Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle
Brigadier General Castle was born October 14, 1908 at Fort McKinley, Manila, Philippines, during the first foreign service tour of his father, the late Colonel Benjamin Frederick Castle then in Tientsin, China, Washington, D.C., Paris, and finally in Mountain Lakes, NJ where the family resided for many years after World War I. He entered the United States Military Academy, from which his father was a 1907 graduate, in July of 1926, after attending Boonton High School and Storm King (NY) Military Academy. He ranked No. 1 in the New Jersey National Guard competitive examinations for his West Point Appointment.
After graduating seventh in the class of 1930 as a Second Lieutenant, Engineers, he took Air Corps training at March Field, California and Kelly Field, Texas. His first assignment was as a pursuit pilot at Selfridge Field, Michigan. In 1934, he resigned from the service and accepted a position with the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation. Four years later he was named Assistant to the President of the Sperry Gyroscope Company (which later became Sperry Rand Corp.) where he played a leading role in the planning and design of the Sperry plant at Nassau, Long Island, which manufactured essential products for the armed forces.
Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the US into World War II, Castle returned to active duty. As a reserve officer, he had continued his flying with the New York National Guard unit based at Staten Island. With a First Lieutenant's commission, he joined General Ira Eaker in London to help create the 8th Air Force as Air Chief of Staff for supply, and to arrange for the establishment of American combat flying bases there in preparation for assaults against the Nazis.
After two years as the most important cog in the staff machine of the 8th Air force, he asked for active duty and took command of the 94th Bomber Group based near Bury St. Edmunds. Suffolk, England and led many important missions over Western Europe. In April, 1944, he was given command of the 4th Combat Wing, the largest in the 8th Air Force, with five groups including the 94th, headquartered at Roughham Air Base (near Bury St. Edmunds). On Christmas Eve, 1944, during the height of the Battle of the Bulge and only a few weeks after he had been promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General, he headed a strike mission of 2,032 Flying Fortresses against Von Rundstedt's forces and German airfields. The attack, protected by 800 fighters, has been described by historians as the greatest air armada ever attempted. It was his 30th mission.
He remained at the controls of the lead plane after it had been badly damaged by Nazi fire and he ordered his crew to bail out. He chose not to lessen his cargo by jettisoning his bombs in fear of killing innocent people and the hard-pressed Allied ground troops below. His plane plunged to earth, taking him to his death. His body was recovered near Liege, Belgium, and is buried in the American Cemetery at Henri Chappelle, Belgium. Surviving were his two sisters, Winfred (Mrs. John R. Millikin) of Mendham, NJ and Hancey (Mrs. John N. Glidden) of Somers, NY.
At a small ceremony at the Mountain Lakes Community Church in the spring of 1946, Mrs. Winfred Walker Castle was presented with her son's posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor Award by Gen. Eaker who said that "General Castle stands forever in the front ranks of gallant men... and will be an inspiration for future leaders of ground and air forces."
"The Big Square," a history (1942-1945) of the 94th Bomb Group, of which he was a former commander, has a chapter dedicated to General Castle which describes him as "a General, a commander, and a courageous leader for whom his men had a respect that is probably unequaled in the annals of warfare."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Castle also received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (with three oak leaf clusters), Air Medal ( with four clusters), Legion of Merit, French and Belgium Croix de Guerre with palm, Belgian Croix de L'ordre de Leopold II and Russia's Order of Kutuzov.
In 1946, Castle Air Force Base was dedicated at Merced, California, and on June 20, 1981, the Castle Air Museum was officially opened at that base for the purpose of preserving the Air Force and Castle heritage for future generations and to show today's generation how the Air Force has evolved from the US Army Air Corps of the 1940s.
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