Render Crayton was born in 1933 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was commissioned an Ensign through the Navy ROTC program at Georgia Tech on June 14, 1954, and was designated a Naval Aviator on August 18, 1955. His first assignment was as an AD-5 Skyraider pilot with VA-175 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, from September 1955 to December 1957, followed by service as an AD-5 pilot with the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit at Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, from December 1957 to November 1959. LT Crayton next served as an instructor pilot on the AD-5 and the F9F-8 Cougar at NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville, Texas, from November 1959 to December 1961. He served as an aviation fuels officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA-62) from December 1961 to November 1963, and then went through A-4 Skyhawk Replacement Air Group training with VA-125 at NAS Lemoore, California, from November 1963 to June 1964. LCDR Crayton then joined VA-56 at NAS Lemoore, where he served as an A-4 pilot from June 1964 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on February 7, 1966. During this time he made two deployments to Southeast Asia, and flew combat missions from the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) from July to November 1964 and from November 1964 until his shoot down in February 1966. After spending 2,563 days in captivity, CDR Crayton was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, and then attended postgraduate school at San Diego State University to get his master's degree from May 1974 to June 1976. Capt Crayton next served as executive officer of NAS North Island, California, from June 1976 to April 1978, followed by service as Chief of Staff at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, from April 1978 to January 1980. He then went through Spanish Language training at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, before serving as Commanding Officer of Naval Station Rota, Spain, from August 1980 to August 1982. Capt Crayton's final assignment was as Commanding Officer of the Navy ROTC detachment at the University of San Diego from September 1982 until his retirement on November 1, 1984.
His Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation reads:
For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as the Senior Ranking Officer in Son Tay Prisoner of War Camp in Hanoi, North Vietnam from February 1966 to February 1973. By his diligent efforts, perseverance, devotion and loyalty to the United States, and under the most adverse of conditions, he resisted all attempts by the North Vietnamese to use him in causes detrimental to the United States. He provided superb leadership and guidance to his fellow prisoners of war during extended periods of severe pressures from his captors in their attempt to gain information for propaganda purposes. Formulating firm and explicit guidelines, he set a pattern of resistance for all to follow. His extraordinary courage, resourcefulness, and sound judgment reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.