Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Native Knight

On the 7th of August 1942, the US Marine Corps stormed ashore in the opening of the Guadalcanal campaign. Overhead USMC planes fought with Japanese. One Japanese plane piloted by the ace Pilot Officer Saburō Sakai shot down a US F4F. Then unbelievably he was attacked by a lone SBD Dauntless bomber flown by Lieutenant Dudley H. Adams, from the USS Wasp. Lt Adams opening salvo did very little damage, although one of the bullets smashed through PO Saburō’s cockpit missing his head by inches. The Japanese pilot quickly flipped his manoeuvrable plane round and began to shoot up the Dauntless, killing the rear gunner. As the dive bomber began its final dive into the jungle below Lt Adams jumped out and parachuted down into the enemy held jungle. On that day the USS Wasp lost four aircraft, one was Lt Adams' Dauntless, the other three were F4F's. One of those was flown by Ensign Thaddeus J Caponski. Both pilots are listed as surviving, but the names and fates of the other two are not recorded.
As one of those two pilots looked around the green hell of the jungle, they knew they were deep behind enemy lines, surrounded by Japanese forces and dangers from the jungle itself. They may not have known which way to head for safety, or even if the US invasion had succeeded. Then there was movement behind a bush, the pilot fumbling for his side arm. A man stepped out, not a Japanese soldier, but a middle aged native, clad in just a loin cloth. The natives name was Jacob Charles Vouza.

Jacob Charles Vouza
We don't know exactly when Vouza, which was how he asked to be addressed, was born. The best guess is some time around 1900. We do know that he joined the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary in 1916, and served for 25 years before retiring as a senior NCO. However the war returned in May 1942 with the Japanese invading his home. Vouza immediately volunteered for service with the Coastwatchers, a department of the Australian Intelligence Service. Their role was to observe Japanese movements, especially behind enemy lines and report them to the Allies. For this a large number of natives served, their most famous exploit was the rescue of John F Kennedy after his PT boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Now Vouza had found a downed US pilot, and decided to lead him back to US lines.

With the pilot safely returned to friendly lines Vouza volunteered again, this time to scout for the Marines. On the 19th of August the Marines had hacked a small beachhead into the Japanese territory. However Japanese forces were moving up to counter attack. On the 19th a patrol of sixty USMC ambushed a slightly smaller Japanese patrol. Papers recovered from bodies of the Japanese warned of a large Japanese force preparing to assault the USMC perimeter, only there was no indication of when the assault would take place. Vouza stepped forward and offered to scout in the jungle. For identification purposes he was given a small American flag, which he hid in his loincloth, and he disappeared into the jungle.

As he probed around the Japanese positions he was captured by the Japanese. Things got much worse when the Japanese found the US flag hidden in his loin cloth. Vouza was tied to a tree and tortured for several hours by a Japanese naval officer. At the end of his ordeal, during which he had refused to give any information he was stabbed repeatedly with bayonets and Japanese swords, taking wounds to both shoulders, his throat, stomach and face. Bleeding heavily and in intense pain he passed out. When he came to the Japanese were gone, having presumed he was dying they left him to it. Vouza chewed through his bonds and began to head back to the Allied lines. After a short distance he collapsed from blood loss. He began to crawl, covering an estimated three miles through the Japanese battle line. Despite his condition he noted the Japanese soldiers getting ready. When he reached the USMC front line he gasped out a warning, before accepting medical attention. The officer commanding the US position credited Vouza's warning as giving them barely ten minutes advance notice, in which they were just able to ready themselves in time. What followed was the battle of Alligator Creek, where the Japanese threw themselves onto the prepared and alert US guns and were obliterated. Even so it was a very close run thing, with the Japanese assault reaching the US position on occasion, but always with heavy casualties. Vouza said later of the whole episode: "Better me die plenty than give Solomon Islands to Japan."
The aftermath of the Battle of Alligator Creek. Its one of the few engagements of the war where the US 37mm AT gun fired Canister shells.
The USMC officer, Major Clemens, had this to say:
"He was in an awful mess. I could hardly bear to look at him. [...] As if this wasn’t enough, he also insisted in spluttering out a very valuable description of what the Japanese forces had consisted, it's numbers and weapons. All of this was passed on immediately."

A grievously wounded Vouza was given prompt medical treatment. He needed a whopping sixteen pints of blood, despite this Vouza only remained in hospital for twelve days! Unfortunately his voice was damaged during the ordeal and never recovered. Vouza later joined the famous Carlson's Raiders as their scout on a month long journey behind enemy lines.
After the war he settled down in his village of Roroni, however he later served as District Headman, President of the Native Council and a member of an advisory council. By the 1950s it was reported that he was suffering memory loss, and unable to remember all the functions and public duties he was involved with and being illiterate he was unable to write these down.
He died on the 5th of March 1984.
Vouza had a list of awards, which may be utterly unique in the world. First he had a George Cross, a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit. He was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and given the rank of honorary Sgt Major in the USMC. His home proclaimed him Malaghai, or "Warrior". He also qualified for the Police Long Service Medal.