Clifford Edson Caton was born in San Diego, California, on May 11, 1920, son of William C. and Gladys (Grete) Caton. He received the degree of Bachelor of Science in General Business from the American International College, Springfield, Massachusetts. While in college he participated in varsity crew and hockey, intermural football and basketball, organized the Sailing Club and the Chapter of Phi Delta Mu, of which he was house manager and secretary. He was appointed a Midshipman in the US Naval Reserve on June 16, 1941. He had Midshipman training on board USS Prairie State, and on September 12, 1941 was commissioned Ensign, USNR. Advancing progressively in rank, he subsequently attained that of Captain to date from February 1, 1961 having transferred from the Naval Reserve to the US Navy on August 8, 1946.
Upon receiving his commission in 1941 he joined USS Goldsborough (DD-188), in which he served throughout World War II as Assistant Engineering Officer, Gunnery Officer, Engineer Officer, Executive Officer and from February 1945 as Commanding Officer. While attached to that destroyer (redesignated a high speed transport in April 1944), he participated in convoy operations in the Atlantic; in the capture and occupation of Saipan and Tinian; the Leyte landings; and the assault and occupation of Iwo Jima and Okinawa Gunto. Detached from command of the Goldsborough in August 1945, he then transferred to command of USS Swearer (DE-186).
He had instruction at the General Line School, Newport, Rhode Island, from July 1946 until May 1947, after which he served as Engineer Officer of USS Spokane. In July 1949 he reported as Head of the Program Development Section, Foreign Military Assistance Branch, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC. He remained there until October 1951 and the next month became Executive Officer of the United States Naval Missions to Cuba with headquarters in Havana. For his outstanding services in that assignment he was awarded the Naval Legion of Merit by the Government of Cuba.
In April 1955 he assumed command of USS New (DDE-818) and in October 1957 reported for duty at the Fleet Training Center, Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia. He transferred in January 1959, to the Nuclear Weapons Training Center, Atlantic and in August 1961 became Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, on the Staff of Commander Antisubmarine Force, Atlantic. In August 1963 he was assigned to the Norfolk (Virginia) Naval Shipyard, and in March 1965 was ordered detached for duty in the Fifth Naval District, with Headquarters in Norfolk.
In addition to the Cuban decoration, Captain Caton, has the American Defense Service Medal with Bronze “A”; the American Campaign Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one star; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star and one bronze star (six engagements); the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; and the Philippines Liberation Ribbon with two stars.