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Corporal John Cavanna Jr

A Company, 8th Engineer Battalion

John Cavanna was born in 1932 in Newark, NJ but in his youth moved to Bellville, NJ. As Cavanna grew up, Bellville grew by the thousands and enjoyed a robust and diverse community, being one of the first cities on the East Coast to host a "Chinatown," a move that influenced the growth of Chinatowns in New York City and the rest of New Jersey. 

Cpl. Cavanna sailed for Korea in early 1951, crossing the Prime Meridian on July 21st, 1951. From here, he landed at Pusan before being shuffled to the 16th Replacement Company, 1st Cavalry Division. He eventually found his way to A Company, 8th Engineers. The 8th Engineers were tasked with building fortifications, improving infrastructure, diverting stormwater, cartography, surveying, and more during their time in Korea. Cavanna fought through three months of hard fighting in the Pyongyang area, moving from phase line to phase line. He built bunkers and filled sandbags on Line Wyoming after quick fighting to secure it before rotating with the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division into 8th Army reserve for training and R&R, being replaced by elements of the 7th Infantry Division.

August wreacked havoc on logistics, with runoff destroying entire passes. The 8th Engineers worked day and night reinforcing the hillsides, diverting rain water, and repairing the roads swept away by rain. Combat persisted throughout the remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division's time in Korea, with combat in Operation Commando and in the final weeks of the division serving. Cpl. Cavananna, in December, 1951, in preparation for rotation out of Korea, Cavanna was transferred to the 45th Infantry Division. On December 16th, Cavanna was wounded in action, having his hand crushed by an artillery shell according to family and sent to a hospital in Japan, not returning to the line until late February. 

After his service in Korea, Cavanna was assigned to the District of Columbia until at least 1953 as a driver for generals and other VIPs. After the war, he would become a carpenter and a proud veteran of the First Team until he died in 2018.



  • Letter from Cathy Hara

  • US Army. The First Team: the First Cavalry Division in Korea, 18 July 1950-18 January 1952. Turner Pub. Co., 1994.

Author's Note:

  • I want to thank Cpl. Cavanna's daughter, Cathy Hara, for sending a letter concerning how he was injured during the Korean War. Without her letter, a number of details would be unknown.

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