Born: August 2, 1948
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,
Staff Sergeant (S/Sgt.) Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond
the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on June
4 and 5, 1971 while 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 June
4, 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. S/Sgt. 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. S/Sgt.
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, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly
volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters
into the landing zone. S/Sgt. Cavaiani was able to direct the
first three helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the
Due to intense increase in enemy fire, S/Sgt. 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 fog restricted visibility.
The superior size enemy force launched a major 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. S/Sgt. 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 attempt to escape
while he provided them with cover fire. With one last courageous
exertion, S/Sgt. 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 S/Sgt.
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,
S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. 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 U.S. Army.
Jon Cavaiani came to America in 1947 with his parents at the age of four. Although he was classified 4-F because of an allergy to bee stings, he enlisted in the Army shortly before being naturalized in 1968. He qualified for Special Forces and was sent Vietnam in 1970.
As a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, Cavaiani spent time in Plantation Garden camp and interrogation center and then at the Hanoi
Hilton. He was held prisoner for twenty-three months,
and lost 106 pounds during his incarceration. As the papers
were prepared for awarding him the Medal of Honor, he was originally
thought to be MIA, (missing in action), but his name was heard
on a Viet Cong “Liberation Radio” program regarding
a letter from the POWs asking to end the war.
Read an except from
Jon Cavaiani's interview.
Watch video clip of Jon Cavaiani.