Thursday, October 12, 2006

Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu VC

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu was a Fijian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born on Yathata Island, Fiji, Sukanaivalu was 26, and a Corporal in the Fijian Infantry Regiment during the Second World War, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

June 23, 1944 (World War II). In Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Corporal Sukanaivalu crawled forwards to rescue some badly wounded men. He brought two back successfully, but when he crawled back to rescue the third, he was shot in the thigh and groin and was unable to move the lower part of his body. Several of his soldiers attempted to rescue him, but this only resulted in more deaths. Knowing that his men would never retreat while he was still alive, Sukanaivalu raised himself up and was shot apart by Japanese bullets.

Fiji News 29 August 2005

War hero to be laid to rest

THE remains of the only Pacific Islander to be awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) would be flown home to Fiji to be laid in a war memorial. Sefanaia Sukanaivalu — one of only 1355 soldiers in the world to be awarded the medal for acts of valour in the face of the enemy — is buried at the Bitapaka War Memorial in East New Britain. Serving as a corporal with the Fijian Infantry Regiment on Bougainville during World War II, he rescued two badly wounded men and later gave his life to save his fellow soldiers from a Japanese Imperial troops onslaught.

Speaking on Saturday during the visit of his Papua New Guinea colleague Sir Michael Somare, Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said Fiji and PNG were working to return the soldier’s remains.

“They will be enshrined in a new War Memorial to be built close to Fiji’s Parliament buildings. At last Corporal Sukanaivalu’s earthly remains will be home with us. We will give thanks anew for his life and deeds. We will pay tribute as well to all those other Fijian soldiers who did not return from New Guinea,” Mr Qarase said. An official in the Fiji Prime Minister’s Office, Jioji Kotobalavu, told the Fiji Times newspaper they hoped to start building the war memorial this year to ensure it would be ready in November 2006.

“The construction is going to begin very soon. The intention is to start the work now so that it is ready for formal inauguration in November 2006. That’s when the remains of Corporal Sukanaivalu will be transferred and enshrined so that it’s part of the central part of the National War Memorial,” Mr Kotobalavu said. The Fijian Government would fund the repatriation of the soldier’s remains.

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