11 January 2009

Victoria Cross: S. Sukanaivalu


Corporal, 3rd Battalion, Fijian Infantry Regiment

Born: 1918, Yathata Island, Fiji
Died: 23 June 1944, Mawaraka, Bougainville, Solomon Islands

Citation: On June 23rd, 1944, at Mawaraka, Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu crawled forward to rescue some men who had been wounded when their platoon was ambushed and some of the leading elements had become casualties.
After two wounded men had been successfully recovered this N.C.O., who was in command of the rear section, volunteered to go on farther alone to try and rescue another one, in spite of machine gun and mortar fire, but on the way back he himself was seriously wounded in the groin and thighs and fell to the ground, unable to move any farther.
Several attempts were then made to rescue Corporal Sukanaivalu but without success owing to heavy fire being encountered on each occasion and further casualties caused.
This gallant N.C.O. then called to his men not to try and get to him as he was in a very exposed position, but they replied that they would never leave him to fall alive into the hands of the enemy.
Realising that his men would not withdraw as long as they could see that he was still alive and knowing that they were themselves all in danger of being killed or captured as long as they remained where they were, Corporal Sukanaivalu, well aware of the consequences, raised himself up in front of the Japanese machine gun and was riddled with bullets.
This brave Fiji soldier, after rescuing two wounded men with the greatest heroism and being gravely wounded himself, deliberately sacrificed his own life because he knew that it was the only way in which the remainder of his platoon could be induced to retire from a situation in which they must have been annihilated had they not withdrawn.

(London Gazette issue 36774 dated 31 Oct 1944, published 31 Oct 1944.)

Note: Corporal Sukanaivalu is the only Fijian to have received the Victoria Cross.

1 comment:

Editor164InfantryNews@hotmail.com said...

According to an account given to me in October 2008 from a former officer from Company E, 164 Infantry Regiment (Americal Division), US Army:
Corp. Sukanaivalu was a member of the corresponding Company E of the 3rd Battalion, Fijian Inf Regiment.
The American officer (then Lieutenant) was tasked that day as an observer for what he described as a "reconnaissance in force" by the Fijian company. He did not personally see the heroic act, but describes the machinegun fire and states the Fijians were so close to the enemy that the Japanese threw hand grenades, some of which landed behind the Lieutenant's position. He stated that Corp Sukanaivalu was buried at the Bougainville military cemetery with full military honors.
The 164th Infantry was the first US Army unit to offensively engage the Japanese when they reinforced the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal in October 1942. They landed at Bougainville on Christmas Day, 1943.