JON CAVAIAN'S EXPERIENCE AS A PRISONER OF WAR AND MEMBER OF THE "PEACE COMMITTEE" JON WAS NOT A "collaborator" (Traitor also known as "Duck") see research below that validates this finding.
you know by being on this site, I am a Special Forces SOG vet, retired Army
Captain. My brother was a Special Forces Medic and was Killed in Action in
Vietnam. If I though for a moment that Jon had betrayed our nation, I would have
had nothing to do with him.
I consider Jon Cavainai as a personal friend. I first had contact with him back in the late 70's as we had both served on Hill 950, my service was a year prior to his. During our initial contact he related his experience as a Prisoner of War and the "Peace Committee" At that time, I didn't know squat about the "Peace Committee." He told me that he joined the Peace Committee and was working for Colonel Guy. I had no reason to question him so I never contacted Col Guy. Col Guy is now deceased and cannot affirm or deny Jon's claims; however, I had Jon present in writing his actions/reflections on his experience and I have come across two books that substantiates his claims and an email that have a direct bearing on Jon Cavaiani presented below: The first is "Honor Bound -- American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia 1961-1973" by Stuart I. Rochester and Fredrick Kiley, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis Maryland, 1998. The second by a prisoner of war who was a member of the Peace Committee BLACK PRISONER OF WAR, A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR'S VIETNAM MEMOIR, by James A Daly and Lee Bergman, University Press of Kansas. The Email is from Joe Oliver, dated Jul 23, 2014 discussing Col Ted Guy and Col. Gordon "Swede" Larson, both USAF (ret) Former PoW/SRO NVN on the Traitors/Ducks- Robert L. Noe, Cpt, USASF
|Reflections by Jon Cavaiani on his experience to Cpt (USASF Ret) Robert L. Noe|
During the attack on Hill 950, I had killed the son of the "NVA" commander with a Gerber knife and his father was ready for me when I was returned to his camp with a Gerber sheath strapped to my leg. My interpreter, Thant, told me I should answer all their questions but that was not a part of the Code of Conduct, therefore, I couldn't give out any information.
Four days Later, after I was taken for my first formal interrogation, I faced, the rude, crude and socially unacceptable interrogation techniques. My captured Montagnards were put on their knees and I was asked about our unit and our modes-operandi. I gave them my name, rank and serial number. They then put a pistol to one of my seriously wounded Montagnard's head and said give me name, rank and serial number again and I will kill your man. They killed my man then moved on to one of my other Montagnards and made the same request; they killed him as well. I told them to kill the rest of my Montagnards and come on back and kill me; for if I was ever going to tell them anything they could forget it now.
Understand one thing about me. My Montagnards were closer than my own brother. I told the interrogator go ahead and kill me and my men as I wasn't going to say anything that would put another person in harms way. They proceeded to break many of my ribs on the left side and when they cut me down they fractured three vertebrae.
I was moved to Vinh, North Vietnam, with my interpreter and eight other Montagnards. As we moved to the rail yard I noticed my interpreter push several of my Yards and at the time it didn't mean much. Once we were on the train for about eight hours, I moved over in the cattle car and asked one of my Yards a question and he said "The train had many eyes." I move away from him until we reached a camp about two to two and a half hours from Hanoi. The train stopped and the Montagnards were taken off the train at what I can only describe as a North Vietnamese re-education camp for my Yards.
When Thant leapt from the train and a North Vietnamese friend of his presented him with his Sub-Lieutenant uniform, I knew he was a North Vietnamese Soldier and he knew every operation I was on with him.
I stayed on the train for another two hours before being taken to a camp about an hour from Hanoi. I was to spend six days in this camp and was interrogated every night but one. While I was there, the two Canberra pilots in the cell next to me never came home.
I was then moved to Plantation Gardens for one night then moved to the Zoo. I was interrogated by "Dumbo", an Oxford University, England, graduate who spoke fluent English. I again met "Jeff" in the "Mutt and Jeff Interrogation techniques". Later I was moved back to the Plantation Garden's until I was transferred to the "Hanoi Hilton"; December 27,1972
After about a year at the "Plantation Gardens" I was ashamed by the conduct of the "Peace Committee" (PC'S). The soldiers in the PC's were flipping off and giving our, Senior Ranking American Officer, (SRO) Ted Guy total disrespect of his command. This was totally unacceptable to me.
During my stay in isolation, for pissing off the political officer, I noticed that the drop site for our messages was compromised and was forced to send LTC Guy (SRO) a message stating that our safe drop was compromised. The only way I could do this was to get a message to him. I told the guard that my bread was sour and that it should be given to Ted Guy. The guard made sure that our SRO got the message. Months later, LTC Ted Guy told me that he got the message but almost got caught as he always destroyed the bread he didn't eat and the guard was looking in when he took a bite of the bread and pulled out the note I had hidden in the bread and it was stuck between his lips. All he could think to do was ask for a light. We laughed over that one.
Insulted by the actions of the PC's I decided to join them and break them up. Old Special Forces Training. I felt that I could succeed in disrupting the PC's. I felt that the Political Officer "Cheese" would see right though my attempt to infiltrate the PC's , but he didn't catch on.
Once I joined the PC's, I saw that the guys in the sick room were better fed. I was obligated to do what I had to do to continue living with the PC's. After about a week with the PCs, I was asked to sign a letter that protested the war in Vietnam, which I reluctantly signed, wanting to continue breaking up the PC's. I continued my stay in the PC's room and documenting gratuities received, statements made and in general creating dissension amongst the PC's. (divide and conquer). Eventually, I had the PC's fighting in the compound.
It wasn't until the Vietnamese told the PC's that the war was about to end that the PC's got together and talked about what they were going to do. They talked to one another and realized that I had created dissension in their ranks. It was at this time when I got to meet my first North Vietnamese General who explained to me that if I broke one camp regulation that I would be executed in front of the men in the camp.
Three weeks later, the 27th of December, we were moved to the Hanoi Hilton and about a week later I had learned that Le Duc Ta and Kissinger had signed an agreement and immediately tapped out, that the "war was over" to LTC Ted Guy, Major Montague and CWO Ziegler. LTC Guy Tapped me back and asked me to let all the other POW's know. I did and LTC Guy and I were in with other POW's when we were notified by the Vietnamese Commander that we were to be released.
"Ted Guy asked me to be a witness against the PCs. CW2 Zigler also contacted me and asked me if I would testify against the PCs. I told him yes. I was officially debriefed as to the violations of the Code of Conduct that the Peace Committee violated. and therefore had conversations with the Army CID.
I don't know if I was on the list of witnesses, but Col Guy knew I was available.
Sergeant Major, (then SSG Jon R. Cavaiani), TF1AE, MACVSOG. Dated: 15 December, 2009
|HONOR BOUND -- American Prisoners of War in
Southeast Asia 1961-1973" by Stuart I. Rochester and Fredrick Kiley,
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis Maryland, 1998. The sources the authors
cite for page 562 (and 563) are Grant, "Survivors," Daly and Bergman,
"A Hero's Welcome" and Myers, "Vietnam POW Camp Histories."
This is considered the most definitive work on
Prisoners of War during the Vietnam war. (Thanks to Louis
GIRDLER, for these two pages)
|BLACK PRISONER OF WAR, A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR'S VIETNAM MEMOIR, by James A Daly and Lee Bergman, University Press of Kansas|
PEACE COMMITTEE: Chapter 19 of the book describes the Peace Committee and notes James A. Daly joined the Peace Committee December 28, 1971, another joined shortly after him for a total of 8 active members (five Army, three Marines) in the Plantation Gardens Prisoner of War Camp, the commander of the American Prisoner of War was the Senior Ranking Officer, Colonel Theodore Guy. The members of the Peace Committee were Pro Communist and aided the North Vietnamese, even to the point all eight members signed a letter to the North Vietnamese Camp Commander stating they were willing to join the North Vietnamese Army to fight against Americans, An earlier incident before Daly (according to Daly) joined involved (Page 228) AF Captain Edward W. Leonard, Jr, ordered them to "stop" their Anti-American activities wherein the Peace Committee members gave him the middle finger. Later, four attritional member joined the Peace Committee, one of which was Jon Cavaiani.
EXCERTS OF THE BOOK PERTAINING TO JON CAVAINI AND THE PEACE COMMITTEE
Page 210: "It continued like this, easy going and friendly, even after Fred Elbert cam in." Note: Elbert made the 8th member before the other four joined.
Page 214: "Within a short time of each other four more joined the PC following Fred Elbert: Don MacPhail, Jon Cavaiani, John Sparks and Dennis Tellier. Branch had been dead set against admitting any of them. We should have listened to him. After the trial period and interviews, Branch was not at all convinced that the four were sincere in why they wanted in--and, actually, we all had our doubts. We wondered if they'd understand our studying books by Marx and Lenin. We even considered the crazy possibility that maybe they were put up to joining the Peace Committee as spies for Colonel Guy.
Page 214: "Weather planned or not, it didn't take long for the trouble to start."
Page 215-216: "Thinking back on it, it's easier to understand how Cavaiani began to influence some of the guys the way he did. In most POW groups, there was one guy who was especially looked up to, usually because he was the brightest." "...then a guy like Cavaiani would come alone--older, wealthy, college-educated. One of the first things, I noticed was how after Cavaiani started to work in the camp flower garden everyday, it was no time before Riati went out with him to mess with the flowers. Then you'd always see the two of them together. Soon Kavanaugh and Rayford began to hang around with them all the time, and , before long Sparks and MacPhail, too. Little by little, they started to stick by themselves. The split started without any of us realizing it, and we only found out later why it kept getting wider. What we didn't know was that Cavaiani was going from one guy to another, spreading rumors, like telling someone that he was being put down by someone else in the other room, things like that. Before long, half the guys were carrying grudges against somebody. The atmosphere was seldom ever friendly, the way it had been. And though there still weren't any out-and-out arguments or fights at that time, we were really split right down the middle. One room didn't visit the other, and soon we weren't even eating at the same table. Then the idea got around that maybe all of us in the PC had really been brainwashed by the North Vietnamese after all, that they only let us believe we were making our own decisions about things. I was really surprised when I heard Riati and Kavanaugh talk like that, and my guess was that Cavaiani had got them thinking that way. Next thing, fighting started. Even among guys in the same room. Stupid fights, over nothing."
Page 217 "Then, Cavaiani told *Mr. Bad that some of the guys didn't want to study communism like the others. He claimed this was behind most of the trouble. The next day, all literature was taken out of the sleeping rooms. We were told there were to be no more open political discussions.
*Mr. Bad was a nickname for the North Vietnamese Political Officer.
Page 218 "Night after night, we kicked it around. As far as the eight of us were concerned, we knew enough now not to count on the other four. No matter how many times they'd tried to make it seem that they thought and believed as we did, somehow, all of us had always had our doubts. Now, with it beginning to look like the peace agreements could happen any day, it was clearer than ever that MacPhail, Sparks, Tellier and Caviani were withdrawn from the rest of us."
Page 219 "A few nights later, MacPhail and Cavaiani came by to talk with me. The three of us went outside, away from the others. We know you're not like the rest, they said. Then they tried to convince me I should return home, how important it was for me if I wanted to be active in the Jehovah' Witnesses. What they had no way of knowing, of course, was that by then I had serious doubts about joining the church."
MEMO: The eight members had submitted a request for asylum in Sweden and if that did not work to remain in North Vietnamese, see page 218
Page 232 "Immediately, with the signing (of the peace accords), all restrictions on going out were lifted, Even the PC could mix with the others now.....Cavaiani, Tellier, MacPhail and Sparks went charging outside the first day...It didn't take long for the four of them to start talking to Colonel Guy and the other officers,..." Then Mr. Bad called the eight of us into his office. He told us now Cavaiani, MacPhail, Sparks, and Tellier had requested to be moved away from the Peace Committee. Mr. Bad had observed how they'd met with Colonel Guy and the others officers, and now he decided not to allow them to separate from the PC, just like that."
Page 232 "We were finally separated from Cavaiani, MacPhail, Sparks, and Tellier.
Page 258 "All eight members of the Peace Committee had been charged by Colonel Guy with failure to adhere to the Code of Conduct for prisoners of war. Aside from promoting disloyalty, undermining discipline and aiding the enemy, we were all accused of failure to obey a lawful order and disrespect toward a superior officer."
Page 259 "It wasn't until July 3, 1974, that the army and the navy finally made a decision. On that day, all charges brought by Colonel Guy were dismissed for insufficient evidence."
Page 262 "The Pentagon announced that Edward W. Leonard, now a major in the air force, had filed charges of mutiny against seven former prisoners of war--the same group of enlisted men who had recently been cleared of misconduct charges! Major Leonard accused the army of having failed to investigate the earlier charges filed by Air Force Colonel Theodore W. Guy."
Page 264 "...the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense put out a news release stating that sixty-five of sixty-seven witnesses listed by Major Leonard had been interviewed, and it was found that 'much of the expected testimony would be hearsay and inadmissible as evidence in a judicial proceeding."
NOTE: Please note that Jon does not say that Col Ted Guy authorized his actions, he states: "Insulted by the actions of the PC's I decided to join them and break them up." Indicating this was an individual action. Thus, Cavaiani was working for Col Guy indirectly, Daly's account shows Cavaiani was destructive to the "DUCKS" (Ducks was the term applied to the original 8 Peace Committee Members because of the way they followed the NVA around). Col Guy brought charges against the original eight and not those four who joined later, this leaves the question as to why Col Guy did not charge the later four unless he was convinced their actions were detrimental to the DUCKS and beneficial to Col Guy or as Cavaiani related to me, he did work for Col Guy, even if at the end. Regardless of how we look at this, it is clear based on the Ducks, they, including the NVA Political Officer, concluded Jon had worked against their cause. This would be typical of something that a Special Forces soldier would do, they are a bit of an independent type. As for Cavaiani saying he worked for Col Guy, all the Prisoners of War in the camp worked for Col Guy as Col Guy was the Senior Ranking Officer.
From the literature, it is alleged that a number of Prisoner of War made concessions and statements. The Military made a determination not to to court-martial anyone for making statements. Further, anyone joining any group would be required to conform with the group, so if making statements/broadcasts was the norm of the group, which it was for the Peace Committee, making such statements demonstrated a commitment to the group (Think about undercover Agents). Thus, then one would expect them to be made. Page 254 of BLACK PRISONER OF WAR: The military's policy was: "We are not going to prefer charges, for example, against any man on the basis of any statement he may have made, simply on that basis." According to Page 562 of HONOR Bound "...and Jon Cavaiani, the later recently captured--briefly consorted with the dissents before having a falling-out." No where does it suggest Cavaiani consorted with the North Vietnamese.
Court-martials: Contrary to what Daly was told about the charges being dropped because of insufficient evidence, our country did not have the political will to court-martial any POW, nor did they charge Jane Fonda with treason or any of the draft dodgers, including those who left the country. The political climate at that time in America was extremely hostile to the Armed Forces and Political system.
Robert L. Noe. Captain, US Army Special Forces (Retired) MACVSOG CCN 69-70lasix62alasix72a
See Jon Cavaiani's Medal of Honor page