Sir Jacob Vouza
By Tom Bartlett - Originally Published May 1984
The native scout who risked his life on Guadalcanal to befriend the Marines once wrote: "Tell them I love them all. Me old man now, and me no look good no more. But me never forget."
He was born Jacob Charles Vouza in 1900.
He died as The Honorable Sergeant Major Sir Jacob Charles Vouza on March 14, 1984. The events that transpired between his birth at Tasimboko, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, and his death there 84 years later made him a legend in his own time.
Vouza (which is what he asked to be called), was educated at the South Sea Evangelical Mission School. At 16, he joined the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary. He retired from the constabulary as a sergeant major in 1940, but returned to active duty with the British forces after the Japanese invaded his home islands in World War II.
Vouza worked as a scout for the Americans, and when he met Marines for the first time, he made an impression on them. One gave him a miniature American flag as a souvenir. The flag nearly cost Vouza his life.
Working behind enemy lines, Vouza was captured by the Japanese, and during the search, they found his U.S. flag. They tied him to a tree and tried to force him to reveal information about the Marines. He refused to talk. Japanese Lieutenant Yishimoto questioned Vouza for hours but got nothing for his efforts.
"Better me die plenty than give Solomon Islands to Japan," Vouza explained later in broken English.
The Japanese ripped Vouza's throat, chest, arms and stomach with their bayonets. Blood was pouring from his wounds. He fainted from pain and the loss of blood. The Japanese abandoned him, assuming he was dying.
Regaining consciousness hours later, Vouza chewed through the ropes that bound him. Martin Clemens, of the coastwatchers on the island, recalled:
"He was in an awful mess. I could hardly bear to look at him. After he chewed free of his bonds, he set off to try to contact the Marines, but after a bit, he became so weak that he had to crawl on all fours. He must have crawled nearly three miles, right through the whole battle.
"As if this wasn't enough, he also insisted in spluttering out a very valuable description of what the Japanese forces had consisted, its numbers and weapons. All of this was passed on immediately."
Vouza had lost a great deal of blood and expected to die. He was carried back, operated on, and given blood transfusions.
After spending 12 days in the hospital, Vouza returned to duty as Chief Scout for the Marines. His most important work lay ahead. He would be with LtCol Evans Carlson and the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion when they made their famous 30-day raid behind enemy lines at Guadalcanal.
Vouza was awarded the British George Medal for "gallant conduct and exceptional devotion to duty." He also received the American Silver Star Medal, presented personally by BGen A.A. Vandegrift, for refusing to give information under Japanese torture. He received the U.S. Legion of Merit for outstanding service with the 2nd Raiders. He would later receive the Police Long Service Medal, and in 1957, he was made a Member of the British Empire for his long, faithful government service.
He was appointed District Headman in 1949. From 1950 to 1960, Vouza was a member of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Advisory Council, and was President of the Guadalcanal Council from 1952 to 1958.
When visited by Marines during 1967, he expressed a wish to see America. The following year, Sergeant Major Vouza did, indeed, visit the U.S., where he was the honored guest of the First Marine Division Association.
In 1979, The Honorable Sergeant Major Sir Jacob Charles Vouza was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Many Marines have written to him or made contributions to the Vouza Scholarship Fund. Although, due to age and arthritis, he was unable to respond personally, he would dictate letters to his son, who presently serves as a sergeant in the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary.
Against a wall in his home, atop a small table, is a glass case containing Vouza's many medals and awards. Next to the display case were two miniature flags: one of the United States of America, and the other of the United States Marine Corps.
On August 7, 1962, Vouza sent the following message to the First Marine Division Association: "Tell them I love them all. Me old man now, and me no look good no more. But me never forget."
Nor will the Marines....