In the final days before the entrance of the United States into World War I, the US military was concerned that Germany was planning to purchase or seize the Danish West Indies for use as a submarine or zeppelin base. At the time, Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas was considered the best port in the Caribbean outside of Cuba and Coral Bay on Saint John was considered the safest harbor in the area. Although the United States was not yet at war with Germany, the US signed a treaty to purchase the territory from Denmark for 25 million dollars on March 28, 1917. President Woodrow Wilson nominated James Harrison Oliver to be the first military governor. The United States announced plans to build a naval base in the territory to aid in the protection of the Panama Canal.
Oliver was unable to travel immediately to the Islands and the honor of being the first Acting Governor of the United States Virgin Islands was decided in an unusual way. Both Pollock, commanding the USS Hancock, and B. B. Blerer's USS Olympia were dispatched to the Islands in a race. The commander of the ship that arrived first would officiate at the transfer ceremony and be Acting Governor. Pollock arrived first and the transfer ceremony took place on March 31, 1917 on Saint Thomas. Blerer officiated at a smaller ceremony on Saint Croix. Present for the handover was the crew of the KDM Valkyrjen and the former island legislature. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, less than a week after securing the islands. Oliver was confirmed by Congress on April 20 and relieved Pollock as Governor.
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