Castleman, John Rolfe


Castleman, John Rolfe

Last Name


First and Middle Name

John Rolfe

Biographical Text

From American legion post 41 Berryville, Virignia "First Lieutenant John Rolfe Castleman was Clarke County's first aviation hero. While serving with the 99th Aero Squadron of General John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, he had a terrific battle with twelve German airplanes high in the air near Romagne, France.

On October 5, 1918, 1LT Castleman, was pilot of a Salmson 2A2, that he flew over the German lines for the purpose of taking some pictures of the German activities. After getting the pictures, he started for his base, when seven German Fokker airplanes got between him and home. He at once opened fire with his machine gun and the Germans scattered with two of them falling rapidly and crashing. He was later attacked by five more enemy airplanes that he successfully scattered with machine gun fire. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross—our Nation's second highest military medal for heroism.

John Rolfe Castleman was born at "Lynwood" in Clarke County on May 1, 1895. His father was John Randolph Castleman, who was a member of Mosby's Rangers during the Civil War.

In 1915, he enrolled at Virginia Tech where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets. When America entered World War I, he left school after his sophomore year and joined the Army Air Service. After his release from active duty in 1919, he returned to Virginia Tech and graduated in 1921 with a degree in civil engineering.

In 1923, he was appointed as an assistant professor of engineering at Virginia Tech. After forty-two years of service, he retired in 1965 as a professor of graphics in Tech's Engineering Department. He died on May 3, 1983 and is buried at Green Hill Cemetery in Berryville."


Berryville, Virginia

Birth Date

May 1, 1895

Death Date

May 3, 1983

Place of Death

Blacksburg, Virignia


John Randolph Castleman, Laura Lee Francis


Page Randolph, Francis Lee,


Mary Jaquelin Smith

VPI Graduating Class

Would have graduated in 1919, but he left to join the Army and returned to VPI to graduate in 1921

Undergraduate Major

Civil Engineering



Service Branch

Army Air service


99th Aero Squadron


1st Lieutenant

Decorations or Citations

Distinguished Service Cross; Romagne, France, October 5, 1918
  • Citation: "For extrodinary heroism in action near Romagne, France, October 5, 1918. In spite of being attacked by seven enemy planes (type Fokker), and later by five (type Pfalz), Lieutenant Castleman sucessfully accomplished a photographic mission six kolometers behind the GErman lines, without protection, and also destroyed two enemy planes."
Silver Star Citation: Cunel, France, October 5, 1918
  • Citation: For gallantry in action near Cunel, France, October 5, 1918, while on a photographic mission."
The above citations were taken from pgs.27-28, Virginians of Distinguished Service of the World War, published by the Virginia War History Commission, 1923

Battles or Engagements

St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne

Postwar Life

Professor of Engineering at Virginia Tech



1927 "Virginia Polytehnic Institute in the World War" booklet


Contributing Researchers

Connor Skelly


  • Article about John R. Castleman in The Virginia Tech campus newspaper, 6 February 1919


J. R. Castleman photograph from time serving with 99th Aero Squadron.jpg
John Rolfe Castleman senior portrait from the 1921 VPI Bugle.jpg
John Rolfe Castleman from the 1921 VPI Bugle - photograph.jpg
Article about John Rolfe Castleman in The Virginia Tech newspaper, 6 February 1919.jpg
John Rolfe Castleman from the 1921 VPI Bugle - cartoon.jpg
99th Aero Squadrom officer group poster.jpg
Officers of the 99th Aero Squadron.jpg
Second Officer photograph of the 99th Aero Squadron - J. R. Castleman center.jpg



“Castleman, John Rolfe,” VPI in World War I, accessed August 12, 2022,

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