THE ASSAULT ON HICKORY HILL, JUNE 1971
note, my original was edited by Mr. X and presented here)
I am pleased to pass along the Article enrtitled “The Assault on Hickory Hill
– June 1971.” It appears on pages 42, 43, 44 & 47 of the fall 2013 issue
of Special Forces Association “The Drop.”
article is well written and from all the information I have, it is the most
accurate version yet of what actually happened. I know -- I was involved in the
research of Hickory. I was part of a research group of about 40 veterans that
included the ASA, dust-off Medevac pilots, Cobra pilots, the FAC, Army Rangers,
JPAC, and others directly and indirectly involved and interested in this battle.
one zero training on May 21, 1970 in Long Thang.
The day I arrived back on the compound at Command and Control North (CCN),
I was sent to Qan Tri for 2 weeks of Bright Light duty, upon completion of that,
I was send directly to take command of Hickory Hill (aka Hickory Radio Relay
Site/Hill 950) for the month of June and part of July 1970.
created a webpage on Hickory Radio Relay, Hill 950 at http://www.macvsog.cc/hickory_fire_support.htm
during the later part of 1988/early 1990. Through this website, a former SOG
Major made contact with me. He told
me that he had read the "enemy's After Action Report" on the attack
and it did not conform to the Army's versions. After some correspondence between
the two of us, I determined that his claim that the enemy's version was correct
was false -- and there was no way I was going to convince him otherwise. I
ceased all communications with him.
2009, I was contacted by a “Mr. X” who was in the ASA and then, after OCS,
became an Artillery officer. He was
researching the loss of the (ASA/NSA) “EXPLORER” on Hickory when the hill
was overrun. Representing SOG, I became part of a growing interest in the loss
of Hickory (aka Hill 950) -- the story presented in the Drop. I was instrumental
in making contacts though my vast Special Operations contacts to find the
various participants who had served on Hickory before and during the assault.
Mr. X would follow up with multiple, detailed interviews with these
participants as their stories had never been told.
Many photographs of Hickory were discovered in the personal belongings of
several of the survivors – SOG/SF NCOs Larry Page and Ralph Morgan.
Skip Holland, a young 2LT FA FO was on Hickory and seriously wounded on
the morning of the assault. Skip
found several amazing photos of Hickory in his belongings. Mr. X received
valuable, never revealed information from several FOIA requests – including
declassified information on the Top Secret “EXPLORER” SIGINT
remotely-controlled intercept operation. The
story came together slowly – after several years of research.
to Mr. X that it would be good to see if we could get those who had fought on
Hickory to attend a mini-reunion at one of our Special Operations Association
Reunions (SOAR). He agreed.
We decided to see if we could get them to attend the 2010 SOAR. Mr.
X sent out invitations to all. I
personally extended one to Jon Cavaiani when I was at his home in California
getting him to sign the SOG Medal of Honor print.
Jon promised me he would attend – and he did. The mini-reunion in Las
Vegas was a huge success. None of
the Hickory survivors had seen or communicated with each other after they left
Vietnam. As part of their History
Project, the SOA filmed the recollections of the participants of the battle and
the history of the research outlined by Mr. X.
One of the central topics was JPAC’s on-going search for the remains of
SF/SOG SGT John R. Jones. At the
SOAR, Steve Thompson of JPAC told Mr. X that the bunker identified by Jon
Cavaiani had just been discovered! The
word passed quickly to the Hickory survivors.
The mission was not over. JPAC’s
“Recovery Team” would still have to carefully excavate the area of the
bunker, discover the remains, return them to their labs at Hickam AFB in Hawaii,
and (if possible) confirm the identification.
In 2011 remains were discovered. In
July of 2012, JPAC positively identified the remains of SGT John R. Jones.
In early December 2012, Jones’ remains were laid to rest at Arlington.
“Jonesy” was back home in the USA -- buried with full military
honors. Pics of that ceremony can be
found at the ASA website: http://thelastsevendays.wordpress.com/sergeant-john-r-jones/
recent passing or our SF/SOG brother, Jon Cavaiani – and his burial at
Arlington early next month -- the story of Hickory comes to a close.
Thanks to the participation and research of a group of veterans (from
several military units), the most accurate history of the loss of Hickory has
been told. The US soldiers on
Hickory when it was assaulted on 4 June 1971, by elements of a PAVN battalion,
were: SOG CPT John Valersky, 2LT George “Skip” Holland, SOG SGT Jon Cavaiani,
SOG SGT John Jones, SOG SGT Roger Hill, SOG SGT Larry Page, SOG SGT Ralph
Morgan, SP4 Walter Millsap, and SP4 Robert Garrison.
Millsap and Garrison were “sensor readers” with the 1st of
the 5th (Mech). 2LT
Holland was a FO with A battery, 8th of the 4th FA
stationed at Camp J. J. Carroll. Walter
Millsap was killed early this year in a motorcycle accident.
Robert Garrison has never been located.
We hope and
pray that Jon Cavaiani’s burial site will be close to that of his SOG brother
-- the only US soldier KIA on Hickory, SGT John R. Jones.
May they rest in peace.
From Special Forces Association magazine, the Drop