Jon "Bob" Cavaiani, the only Livingston High School graduate to serve as a prisoner of war and to receive the Medal of Honor, died July 29 at the age of 70, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced in a news release.
Born in the United Kingdom, Cavaiani moved to the Merced County community of Ballico when he was a child, and was graduated from Livingston High School in 1962.
Cavaiani enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was sent to Vietnam in 1970. He rose in rank to staff sergeant in 1971 and served in Special Forces.
He was captured by North Vietnamese forces. He was a prisoner of war for almost two years before his release in 1973.
At the time of his capture, he was helping defend a secret radio communications site when he and members of his platoon came under attack. He was ordered to withdraw from the site. He chose to disobey orders and provide machine gun cover for other troops who were waiting for helicopter rescue. He was captured and detained in North Vietnamese prisoner of war camps.
In late 1974, President Gerald Ford awarded Cavaiani with the Medal of Honor. He retired from the military in 1990 as a sergeant major.
As a prisoner of war, he infiltrated the Peace Committee, a group of U.S. prisoners of war accused of misconduct. He reported causing dissension within the ranks of the group in an effort to “divide and conquer” it. He was caught, and told by a North Vietnames general that he would be executed.
The end of the war resulted in his life being spared, and Cavaiani offered information about the Peace Committee that resulted in their being court martialed for violating the Military Code of Conduct.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.