The Fita Fita Guard served the US Navy in Am Samoa until 1951. In 1900, its orginal name was Samoan Naval Militia. It was such a great honor for Samoans to serve that the term Fita Fita, which is Samoan word for soldier was adopted by the US Navy.
The island's location, along with the vital and vulnerable US-Australian supply line in early 1942, meant the territory had to be held to allow the flow of men and supplies west. Expanded during World War II, Fita-Fita Sailors manned anti-aircraft batteries, and other positions around the U.S. Naval Station Tutuila.
When the US Navy disbanded in Am Samoa in 1951, Fita Fita Guards who wished to stay and continue serving in the US Navy were transferred to the Navy Reserve.
The guard wore a naval version of the traditional attire, a wrap called lava lava, and the traditional headdress, along with a military issued undershirt and no shoes.
Fita Fita Guard Tuiofu Fo'isia was born in Ofu, Manu'a on November 11, 1918. His name at birth was Fo'isia Misaalefua. His parents are Se'e Palega Misaalefua and Elesiva Misaalefua.
Fita Fita Guard Tuiofu Fo'isia, is the first Native Samoan to be decorated in World War II. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded when a Japanese submarine shelled Samoa on January 11, 1942.
Tuiofu Fo'isia continued his career in the US Navy and was sent to Hawaii. A year later his older brother Misaalefua Tausulu helped his wife Fa'apio Telesia Fo'isia and children reunite in Hawaii.
In 1962, Tuiofu Fo'isia retired from the US Navy, by this time his family was already settled and established in Carson, CA. Tuiofu Fo'isia and his wife Fa'apio had 12 children. His next path in life he became an ordained minister and founded the First Samoan Congregational Church in Carson. He became known as Rev Elder Tuiofu Fo'isia in Carson, and gave the rest of his life to serving God and the Church until he passed away in 1982.
His late son James Misaalefua Fo'isia has a park in Carson named after him. And in Ofu Manu'a the Executive Office Building is named after his older brother, Afioga Misaalefua Tausulu Palega EOB Building.
Civilian war correspondent Robert Doyle took the below photograph of a Fita Fita guard standing on the sidewalk in Tutuila.
He wrote this caption:
"Talamama, seaman, second class, is member of Fita Fita guard (U.S. navy honor guard). Stripes around bottom of lava lava denote rank. Talamama gets regular navy pay, plus 20% overseas pay, although he is not permitted to serve outside his home islands of American Samoa. Talamama was right on ball, demanded to see my credentials before he would permit me to take his picture."