DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I want to begin by expressing our sincere gratitude of the United States to the government of Solomon Islands for generously organizing and hosting this morning’s ceremony, as well as for your partnership in all of the commemorations.
We’ve already recognized all of the distinguished people here, but I really want to talk to the community who lives here, the tribes, the landowners, and the communities surrounding, and to the children. Because I’m going to tell you something about the history of Bloody Ridge and the role that Solomon Islanders played in it. So I’m talking to you.
It was here on Bloody Ridge — a little more than six weeks since landing on Guadalcanal — that the 1st Raider Battalion from the U.S. Marine Corps under the command of Lieutenant General Merritt A. Edson, fought off a determined effort by Imperial Japanese forces to retake the airstrip the Marines had dubbed Henderson Field.
The Battle of Guadalcanal would continue to rage for months after the fight here on Bloody Ridge — in the air overhead, in the surrounding seas, and of course throughout the jungles, beaches, and villages of the island of Guadalcanal. But military historians will tell you that the humid September days and nights during which American and enemy forces clashed along this ridge were decisive to the eventual Allied victory on Guadalcanal.
What so many history books overlook, however, is the critical role that Solomon Islanders played in making that victory possible.
It was thanks to Solomon Islands scouts and coast watchers that Lieutenant Colonel Edson and his forces were alerted that enemy soldiers were massing some 20 miles away from this spot, near the village of Tasimboko. Traveling by small patrol boats, Edson and his men raided the enemy camp in the early morning hours — a raid that revealed an attack was being planned to attempt to recapture Henderson Field.
It was thanks to Solomon Islanders then, that the Marines were able to assemble their defense of Henderson Field and to prepare for the assault on Bloody Ridge.
That was by no means the first time that Solomon Islander scouts and coast watchers provided vital intelligence and service to Allied forces, nor would it be the last.
In late August 1942, Jacob Vouza, a Solomon Islander scout and former policeman, was captured by enemy forces while collecting intelligence for the Marines. He was tied to a tree and tortured for information. He refused to speak, but he did listen. Bayoneted and left for dead, Vouza managed to chew through his restraints and find his way to a group of Marines at the Ilu River to warn that an attack was imminent, giving them a precious 10 minutes to prepare.
After 12 days in the hospital, Vouza miraculously recovered from his wounds and took up his duties again as a scout. He was awarded the Silver Star by the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division along with numerous other awards for his service. When he died in 1984, he was buried in his Marine Corps tunic.
Countless other Solomon Islanders assisted the Allied war effort — whether formally through the scouts and coast watchers, or informally, helping to provide information and fill in gaps in the Allies’ understanding of the complex terrain of Solomon Islands. Their service and their sacrifice was essential to the eventual Allied victory in the Battle of Guadalcanal and throughout the South Pacific.
Today and every day, we honor the contributions of Solomon Islanders to our free, open, secure, prosperous, and above all peaceful Indo-Pacific region — past, present, and future.
The United States is so very proud to be a true partner and friend of Solomon Islands. Not only because of our shared history, but because our shared values for a strong foundation for collaboration to address and overcome the challenges of today.
Thank you all, and may the memories of those lost here on Bloody Ridge and throughout the Solomon Islands forever be a blessing.