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Castle AFB

For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Castle Airport.

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Castle Air Force Base (1941–1995) is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base located northeast of Atwater, northwest of Merced and about 123 miles (198 km) east southeast of San Francisco, California.

The base, located in unincorporated Merced County, was closed after the end of the Cold War in 1995. It is now known as the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center.

History

Castle AFB was named in honor of Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle (1908–1944) on 17 January 1946. When on Christmas Eve 1944 near Liege, Belgium, seven Messerschmitts set General Castle's B-17 Flying Fortress afire, he remained at the controls while his crew bailed out. He bravely refused to release his bombs over territory occupied by friendly forces, and died with the pilot when the aircraft exploded. General Castle received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The facility was officially renamed Castle Air Force Base on 13 January 1948 as part of the establishment of the United States Air Force as a separate military service.

World War II

The airfield was opened on 20 September 1941 as the Army Air Corps Basic Flying School, one of the fields utilized to meet the needs of the 30,000 Pilot Training Program. As the original name indicated, it provided basic air training for beginning pilots and crewmen. Many pilots and crews were trained here during the war including a number of Women's Air Service Pilots (WASP).

Auxiliary air fields used by Merced Army Air Field during the war were:

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