Wilford Woodruff Emery (1889-1954) was president of Samoan Mission at the outbreak of World War II. He wrote of a harrowing wartime experience in the South Pacific:
While in the Samoan Mission Sister Emery and I had been over to the island of Tutuila for a visit. We had completed our work and prepared to return to Upolu, our headquarters. We were late leaving the harbor of Pago Pago and it got dark on us almost as soon as we reached the open sea. We headed westward for our destination and then made ourselves as comfortable as possible. We lay on the hatchway in preference to the small, ill-smelling bunks inside the cabin. If it should rain we would take to the cabin to keep from getting wet. It was a beautiful night, although pitch dark. The few passengers and two or three of the crew also made themselves comfortable on the hatchway, using their lifebelts as pillows for their heads.
We had been at sea for some time and I thought we were far to the west of the island of Tutuila. All at once a bright light played upon us. It was one of those eight hundred million candle-power lamps operated by the Marines stationed at the west end of the island. We were startled with its brightness. At first we thought it might be a Jap[anese] submarine. Then all at once we were fired upon. The passengers and crew jumped up from the hatchway, [and] placing the lifebelts alongside their heads they ran and hid behind the cabin. Sister Emery arose and cried out: “They are firing at us.” I told her to lie down or they would be sure to hit her. We could see the tracer bullets as they hit the sea just beyond us. The captain said that one tracer bullet passed just four feet in front of him. We put on more speed. Soon the firing ceased, but the light shone on us for quite some time.
A colonel reported to me afterward, that the Marines had fired two hundred and fifty rounds of fifty calibre bullets at us. They were on the point of throwing a five-inch shell at us when they got word to let us pass. They fired at us because they had been commanded to fire on all unidentified ships that were seen. Some official had failed to notify the Marines that our boat had left the harbor and that we should be allowed to pass.
When the firing ceased the passengers and crew who had hidden themselves behind the cabin returned and resumed their former positions on the hatchway cover. During the night I heard them talking among themselves, and they were saying one to another: “It was a good thing these missionaries were on board – we would have all been destroyed otherwise.”
We frequently met one of our fellow passengers of that trip and he always reiterated his statement that he was still alive because we were with them on that occasion.