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Jon Cavaiani

Born: August 2, 1943
Royston England

War: Vietnam

Rank: Staff Sergeant, US Army, Vietnam Training Advisory Group

Location of action: Republic of Vietnam

Date of action: June 4 and 5, 1971

Medal received from: President Gerald Ford, December 12, 1974

Official Citation:


Jan 9, 2010:  Ralph A. Morgan, SGT, TFIAE, Related that he was the last person off Hill 950 about 8pm, 4 Jun 71, on a Huey, that he went over to the Americans (At that time, there were only two Americans left on the hill) and asked them to leave on the Chopper with him, they refused. At the time, he says they had been fighting all day and they were wide eyed. Sgt Morgan stated he did not understand why they refused to leave because it was obvious the hill was going to fall and there was no way it could be defended any longer as he was the last defender to the East facing hill 1015 fighting with an M60, now there was nothing defending the saddle between Hill 1015 and 950 and the enemy could just walk across. The two remaining Americans were SSG Jon Cavaiani and SGT John Robert Jones, thus, it must have been Jon Cavaiani who refused to leave Hill 950 as he was senior NCO and in command of the hill. In conversations with Jon in the past he has said he would never have left his Bru as long as there was fight still in him. Jon Cavaiani stated that Sgt Morgan, the Radio Operator, came to him requesting that he stay, but Cavaiani "ordered" him to leave, that he and Jones would stay with the  remaining Bru. NOTE: The US Marine Corps occupied Hill 950 and during 1968, the NVA occupied Hill 1015 which was higher than 950 and 950 was in range of 1015 so whoever occupied 1015 could lob anything they wanted down on top of 950 and overran Hill 950. They did it in 68 and again in 71.

Hickory Apr/May 71, perhaps last pic before the attack. Photo by Lt George Holland



Hill 950 taken 5 Jun, after the attack. It is a large picture so you can see details of the utter destruction. How did Cavaiani survive the night? Photo by Sgt Ralph A. Morgan


Conversation with John Valersky, Col, US Army (Retired)  Nov 19, 2009
Col Valersky was a captain with Recon Company for four months, At the end of May 71, he was informed that they had a "good deal" for him, he was being reassigned to "Security Company" as the Executive Officer and due to his background as an Engineer Officer he was to go to Hill 950 immediately to fortify it because of an imminent attack. Upon arriving on Hickory  on Jun 1, he began assessing the situation and briefing the Americans and talking to a company element that had just been in the valley. During the period before the attack, all that could be done was to fill sandbags to fortify the wall facing Hill 1015, which Col Valersky stated was almost useless as there was not enough time to complete the fortification when the attacks started.
Col Valersky relates during the initial attacks he was wounded He had received a report form Cavaiani or Jones that there were 14 wounded, based on this and the evaluation of the situation, he ordered a complete evacuation of Hill 950.  He relates the day before the attack, he was totally exhausted as he had not had much sleep or rest since he got to Hickory and went to sleep in the commo bunker. He says he remembers Jon Cavaiani telling him not to do it as there was something that could be poisonous in the bunker. The evacuation commander ordered the wounded to be evacuated first.
Note: Two helicopters were sent to evacuate Hill 950, the first chopper named Curious Yellow was to take out the wounded, however, it suffered a hit and was damaged and fell of the top of Hickory with wounded, including Cpt Valersky. Some how the pilot was able to regain control and landed the chopper on the old Combat airstrip known as Khe Sahn.  The second helicopter named "My Brother's Keeper" followed Curious Yellow and landed and transferred all the wounded and crew from Curious Yellow; thus, the remaining men on Hickory were not evacuated at this time.
NOTE:  Further evacuations were aborted that night when the weather worsened and the hill became "socked in". 
Col Valersky says when he woke up after surgery on his hip wound after he spent 14 days in the hospital and discovered he was being evacuated to Japan. Because of some strings being pulled he was returned to TF1AE to recover.
During the period of his recovery at TF1AE, based on his own observations of the actions of Jon Cavaiani during the attacks before he was evacuated, he considered long an hard to determine what the actions of Jon Cavaiani merited.  He states he had a lot of time and his evaluations of the actions of others who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, his own observations, and his own debriefings of others that remained on Hickory with Cavaiani but evacuated just before the hill was completely overrun and he reached the conclusions based on the facts at the time that Cavaiani's actions merited the Medal of Honor. Col Valersky stated he therefore wrote and submitted Cavaiani for the award. He says he was not influenced by anyone in higher command, he did so not out of guilt, but on the known actions of Cavaiani. Col Valersky further stated that based upon his knowledge at the time, he though Jon Cavaiani and John Jones were killed in action, but he says regardless of that fact, even if he knew Jon had survived, he would have submitted Jon for the Congressional Medal of Honor and the fact that Jon was presumed KIA had no influence on his recommendation and that there has been nothing during the past 38 years that has changed his mind and Jon certainly deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I also spoke to Lt George Holland (Nov 14, 2009) who was the Artillery FO on Hickory and was also wounded and evacuated with Col Valersky, he stated that he has nothing but the highest praise for Cavaiani's actions during the period he was there before being wounded. 
Robert L. Noe
Cpt, USA SF (Ret)

See Jon Cavaiani's Experience as a POW and member of the "Peace Committee"