Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Frederick

Last Name: Castle

Birthplace: Fort McKinley, PHL

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: West Point, NY
Middle Name: Walker

Date of Birth: 14 October 1908

Date of Death: 24 December 1944

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served: 1930 - 1934, 1942 - 1944
Frederick Walter Castle

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Frederick Walker Castle
Brigadier General, U.S. Army Air Forces
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle (14 October 1908 - 24 December 1944) was a U.S. Army Air Forces officer who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II.

Frederick Walker Castle was born on 14 October 1908 at Fort McKinley in Manila, the Philippines. The son of 2nd Lt. Benjamin F. Castle, Frederick Castle was the first child born to a graduate of the West Point Class of 1907, thereby becoming the Classes' Godson. Among his Godfathers in the Class of 1907, also stationed in the Philippines, was 2nd Lt. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, who would go on to become a 5-star General of the Army and then 5-star General of the Air Force. Although a friend of Arnold and later becoming Aviation Attaché in Paris following World War I, Castle's father left the Army as a Colonel in 1919.

Castle settled with his family in Mountain Lakes, NJ, after World War I, and he attended Boonton High School and Storm King Military Academy.

He entered the New Jersey National Guard on 2 October 1924 as preparation for attending West Point, having scored first on the Guard's competitive examination. He entered the U.S. Military Academy on 1 July 1926 and graduated on 12 June 1930, ranked 7th in a class of 241 graduates. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and was accepted for pilot training at March Field, CA. After earning his wings on 22 December 1931 at Kelly Field, TX, he served as a pilot in the 17th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, MI, before being assigned to the Civilian Conservation Corps. He resigned from the Army on 17 February 1934, to take a job with Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation; he remained a member of the Army Reserve.

The business skills he developed with Allied brought him an offer to join Sperry Gyroscope Company in September 1938 as an assistant to the company president. Sperry was a military-related industry, and its work in developing both electrically powered gun turrets for bombers and the Norden bombsight brought him to the attention of his Godfather, General Arnold, by then the Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

"Eaker's Amateurs"

Shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, Brigadier General Ira Eaker was made head of the prospective heavy bomber force slated to be stationed in England. Eaker was ordered to England in January 1942 and put together a small staff to accompany him. One member, Lt. Harris Hull, had worked for Sperry Gyroscope as a civilian and recommended Castle as an addition. Eaker had General Arnold recall Castle to duty as a Captain on 19 January 1942, to be assigned to organizing bases and supply depots for the new Eighth Air Force.

Eaker and his staff of six (dubbed "Eaker's Amateurs") arrived in England by way of neutral Portugal on 20 February 1942. Within one month, Castle had been promoted to Major, and on 1 January 1943 he was promoted to full Colonel, and he assumed the position of Air Chief of Supply (A-4) for the Eighth Air Force.

Like many staff officers, Castle wanted a combat command and promoted himself to General Eaker to obtain one. In May 1943, the Eighth Air Force had doubled the size of its bomber force from four to eight B-17 Flying Fortress groups. In two of the new groups losses had been so severe at the outset that Eaker replaced their commanders with two members of his staff, one of whom was Colonel Castle. On 19 June 1943, Castle was given command of the 94th Bomb Group at Rougham (Bury St. Edmunds), and while the morale crisis in the 94th was not as severe, the situation was very similar to one earlier that year in which Colonel Frank A. Armstrong had taken command of the 306th Bomb Group (a situation which was the basis for the book, film, television series and comic book Twelve O'Clock High).

As with Armstrong, Castle experienced difficulties in raising the efficiency and training level of his group. He was aloof by nature and delegated many tasks to other officers, which were viewed initially by many in his command as weaknesses. He was also a novice bomber pilot, learning the task on the job as commander. Gradually, however, his leadership created positive results. On 28 July 1943, he led a deep-strike mission into Germany to bomb the Focke Wulf fighter manufacturing plant at Oschersleben. Poor weather conditions broke up the bomber formation, leaving the 94th Group and a few stragglers from other groups to attack the target alone. The incident was fictionalized in Twelve O'Clock High, and Castle was awarded the Silver Star.

Castle continued as commander of the 94th Bomb Group until 14 April 1944, when he was made commander of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing, a higher echelon that included his former group command. In November, his wing command was increased from three to five groups, and on 20 November 1944 he was promoted to Brigadier General.

Nazi Germany launched its Ardennes Offensive, known more familiarly as the "Battle of the Bulge," on 16 December, choosing a week of particularly bad weather to disrupt superior Allied airpower. On 23 December, the weather began to clear and the next day the largest U.S. air strike operation of the war, comprising 2,046 heavy bombers and 853 fighters, was launched from England. When the 4th CBW was assigned to lead the Third Air Division, which in turn was to lead the entire Eighth Air Force on the mission, General Castle assigned himself to lead the wing.

Medal of Honor Action

On 24 December 1944, Castle flew as co-pilot on the lead aircraft of the 487th Bomb Group, RAF Lavenham, England, on his 30th combat mission. The mission fell fifteen minutes behind schedule because of problems assembling the massive force, and the 487th missed its rendezvous with escorting P-51 fighters because the fighters were late in arriving due to the weather. The lead bomber also experienced an intermittent problem with one of its four engines and was attacked by German ME-109 fighters while still over Allied-held territory in Belgium.

Castle's bomber fell away from the formation almost immediately and he instructed the deputy commander by radio to take over the lead. The B-17 struggled with control and moved some distance away from the protection of the bomber force, where it was again attacked. The pilots attempted to return to the bomber column but a third attack set both engines on the right wing on fire. Castle ordered the bomber abandoned but it spun into a dive. The pilots recovered from the dive and seven of the nine crewmen parachuted. The pilot was observed in the nose of the airplane hooking on his parachute, with Castle still at the controls, when the fuel tank in the burning right wing exploded, putting the B-17 into a spin from which it did not recover. The plane crashed near Hods, Belgium, and of the nine crewmen, five survived the crash.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Brigadier General, Assistant Commander, 4th Bomber Wing, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Germany, 24 December 1944.

Citation: 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 shell, 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.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Purple Heart
Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 8 Battle Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Croix de Guerre with Palm (Belgium)
Legion of Honor, Knight (France)
Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)
Virtuti Militari, Silver Cross Class V (Poland)
Order of Kutuzov, 2d Class (USSR)

Death and Burial

Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle was killed in action on 24 December 1944. He is interred at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Henri-Chapelle, Liège, Belgium in Plot D, Row 13, Grave 53.

Honoree ID: 1327   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image