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US Air Force

Diary of Major Crichton, 487th Bomb Group, Intelligence Officer

Diary of Major Crichton, 487th Bomb Group, Intelligence Officer
CONCERNING THE DEATH OF GENERAL FREDERICK W. CASTLE
Background: 
 
On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched their last big offensive during WWII through the Ardennes – to be known as the “Battle of the Bulge”. 
 
On December 24, 1944, the first clear day since the beginning of the attack, the Eighth Air Force sent out the largest air armada ever assembled – 2000 bombers, mostly B-17’s and B-24’s to do tactical bombing.   Commanding the armada was General Frederick Castle who had recently (6 months) become Commander, 4th Combat Bomb Wing, Eighth Air Force.  On this mission the Eighth Air Force ran into heavy attack by both fighters and flak, and General Castle’s plane was hit.  All of the crew bailed out with the exception of General Castle and the pilot 1st Lt. Harriman.  When last seen the aircraft (with full bomb load) was smoking, losing altitude and going down over enemy lines. 
Assignment: 
 
To determine if General Castle was dead, or a prisoner of war.  If a PW, could he be rescued?  If not, since he was privy to Top Secret Plans, certain changes would have to be made.  A Major Hayes, and I (also a Major) were given the assignment.  We had orders from General Eisenhower, which enabled us to commandeer any type transport. 
(From my Diary) December 29, 1944 (Friday):
 
Left Honington 1300 A/C – the Silver Queen. Landed Laon Couvron in France at 1515 after going to St. Trond, Belgium, which was closed in.  Stayed at Chateau near Laon.  Captain Holt, C.O. of Eighth Air Force Communications Detachment, was here. Lt Collingsworth, a pilot I know, took care of us. 
December 30, 1944 (Saturday): 
 
Left chateau after breakfeast.  Went to Laon Couvron AF to get transportation to Brussels.  Were told we would get B-17 being repaired.  Captain Pulian (Gene) was engineering officer.  Ate dinner at field mess at Laon.  A/C 588 was B-17 assigned us.  We took off at 1439 for Brussels – Major Hayes as pilot, I as co-pilot.  Got to Brussels.  Weather closed in.  Did 180 and went back over Charleroi, Belgium. 
 
Visibility and ceiling became worse.  Made landing at Florennes – Jazaine.  Due to poor visibility and ceiling were forced to make shoot approach.  Runway was iced up and A/C ran off runway, causing A/C to flip over on back and nose over, props tearing into ground.  Pilot knocked out.  We hanging by belts upside down.  Slapped pilot’s face; he came to.  Smelled gasoline.  Both jumped out and ran but airplane did not catch on fire.  Time of landing – 1600.  Ate supper at A/F. Borrowed command car, left at 1830.  Colonel Wesom C.O. at this Air Base.  Got to Brussels at about 2145; went to MP station. Lt at MP gave us his room for night at Tourin Hotel. 
December 31, 1944  (Sunday)
 
Major Hayes contacted Brussels A/F (B-58). Arranged for transportation with jeep, trailer and driver for next day.  Driver assigned us was in St. Trond awaiting us.  Stayed at Pelican Hotel that night (was assigned there by billeting officer) 
January 1, 1945 (Monday) 
 
Brussels strafed at 0930 by FW190’s and ME 109’s.  Both Airfields strafed.  Aircraft burning in both fields.  Left at 1100; ate dinner at Quartermaster outfit enroute..  Stopped at St. Trond which had been strafed. S-2 told us of location of enemy lines.  Went on to Liege to MP Station; to Area Commander.  Got counter sign and more info about enemy lines.  Proceeded to XHOS (reported location of 125th AAA Bn.)  Went to Chateau de Lannoy, home of Count and Countess Lannoy occupied by 589th FA Bn, part of the 106th Infantry Division, commanded by Major Goldstein.  Ate supper with the Major; had cognac with the Count and Countess, whose proper name were Count and Countess Stephen Etienne d’Outremont – XHOS, Tavier, Condroz – Belgium. 
 
 The Countess d'Outremont in front of the Chateau at Xhos (Photo J. Crichton)
January 2, 1945 (Tuesday) 
 
Borrowed liaison airplane from Major Goldstein; flew north of Chateau. (Pilot was 1st Lt Earl A. Scott, HQ 106th Div Arty).  Located tail, wing section and fuselage of General Castle’s plane from the air.  Returned to Chateau.  Got patrol from Major Goldstein, proceeded to locate wreckage.   Found tail of the airplane #48444 C. Blood stains (extensive) in tail, also trail of blood where Tail Gunner left tail to bail out.  Blood stains also around entrance.  Muddy (bloody) foot prints on right mid wall indicate tail possibly in spin, and someone had walked on it trying to bail out.  .30 caliber holes down fin leading to Tail Gunner position; 20 mm bursts in forward part of left stabilizer and rear part of fin. 8” x 10” hole opposite entrance door.  Interior of tail section particularly the right side charred and blackened by fire.  Proceeded to MP Station near Chateau.  Talked to Major Dierling. 
 
Our party now proceeded to the wreckage where we found several unexploded bombs.  After a preliminary survey we proceeded to the right wing tip.  Tokyo tank was gone, and there was no charring present.  At wreckage of radio room this part included the main escape hatch to the bomb bay.  This part was about one half mile from the wing typ.  The PFF transmitter was still there, also parts of the radio equipment.  Darkness was falling.  We heard conversation in German near by which we assumed to be a German patrol.  Proceeded back to Chateau.  Had K-Rations prepared by the Count’s servant, and supped with the Count and Countess and Major Goldstein. 
January 3, 1945 (Wednesday) 
 
Back to the wreckage. Most of blast seemed to have scattered contents of cockpit to Northwest.  3 engines were found; the #1 engine being farthest on the right.  The upper turret and chin turret were within 4 or 5 feet of each other.  Found a hand in snow.  Took to MP Station at Chateau where fingerprints were taken.  Initial interpretation matched those of fingerprints of General Castle. 
 
Challenged several times coming back to Chateau.  Signs and countersigns changed every day at noon, plus sentries now ask questions like “Who was Babe Ruth?”, since Germans had at times gotten signs and countersigns. 
January 4, 1945 (Thursday) 
 
Took patrol of 15 men from 589th Battalion, and they helped us search the area.  Snow made hunt difficult.  Located one dog tag reading Frederick W. Castle. 
 Dog Tag from Frederick W. Castle (ph J. Crichton)
 
V-1’s were coming over about once every five minutes.  Found a finger which was taken to the MP Station at the Chateau for prints. 
Parts of the bodies found to date are: (Identification helped by medic in patrol) 
 
1. One complete leg. 
2. Two legs from knee-joint down (one of which was wearing a sock which had no laundry mark).
3. Viscera wedged under the wreckage.
4. One knee joint.
5. One upper left quarter of the torso.
6. One right hip joint with attached upper third of femur with genital organs attached. Public hair reddish.
7. One let foot severed at the ankle joint.
8. Two lobes of the right lung.
9. One right hand with thumb and forefinger and only index finger intact.
10. One left forearm and hand with palm surfaces stripped off; reddish hair on dorsum of hand (General Castle had reddish-brown hair)
11. One finger (either index or third finger; from which hand is not known.
12. One section of sternum with short sections of ribs attached.
13. One dorsal vertebra.
14. One mesenteris root.
15. Unidentified fragments of bones and assorted pieces of skin.
 
All of these parts were gathered, bagged, and later buried at the Cemetery at Henri Chapelle. 

 Henri-Chapelle Cemetery
 
No chutes were found near the wreckage. 
January 6, 1945 (Saturday) 
 
Tried to arrange for return transportation to U. K. Billeted at the Hotel Berceuse. 
January 7, 1945 (Sunday) 
 
Made contact with Lt. Colonel De Corsey, operations Officer B-58. While awaiting air transportation at B-58 operations, received call from Pinetree, Colonel Magruder who said that Colonel Norcross was awaiting news of our findings, and date of our return.  The information previously given to General Allard was repeated.  There was a possibility of transportation, but it was canceled due to the weather.  Billeted at Hotel de Berger for night. 
January 8, 1945 (Monday) 
 
Called about return A/C to England.  There was a C-47 leaving at 1500. Boarded it.  Landed at Honington at 1720 with ceiling and visibility practically zero.  Reported to General Partridge. 
SUMMARY: 
 
Located wreckage of General Castle’s aircraft, his dog tag, his hand, and remains of two bodies (one of which was General Castle’s).  Remains later buried at Military Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle.  Conclusion – General Castle died in the crash of his airplane. 
 
Mission accomplished Signed: Jack A. Crichton Former Major US Army 
 
Major Jack A. CRICHTON

487th Bomb Group

8th Air Force