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Richard E. Cavazos
General Richard E. Cavazos
Born January 31, 1929(1929-01-31) (age 93)
Place of birth Kingsville, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1951-1984
Rank US-O10 insignia.svgGeneral
Unit 65th Infantry (Korean War)
Commands held

1st Battalion, 18th Infantry (1967)
2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry (1976)

9th Infantry Division (1977-1980)
III Corps (1980-1982)
FORSCOM (1982-1984)
Battles/wars Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2) Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star (5)
Purple Heart
Air Medal (9)
Other work Texas Tech Board of Regents

Richard Edward Cavazos (born January 31, 1929), a Korean War recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross as a first lieutenant, who advanced in rank to become the United States Army's first Mexican American four-star general.[1] During the Vietnam War, as a lieutenant colonel, Cavazos was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross. In 1976, Cavazos became the first Mexican American to reach the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army.[2] Cavazos served with great distinction for thirty-three years, with his final command as head of the U.S. Army Forces Command.


Richard Cavazos, a Mexican-American[3] was born on January 31, 1929 in Kingsville, Texas. He graduated from the North Texas Agricultural College (now the University of Texas at Arlington) ROTC program in 1949.[4] He then earned a B.S. degree in geology from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in 1951, where he played on the football team and was a distinguished graduate of the ROTC program.[5] He received further military education at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College, the British Army Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.[6] He received basic officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia, followed by training at Airborne School. He then deployed to Korea with the 65th Infantry.

Korean War

During the Korean War, as a member of the 65th Infantry, a unit of mostly Puerto Rican natives, he distinguished himself, receiving the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions. On February 25, 1953, Cavazos' Company E was attacked by the enemy. During the fight against a numerically superior enemy force, Cavazos distinguished himself and received the Silver Star for his actions. His company was able to emerge victorious from the battle.[2] On June 14, 1953, Cavazos again distinguished himself during an attack on Hill 142, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions on that day.[2]

Distinguished Service Cross citation (first award)

On September 10, 1953, per General Orders No. 832, Cavazos was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the Korean War. His citation reads:

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Richard E. Cavazos (O-64593), First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while as Company Commander of Company E, 2d Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. First Lieutenant Cavazos distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Sagimak, Korea, on the night of 14 June 1953. On that date, Lieutenant Cavazos led his men in a raid on the entrenched enemy upon whom heavy casualties were inflicted. When a heavy barrage was laid on the position by the enemy, Lieutenant Cavazos withdrew the company and regrouped his men. Lieutenant Cavazos three times led the company through the heavy barrage in assaults on the enemy position, each time destroying vital enemy equipment and personnel. When the United Nations element was ordered to withdraw, Lieutenant Cavazos remained alone on the enemy outpost to search the area for missing men. Exposed to heavy hostile fire, Lieutenant Cavazos located five men who had been wounded in the action. He evacuated them, one at a time, to a point on the reverse slope of the hill from which they could be removed to the safety of the friendly lines. Lieutenant Cavazos then made two more trips between the United Nations position and the enemy-held hill searching for casualties and evacuating scattered groups of men who had become confused. Not until he was assured that the hill was cleared did he allow treatment of his own wounds sustained during the action.[7]

Vietnam War

In February 1967, Cavazos, then a lieutenant colonel, became commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry.[1] In October and November 1967, his battalion was engaged in fighting near the Cambodian border. During an attack at Loc Ninh in October 1967, his unit was able to repulse the enemy. For his valiant leadership at Loc Ninh, he was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross.

Distinguished Service Cross citation (second award)

On December 17, 1967, per General Orders No. 6479, Lieutenant Colonel Cavazos was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on October 30, 1967. His citation reads:

The Distinguished Service Cross (First Oak Leaf Cluster) is presented to Richard E. Cavazos, Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 3d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Cavazos distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 30 October 1967 while, as battalion commander, he led his unit on a search and destroy operation in a large rubber plantation near Loc Ninh. One of his companies was making a reconnaissance when it suddenly began receiving heavy fire from a Viet Cong battalion in well-entrenched positions on the slope of a hill. Colonel Cavazos immediately led his other elements forward and engaged the enemy forces as they began assaulting the company. Constantly exposed to savage hostile fire and shrapnel from exploding grenades, he moved among his troops directing a counterattack. As the Viet Cong broke contact and fled to their fortified positions on the hillside, Colonel Cavazos called for air strikes and artillery fire on the crest and forward slopes of the hill in order to cut off the insurgents' line of retreat. When the fighting reached such close quarters that supporting fire could no longer be used, he completely disregarded his own safety and personally led a determined assault on the enemy positions. The assault was carried out with such force and aggressiveness that the Viet Cong were overrun and fled their trenches. Colonel Cavazos then directed artillery fire on the hilltop, and the insurgents were destroyed as they ran. His brilliant leadership in the face of grave danger resulted in maximum enemy casualties and the capture of many hostile weapons. Lieutenant Colonel Cavazos' extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.[8]


After Vietnam, Cavazos served as commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and commander, 9th Infantry Division.

In 1976, Cavazos became the first Hipananic to reach the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army.[2] In 1980, he became commander of III Corps — and is recognized for his innovative leadership of the Corps.[9] In 1982, Cavazos again made military history by being appointed the Army's first Hispanic four-star general.[1] The same year, Cavazos assumed command of the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His early support for the National Training Center and his involvement in the development of the Battle Command Training Program enormously influenced the war fighting capabilities of the U.S. Army.[9] On June 17, 1984, after thirty three years of distinguished service, General Cavazos retired from the U.S. Army.

In retirement

In 1985, General Cavazos was appointed to the Chemical Warfare Review Committee by President Reagan. Cavazos served on the Board of Regents of his alma mater, Texas Tech University.


General Cavazos is married and has four children. He resides in San Antonio Texas. He is the brother of Lauro Cavazos, former Texas Tech University President and former U.S. Secretary of Education.

Awards and decorations

General Cavazos' military awards include two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star,[10] two Legion of Merit awards, five Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, a Parachutist Badge. Cavazos has also been awarded an honorary lifetime membership in the National Guard Association of Texas; was inducted into the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame and Ranger Regiment Association Hall of Fame; and received the Doughboy Award of National Infantry Association, 1991.[2]

See also



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