Samoan crisis

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Samoan Crisis
Part of Samoan Civil War
Samoan crisis map.jpg
The sketch features the locations of the wrecked German and American ships.
Result Both squadrons wrecked
 United States German Empire German Empire
Commanders and leaders
US Naval Jack 38 stars.svg Lewis Kimberly German Empire Frizze
1 sloop-of-war
1 steamer
1 gunboat 200 marines
3 gunboats 150 marines
Casualties and losses
62 killed
1 sloop-of-war sunk
1 steamer sunk
1 gunboat grounded
~73 killed
1 gunboat sunk
2 gunboats grounded
  • The British in the cruiser HMS Calliope participated as mediators, and the ship sustained fair damage.
  • Several merchant ships were also wrecked during the cyclone.

The Samoan Crisis was a standoff between the United States, the German Empire, and the British Empire from 1887 to 1889 over control of the Samoan Islands during the First Samoan Civil War.[1]


In 1878, the United States acquired a fuelling station at the harbor at Pago Pago, on the island of Tutuila, in exchange for providing guarantees of protection to Samoa. The German Empire on the other hand desired concessions at the harbor at Apia, on the island of Upolu.[2]


The incident involved three US Navy warships (the sloop-of-war USS Vandalia, the screw steamer USS Trenton, and the gunboat USS Nipsic) and three German warships (the gunboats SMS Adler and SMS Eber and the corvette SMS Olga), which kept each other at bay over several months in Apia Harbour, which was monitored by the British corvette HMS Calliope.

The standoff ended when the 1889 Apia cyclone, on 15 and 16 March, wrecked all six warships in the harbour. Calliope escaped the harbour and thus survived the storm. Robert Louis Stevenson did not witness the storm and its aftermath at Apia but after December 1889 arrival to Samoa, he wrote about the event.[3] The Second Samoan Civil War, involving Germany, the United States, and Britain, eventually resulted in the Tripartite Convention of 1899, which partitioned the Samoan Islands into American Samoa and German Samoa.[4]


Walter LaFeber said that the incident made some 'reticent Americans' realise the power implications of expansion in the South Pacific.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spencer Tucker, ed. (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 569–70.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Chambers, John Whiteclay (2004). "Samoan Incident". The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199891061. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  3. ^ Stevenson, Robert Louis (1892). A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 1-4264-0754-8.
  4. ^ Ryden, George Herbert. The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa. New York: Octagon Books, 1975. (Reprint by special arrangement with Yale University Press. Originally published at New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928), p. 574; the Tripartite Convention (United States, Germany, Great Britain) was signed at Washington on 2 December 1899 with ratifications exchanged on 16 February 1900
  5. ^ LaFeber, Walter (1963). "The Strategic Formulation". The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion 1860-1898. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. pp. 122–123.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 13°50′00″S 171°50′00″W / 13.8333°S 171.8333°W / -13.8333; -171.8333