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Check Six: Brig. Gen. Castle Awarded Medal of Honor – 74 years ago

February 28, 2020

From the This Day in Aviation website

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to

BRIGADIER GENERAL (AIR CORPS) FREDERICK WALKER CASTLE
UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCES,

for service as set forth in the following:

CITATION:

         “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 487th Bombardment Group (H), 4th Bombardment Wing, Eighth Air Force.

Brigadier General Castle 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 one 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 two members of the crew. Repeated attacks started fires in two 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 General 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.”

/s/ HARRY S. TRUMAN

War Department, General Orders No. 22 (February 28, 1946)

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Merced Army Airfield in Merced, California, was renamed Castle Field in honor of Brigadier General Castle on January 17, 1946. With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, it was renamed Castle Air Force Base and served through most of its existence as a Strategic Air Command bomber base. Castle AFB was closed September 30, 1995 due to a 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decision and is currently known as Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center. The collocated Castle Air Museum also retains Brigadier General Castle’s name.

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