90-year-old Jack Maeraunga remembers the Battle of Savo Island – he was there


Jack Maeraunga of the Bonala village spoke to SIBC about the battle of Savo Island

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.”

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