CAPT Bill “Iron Man” Clayton
The following was presented by former Wisconsin USNA Alumni Association President Rob Grasse, USNA ’88, on the occasion of Capt. Clayton’s retirement as a Blue and Gold Officer on August 12, 2017.
CAPT Bill “Iron Man” Clayton is special to me, because he was my Blue and Gold Officer back in 1984 when Congressman Sensenbrenner sent me to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I am honored to provide these remarks heralding a man who embodies the Navy core values of Honor, Courage, and COMMITMENT on the occasion of his retirement after 65 years of service. I am also humbled to attempt to take over his schools as a Blue and Gold Officer, and his position on Congressman Sensenbrenners’ Service Academy Selection Committee. In order to appreciate the character of that service, please consider CAPT Clayton’s own words when describing his career:
“November 1952: A Naval Officer from MN Recruiting Office came to UW Stevens Point (UWSP) to sign up senior students who were interested in going to Officer Candidate School. There were 5 of us who signed up. But we were told if we got our draft notice that we were no longer to be considered. We could enlist in the Navy and get to OCS that way.
I graduated from UWSP on 03JUN53; no orders received. On Sunday I went to church and one of our church members was on the Draft Board. He told me I would be getting a letter from them the following Monday. On Monday 06JUN53, I am on the train from Baraboo to Chicago to enlist in the Navy. I passed all the tests. I was informed that all the Boot Camps were full and they would contact me. After hearing nothing, I filled out an application for enlistment at Madison Naval Reserve Station on 01JUL53.
I enlisted in the Navy and went to Boot Camp at Great Lakes, IL on 23JUL53. I was called into the admin office during the last week of Boot Camp and was told they just found my application for OCS. I graduated Boot Camp and received 15 days leave. I reported to Quartermasters school in Bainbridge, MD, graduated and went to a Landing Craft, Utility (LCU 608) at the Amphibious Base at Coronado, CA. In JUN54, I left for Japan to be on another LCU 877. In JUL54 we were loaded on a Dock Landing Ship (LSD) and left for Vietnam. We went up the RED River to take the French Foreign Legion back to Saigon after they were defeated. While I was down there I got orders to report in Newport RI for OCS.
In OCT54 I arrived at OCS. I Graduated in MAR55 and went to Communications school for 8 weeks. Graduated and had orders to USS CARPENTER DDE 825 (Gearing Class Destroyer) as the communications officer, stationed in Pearl Harbor. It was the flag ship for DESDIV 251 with the Commodore aboard when we went to West Pac. After returning from our tour to West Pac I received orders to Combat Information School in San Diego. Graduated and returned to DDE 825 as the Combat information Center (CIC) officer. In DEC57, I left the ship and the whole family arrived in time for Christmas in Baraboo, WI.
I joined the Navy Reserve in Milwaukee in JUN58. I had many jobs in the Reserves and was commanding officer of NRSD unit 220L and we finished 5th of over 1000 units in the nation in readiness the year I commanded them.
OCT75 I became a Blue Gold Officer for USNA, then became the Wisconsin Area Coordinator for USNA in 1977. CAPT Will Adams and I helped start the Wisconsin Naval Academy Parent’s Association (WISNAPA) in 1978. I was promoted to CAPT in 1979. I assisted over 143 candidates across the state to receive appointments since 1977.”
CAPT Clayton’s service epitomized the Navy’s “Never Take No for an Answer” and “Apologize Later for Accomplishing the Mission Using Resources Not Assigned To You” attitude. He has been an inspiration to me for the past 33 years of my career. He volunteered to lead Wisconsin’s Blue and Gold Officer effort when there were only four officers to cover the entire state, and built a legacy of competence and accomplishment. He is both Iron Man and Captain America rolled into one awesome Navy package.
It is for this reason that we Wisconsin Alumni and WISNAPA Parents honor the unofficial tradition of bestowing a “major award” upon CAPT Clayton in lieu of his (probably) 88th plaque. Usually, a unit will manufacture an award for a colleague they hold in high esteem using parts of military equipment destroyed by the sailor during a successful tour. Since we couldn’t find parts of a Gearing Class destroyer anymore (Carpenter was sold to the Turkish navy in 1981 and scrapped in 1999) we decided the superhero theme was appropriate for CAPT Clayton. We humbly bestow this Captain America action figure upon CAPT Clayton with the following thoughtful modifications (sailors seldom leave any piece of equipment “unimproved”):
- Naval Academy crest impaled on the fist of justice to represent 40 years of service recruiting midshipmen to lead the nation with HONOR.
- Iron Man’s head grafted onto Captain America’s shoulders, representing CAPT Bill’s COMMITMENT to 65 years of faithful navy service.
- The U.S. Navy Shield replaced the star on Captain America’s shield, showing that CAPT Clayton always put the Navy first, served with COURAGE, and was dedicated to keeping the Navy strong.
- “USS CARPENTER DDE 825” graced the periphery of the shield, representing the ship upon whose decks CAPT Clayton cut his teeth as a Navy leader. The ship’s Hawaiian Motto “Luku Mokoluu” (Killer of Undersea Boats) is also emblazoned on the shield, just because it’s cool.
- Finally, Captain America’s brown boots were painted black in honor of CAPT Clayton’s SWO-Dog Amphib pedigree.
It is with the deepest gratitude that we present this major award to CAPT Clayton, and we honor him and his wife Lorrie for their unselfish and dedicated service to the country. Thank you, and BEAT ARMY!