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World War II in Solomon Islands



Sir Jacob Vouza, war hero


Photos of WW2 Sites

By Richard Moore

Sir Jacob VouzaOF ALL the stories recounted about World War II in the Solomon Islands, the tale of Jacob Vouza has to be the most astonishing.

Vouza had been retired for a year after 25 years service with the Solomons police force when Japan’s Imperial Forces invaded his country in 1942.

He had been a sergeant-major and upon the arrival of Japanese troops joined the Coastwatchers – a brave group of military intelligence officers and local natives who monitored and reported Japanese military movements to the Allies.

Vouza first met the US Marines when he rescued a naval aviator from behind Japanese lines and took him back to the Americans. He then volunteered to scout for them.

On a scouting patrol on August 20 1942, he was captured by the Japanese.

Searched, he was found to have a small US flag in his loincloth and the enemy tortured him for information on where the American forces were. Vouza went through hours of interrogation while tied to a tree, but refused to talk to his torturers.

Before leaving they decided to kill the islander and bayoneted him in his arms, shoulder, face, stomach and throat then left him to bleed to death from his wounds.

But Vouza was extremely tough and chewed through the vines holding him and somehow made his way to US lines where he warned them of an imminent attack by up to 500 men of the Japanese 28th regiment.

Sammy Basoe, Sir Jacob Vouza's grandsonThe warning came just in time and gave the Marines the chance they needed to prepare their defences on the Ilu River.

What followed was the bloody battle of Tenaru, or Alligator Creek where 800 Japanese died in a night-time bid to cross the waterway.

Vouza spent 12 days in a US military hospital and received 16 pints of blood. He was later treated by the Marines as an American because he had so much of their blood during transfusions.

Once he had recovered he took part in a month-long mission behind enemy lines with a US Raider battalion.

Vouza has a long list of decorations for his bravery during the fighting on Guadalcanal, including the US Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the British George Medal and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. He was also made an honorary Marine sergeant-major and in 1979 was knighted.

He is also honoured with a statue outside the police headquarters in Honiara.

A short drive from the battlefield of Tenaru and a memorial to the Ichiki Regiment that was slaughtered there, is an open-air WWII museum run by Sir Jacob Vouza’s grandson, Samwell Basoe.

It’s at Tetere Beach about 33km from Honiara and is an extraordinary collection of US Amtracks – tracked landing craft that could take 24 troops each from ships right up on to the beaches during a seaborne assault.

There are scores of the vehicles standing around, many are becoming part of the landscape with trees growing out and through them. Some even look like giant plant pots of rusted metal from which greenery sprouts skywards.

Samwell, or Sammy as he is known, keeps a detailed book on the wartime struggles for Guadalcanal.


Copyright 2014 RICHARD MOORE