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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 18, 2000)---The U.S. military was honored Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Stadium as part of the weeklong American Samoa Centennial Celebration.

An estimated 15,000 people participated in a parade that included Samoa’s Royal Police Band, a special military performance, and floats. The largest group came from the 2,500-member COS Samoa Packing.

The events also included the presentation of military awards to veterans.

In his address, Governor Tauese Sunia said American Samoa’s love for the military is well known.

"The U.S Armed Forces today we want to recognize you, mainly because as we look back at the 100 years of the existence of this territory, we notice that half of those years, 50 of those years, was under military administration - the U.S. Navy," he said.

"That is not to be taken lightly. It is half of our history so far, as a people and we want to recognize that. Next to that, we want to recognize the U.S. for having accorded the opportunity to our men and women to serve in the Armed Forces. I am told that for many years, per capita, there have been more American Samoans in the Armed Forces than any other state or territory compared to their population," the governor said.

"That is a record we should be proud of. I think we should be thankful for that opportunity. Many times our young men and women, who migrated to Hawaii and the mainland find that very difficult. So they always start out in the military and eventually fan out to other career opportunities," he noted.

"We want to remember that in WWI and WWII, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War and in the Desert (Storm) war, American Samoans have given their lives, have served faithfully, soldiering has become one of the a major occupations of our people. And today we recognize them, we recognize our affiliation, our friendship part of our American Samoan family, the Armed Forces of the United States," he points out.

American Samoa’s history dealing with the military was very important during World War II.

As Japan began emerging as an international power in the mid-1930s, the U.S. Naval Station on Tutuila began to acquire new strategic importance. By 1940, American Samoa had become a training and staging area for the U.S. Marine Corps. It was this massive influx of Americans that gave Samoans a sudden taste of the benefits of a modern western society.

Although there have been numerous changes to American Samoa in the last 100 years, the most noticeable was the establishment of the first Fono (territorial legislature) in 1948. The U.S. Department of Interior took over in 1951.

When the Navy left, it also took with them the largest migration of American Samoans to Hawai‘i and the U.S.

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