Guy Wilkinson Stuart Castle -- born in Portage, Wisc., on 8 February 1879 -- was appointed a naval cadet on 20 May 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 7 June 1901, and reported to the Receiving Ship Independence on 29 June. Detached on 31 July to proceed to the Asiatic Station on board a U.S. Army Transport, he sailed on 1 August. Ultimately, he reported to Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser No.3) on 6 September, but served in her a little over a month, being detached to Kentucky (Battleship No.6) on 11 October.
His title changed from naval cadet to midshipman on 1 July 1902, Castle was ordered detached from Kentucky on 21 July to the gunboat Monocacy, then to Vicksburg (Gunboat No. 11), reporting to the latter on 30 July at Chefoo, China. Over the ensuing months, Vicksburg "showed the flag" and conducted training, steaming from Chinese to Korean and Japanese and Philippine ports. Tensions between Japan and Russia occasioned Vicksburg's being dispatched to Chemulpo, Korea, where she arrived on 30 December 1903 to protect American interests there.
Castle's promotion to ensign occurred on 5 February 1904 (to rank from 7 June of the previous year), the same day that Japan and Russia broke off diplomatic relations. Soon thereafter, on 8 February, 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), that the Japanese would attack the Russians where they lay unless they stood out by noon to do battle. The Russian ships began clearing for action at 9:00 a.m., then gamely stood out, to the cheers of the neutrals, the Japanese opening fire at about 11:50 a.m. Within a half hour, Variag and Koretz retired toward Chemulpo, the Japanese ceasing fire at 12:40 to avoid endangering neutral shipping. Variag, badly damaged and afire, had suffered heavy casualties; British, French, and Italian warships sent boats with medical people to "lend medical assistance." Vicksburg sent a whaleboat to do likewise. Castle's participation in that endeavor of mercy prompted Variag's commanding officer to present his personal sword to the young ensign in gratitude.
Vicksburg returned to the United States on 29 June 1904, arriving at Bremerton, Wash., to be decommissioned. Detached from that ship on 15 July, he returned home with 30 days leave, upon the expiration of which he was to "await orders to sea." On 12 August, he received orders to the protected cruiser Chicago, and reported ten days later. Detached on 28 October 1905, he reported to Celtic (Storeship No.2) on 30 October, becoming that auxiliary's navigator on 21 November, then her senior engineer on 1 February 1906. Later that year, on 11 August, he received simultaneous promotions to lieutenant (j.g.) and lieutenant.
Detached to command Plunger (Submarine Torpedo Boat 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 22 February 1907, reporting for that duty the following day and assuming command upon her recommissioning at the New York Navy Yard. He received additional duty as commanding officer of Shark (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 8) six months later, on 23 August. Detached from Plunger to "continue other duties" (perhaps to devise means related to the envisioned transfer of submarine torpedo boats to the Asiatic Station as deck cargo on board colliers) the day before Christmas of 1907, he then received orders to temporary duty at the Bureau of Navigation, reporting on 25 April 1908, upon completion of which he was to travel to Mare Island, Calif., where he would have duty in connection with Pike (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 6). He reported on 13 May, only to be detached on 1 July to travel to the Asiatic Station for duty with a draft of men, taking passage five days later. He reported for duty on 4 August in connection with fitting out Porpoise (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 7) and Shark, both of which had been transported to Cavite as deck cargo on board the collier Caesar.
Relieved on 9 July 1909 with new orders, Castle returned to the United States on 20 August, reporting to Ohio (Battleship No. 4) on 12 October to serve as her senior engineer officer. When Ohio was decommissioned a little over two months later, Castle received orders two days before Christmas of 1909 to report "without delay" to New Jersey (Battleship No. 16) for duty as her senior engineer officer, going on board his new ship three days later. He remained in New Jersey until detached on 6 August 1910, traveling thence to Pittsburgh, Pa., to be the assistant to the inspector of material, Carbon Steel Works, reporting four days later, on 10 August. More shore duty followed, at his alma mater, when he arrived at the Naval Academy on 26 August, where he would remain for almost three years, a period of time punctuated by "additional temporary duty" on board Iowa during the midshipmen's summer cruise (31 May-11 September 1911), and in Philadelphia with the Brigade of Midshipmen (25 November 1912).
Lt. Guy W. S. Castle, circa 1906-1914. (Naval Historical Foundation Photograph, Paul F. Foster Collection, S-156-B)
Detached from the Naval Academy on 7 June 1913, he arrived on board 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 received the Medal of Honor.
Commissioned lieutenant commander on 15 September 1914, to rank from 1 July of that year, Castle left Utah on 11 May 1916, reporting to the Bureau of Steam Engineering, in Washington, D.C., two days later. After serving as senior member of a board "to determine space and weight of various material features of submarine[s] to be built" (20 July), he later participated in the deliberations of the board that investigated and reported on the classification and standardization of motors on board ships (21 November). After a brief tour of temporary duty with Rear Admiral William S. Sims, during which he took passage in 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 (31 August 1917).
Ultimately, Castle's "urgent request" for sea duty bore fruit. The Armistice that ended hostilities on the western front, however, occurred only a week before his detachment from the Bureau of Steam Engineering on 18 November 1918, with orders to report to the Receiving Ship at New York Navy Yard. Arriving there on 22 November, the next day he relieved Capt. Kenneth G. Castleman as commanding officer of the transport Martha Washington (Id.No. 3019). 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 eastern terminii.
On 4 August 1919, 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 10 August 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 orderly and cabin steward summoned the ship's senior surgeon and a captain'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," 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 (Va.) National Cemetery.
Castle (DD-720) was laid down on 11 July 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 11 December 1945. Although the award of the contract was reinstated, work on Castle was suspended on 11 February 1946. A little over five months later, on 18 July 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 23 August 1954; her name was stricken from the Naval Register on 2 November 1954. She was sold for scrapping on 29 August 1955.
Biography expanded and history revised, Robert J. Cressman, 13 December 2007