90-year-old Jack Maeraunga remembers the Battle of Savo Island – he was there
It was the first major naval battle of the Battle of Guadalcanal, and Jack Maeraunga remembers it well.
The 90-odd year-old – he is unsure of his actual age – was on Savo Island when the battle, which kick-started the the naval campaign during the Battle of Guadalcanal, took place.
And the local of Savo Island – about a 90 minute boat ride from Honiara – is still there today.
During a recent tour of the island, SIBC spoke to the man, now a village chief in the village of Bonala on the north-east side of the islands, about his experiences during the battle on August 8 and 9, 1942.
“I was a small boy,” he told SIBC. “Maybe 13 or 14, I’m not really sure. A long time has passed, but I do remember it.
“I saw the planes, big ones, lots of them, and the ships.
“They were frightening, I remember that, they came in and came down – very fast. I remember one plane dropped a bomb nearby where we were. The bomb hit the water and the village, some died, some survived.”
Chief Maeraunga said during the battle – in which the US Navy suffered a humiliating defeat and the Australian navy saw one of its flagship vessles, HMAS Canberra, sink – he and mother fled to the bush and lived in a cave inland of the island.
“We didn’t come back for a long time, we hid away,” he said. “We stayed there for a month, away from our house, in a cave in the bush. We didn’t have our garden near the house so we survived on Tarro and Yam, that’s all we ate.
And I remember the ships, the big guns, firing away, the big ships firing at each other, it was scary.
“But it was a long, long time ago, and I don’t know if there’s anyone else on the island that was here.”