Vandalism of WWII gun at Blunts Points becomes learning experience
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — What was intended to be a “haha” facebook post of a student vandalizing the WWII Gun at Blunts Point in Gataivai turned into a unique learning experience for young Heremine Olive who, together with her mom and siblings, and the Matafao Elementary School staff led by principal Dr. Tino Roberts, the National Park Service of American Samoa, and the Historic Preservation Office staff worked hard to restore and clean up the area.
The project came after a post on facebook in which Heremine basically bragged about vandalizing the WWII Guns.
On June 21, 2018, ASHPO historian Teleiai Christian Ausage was able to interview the young girl who said she did not realize the importance of the historical site she vandalized.
When asked how she felt about having her mom, her brother, and the staff of Matafao, NPAS, and ASHPO assisting her in repainting the site, Heremine responded, “I feel ashamed, I feel that I put my family down as well as my school — the principal and the staff.”
She added that since she observed the community’s involvement in repainting the site she destroyed, she is willing to share what she has learned about the WWII Guns and the importance of historical sites with others.
National Park of American Samoa superintendent Scott Burch explained, "The National Park Service has recently spent over $70,000 dollars to pay local workmen to rehabilitate the Blunts Point area, refurbish the historic artillery, rebuild the trail, and install better facilities to allow residents and visitors to enjoy their heritage."
He continued, “Unfortunately in the past few months, a few disrespectful people have been trashing this site, defacing this important memoriam to the members of our community who served their country in WWII. This is just the latest example of the problem.”
Burch concluded, "It breaks my heart to see all that hard work defaced and disrespected in such a hostile way. I hope we can all learn from this and work together to better care for our shared heritage."
When approached for comments, ASHPO territorial archaeologist Tish Peau told Samoa News, “After reading everyone’s comments on Facebook, we realized that people do know and care about our heritage, but most of the comments were coming from adults.
“Our children need to understand the importance of historic properties. They need to understand the reason we preserve these properties.
“We often ask ourselves ‘Why study American History and Government?’ when our children should be learning and studying the history of our people, and our government - who we were, where we came from and where we need to be.
“That is what our schools and teachers should be teaching in the classrooms. The best classroom is our own land, our environment — because it is where we live, and we see and breathe it in every morning.
“This was a learning opportunity for our office… partnering with the National Park Service of American Samoa [that] has done such a tremendous job maintaining our World Heritage Trail. We will be reaching out to all the schools and educating them on the preservation of our history, our culture and our land!”
In his published article titled: “Great Guns: Archaeologists uncover traces of a Pacific Island’s Wartime Preparations”, author Joseph Kennedy wrote the following of the WWI Guns at Blunts Point:
“Surrounding the twin guns is a network of concrete stairways and ammunition bunkers, and foundations that once held barracks, cookhouses, showers, and latrines. It was essentially a Marine Corps village where anxious and hard-working men lived out their young lives and wondered about their fate. If you were to ask about the value of historic preservation, I would say that it gives life and a voice to a period in time that deserves to be remembered and appreciated, as a tribute to those who crafted a part of the past in a different and difficult time.
“Marines and Samoans alike huddled around their radios up there in the evenings and listened to the popular music of Harry James, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and Duke Ellington. The Samoans quickly mastered the guitars that the Marines brought with them, and together they played and harmonized “You Are My Sunshine,” “Margie,” and other tunes of the day.
“Up there in the mountains the Marines ate a stale World War I version of the C-Ration and today’s MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that had “1917” stenciled on the crates; it was called “canned Willy.” Spam sandwiches were considered a treat.
“The Samoans wisely kept to their traditional diet of taro, bananas, and breadfruit. They did introduce the Americans to the expression fai fai lemu — “Take it easy.”