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American Samoa’s heroic soldier of D-Day honored on 80th anniversary

Amata using wet sand from the beach to highlight Henry Saaga's name
Source: Uifa’atali Amata's D.C. staff press release

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata commemorates the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and honors the heroic life and sacrifice of Henry Saaga, who took part in storming Omaha Beach.

The D-Day “Operation Overlord” of June 6, 1944, was a tremendous risk by Allied leadership, and took remarkable bravery and loss of life to establish the beachheads, which led to subsequently liberating Europe from the control of Nazi Germany. The effort was strategically led from England by General Dwight Eisenhower, famously telling the troops: “The eyes of the world are upon you.”

Congresswoman Amata said, “Last year, I visited Normandy, including the landing sites, memorials and cemeteries from D-Day. As an American Samoan, the most special time was seeing Henry Saaga’s heroic name enshrined on the Wall of the Missing at the beautiful memorial in France.

“Henry Saaga was eighteen years old in 1944, but he had answered the call to serve, and sacrificed all for country and the cause of freedom. He was among the brave forces that took the Normandy beaches, then one of the thousands who sacrificed all during the fighting in the hedgerows. God bless the memory of these brave troops who liberated Europe and give millions of people these generations of freedom.”

Henry Saaga’s actions earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was a singer and musician who played multiple instruments, and a three-sport athlete. He and his family, part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had moved from American Samoa 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 his young age, then 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.”