"Nose gunner to pilot.....bandits at 12o'clock high!"
Castle Air Force Base located in Atwater, California was named in honour of Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle.
More than simply lines from a movie, these words started adrenaline surging through the veins of men whose courage and skill were tested daily in the skies over the Pacific, Europe, Africa, Korea and later, Vietnam.
To those who survived it, there is nothing glamorous about war. But, there is something awesome...a mystique...about the aircraft flown by the brave pilots and crews of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict.
These aircraft...planes like the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, the B-29 Super Fortress, the B-26 Marauder and the B-25 Mitchell Bomber as well as the Mustang, Thunderbolt and Lightning are as much a part of America's heritage as Independence Hall, and the Battlefield at Gettysburg. In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt announced that the U. S. would build 50,000 planes a year to help defeat the Axis powers. It was a number that, by his own admission, he had picked out of thin air. Production in 1939 was 2,195 aircraft. In the event, 300, 000 military aircraft were produced in the years 1940 through 1945, 95,272 in 1944 alone. When World War II ended, most of them were withdrawn from service and scrapped almost as rapidly as they had been built.
It was to preserve for posterity the few remaining examples of these aircraft that the United States Air Force's Heritage Program was begun. Through the Heritage Program, communities and organizations are offered limited assistance in establishing air museums in which vintage military aircraft may be preserved.
Accepting the challenge of restoring, maintaining and displaying World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Era aircraft, a group of dedicated enthusiasts in the Atwater-Merced area formed the Castle Air Museum Foundation, Inc. which is now a non-profit organization. It was their dream to build on the previous ten-plus years of work under that Heritage program to have a museum in which faithfully restored historic aircraft could be exhibited for public enjoyment.
Today that dream is a reality! It took hundreds of thousands of dollars in generous donations and thousands of hours of skilled volunteer effort, but today the Castle Air Museum is open and awaiting your visit.
The long term plans for the museum call for the collection to grow as circumstances permit, all carefully restored and on display for your enjoyment. We would very much like to have a P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning as well as more recent aircraft such as the F-16, F-15, etc. So, with your generous donation and with the effort of the ever growing volunteer staff, the Castle Air Museum will continue to expand and improve its facilities and collection for present as well as future generations.
Come and visit us today....the experience is breathtaking!
Visit us on:
April 1- September 30
9:00am - 5:00pm
October 1 - March 31
10:00am - 4:00pm
The museum is open
daily year round (weather permitting),
except for the following days:
New Year's Day,
B.Gen. Frederick Walter (F.W.) Castle, CMH
General Castle earned a Medal Of Honour posthumously for his actions while leading a 2,000 aircraft bomber formation over Europe on December 24, 1944. General Castle was born on October 14, 1908, in Manila, Philipines. After serving two years in the New Jersey National Guard, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduating from the academy in June 1930, he was 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 Sqadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan, until February 1934 when he resigned and returned to civilian life, holding reserve status with the New York National Guard.
Reentering active service in January 1942, General Castle was one of eight officers selected to accompany Major General Ira Eaker to England to form the Eighth Air Force.
Promoted to Colonel, he took command of the 94th Bomb Group and in April 1944, he became the commanding officer of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing. He led many combat missions, including a mission to Refensburg and in November 1944 he was promoted to Brigadier General.
(Medals 1st row): Medal of Honor (Medals 2nd row): Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross (4), Purple Heart, Air Medal (5) (Medals 3rd row): American Defense Service Medal, European-African Middle East Campaign Medal (9), WW II Victory Medal, Criox de Guerre with Palm (Belgium), Legion of Honor (Medals 4th row): Virtuti Militari Silver Cross Class V (Poland),
Order of Kutuzov, 2nd. Class (Russia)
Colonel F.W. Castle
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 Honour 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.
The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial contains the graves of 7,992 members of the American military who died in World War II. It is one of fourteen cemeteries for American World War II dead on foreign soil, and is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The fifty-seven acre cemetery and memorial is located three kilometers northwest of the Walloon village of Henri-Chapelle, which lies approximately 30 kilometers east of Liège, Belgium on highway N3. Aachen, Germany is about 16 kilometers to the east of Henri-Chapelle on N3. It is one of three American war cemeteries in Belgium: Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial (World War I) and Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial (World War II).
Three men who were awarded the Medal of Honor are buried at Henri-Chapelle:
Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle (also the highest ranking officer buried at Henri-Chapelle)
T/4 Truman C. Kimbro
PFC Francis X. McGraw
Other notable individuals buried at Henri-Chapelle include: