THE ASSAULT ON HICKORY HILL, JUNE 1971

(Please note, my original was edited by Mr. X and presented here)

Gentlemen, 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.”  

This 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. 

I completed 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.  

I had 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.   

In early 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.    

I mentioned 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/  

With the 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 MR. X to Unidentified.
Now that is a cheeseburger.*

Note the credits at the end of the SF magazine article. Lonnie Long and Gary Blackburn did a really fine job of reconstructing much of what happened on Hill 950 on June 4 and 5, 1971. Their account is much more accurate than any of the (less sourced) earlier versions.

Shortly before Lonnie and Gary had to go to press they contacted me and sent me a copy of their draft. [I believe Robert Noe pointed them toward me.] I sent them some additional information -- based on the many interviews of the survivors of the battle and others involved in the support and rescue -- as well as documents that we had discovered. I also shared with Gary and Lonnie the never-before-seen photographs that Roger Hill gave to Larry Page (who gave them to me) and likewise the several (Wayne Twiehaus) photos that you had (and shared with me) and also those from Skip Holland and Ralph Morgan. Three of those made it into Chapter 25 of "Unlikely Warrors."

Shortly after it was published, Lonnie and Gary were kind enough to send me an autographed hard copy of their "Unlikely Warriors -- The Army Security Agency's Secret War in Vietnam 1961 - 1973." I have encouraged other members of our EXPLORER research team to read Lonnie and Gary's excellent account. The SF magazine's distillation is very good. It settles a lot of the dust. The other chapters in their book are equally well done and interesting.

Thanks for sharing this article. Robert Noe had told me about it and I'm pleased to see the scans.

Best,
MR. X


PS: *The cheeseburger reference is a private joke between Mike and me (and some of my OCS classmates). I'll just say that in addition to becoming a stud chopper pilot, Mike Sloniker was a young "entrepreneur" -- when he lived in Lawton, OK in the mid-sixties.
 


From: Unidentified

From Special Forces Association magazine, the Drop

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