Castle Air Force Base located in Atwater, California was named in honor of Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle. It is one of the largest aerospace museums displaying vintage aircraft in the western United States.
On October 14, 1908, General Castle was born in Manila, Philippines.
On December 24, 1944, General Castle earned a Medal Of Honor posthumously for his actions while leading a 2,000 aircraft bomber formation over Europe.
1924, General Castle served two years in the New Jersey National Guard
1926, General Castle attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating from the academy in June 1930.
General Castle was then assigned to the Air Corps for flight training at March Field, California, and Kelly Field, Texas and completed his training in October 1931.
General Castle served as a pilot and Assistant Operations Officer with the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan, until February 1934 when he resigned and returned to civilian life, holding reserve status with the New York National Guard.
In January 1942, General Castle reentered active service and was one of eight officers selected to accompany Major General Ira Eaker to England to form the Eighth Air Force.
In April 1944, he was promoted to Colonel and took command of the 94th Bomb Group and became the commanding officer of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing. He led many combat missions, including a mission to Refensburg.
In November 1944, he was promoted to Brigadier General.
General Castle was awarded the following decorations: Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross (4), Purple Heart, Air Medal (5), American Defense Service Medal, European-African Middle East Campaign Medal (9), WW II Victory Medal, Criox de Guerre with Palm (Belgium), Legion of Honor, and the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross Class V (Poland).
On December 24, 1944, on his 30th bombing mission, General Castle was killed while leading an air division of B-17's over Liege, Belgium. En route to the target, his plane lost an engine, forcing him to drop from the lead of the formation and his aircraft was then attacked by German fighters. Since he was flying over friendly troops on the ground, General Castle refused to jettison his bombs to gain speed. All of the crew, except General Castle and the pilot were able to escape before the plane exploded.
His Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads;
He was air commander and leader of more than 2,000 heavy bombers in a strike against German airfields on 24 December 1944. En route to the target, the failure of 1 engine forced him to relinquish his place at the head of the formation. In order not to endanger friendly troops on the ground below, he refused to jettison his bombs to gain speed maneuverability. His lagging, unescorted aircraft became the target of numerous enemy fighters which ripped the left wing with cannon shells set the oxygen system afire, and wounded 2 members of the crew. Repeated attacks started fires in 2 engines, leaving the Flying Fortress in imminent danger of exploding. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the bail-out order was given.
Without regard for his personal safety he gallantly remained alone at the controls to afford all other crewmembers an opportunity to escape. Still another attack exploded gasoline tanks in the right wing, and the bomber plunged earthward, carrying Gen. Castle to his death. His intrepidity and willing sacrifice of his life to save members of the crew were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
In 1981, the museum opened and currently displays 54 restored World War II, Korean War, and Cold War era aircraft. The outdoor museum covers 11 acres, and among the exhibit highlights are a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (one of only 19 surviving), a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress, and the massive, ten engine, Convair B-36, one of only four surviving and the largest mass-produced piston aircraft in history.
An indoor museum features photographs, uniforms, war memorabilia, aircraft engines, and a flight deck. The museum also hosts a periodic "open cockpit day" in which visitors can actually view the interiors of certain planes.
In May 2008, the museum reached its 50th displayed aircraft milestone with the addition of a Douglas A-4L Skyhawk.
My son and I took this journey south to see this museum because we’re into military stuff. The museum building itself is small but it opened up to a huge hanger and outdoor display of numerous aircrafts from WWII to the present.
This was a very nice experience, especially for my son who’s into planes. There were planes insides as well as outside and the SR-71 Blackbird was the highlight of the museum. We both got a lot out of this museum and left with a deep respect to those who served this country.
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