Jacob Vouza was already a hero when the Marines landed at Guadalcanal. When a pilot from the USS Wasp was shot down over his island, Vouza led that aviator to safety. That’s where he first met the Marines.
Vouza spent his life as part of his native island’s police force. When the Japanese invaded the British-controlled island in 1942, the lifelong policeman was already a year into retirement.
He joined the Coastwatchers, an allied intelligence gathering outfit on remote islands run by ANZAC officers and fielded by local islanders.
The policeman met the Marines later in 1942, accepting an American flag as a gift from one of the men. With the rank of Sgt. Major of his outfit and his lifelong experience in the island’s constabulary, he had valuable services in American invaders – and he did.
That’s what nearly cost him his life.
Vouza was captured by the Japanese defenders who found the U.S. flag he’d been given. The Japanese tortured Vouza for hours for information on the American positions, but the policeman gave up nothing.
The Japanese clubbed him with their rifle butts, then bayoneted him in the throat, chest, arms, and stomach, then left him for dead. Vouza passed out from blood loss.
But he woke up, chewed through the ropes that held him, and weakly escaped the scene. He crawled on all fours to get back to the Marines and warn them that the Japanese were coming.
Vouza crawled for three miles. When he finally arrived, he was able to describe the enemy’s numbers, weapons, and vehicles. The Marines took the information and got Vouza to a surgeon. After 12 days of surgery and blood transfusions, Jacob Vouza was back on duty. The old islander was the Marines’ chief scout on Lt. Col. Evan Carlson’s 30-day raid behind enemy lines.
He received the British George Medal for gallantry and devotion, the American Silver Star, the American Legion of Merit for his actions with the 2nd Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal, made a Member of the British Empire in 1957, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.
In 1962, Vouza sent a message to the First Marine Division Association that read, “Tell them I love them all. Me old man now, and me no look good no more. But me never forget.”
Sergeant Major Sir Jacob Vouza died in 1984.