Medal of Honor Recipient: Jon R. Cavaiani

Medal of Honor Recipient Jon Cavaiani was born in Royston England, August 2, 1943, and moved to the United States in 1947 with his parents.

Before joining, Cavaiani was classified as 4F due to a bee allergy. He then had negotiations with a doctor about his classification, and it was changed so that he could enlist with the Army. In 1970, Cavaiani was deployed to Vietnam with the Special Forces. While there, Cavaiani adopted a son and created an orphanage for his boy and other children who had lost their families from the war. While Cavaiani was away, the orphanage was attacked, and everyone inside the building, including his son, were killed, except for one monk. This monk was told to deliver a message to Cavaiani to leave the area and to never return.

He was then transferred to a camp, within enemy lines, where he was in charge of security. When this camp came under heavy attack, Cavaiani had helicopters sent to rescue the remaining soldiers. Cavaiani stayed behind to help direct the aircraft away from the camp so that 3 groups of soldiers could evacuate, while he stayed behind with a small group of men. They held their defenses as long as they could until Cavaiani instructed the remaining soldiers to escape while he held off the enemy.

Cavaiani was shot, and left for dead, but remained alive for eleven days, while he wandered through the Vietnamese countryside, until his capture. He was sent to a POW camp where he was brutally interrogated. He was held captive for 23 months. While he was captured, Cavaiani was considered to be MIA and awarded the Medal of Honor, through which he received his Medal of Honor from Gerald Ford in December of 1974.

Citation:   Staff Sergeant Jon R. Cavaiani, United States Army, in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 was serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled, grenade, and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. Sergeant Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp’s perimeter directing the platoon’s fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. Sergeant Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, Sergeant Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. Sergeant Cavaiani was able to direct the first three helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase of enemy fire, Sergeant Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of June 5, a heavy ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in two ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. Sergeant Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With one last courageous exertion, Sergeant Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the two ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through Sergeant Cavaiani‘s valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, Sergeant Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. Sergeant Cavaiani’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.