Originally called the Samoan Naval Militia in 1900, the Fita-Fita Guard served the U.S. Navy on American Samoa until 1951. Fita-Fita is the Samoan word for soldier. 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. After the unit was disbanded in 1951, members of the Fita-Fita Guard who wished to stay in the Navy, transferred to the Naval 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.
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A replica of a Fita-Fita uniform is on display in the Cold War Gallery, Bldg. 70, of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.
Image: 80-G-300962: The Fita-Fita Guard and Band of the U.S. Navy, 1944. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. Navy.