After visiting Honolulu for ceremonies which transferred the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States, Philadelphia, flagship of Rear Adm. Albert Kautz, Commander, Pacific Station, arrived Apia, Samoa, 6 March 1899. An unstable political climate, created by rival native factions and spurred on by German intrigue, erupted into open hostility during the month. A combined American and British naval force sought to keep the peace, but insurgent natives attacked American and British consulates late in March.
In retaliation a British and American landing party, supported by friendly natives, set out from Apia 1 April on a reconnaissance mission to drive off the rebels under Chief Mataafa. With Lieutenant Lansdale in command of the Americans, the expeditionary force dispersed the natives. While returning to Apia, the force was ambushed and a brisk battle ensued.
While protecting the evacuation of a mortally wounded machinegunner, Lieutenant Lansdale was seriously wounded, his right leg shattered by an enemy bullet. Aided by Seaman Norman Edsall and another enlisted man, Ensign John R. Monaghan carried him until he dropped from exhaustion. Despite Lansdale’s plea, “Monny, you leave me now, I cannot go any further,” Ensign Monaghan remained beside the fallen lieutenant. With only one rifle between them, they were soon overrun by pursuing natives; both brave officers died on the spot in heroic performance of their duty.