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Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle

Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle
Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle

Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle, born in Portage, Wisconsin on February 8, 1879, to parents Frederick George Castle (1850 – 1923) and mother, Frances Gould Castle (1859 – 1943). His father was employed as a railroad conductor.

Guy was the oldest of four children born to the couple: Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle (1879 – 1919), Benjamin Frederick Castle (1884 – 1966), Evelyn Lucille Castle Logan (1887 – 1967), and Lewis Gould Castle (1889 – 1960). We know nothing of his childhood years other than he must have been a good student and showed some promise. This resulted in his attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

He was appointed a naval cadet on May 20, 1897. While at the Naval Academy, Castle was nicknamed 'Hoot", "Pub", or "Jim" and came to be surnamed "The Great Stone Face". He graduated from the Naval Academy on June 7, 1901, and reported to the receiving ship Independence on June 29, 1901. He was detached on July 31 to proceed to the Asiatic Station on board a U.S. Army transport, he sailed on August 1st. Once reaching his destination in the Orient he reported to the USS Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser No. 3) on September 6th, but served in her a little over a month, being detached to the USS Kentucky (Battleship No. 6) on October 11, 1901.

His title changed from naval cadet to midshipman on July 1, 1902. Castle was ordered detached from Kentucky on July 21 to the gunboat USS Monocacy, then to the USS Vicksburg (Gunboat No. 11), which he reported to on July 30, 1902 at Chefoo, China, a port in northern China where the U.S. had a Naval Concession to berth ships. Over the ensuing months the Vicksburg "showed the flag" and conducted training, steaming from Chinese to Korean and Japanese and Philippine ports. Tensions between Japan and Russia occasioned the Vicksburg being dispatched to Chemulpo, Korea, where she arrived on December 30, 1903 to protect American interests there.

Castle's promotion to ensign occurred on February 5, 1904 (retroactive to June 7 of the previous year), the same day that Japan and Russia broke off diplomatic relations. Soon thereafter, on February 8, the Japanese declared war upon Russia. That day, a fleet (Rear Adm. Uriu Sotokichi) arrived off Chemulpo, then landed troops. The following morning, the Japanese issued a challenge to the two Russian warships in port, the steel protected cruiser Variag and the gunboat Koretz (both vessels ignorant of war's being declared). Young Guy Castle was witness to some interesting history.

The Vicksburg returned to the United States on June 29, 1904, arriving at Bremerton, Washington, to be decommissioned. Once detached from that ship on July 15, he returned home with 30 days leave. Once over, he was to "await orders to sea". These came on August 12. He was to report to the protected cruiser USS Chicago. He reported ten days later.

After a year aboard he was on the move again. He was detached from the Chicago on October 28, 1905, he was to report to the stores ship USS Celtic (Storeship No. 2) on October 30. Once aboard he became the ship's navigator on November 21, then later her senior engineer on February 1, 1906. Later that year, on August 11, 1906 he received simultaneous promotions to Lieutenant (jg) and Lieutenant.

Detached to instruction in submarine operations, once completed he took command of the submarine, USS Plunger (Submarine No. 2) ("...a cross between a Jules Verne fantasy and a humpbacked whale..." as one junior contemporary, ENS Chester W. Nimitz, later described early submarines) on February 22, 1907. He reported to that command the next day and assumed command at the New York Navy Yard where the boat had been recently recommissioned.

He received additional duty as commanding officer of Shark (Submarine No. 8) six months later, on August 23. In October 1907 he became commander of the first submarine flotilla after LT Charles P. Nelson, had been transferred to the USS Minnesota.

Castle was detached from Plunger to "continue other duties" the day before Christmas of 1907, (perhaps to devise plans related to the transfer of submarine torpedo boats to the Asiatic Station as deck cargo on board Navy colliers). On April 21, 1908 he received orders to temporary duty at the Bureau of Navigation, reporting on April 25, 1908. Upon completion of those duties he was again transferred, this time to Mare Island, California where he was assigned duty in connection with the fitting out of the USS Pike (Submarine No.6). He reported on May 13, 1908 only to be once again detached on July 1st. This time he was to travel to the Asiatic Station with a draft of men. They left five days later. They reported for duty on August 4, 1908 and began the fitting out of the submarines Porpoise and Shark, both of which had been transported to Cavite as deck cargo on board the collier Caesar.

Relieved on July 9, 1909 with new orders, Castle returned to the United States on August 20 aboard the passenger-freight ship SS Siberia owned by the Pacific Mail Lines. Once home he reported to the USS Ohio (Battleship No. 4) on October 12 to serve as her senior engineering officer until the Ohio was decommissioned a little over two months later.

Castle received orders two days before Christmas of 1909 to report "without delay" to the USS New Jersey (Battleship No. 16) for duty as her senior engineer officer, going on board his new ship three days later. He remained on the New Jersey until detached on August 6, 1910.

He then he traveled to his new duty station in Pittsburgh, Pa., to be the assistant to the inspector of material at the Carbon Steel Works to monitor steel manufacturing for Navy contracts. He reported four days later, on August 10, 1910.

More shore duty followed, at his alma mater, when he arrived at the Naval Academy on August 26, 1910, where he would remain for almost three years, a period of time punctuated by additional temporary duty on board USS Iowa during the Midshipmen's summer cruise (May 31, 1911 to September 1911), and in Philadelphia with the Brigade of Midshipmen (November 25, 1912).

While on shore duty at the Academy he became engaged to marry and on November 27, 1912 Guy married Miss Harriett Addison Bayne. Her sister, Miss Louise Bayne, was the bride's maid of honor and Lieutenant Fred Halstead Poteet was Guy's best man. The couple were to have two sons, John Bayne Castle born in 1913 and Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle, Jr. born in 1915.

Detached from the Naval Academy on June 7, 1913, he arrived on board battleship USS Utah (Battleship No.31) four days later to take up his duties as her ordnance officer. Less than a year later, as tensions flared between the United States and Mexico, Castle commanded Utah's bluejacket landing battalion (17 officers and 367 men strong), who landed at Veracruz on 21 April 1914 as part of the First Seaman Regiment.

During the fighting that day, and the next, Castle's conduct proved exemplary as he "exhibited courage and skill" in leading his men, "in seizing the Customs House [one of the principal objects of the landing] he encountered for many hours the heaviest and most pernicious concealed fire of the entire day [21 April 1914], but his courage and coolness under trying circumstances was marked...." For his distinguished conduct in battle, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

An account of one action was reported in THE DAILY LONG ISLAND FARMER newspaper:

Lieutenant Castle Stopped to Smoke as Snipers Shots Struck About Him.

Among tales of heroism brought back by the United States battleship Utah, now known as the "hero of the Vera Cruz occupancy", is one concerning Lieutenant G. W. S. Castle, in command of the Utah's landing battalion and a man highly praised by Admiral Fletcher. Lieutenant Castle displayed, according to his men, a coolness that was remarkable.

"He was right at the head of our column all the time", said a sailor. "In one house there were snipers who had fled to the roof. Lieutenant Castle was the first man up the stairs, and when the rest of us got there we found him standing in the middle of a smoke-filled room, with bullets splashing all about him while smoking his pipe."

His citation for the Medal of Honor reads;

Medal of Honor

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle, United States Navy, for distinguished conduct in battle during the engagements of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 21 and 22 April 1914. Eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion, Lieutenant Castle was in the fighting of both days, and exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through action. In seizing the customhouse, he encountered for many hours the heaviest and most pernicious concealed fire of the entire day, but his courage and coolness under trying conditions were marked.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 177 (December 4, 1915)
Action Date: April 21 - 22, 1914
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant

Promoted to Lieutenant Commander on September 15, 1914, to rank from July 1 of that year, Castle left the Utah on May 11, 1916, and reported to the Bureau of Steam Engineering in Washington, D.C. two days later. Serving as a senior member of a board "to determine space and weight of various material features of submarines to be built".

He later participated in the deliberations of the board that investigated and reported on the classification and standardization of motors on board ships. After a brief tour of temporary duty with Rear Admiral William S. Sims, during which he took passage in the USS Wilkes (Torpedo Boat No. 35), Castle served on a board that evaluated "devices and plans connected with submarine warfare." By year's end, Castle had received temporary promotion to Commander on August 13, 1917. The U.S. was now four months into World War I and Guy wanted in the action.

Ultimately, Castle's urgent request for sea duty bore fruit but the Armistice that ended hostilities on the western front, occurred only a week before his detachment from the Bureau of Steam Engineering on November 18, 1918. With orders to report to the Receiving Ship at New York Navy Yard. He arrived there on November 22.

The next day he relieved CAPT Kenneth G. Castleman as commanding officer of the transport USS Martha Washington. Under Castle's command, the transport conducted seven round trip voyages to French, British, or Dutch ports, with New York, Hampton Roads, or Charleston, S.C. serving as the western terminals to these routes.

On August 4, 1919, the Martha Washington sailed from New York, bound for Brest, France, on the first leg of her voyage that was ultimately to take her to Constantinople. On the evening of August 10, 1919, when Castle did not arrive at the scheduled time for dinner, his orderly and cabin steward found the door to the bathroom in his cabin locked. When repeated calls and knocking failed to arouse a response from within that compartment, the steward then summoned the ship's senior surgeon and a carpenter's mate, who forced the door. They found Castle dead on the floor of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had placed his wife's photograph inside his shirt over his heart and a picture of his two sons on the shelf in the bathroom opposite the mirror.

"During the voyage", the Martha Washington's chronicler has written, "no unusual actions of the Commanding Officer caused anyone to suspect that he contemplated such an action and his death was a great shock to both his officers and men...Captain Castle was held in the highest esteem by the officers and men of this vessel, who sincerely mourn his death, with his bereaved family." Castle was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It is interesting to note that his best man at his wedding, just seven years before, Lieutenant Fred H. Poteet, was also a pallbearer at his funeral. He is buried in Plot Section 3, Grave 4345 SS at Arlington.

In 1927 Harriett Castle, widow of Commander Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle had her home burglarized and over $15,000 of jewelery and cash were stolen.

In 1938 Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle Jr. after a tour in the Marine Corps traveled to Spain and became involved in the Spanish Civil war and became a prisoner of the forces under Franco. His mother traveled to Spain and negotiated his release. During WW II Guy Jr. was back in the Marines and his active record stops in 1943 but he did survive the war and married and lived until 1965. He was originally in a Marine Raider Division.

Harriett Castle passed away in 1986.

During the final months of WW II the keel of the destroyer USS Castle (DD-720) was laid down on July 11, 1945 at Newark, N.J., by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., but the end of World War II resulted in the termination of the contract for her construction on December 11, 1945. Although the award of the contract was reinstated, work on Castle was suspended on February 11, 1946. A little over five months later, on July 18, 1946, the Commandant, 3rd Naval District, was authorized to accept the ship in an uncompleted state. Delivered as 60.3% complete, Castle was slated for scrapping in a congressional resolution approved on August 23, 1954; her name was stricken from the Naval Register on November 2, 1954. She was sold for scrapping on August 29, 1955.

Biography expanded and history revised, Robert J. Cressman, December 13, 2007, additions and modifications by Ric Hedman July 27, 2015

US Navy Photo

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