Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

L.C. CASTRO
1924 - 2006

 

L.C. CASTRO

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (Army Air Corps, WWII, Europe) Article July-August 1997

The Gold Star mother of this Castro family of Austin, Texas sent four sons off to WWII, three of whom were awarded the Purple Heart.  L.C.'s brother, Arthur, wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, died many years ago, but brother, Joe, a combat medic wounded on Saipan, is also in Chapter 1919 and you can read his Purple Heart story by clicking on this link...Joe S. Castro L.C. was the only member of his 10-man bomber crew to evade capture when their aircraft was shot down over occupied France. This story tells how he did it.

Ladislao C. (L.C.) Castro was born and spent his growing-up years in Austin. He attended Guadalupe Catholic School and then Austin High School. In Austin High, L.C. first met Sallie Castillo; and he was a Senior when America entered the war. A few months after his graduation in June 1942, L.C. went out to Del Valle Army Air Base (before it was renamed for Captain Bergstrom) and enlisted. After training as a mechanic and an Aerial Gunner, he was assigned to the 506th Bomb Squadron, then in training at Pueblo, Colorado. 

The 506th deployed overseas to their new home base, Shipdham, England on October 4, 1943. The 506th became the fourth Squadron of the 44th Bomb Group (Eight Balls), of 8th Air Force. L.C. was a waist gunner on the B-24 Liberator Bomber named “T-Bar”, that flew its first combat mis­sion on November 5, 1943 to Muenster, Germany. Other missions quickly followed. On November 18th, they bombed the heavy water plant in Oslo, Norway. Half the bombers were lost to German fighters and FLAK in a mission that eliminated Germany's ability to produce an Atomic Bomb. T-Bar returned safely to base, but L.C. suffered frostbite of the hands and face, that laid him up in the hospital for the next three missions. 

On March 18, 1944, L.C. flew with “T-Bar” on its 25th and final mission, deep into Germany. The aircraft was hit while over the target, and the damaged aircraft, unable to keep up, dropped out of formation.  “T-Bar” slowly lost fuel and altitude as it flew back alone across France. They passed over some FLAK guns as they approached Ab­beville on the French coast.  A FLAK hit blew away several feet off the tip of the left wing and that put the plane into an uncontrollable turn. With the B-24 flying in wide circles while continuing to lose altitude, the aircraft com­mander ordered the crew to bail out. 

In L.C.’s words,  “We already had our chutes on, so when the order came, I jumped out through the camera hatch. I was the first one out, my right leg struck the plane and I knew I was hurt. We had been briefed not to open our chutes too quickly, because parachutes high in the air can be seen from a great distance and that increased the likelihood of our capture by the Germans.  So, I waited as long as I dared, then pulled the ripcord. My chute had barely opened and I was still going pretty fast, barely clearing some trees, when I hit the ground - hard! Again, my right leg and ankle were hurting. I was in terrific pain. I landed in a plowed field or it would have been even worse.  I gathered up my parachute and flying gear and hob­bled off and hid in a haystack that was nearby. Our crew all got out of the aircraft safely, but all of the others opened their parachutes immediately. I saw their chutes, still several thousand feet up, slowly floating down. So did the Germans. Then came a sudden commotion as motorcycles, cars, and trucks, came speeding up, with soldiers jumping out and shouting as they scrambled across the fields after the downed airmen. Two of our crew were shot and wounded, and all nine of my other crewmembers were taken prisoner as I watched it all happening from my concealed position. The Germans hadn’t seen me, but they seemed to know they hadn’t gotten us all.  Maybe they just knew how many men made up the crew of a B-24 and realized they were still one prisoner short.  As the Germans continued search­ing for me, the pain in my leg was becoming unbearable. I realized then that it had to be a broken bone. I was at the point of coming out of the haystack and just giving up in order to get relief from the intense pain; but, I didn’t dare because I knew the soldiers were cruel and they would force me to walk on my wounded leg.  I was right on the verge of coming out of the haystack anyway to give up when the Germans broke off their search and left.”

A French farm woman had seen L.C., so after the Germans left, she fed him and hid him in a barn. The French Resistance came and managed to slip L.C. into the city of Amiens, north of Paris. A French doctor tended his broken leg and he remained in hiding, cramped up in a single room with 16 other Allied aviators for five months, from May 1st thru September 1, 1944. Finally, Amiens was liberated by the 2nd Canadian Armored Division, and L.C. was evacuated to London for 22 days of debriefing and medical attention. 

L.C. Castro returned to the U.S. on October 4, 1944, after exactly one year overseas. After a month of R&R in Miami Beach, and some refresher training, L.C. was assigned to the Army Air Field at Greenwood, Mississippi for the remainder of the war. He was dis­charged in October 1945 at Randolph Army Air Field in San Antonio and came home to Austin.  L.C. Castro attended St Edwards University and the University of Texas. He and Sallie married in 1948. His Air Force Reserve unit was recalled in June 1950 for service during the Korean War. He was again discharged in March 1952. L.C. resumed family life in Austin and began a career in Civil Service as an accountant. As his sons progressed in the scouting program, L.C. served for twenty years in leadership positions with the Boy Scouts. He retired from federal service in 1989 at Bergstrom Air Force Base, the same place he had enlisted 47 years earlier, and continues to live in Austin. 

SALLIE (CASTILLO) CASTRO adds the following: I was born in San Marcos and my family moved to Austin in 1938. It is true that L.C. and I knew one another in Austin High School, but nothing ( romantic) was going on back then. Our families were acquainted; maybe L.C. picked at me and my sisters a little, but nothing more. After the war was different. I was in the young Hispanic women's "HORIZON CLUB". We organized a dance at the Driskill Hotel and held socials at the U.S.O. for the returning servicemen – L.C. among them, and we married in 1948.

 

Ladislao C. "L.C." Castro provided this Purple Heart story for publication in the July-August 1997 issue of PATRIOT BULLETIN.  L.C. died in November 2006.

CREW OF THE "T-BAR", with L.C., front, 2nd from right.

B-24

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