Secret Mission of the USS West Virginia

Dublin Core


Secret Mission of the USS West Virginia


In 1912, the USS West Virginia was dispatched by the Navy to plant a US flag on Palmyra, and thereby resolve any confusion or disputes about the ownership of the atoll. The events involved a certain amount of drama that played out in Hawaiian newspapers, who showcased the historical uncertainty around who owned Palmyra on a national level.

While England would have had very little legal claim to Palmyra, as there were good documents dating back to the 1860's showing it was a Hawaiian (and thereby US) possession, the secret nature of the West Virginia's mission made for good news.

This collection showcases the letters and articles describing the situation.



Collection Items

The Remarkable Explorations of Admiral Sutherland
This light hearted article describes the journey of the USS West Virginia to Palmyra in 1912, where they found, as the subtitle says, "One Friendless, Starving Gin Bottle, Also One Large, Unidentified Toothbrush!", among other things. It mentions as…

Letter from Judge Cooper to the Governor of Hawaii
This letter, with a 1922 preface and explanation from the Navy (who retained the original letter), was written by Judge Henry E. Cooper of Hawaii, to then Governor of Hawaii, W.F. Frear. According to the letter, Cooper was concerned that a British…
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