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A Samoan Soldier’s Story

amata with photo of Saaga
Source: Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata’s D.C. staff

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is highlighting the life and service of Henry William Saaga, U.S. Army, born in Utulei, in Tutuila, and forever remembered at Normandy’s Wall of the Missing in Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Congresswoman Amata is part of a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) this week in her role in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, on which she serves as Vice Chairman, that is visiting historic U.S. Veterans’ sites in Europe. Members of Congress departed Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon for Veterans’ sites in Europe, led by Chairman Mike Bost, beginning in Normandy. The Committee has oversight responsibility over all American war memorials and monuments around the world.

“What a special moment to see Henry Saaga’s heroic name enshrined on the Wall of the Missing at the beautiful memorial in France. He was very young, just eighteen years of age in 1944, answering the call to serve, and sacrificing all for freedom. He was among the brave forces storming the Normandy beaches, and one of the thousands of U.S. and British soldiers lost in gaining the vital footholds that allowed the Allies to go on to victory in Europe.”

Henry Saaga was a musician who played multiple instruments, a singer, as well as a three-sport athlete before his enlistment. He and his family, part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had moved to Honolulu. The family was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and had performed music together the evening before. Henry Sa’aga of Utulei Village and Uifa’atali Peter T. Coleman of Pago Pago Village, also in Oahu at the time, knew each other and were both from Ma’oputasi District.

Despite Henry’s young age, just 15 and a high school sophomore, he enlisted in early 1942 in the Hawaii Territorial Guard. His family last saw him that Spring as he was sent to basic training. He was sent overseas in 1944, landed on Omaha Beach, and fought in the hedgerows. A July 1, 1944, report states the following:

 “Pvt. Saaga … displayed extraordinary courage and bravery without respect for his own life when he vaulted an enemy occupied hedgerow to attack, alone, an enemy MG position whose fire was pinning the patrol down. As a result of his act, the patrol was able to move out and return to their own lines. When last heard of Pvt. Saaga was throwing hand grenades and firing his rifle. At this time Pvt. Saaga is still missing.”

His actions earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.