It was fall 1918, and "Commander John M. Poyer, U.S. Navy, was the military governor of American Samoa. By way of shortwave radio, he learned of the devastating implications of Spanish Flu and its unavoidable arrival in the South Pacific.” With these words, three Navy doctor Proceedings coauthors opened the “Success in Samoa” section of their authoritative examination of the vital role of quarantines in contending with pandemics.1
Without the knowledge or approval of distant superior officers, Commander Poyer instituted a quarantine program for all incoming ships. All debarking personnel were considered infected and immediately segregated from the general population. Potentially sick passengers were isolated in the hospital, and healthy persons were placed under “house arrest” until proven healthy.
1. LCDRs Thomas Luke and Timothy Halenkamp and CAPT Edward Kilbane, MC, USN, “Naval Quarantine Impervious to Epidemics of Virulent Disease,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 132, no. 7 (July 2006).
2. A. A. Hoehling, The Great Epidemic (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1961), 127.