Okinawa Marine saves woman bitten by venomous habu snake

Sgt. John James from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31
Sgt. John James from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31

Okinawa Marine saves woman bitten by venomous habu snake

by Cpl. Brandon Salas
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

KIN TOWN, Okinawa – Using lifesaving skills he learned from the Marine Corps, Sgt. John James from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was able to save a local elderly woman from a venomous snake bite on Nov. 6, 2020.

What started as a normal day barbequing with friends quickly changed: “We were grilling burgers and hot dogs at the saloon bar, and suddenly we heard an elderly woman screaming in a language we didn’t understand,” said James, “We didn’t know what was wrong until she started screaming out ‘habu, habu’.”

The habu is a species of viper, one of four venomous snakes found in Okinawa Prefecture that are a serious threat to humans. James didn’t hesitate. Using the belt of a friend standing nearby, he found the bite marks and fastened a tourniquet two inches above the wound. While the saloon owner called emergency services, James contacted a corpsman to figure out what else he could do for the situation.

Cpl. Brandon Salas, 31st MEU Communication Strategy and Operations

Local authorities quickly arrived on scene. Finding the snake nearby, they were able to acquire the correct anti-venom needed for the bite. The emergency medical providers said that with his quick actions, James was able to save the woman’s life. “I didn't know if I was ever going to hear from her, but I just talked to her this past weekend, and she's doing really well. I think she went back to work about two to three days after the incident.”

Growing up on a small farm in Dubois, Nebraska, James had many close encounters with snakes. “I was bit by a bull snake when I was four or five. At the time, I was more angry than scared. It's just something that happens back home.” James is a graduate of Pawnee City High School and enlisted out of recruiting substation Lincoln, Nebraska in 2012.

James is currently a motor vehicle operator with CLB-31, but before coming to Okinawa, he was also part of the Marine Security Guard program where his job was to guard U.S. Embassies. “We did medical training once every week for three years for embassy attack training, and a lot of the training goes into how to apply a tourniquet or do CPR.”

For English language information about habu snakes and what to do when bitten, please visit

The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.

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