Air Force Bases

Castle Air Force Base, California

Location: Located 6 miles northwest of Merced, CA about 110 miles ESE of San Francisco, CA.

Origin of current name: Named in honor of Brig Gen Frederick Walker Castle (1908-1944). When on Christmas Eve 1944 near Liege, Belgium, seven Messerschmitts set General Castle's B-17 afire, he remained at the controls while his crew bailed out. He died with the pilot when the aircraft exploded. General Castle received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Date current name was assigned to base: January 13, 1948

Previous Names: Air Corps Basic Flying School, Merced, CA, September 20th 1941; Merced Army Flying School, April 7th 1942; Merced Army Airfield, May 8th 1943; Castle Field, January 17th 1946.

Date Established: September 20, 1941

Date Occupied: October 9, 1941

Construction Began: July 8, 1941

Changes in Capability: Two hangars constructed fall 1942; base used for AAF Basic Flying Training and for Women's Air Service Pilot (WASP) Advanced Training during World War II; construction of new runway, taxiway, warm-up pad, and hangar began July 2nd 1945; construction of 500 family-type Wherry units began June 1st 1951; new maintenance hangar completed November 22nd 1954; additional facilities enabled Castle to convert from KC-97 to KC-135 operations starting April 13th 1957; all bomber training consolidated and all B-52 alert duty terminated when base converted to crew training of B-52s/KC-135s, KC-135 crew training augmented upon phase-down of Walker AFB, NM, August 1964; KC-135 alert operations resumed December 1964; SAM facility completed April 3rd 1969; a runway, taxiway, and parking apron rehabilitation project began September 7th 1971; Waring Academic Center to train students for B-52 and KC-135 completed July 1st 1975; three aircraft maintenance buildings completed fall 1975; additional aircraft maintenance buildings completed 1978; flight simulator building completed mid-1979.

Changes in Status: Base directed to revert to "minimum operations on caretaker status", October 1st 1946; base under administrative control of Colorado Springs (Stn), November 1st 1946-July 1st 1947 (relieved); activated from caretaker status May 1st 1947.

Base was Decommissioned on September 1, 1995


Castle Air Force Base (AFB) is a closed military base located in central California's San Joaquin Valley. The majority of Castle AFB lies in an unincorporated area of Merced County; a portion of the base is within Atwater city limits. The city of Atwater lies west of the base and the city of Merced is approximately 7 miles southeast of Castle AFB (Jacobs, 1995). With the exception of residential areas in the community of Atwater, the land surrounding Castle AFB is predominantly agricultural.

The Main Base area of Castle AFB consists of a runway and airfield, industrial areas, recreational facilities, and housing units on 2,777 acres of relatively flat terrain. Public access to the Main Base is restricted by perimeter fencing. There are also three off-base Castle AFB properties: Castle Park (a recreation facility), Castle Gardens Family Housing Area (a mobile home park), and Castle Vista Housing Area.

Castle AFB was established in December 1941 to provide basic flight training and military support. Beginning in 1957, Castle AFB added weapons storage and explosive ordinance disposal operations to base activities.