval bombardment by British and American ships proved to be inconclusive, both powers dispatched troops into the island’s interior to continue the fighting.

These troops suffered a severe setback at the hands of the German supported rebels at the Second Battle of Vailele, and subsequent attempts to subdue the island were frustrated by the enemy and the harsh climate. By 1899 the war was largely a stalemate.

The three European powers decided to settle the fate of the Samoans at the negotiating table, and the resulting Tripartite Convention divided the island nation into two separate islands – German Samoa and American Samoa. The British were awarded base use rights on the American island in return for similar support for the Americans at the British base in Hong Kong.

German Samoa was taken by New Zealand troops in the early days of World War I and finally achieved independence from New Zealand colonial rule in 1962. American Samoa remains under the control of the United States as an unincorporated territory, where today it holds the highest rate of military enlistment of any US territory, possession, or state.