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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Robert P. Caudill Jr., USN (Ret.)

March 22, 2024 | By By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Robert Paul Caudill on 1 December 2023 at age 87. Rear Admiral Caudill entered the U.S. Naval Reserve in March 1959 and served in the Medical Corps until his retirement in July 1990 as command surgeon for Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command. His commands included Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Naval Medical Command European Region, and Naval Medical Command Mid-Atlantic Region, as well as serving as deputy director of Naval Medicine. He deployed to the Vietnam War in 1969–1970 as senior medical officer on the aircraft carriers Ticonderoga (CVA-14) and Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31). He also flew into Hanoi in 1973 as part of Operation Homecoming, facilitating the return of American prisoners of war from North Vietnam.

Paul Caudill attended Mars Hill College in North Carolina before attending Wake Forest University, graduating in 1958. He entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was commissioned an ensign on 19 March 1959 while attending the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. He was president of his medical school class and was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in September 1960. He was promoted to lieutenant in April 1963 shortly before earning his doctor of medicine degree. He reported for active duty on 1 July 1963, serving at Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York.

In September 1964, Lieutenant Caudill reported to Naval Aviation Medical Center, Pensacola, Florida, training to be a flight surgeon. In June 1965, he reported to Naval Auxiliary Air Station Kingsville, Texas. On 1 July 1967, he was honorably released from active duty, but he remained in the Naval Reserve and was promoted to lieutenant commander in November 1967.

In November 1968, Lieutenant Commander Caudill returned to active duty and reported to Amphibious Training Command Pacific, San Diego, California, before being assigned in December 1968 to the staff of Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific as assistant medical officer. In May 1969, he reported to attack carrier Ticonderoga (CVA-14) as senior medical officer while the ship was on deployment to the Vietnam War and Sea of Japan. In August 1969, he then cross-decked to attack carrier Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) as senior medical officer for additional Vietnam War operations.

On 30 March 1970, Caudill augmented from the U.S. Naval Reserve to the U.S. Navy. In August 1970, he was administratively assigned to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Tulane University in New Orleans while earning a master of public health degree from Tulane. He was promoted to commander in December 1970.

In June 1971, Commander Caudill reported to Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola as a resident in aerospace medicine. While there he earned the Julian E. Ward Memorial Award for performance as outstanding resident. He also participated in Operation Homecoming, flying into Hanoi and Hong Kong to bring back American prisoners of war from North Vietnam. In June 1973, he was assigned to the pre-commissioning crew of carrier Nimitz (CVN-78), becoming a “plank owner” upon commissioning of the ship on 3 May 1975 and detaching just before its first deployment. In July 1976, he reported to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington, DC, as a student. He was promoted to captain in December 1976.

In June 1977, Captain Caudill reported to the staff of Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic as force medical officer. In August 1979, he assumed command of Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Pensacola. In July 1982, he assumed duty as director of clinical services, Naval Regional Medical Center, San Diego. In October 1982, he then became executive officer of Naval Hospital, San Diego. In May 1983, Captain Caudill reported to the staff of U.S. Naval Activities United Kingdom as medical officer. In August 1983, he assumed command of Naval Medical Command European Region, which was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation, caring for casualties from the October 1983 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. In July 1984, he was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank.

In July 1984, Rear Admiral Caudill assumed command of Naval Medical Command, Mid-Atlantic Region, Norfolk. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 October 1984. In September 1986, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, DC, as deputy director of Naval Medicine (OP-093B). He was promoted to rear admiral (two star) on 8 October 1986. In February 1989, Caudill reported to the staff of Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, as command surgeon. He retired from active duty on 1 July 1990.

Rear A Caudill’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit (four awards); Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Commendation (three awards); Battle Efficiency Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal (four campaign stars); Overseas Service Ribbon; Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Colors); Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; and Navy Expert Pistol Medal.

After retiring from active duty, Rear Admiral Caudill served as vice president of Medical Affairs and medical director at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. He was a very active volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), serving as a den leader, scoutmaster, member of the executive board and committee, and chairman for camping for West Tennessee Area Council. He was selected for the Silver Beaver and the Vigil Honor for the Order of the Arrow. In 2010, he received the BSA’s Distinguished Citizen Award. He also served as a board member of Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes.

Rear Admiral Caudill served with great distinction from one side of the globe to the other (Vietnam to Europe) and many places in between, providing great medical care to military personnel and families, as well as superlative leadership to other medical professionals. His passion was being a flight surgeon, and he stayed in aviation medicine for many of his assignments. Nevertheless, he went wherever the Navy sent him, and did extremely well. While he was aboard Ticonderoga and Bon Homme Richard during the Vietnam War, each earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation, as did Naval Medical Command European Region while it was under his command. He participated in Operation Homecoming in 1973, providing initial care to American prisoners of war who had endured torture and extreme deprivation in North Vietnamese captivity. As a plank owner of the carrier Nimitz, he set a standard of excellence for the ship’s Medical Department, and as deputy director of Naval Medicine, he did the same for the entire Navy. He was known for his kindness, generosity, love of country, and work ethic. The Navy and nation are better for his service and the sacrifice endured by his family, but his legacy lives on.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Caudill.