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View Full Version : Guadalcanal - Sir Jacob Vouza, Sergeant Major, USMC



Rising Sun*
12-19-2011, 05:18 AM
Possibly (a) the only sergeant major in the USMC who never enlisted in the USMC and (b) the only USMC sergeant major, and possibly any other USMC rank, to receive a British knighthood.


Alerted by patrols, the Marines now dug in along the Ilu River, often misnamed the Tenaru on Marine maps, were ready for Colonel Ichiki. The Japanese commander's orders directed him to "quickly recapture and maintain the airfield at Guadalcanal," and his own directive to his troops emphasized that they would fight "to the last breath of the last man." And they did.

Too full of his mission to wait for the rest of his regiment and sure that he faced only a few thousand men overall, Ichiki marched from Taivu to the Marines' lines. Before he attacked on the night of the 20th, a bloody figure stumbled out of the jungle with a warning that the Japanese were coming. It was Sergeant Major Vouza. Captured by the Japanese, who found a small American flag secreted in his loincloth, he was tortured in a failed attempt to gain information on the invasion force. Tied to a tree, bayonetted twice through the chest, and beaten with rifle butts, the resolute Vouza chewed through his bindings to escape. Taken to Lieutenant Colonel Edwin A. Pollock, whose 2d Battalion, 1st Marines held the Ilu mouth's defenses, he gasped a warning that an estimated 250-500 Japanese soldiers were coming behind him. The resolute Vouza, rushed immediately to an aid station and then to the division hospital, miraculously survived his ordeal and was awarded a Silver Star for his heroism by General Vandegrift, and later a Legion of Merit. Vandegrift also made Vouza an honorary sergeant major of U.S. Marines.


Jacob Charles Vouza was born in 1900 at Tasimboko, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, and educated at the South Seas Evangelical Mission School there. In 1916 he joined the Solomon Islands Protectorate Armed Constabulary, from which he retired at the rank of sergeant major in 1941 after 25 years of service.

After the Japanese invaded his home island in World War II, he returned to active duty with the British forces and volunteered to work with the Coastwatchers. Vouza's experience as a scout had already been established when the 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal. On 7 August 1942 he rescued a downed naval pilot from the USS Wasp who was shot down inside Japanese territory. He guided the pilot to friendly lines where Vouza met the Marines for the first time.

Vouza then volunteered to scout behind enemy lines for the Marines. On 27 August he was captured by the Japanese while on a Marine Corps mission to locate suspected enemy lookout stations. Having found a small American flag in Vouza's loincloth, the Japanese tied him to a tree and tired to force him to reveal information about Allied forces. Vouza was questioned for hours, but refused to talk. He was tortured and bayoneted about the arms, throat, shoulder, face, and stomach, and left to die.

He managed to free himself after his captors departed, and made his way through the miles of jungle to American lines. There he gave valuable intelligence information to the Marines about an impending Japanese attack before accepting medical attention.

After spending 12 days in the hospital, Vouza then returned to duty as the chief scout for the Marines. He accompanied Lieutenant Colonel Evans. F. Carlson and the 2d Marine Raider Battalion when they made their 30-day raid behind enemy lines at Guadalcanal.

Sergeant Major Vouza was highly decorated for his World War II service. The Silver Star was presented to him personally by Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, for refusing to give information under Japanese torture. He also was awarded the Legion of Merit for outstanding service with the 2d Raider Battalion during November and December 1942, and the British George Medal for gallant conduct and exceptional devotion to duty. He later received the Police Long Service Medal and, in 1957, was made a Member of the British Empire for long and faithful government service.

After the war, Vouza continued to serve his fellow islanders. In 1949, he was appointed district headman, and president of the Guadalcanal Council, from 1952-1958. He served as a member of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Advisory Council from 1950 to 1960.

He made many friends during his long association with the U.S. Marine Corps and through the years was continually visited on Guadalcanal by Marines. During 1968, Vouza visited the United States, where he was the honored guest of the 1st Marine Division Association. In 1979, he was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. He died on 15 March 1984. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Guadalcanal.html

royal744
12-24-2011, 01:20 PM
Wonderful story!

Boutte
02-07-2012, 01:38 AM
Great story about a great man.

Writerjohnb
03-20-2012, 01:47 PM
I googled and read even more about him. Thanks for a geat bit of wartime information.

JohnB