NEVER FORGET

The Samoan War Hero Who Took on the Khmer Rouge to Save U.S. Marines

The U.S. veterans who survived the Mayaguez fiasco—a devastating, mostly forgotten episode at the end of the Vietnam War—have all described a soul-crushing rescue mission riddled with tragic mistakes. U.S. Marines expecting an easy firefight against a few Khmer Rouge soldiers surprised to find themselves overwhelmed by heavy artillery. The terror of being pinned down and watching U.S. choppers get obliterated by an invisible enemy somewhere in the jungle on Koh Tang island. But they also remember U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Fofomaitulagi Tulifua Tuitele, an American Samoan war hero who arrived just in the nick of time to show the men what courage truly means. Author Kevin Maurer recounts for The Daily Beast how the man known as “Sergeant T” laughed in the face of death on that fateful day in 1975 and gave his men the push they needed to get up and make it out. More than a dozen U.S. servicemen were killed during the mission, and survivors are still haunted by the three Marines who were left behind to die. But many now believe Tuitele should be recognized for his bravery in the face of such a disaster. Sign up for Beast Inside to access the Beast Files for the final installment on how Tuitele and his men made it out of the jungle.