POSTED ON 3.16.2018
POSTED BY: Dennis Wriston

I'm proud of our Vietnam Veterans

Specialist Four Fiatele Taulago Teo, Served with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
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POSTED ON 5.29.2014

Thanks for Serving and Sacrifice

Thanks for the sacrifice that you made for our country all the way from American Samoa. Your final sacrifice shall never be forgotten. Please rest in peace there in the heavens.
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POSTED ON 6.19.2013
POSTED BY: Curt Carter

Remembering an American Hero

Dear SP4 Fiatele Taulago Teo, sir

As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

Curt Carter

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POSTED ON 3.23.2011
POSTED BY: Paul Grandy

FiateleTeo - Personal Account of Casualty

TEO, FIATELE TAULAGO SP4, D Co, 2327th Infantry, 101st ABN Division Pago Pago, American Samoa DOB 16 March 1952 KIA 19 June 1971 Panel 3W Line 83 Kim Qui was an ugly place. A small jointly run Army of the Republic of VietnamUnited States (ARVNUS) Fire Base on some approach to the Ashau Valley. An old road snaked up from the valley below. Above a trail headed up the ridge that it sat on into the jungle. The entire base smelled of Nuoc Mam, the rotted fish sauce that the Vietnamese, both north and south mixed with their rice. This was a place where there was no advanced warning. Partly through my second tour I usually smelled the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) long before I saw them. Here the advantage was gone. We arrived by chopper around noon on the 17th of June 1971. After setting up at the upper bunkers we wasted the evening away watching a hatch of termites in the middle of the trail. For hours they emerged from an array of small holes in the ground. Some to fly off , some to lose their wings almost instantly and wander aimlessly around the trail. These were the large variety. The kind that you could hear coming in the night. The kind that would chew a hole in your air mattress if you were fortunate enough to have one. This was the first time, but not the last time we would be at this base in the next several months. The following afternoon we rucked up and headed up the ridge into the canopy. The only intelligence they gave us at the squad level was that some Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) teams had seen activity in the area about 2 kilometers out. It was monsoon season. The days were hot and humid and the nights were soaking wet. Lt. Millo, or 'Millo the Mindbender' as we referred to him as, was our platoon leader. We were short on people, as most of units were, from what I saw when we joined up with the rest of the company, which didn’t occur too often these days. We walked the ridge lines. The NVA walked the trails below. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement of 'You don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you'. On one occasion one of the other platoons went down to the river bed for a swim. That seemed to be alright, but they made the mistake of spending the night down there. They awoke the next morning to a machine gun shooting down at them. They told us everybody was wounded, but no one was killed. I didn’t know whether to believe it or not. By the time we arrived they had all been Medivaced. The equipment and clothing strewn about the area told a different story. Lots of bright red oxygenated blood. We policed up what we could and headed back up the mountain. After leaving Kim Qui that afternoon we set up for the night about 400 meters up the ridge line along what appeared to be a high speed trail that had been around long before the fire base had been built. The night was uneventful other than some monkeys trying to invade the perimeter in search of food. In the morning Lt. Millo decided to take one squad out on a short patrol to a trail juncture about 200 meters out at the top of the ridge. The slack man was a little short guy from American Samoa. He had one of those first names that no one could pronounce so we just called him by his last name of Teo. He was a cocky guy but at the same time didn’t have a lot to say. We used to joke around with him and tell the new guys that he was our 'Kit Carson' scout, a term applied to former NVA troopers that surrendered and came to work for us. Most of them believed it at first. I could relate to Teo. I had grown up in a Mormon community although I didn’t practice it. Teo had joined the church before he had joined the army. But Teo didn’t smoke or drink or participate in the sins of the world. He had a quiet strength within. It was my second tour in Vietnam. As such the platoon sergeant made me his assistant. He had no grasp of what was going on. We had seen very little contact and up until now had sustained no serious casualties. As the patrol headed out the rest of us just sat around eating C-rations. We just assumed it would be another routine day. The patrol, which consisted of about 8 people headed out about 0730. The rest of the platoon was just sitting around eating and playing cards. Just routine stuff. About fifteen minutes later the morning silence was broken by the sound of an AK in the distance. Just a lot of rapid firing on semiautomatic. There was a few seconds of silence and then the sound of a lot of M-16’s firing on semi and auto. From the direction of the firing I knew it had to be our patrol and told about 6 of the guys to saddle up light. Seconds later radio silence was broken as the patrol Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) started yelling hysterically to 'Get someone out here, Teo’s been hit and we’re taking fire'. By the time we took off up the ridge the firing had stopped. About 150 meters out the jungle opened up into a small meadow. Seconds later I sensed the odor of Nuoc Mam. I turned around and told the guys behind me to stay alert. There were gooks in the area. About 50 meters ahead the trail again disappeared into the jungle. I could see Lt. Millo on the far side of the meadow waving at us. We were moving fast. From the time the shooting started until we arrived on the scene was no more that 5 minutes. Quickly we moved across the meadow. As we arrived at the scene I noticed Teo lying face up with a gaping hole in his neck. Lt. Millo was visibly upset and trying to explain to me that they had been shot up about 20 meters ahead at a trail junction. Teo had been walking rear guard. They had bunched up at a T in the trail to decide if they should go left or right. On the right a trail watcher had opened up on them. Lt. Millo didn’t know if there where more gooks in the area. He then started crawling back up to the front to check on the others. I could see all the way to the trail intersection and it didn’t appear that anyone else was hit. They were down low although there was no protection other than some low bushes. On both sides were small hills that would have served as good points to set up if the gooks had decided to set up a full scale ambush. About 20 meters up the hill to the left I suddenly saw a shadowy figure emerge from behind a bush and move slowly up and around the hill. I hesitated shooting, not knowing where the others were deployed ahead. I asked one of the men ahead if there were any of the squad on the side of the hill. He said no, but said that he had just seen movement in the same area. Apparently the gooks had decided that there were too many of us to mess with and were exiting the area. Lt. Millo and the RTO were busy ahead calling in a fire mission from Kim Qui. As we waited my eyes turned back to Teo. He wasn’t quite dead but from the size of the wound there was no doubt that he was on his way. As I looked at him laying there on the trail I couldn’t help but notice how similar he looked to the NVA trooper I had killed back on 20 April, 1969. About the same size with a bullet hole in the same place. There was the typical glazed look in his eyes. The pupils seemed to dilate and contract in irregular intervals. He was gasping and raling through the hole in his throat. I wasn’t even sure if he was conscious of his surroundings. But the eyes seemed to focus on something above each time the pupils would contract. What did he see? Was it the mythical ‘tunnel of light’ that others speak of when on the verge of death? Or was it the specter of death, dressed in its black caped robe, with scythe in hand emerging from the darkness to deal the final blow? It seemed like hours before the eyes finally dilated for the last time. The involuntary squirming movements of the body stopped minutes later. There was silence, as though for a few brief moments it seemed that the entire jungle paid tribute to his passing. But oh so brief. I was so totally mesmerized by the whole thing that I barely heard Lt. Millo tell me to take some men up a trail around the side of the right hill to check it out. I looked for a second and then said ‘no way’. I told him I would take some men and go up the hill on line. He didn’t question me. This was his first combat ordeal. The hill wasn’t that high and the vegetation wasn’t that thick. We moved up it and secured the top. It appeared as though at one time there had been an old American perimeter. There were a few C-ration cans littered about the area and several foxholes. One of them had been filled in. After checking the hill top out I walked back down the trail to the remainder of the platoon. About half way down the hill there was a very large tree with roots that spread about 10 feet in each direction. The roots were very large and at the point where they diverged from the tree they were about 3 feet above ground. On the back side was a perfect spot for an ambush. The thickness of the tree also afforded a perfect avenue for escape. The trail led directly up the hill behind the tree. The tree was directly between the trail and the point where the squad had been originally ambushed. I figured that the trail watcher had shot Teo first, figuring he was our Kit Carson scout. He then probably moved back up the hill and watched all the excitement below while his buddy on the adjoining hill was doing the same. By the time that Lt. Millo and his men had drug Teo’s body back and our squad arrived, the gooks probably figured it was time to exit the area entirely so as to escape any fire missions that we may have called in. We set up on the top of the hill and sent out several cloverleaf patrols down the far side of the hill while waiting for another squad to come up from our original perimeter to retrieve Teos’ body. They would escort it back to the Pickup Zone(PZ) and then return to link up with us. The first patrol out found a dead scout dog about 20 meters out on the side of a trail running down the far side of the hill. I went out to look at it. It still had it’s harness on and the only place I could see that anyone could have ambushed it from was about five meters to its left where the hill dropped off into a deep valley. Could it be that it never smelled the gooks I thought? Whatever happened here I couldn’t imagine the dog handler leaving his dog here on the trail. I know how close these guys were to their dogs. There was a scout dog platoon just down the hill from our company rear area back at Camp Eagle. I used to go down and talk to them at times and look at the dogs. But I never petted them. I learned that from when we worked with them back in 69 and nearly got my hand bit off when trying to get too friendly with one. Their allegiance was totally to their handler. Whatever happened here must have been very bad and offered them no opportunity to retrieve the dog. Although it had obviously been dead for a couple of weeks I could tell it had been a beautiful long haired German Shepherd. I had always been impressed by these animals. Like us, they too, were caught up in a situation that they never really understood. We were all warriors of equal stature, just trying to survive. Twenty seven years later, using information and inspiration from John Burnam, a former co-worker at the Army Personnel Center in Alexandria, Virginia and Steve Ball a handler with the 38th IPSD who transferred to the 42nd IPSD in 1971, I would discover that his name was Krieger, he was assigned to the 42nd IPSD at Camp Eagle, and he was killed by small arms fire on 2 June 1971. Twenty nine years later I would find in the National Archives and on the Internet information to indicate that the handler, Mark Randall Taylor, was also killed on that date and Krieger was killed by B Company 2327th Infantry personnel in order that they could retrieve Marks body. After returning to the perimeter I decided to pitch my poncho in an A-frame over the filled in foxhole thinking the added elevation would keep me out of the nightly monsoon rains that would flood the jungle floor. I sat around talking to some of the other guys about Teo and what had happened for the next couple of hours. They were all pretty shook up about it. For them it was the first time that one of their friends had been killed. Some of them were so upset that they couldn’t even talk. In some future time this would be ‘grief counseling’. At about 2200 hours the rains began. I crawled under the poncho and laid down. Immediately I noticed that the area under my upper back was not entirely level. I rolled over to scrape and level the area. After scraping several inches of dirt off I felt a hard object covered by rotted plastic. I pulled out my 'Zippo', lit it, and found myself face to face with a dead NVA soldier. I finally understood why the foxhole had been filled in. But pulling up my poncho in the rain and moving it was not an option that I considered. I decided to cover his skull back up and just turn around. That way the lump of his skull would be under my knees. The dead had become all too common. It wasn’t the first time nor the last that a body would mysteriously appear within one of our perimeters. The only thing that I found offensive about these bodies was the idea that we had become so receptive to the dead that the whole concept of ‘life and death’ had become relative. Were we any better off than they? I doubted it. I fell asleep quickly but about 0230 in the morning I awoke to a horrific smell and something pulling on my leg. My mind was foggy, but as I looked down at my feet I could see the silhouette of the Gook rising out of the ground. His left arm was braced on the ground. His right hand was around my left ankle as he attempted to drag me out from under the poncho. 'Son of a bitch', I yelled as I kicked like hell at him at the same time scrambling to exit the poncho from the top. 'Grandy', I heard a voice say, 'It’s your turn for guard'. It took a few seconds to register before I realized it had been Dave Dubois pulling on my leg. He asked me why the hell I had been kicking at him. I mumbled something about thinking he was the dead gook. I couldn’t see the look on his face because of the darkness but I’m sure he thought that I had temporarily 'lost it'. In the morning I placed a bamboo cross at the head of the grave in the hopes that other soldiers in the area would not find themselves in the same situation. We humped out about an hour after daybreak the following morning. As we passed the scout dog again I asked Lt. Millo if he thought we should bury him. But he didn’t seem too interested in the suggestion. It was a decision that some of us would live to regret. Maybe even the platoon leader that gave the order to have him shot. Looking back I would have to say we should have put him in a poncho and sent him back to Eagle for burial. But in those days we probably just considered burials as rituals and we infantry types probably never really understood the bond between the handler and his dog. Nature would reclaim Krieger in its own way. The trail down the hill forked in two directions. We took the one to the right that passed through an area that reminded me of an old apple orchard in my past. The left one led deeper into the valley. A valley that looked like one of those places that people don’t return from. In time Teo and Taylor would outshine us all. Teo, one of only four men from American Samoa to die during the Vietnam war, would eventually become somewhat of a legend in Pago Pago. And on February 7, 1999 Teo, Taylor, and the others who died in Vietnam would have their names etched onto four microchips for NASA's project STARDUST and launched toward the stars. Two chips to return in 2006 just west of Salt Lake City and the other two to journey for eternity into the galaxies. Kriegers death, along with stories of the other working dogs who served and died during that war, would serve as a constant reminder and source of guilt so that never again would American military policy makers treat these loyal companions as just 'expendable service equipment'. The rest of us who survived would carry for a lifetime the memories of a few short days in June of 1971 when we crossed in and around an unnamed hill known only as grid coordinates 571952.
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POSTED ON 12.17.2008
POSTED BY: Lucy T. Nava

My son is named after you

I had a 2nd son and named him Fiatele. He is a replica of you. Samoan and strong, very brave I may say and lives in another part of the states. I wish for one day he will live with me again and get to know his brothers and who very much have nothing but USO love for him.Just like you uncle he is my hero too.He learned how to forgive me for all we have been through.I love him so much as I do for all my sons.I wish you could know him and wish you were here on this earth to be hugged. Uncle...Fiatele knows he is named after you and I think it makes him feel speacial especially how now he knows why he is named after a hero like you.Although you served our country by is well known that you will always be a part of history and a hero not forgotten.In American Samoa the government named a recruiting center after you and Papa and Mama were there for the ceremonies in honor of your name and heoric acts serving our country..America. I went back in 1980 and to our homeland American Samoa and first thing I looked for was your grave sight. I saw you were burried next to Great Grandpa Te'o, your Grandfather..side by side you both lay infront of Great Grandpa te'os 2 Heroes you were on earth..he loved you so,at night I would lay on your tunamao (gravesite)..and talk to you as if you were present and tell you I love you very much. I am sorry I was'nt there to protect you in vietnam for I was only 5.. oh how I remembered you and how u use to carry me and sometimes slap me when I ate something off the ground...:)I was your little girl because you cared for me.I am happy and therefore can say...I am very glad I was made a Te'o.I also saw your purple heart and heroic badges and the flag they gave to grandma when you passed.I held them to my face and cried outloud while hugging and kissing them and saw your funeral picture as well all dressed up to see the King our almighty father God our creator.You were at peace finally no more sorrows or worries were ever to fall on you again..America is a tough project to protect and you did your part well without hesitation or questions..and I pray every time I pray that the families of fallen heroes well surpass the suffering and remember to just love you soldiers for all the beautiful memories you left for us to love.I Thank You and Love you very very much Uncle Fiatele T. Te'o..Love your Niece Lucy T. Nava (Te'o)
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