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US Air Force

Report of Investigation (General F. Castle)

Report of Investigation (General F. Castle)

RE: The fate of General Frederick W. Castle on the bombing mission of December 1944
Report of Investigation of disappearance of Brigadier General Frederick W. CASTLE To: Commanding General 3rd Bomb Division
1. The facts known to the view party - Majors Hayes, Brocke and Crichton about the disappearance of Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle at the beginning of this investigation were: 
a. On the 24th of December 1944, he was Air Leader of the 4th Bomb Wing, which was leading the Eighth Air Force. 
b. At CP3 (5035N- 0500E) at 1223h the Group was about 17 minutes late on account of an unexpected wind shift.  The #1 engine was throwing oil and it was difficult for the A/C to stay in formation at 5033N - 0523E (copy rest). 
2. a. The investigating party proceeded to XHOS, Belgium, since this was the reported location of the 125th AA Bn, the organization which had picked up the bombardier and DR navigator after they had bailed out.  It was discovered on reaching XHOS that the 125th AA Bn had been moved to an unknown destination. 
 The rear of the Château at Xhos on January 1945
b. After talking to the Count and Countess d'Oultremont, owners of the Château in which the 125th AA Bn had been billeted, it was decided advisable to stay at their Château and conduct investigation from this place.  The count and countess believed that the A/C in question had fallen North of the town of XHOS, instead of SE, a presumption made from interrogation of the bombardier navigator of the crashed A/C 
a. The 589th F.A. Bn was now billeted at this Château and the Major Hayes search with the use of an L4B A/C from the CO of this organization, Major Goldstein.  With Major Crichton acting as observer a search was made north of the town of XHOS for the A/C in which the General had been Air Leader.  Within 10 minutes after take off, the tail of the crashed A/C was discovered in an open field at about coordinate 5013N-0528E.  Shortly afterwards the outer section of the right wing was seen about a half mile Northwest of the tail section, and the section of fuselage between stations 1 and 5 was seen a half mile NNW of the tail section.  These position were pin pointed on the map, and the pilot and observer returned to the airstrip at the Château.  We then proceeded to the wreckage by jeep. 
The following conclusions were drawn: 
a. At the tail section: extensive blood stains in the tail gunner's position and in the tail section, and 30 caliber and 20mm holes in the tail section and tail gunner's compartment indicate that the tail gunner was wounded while in the A/C.  The condition of the tail section shows that it was sheared off at station 7 - the result of a violent maneuver of the A/C.  There was fire in the A/C before it had been sheared off; this is indicated by scorching of the right side of the interior of the tail section. 
b. At the right outer panel and wing tip a 20mm burst in the Tokyo tanks had caused an explosion which sheared the wing off at station 16 causing a violent spin.  There was no evidence of fire on the wing section. 
c. At the fuselage section; indications were that it was sheared from the main fuselage and wing section of the A/C by a violent maneuver.  It was noticed that the main entrance door was still in place. There was evidence of slight scorching in the radio room.  The PFF transmitting apparatus was still intact (it was demolished by the investigating party) 
We then proceeded to the MP Hq at Château d'Englebermont, which was 300 yards from wreckage of the engine and nose section.  At the Château we talked to the MP medical officer, Captain Wolgel, who told us about watching the A/C crash on 24 December and then proceeding to the wreckage.  Due to bombs exploding he could not get to the wreckage.  However, he circled the periphery to ascertain if there was anyone alive in the wreckage.  In so doing he discovered three legs and some viscera which he took back to the Château with him and sent for burial to the American Cemetery at Henri Chapelle.  We proceeded to the wreckage which was on the side of a hill in dense woods.  The wreckage was identified by engine and propeller numbers, immediately afterwards two civilians, who were poking about the wreckage, moved one of the bombs which began to smoke.  We evacuated the area, and secured a Bomb Disposal Unit which removed the dangerous bombs.  We now secured a truck with a winch and moved the engines and parts of the wreckage to better search for any remains. 
From a preliminary investigation nothing of importance was discovered but a search of the periphery resulted in the finding of a right hand.  A finger print of what was thought to be the right index finger was made at the MP Hq.  Later another finger was found, as well as various other pieces of human anatomy which were within a radius of 200 yards from the wreckages.  A finger print was obtained from this finger.  Further search with the aid of the 15 enlisted man from the 589th F.A. Bn disclosed various other pieces of human anatomy, a human foot and a dog tag ridding Frederick W. Castle.  Excavation in the immediate vicinity of the wreckage disclosed nothing further.  No parts of the dentures or skulls were found.  Within a vicinity of 200 yards of the wreckage there were small bits of A/C an human anatomy both on the ground and the trees.
Brig Gen. Frederick W. Castle, November 1944 
A. From a physical investigation of the A/C wreckage it can be pointed out with certainty that the General risked his life in not jettisoning the bombs, because of endangering friendly troops directly below even though the A/C was on fire and two engines were out of commission.  He held the A/C steady while other crew members bailed out, with the exception of the pilot.  While holding the A/C level for the crew to bail out, even though enemy aircraft were attacking, a 20mm shell exploded in the right wing, Tokyo tanks, which exploded and blew off the wing, throwing the A/C into a violent spin to the right which caused the tail and fuselage section to shear off.  The resultant forces of the spin were so great that the occupants of the cockpit were pinned inside the A/C 
1- From the following facts it can be stated that General Castle was in the A/C when it crashed: As four feet were found near the wreckage and only two persons are "unaccounted for" from this A/C. 
2- One dog tag reading Frederick W. Castle was found in the wreckage. 
3- Different parts of human body were found on which the hair was blonde color. (The pilot was a definite brunette). 
4- One foot and part of a hand and forearm were those of a small person such as the General. (The pilot was a person of large stature). 
5- The two finger prints taken haven not been identified due to lack of facilities and trained personnel. 
Information from General Castle's Flight Crew.
MacArty, first out of nose, bailed out at 1236h (looked at watch), making delayed jump.  Landed in plowed field, picked up about 1 mile away toward Liege by Major Hicks and Sgt. medics with 125th AA gun Bn, taken to Hq at Xhos in jeep.  En route, picked up Procopio, M/O, who had 8 bullet holes in right leg and broken left ankle, also 1st and 2nd degree burns on face and strained back. Was told Lt Biri (?) was in a Château but OK. 
Left for Xhos, Procopio being taken in 2 1/2 ton truck to 84th Clearing Station, at Aywaille by Capt Havey, this station being attached to 1st Army. 
Chaplain at Xhos told MacArty about Swayne (1 dog tag) being found dead who had no chute.  MacArty went with a Sgt to identify him.  The CO of 125th AA Bn, a Lt Col there on guard, - wrist - watch stopped 1252h 
Took body of Swayne in weapons carried to Liege 56th General Hospital, which didn't want to accept body. Lt R.C. Thompson, 125 AA, accepted Swaine and MacArty and a Sgt to Liege and 2 E.M.(enlisted men) 
Biri taken in a peep by a Sgt to Liege and en route met MacArty.  With Biri were 2 other officers (Lt Dumler from Lt Reed's crew and Lt Bradford from same crew), also from Château. 
A Captain Green at hospital in registration office, called some Col. before Swaine body would be accepted. 
Biri stayed at hospital (formerly a stables) 3 doctors examined his right leg - only a sprain, and was released next morning into care of MacArty. 
MacArty, Lt’s Dumber and Bradford, taken back to Château at Xhos.  Main AA had gone so were taken to Lt Ninane at 10:30 at night.  Taken back to hospital balance of night: 
Next morning MacArty was informed by Sgt in charge of receiving office at 56th General Hospital, that Captain Auer was at 28th General Hospital in Liege with fractured left leg.  Captain Harvey told MacArty that Procopio had been taken to 84th Clearing Station and to take charge of Sgt Matz on Turnquist's crew (Matz OK) 
Hospital provided transportation to airstrip on northern outskirts of Liege - 3 days to wait before could take off so left for Brussels - spent night - here Biri says was only 100 yards from A/C when he landed - gave self up to farmhouse less than 1/2 mile away 250 Russian billeted in some Château 2 miles from Xhos.  Neither MacArty nor Jeffers remembered who said airman shot on way down. 
P-51 German markings (this seems to say that a P-51 in German markings fired at a parachute). (A P-51 in German markings does not seem right, but maybe what the witness said). 
Jeffers picked by an Engineer Bn with 1st Army and taken to a Château; stayed there from 1 o’clock to 5:30 taken by truck to 84th Clearing together with S/Sgt Kleinman R/O on Turquist's crew who was burned badly about face. Left Kleinman and took Jeffers to 7th Corps MPs a few miles away for the night. 
While at 84th Clearing Station Jeffers was told by a medical Captain about Rowe, S/Sgt Hudson told same thing (R/W Gunner) 
Hudson after landing in a tree was taken a Château - the Hq for a military MP unit where he met S/Sgt Tonny (Tony or Tommy) Plummer, 6822845, 4th Det 73 G 2 Co G, 2nd ECA Regt, APO 658, ….Had burns on face and contusions on right foot. 
Jeffers and Hudson taken on December 25 to Liege to 9th TAC Hq then return to England December 26. 
Plane that attacked was a M-109. 
General was wearing: 
1) B-10 jacket (green with …… color). Insignia on jacket 2) O D shirt with insignia 3) Service cap 4) Greenish OD slacks. 
Harriman was wearing: 
1) B-10 jacket 2) Green flight cap 3) Pants with B-10 jacket 4) GI shoes. 
A/C 444 (Treble 4) 
Air leader - General Castle, Frederick W. 0-319375 
Pilot - 1st Lt Harriman Robert W. 0-695257 
DR Navigator - 1st Lt McCarty Henry D. 0-712624 - on base 
Radio operator - T/Sgt Swain Lawrence H. 39279733 - Dead 
Bomb - 1st Lt Biri Paul L. 0-667235 - on base 
Eng - T/Sgt Jeffer Quentin W. 16131444 - on base 
M/O 1st Lt Procopio Bruno S 0-700148 - Hospital in Liege, 
Navigator - Capt Auer Edmund S. 0-795170 - Liege, fractured leg 
W/G S/Sgt Hudson Lowell B. 16113290 - on base 
Off T/G - 1st Lt Rowe Claude L. 0-819325- dead. Killed by strafing. 
4th A/F - Col Fuldwilder – Liege. Bierset A 93. 401st Signal Co. St Trond. 404th Fighter Group would cooperate Brussels - Col Foote - CO of 8th Service Command - See him for communications - call Gen. Doolittle, message for Gen Partridge B-58 Brussels - can get back from Zaventem. B-53 - Merville at Brussels Beat HQ, Flight Section - Honington at nine o'clock. 
Identification in tail found: 
48444 P P39 226 C ZG Type Order ------ G65 VF N 535 C 4003/ F44 844 
26 December 1944
Subject: Crashed Aircraft. To: CG Eighth Air Force. Through Provost Marshall US Army APO 230 
1) B-17 Number 444 crashed vicinity VA 400180 about 1250 hours 24 December 1944 
2) Parts of two bodies identifying marks sent to closet American Cemetery Henri Chapelle. 
3) Plane was totally destroyed.
4) Enclosed is sheet found near Sprimont Belgium, coordinates VA 5414 on 24 December 1944. 
 Included (1) bill fold found vicinity VA 400180
For the CO: Frederick Deterly, Major CM Exc Officer 518th MP Bn
Medical on 4 PO 230. Found three legs 
Major Jack A. CRICHTON

487th Bomb Group

8th Air Force