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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Craigie, CC-739000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.




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Hap Arnold's Command Years and Aviation Technology,
1936-1945. Airpower Journal. Fall, 1977.


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"One thing you can say if you're 90 years old," he said two years ago, "is that all aviation--from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle--has happened in your lifetime. Isn't it wonderful that it could all happen in one lifetime?"

L.C. Craigie, USMA, Class of 1923 (Source: ancestry.com)
L.C. Craigie, USMA, Class of 1923 (Source: ancestry.com)


Laurence C. "Bill" Craigie landed twice at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. His first visit was on Tuesday, October 13, 1931 at 12:10PM. He carried seven unidentified passengers in the Ford C-9 trimotor transport he identified as "250" (probably 28-250). This same airplane appeared at Tucson two weeks earlier on a flight from Shertz, TX Randolph Field, to RIverside flown by a Lt. Bridgett. "250" was a well-used transport hack.

Regardless, Craigie identified his home base as San Antonio, TX, Brooks Field. He and his passengers arrived at Tucson from El Paso, TX. They remained on the ground an hour and 20 minutes before heading westward to March Field, Riverside, CA.

His second landing was on Friday, October 16, 1931 at 12:40PM. This time he carried eight unidentified passengers in the same airplane. From the Register it appears that this trip was a four-day round-robin flight back to San Antonio. They remained on the ground in Tucson an hour and ten minutes before continuing eastbound.

The purpose of the flight back east was captured in Corona Daily Independent (CA), October 17, 1931, below. It seems the training facility at March Field, with a resulting transfer of cadets to Texas. Craigie and his C-9 was the taxi service for the transfer. Note the misidentification of his initials as "A.R."

Corona Daily Independent (CA), October 17, 1931 (Source: Woodling)

Craigie was born January 26, 1902 in Concord, NH. He was a 1923 graduate of the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY. His West Point yearbook senior photograph is at right. He was a career military aviator.

U.S. Census coverage for Cragie is good. The 1910 Census, his first, placed him living in Stoneham, MA with his father, John (age 37), mother, Florence (35), two older brothers and one younger brother. His father worked as a "Draughtsman" for the "B&M Railway."

The 1920 Census placed him living in dormatories at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY (probably as a plebe). He lived with about 100 other cadets, all listed on the Census form.

After graduation from West Point, he enlisted in the army June 12, 1923 and served until he retired June 30, 1955, after 32 years of service. He served in WWII and in Korea. He retired after suffering a heart attack in 1955 as a Lieutenant General. After his retirement, he went to work for the aviation industry, enjoying appointments at Lockheed and Flying Tigers Air Transport.

In 1925, he married Victoria Morrison (8/12/1901-6/17/1997). They became parents of one daughter, Gale (b. 8/31/27) and one son, John (b. 9/16/1929). They remained married until his death in 1994 (see below).

On February 3, 1927, three years after he got his wings, he joined the Caterpillar Club, an organization of fliers who had to abandon their disabled aircraft in mid-air, parachuting to safety. This event occurred at Brooks Field.

The 1930 Census placed him and Victoria living at Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone, France Field. With them were daughter, Gale (2.5) and John (seven months). John was born in the Canal Zone. Craigie was coded as an "Officer" in the "Air Corps."

The 1940 Census placed him at age 38 living in Montgomery, OH with Victoria and their children, now 12 and 10 years old. His occupation was coded as "Aeronautical Engineer" in the "Army Air Corps." His salary was cited as $5,000+, a handsome sum in 1940.

A major feather in Craigie's cap came in 1942 during WWII when he was the first military pilot to fly the P-59, the first jet aircraft manufactured by the U.S. The P-59 project was very secret and was described in Airpower Journal as cited in the left sidebar and below, right.

“The supersecret engine was assembled at Lynn, Massachusetts, under the project title 'Super-charger Type #1.' At Larry Bell’s factory, the airframe project received an old program number so as not to arouse any suspicion. The workers themselves were segregated from each other so that even the members of the team were not totally sure what they were building. The Army Air Forces (AAF) officer who was to be the first American military man to fly a jet, Col Laurence 'Bill' Craigie, never revealed his mission, even to his wife, who found out about it in January 1944 with the rest of the country. Craigie recalled that ‘the only project I know of that was more secret was the atomic bomb.’”

Cragie appears below as a two-star general, probably in the early 1950s.

Lt. General L.C. Craigie, Ca. 1950s (Source: findagrave)
Lt. General L.C. Craigie, Ca. 1950s (Source: findagrave)








Online records show several trans-Atlantic flights made by Craigie. The first on January 2, 1943 was on the Boeing 314 Clipper "Dixie Clipper," NC18605. The route of flight was from Ireland to New York. Craigie was identified as a government officer. He flew with six other U.S. government officers, a British government officer, and a diplomatic courier bound for Washington, DC. Also on board were eight civilians, five missionaries, two students and an oil company representative.

After the war, on September 26, 1958 Immigration & Naturalization Service forms documented air travel from Madrid, Spain to New York by both Craigie and Victoria on TWA flight number 895. Their address was recorded as 4244 Clybourn Avenue, Burbank, CA. This address today is a large, two-storey clapboard home, which could be of 1950s vintage. Their aircraft type was not specified.

Similarly, on a September 18, 1960 Immigration form, Craigie was recorded solo flying on TWA charter 8656 from Zurich, Switzerland to New York. He was living at the same address in California.

Craigie has a modest Web presence. A biography can be found at the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He received several awards for service during WWII and Korea.

Craigie flew West February 27, 1994 at Riverside, CA. A biography, below, appeared at the findagrave.com Web site for his Air Force Academy interment. He served in both WWII and Korea.

USMA Class of 1923. Cullum No. 7014. His ashes are interred in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York and the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Laurence Carbee Craigie was born in Concord, New Hampshire. When he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1923, he was ranked 55th out of 262 and was assigned to the Air Corps. He spent the next years in Texas where he became an instructor.

In 1925, he married Victoria Morrison, whom he had met while at West Point. They were the parents of one daughter and one son who became a member of the USMA Class of 1951. From 1929 to 1931, he was stationed at France Field in the Canal Zone with the 7th Observation Squadron. He flew more than 100 hours per month. Next, he attended the Air Corps Engineering School at Wright Field in Ohio. In 1935, he became Project Officer, Training and Transport Aircraft and later Chief of the Engineering Section, Air Corps Materiel Division. As a one-man program office, he contributed to aircraft design and was a test flyer in aircraft development.

In 1939, he attended the Army Industrial College, returning to Wright Field. On October 2, 1942, as Chief of Aircraft Projects Section, he became America’s first military jet pilot, flying the Bell P-59 at Muroc Lake, now known as Edwards Air Force Base. [NOTE: Craigie wasn't the first pilot to fly the P-59, he was the first military pilot to fly it. It was first flown by a civilian Bell test pilot. A YouTube video of the P-59 first flight is at the link. Bill Craigie is interviewed in the film.] In 1943, he commanded the Boston and New York Fighter Wings, whose primary mission was training fighter crews for overseas. In December 1943, he took the 87th Fighter Wing to the Mediterranean Theater. Next, he commanded the 63rd Fighter Wing and later became Allied Air Commander in Corsica. He returned to the United States via the Pacific Theater, where he studied the issues with B-29 Operations.

Returning to Wright Field and the Engineering Division, the project to fix the B-29 and end the war became a race to stay ahead of the Soviet Union. In a conference with the head of North American Aviation, it was decided to change straight wings into swept wings on the F-86 that would outfly the MiG-15. He spent a year at the Pentagon and two years as Commandant, United States Air Force Institute of Technology.

In 1950, he went to Japan as Vice Commander of the Far Eastern Air Forces. He was a member of the United Nations Korean Armistice Truce Team. In 1953, he was DCS, Development, Headquarters United States Air Force. His final assignment was as Commander, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, in Naples. He suffered two heart attacks and retired in 1955. In civilian life he worked with the Flying Tigers, Lockheed and other corporations. 



Retired July 1, 1955. Died Feb. 27, 1994. 

First U.S. Armed Services pilot to fly a jet plane. Born in Concord, N.H., in 1902, Laurence Cardee Craigie graduated from Stoneham High School in 1919 and the U.S. Military Academy in June 1923, being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Service. He took flying training at Brooks and Kelly fields, Texas, and was a flying instructor at both places. He was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1927. 

In February 1929 he went to France Field, Panama Canal Zone, with the 7th Observation Squadron. He returned to Brooks in May 1931 and went to Randolph Field, Texas the following October for varied assignments. Craigie graduated as a captain from the Air Corps Engineering School at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Ohio, Training and Transport Engineering Unit of the Materiel Division there. 

He was named assistant chief of the Engineering Section in July 1937. In June 1939 he graduated from the Army Industrial College and assigned as assistant executive of the Experimental Engineering Section at Wright-Patterson with rank of major. He then attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., graduating in March 1941. Named assistant of the Aircraft Projects Branch at Wright-Patterson he became chief of the branch in July 1941 and was promoted lieutenant colonel that November. 

In October 1942, Craigie, then a colonel, became the first pilot of the Armed Forces to fly a jet-propelled plane when he piloted the XP-59 on its initial flight at Muroc Dry Lake, Calif., March 1943 he was assigned briefly to the 1st Fighter Command at Mitchel Field, N.Y., and the following month took command of the Boston Air Defense Wing in Mass. Three months later he commanded the New York Fighter Wing and was advanced to brigadier general in September. 

That November he returned to Mitchel as commanding general of the 87th Fighter Wing. He went to the North African Theater in March 1944 as commander of the 12th Air Force's 63rd Fighter Wing. In November 1944 he vas back at Wright-Patterson as deputy chief of the Air Technical Service's Engineering Division. He became chief of the division in August 1945 and was promoted to major general in July 1946. 

In 1947 he became chief of the Research and Engineering Division at Headquarters Army Air Force. That October he was appointed Director of Research and Development under the deputy chief of staff for materiel at Headquarters U.S. Air Force, and the following September returned to Wright-Patterson as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. Craigie became vice commander of the Far East Air Forces in Tokyo in July 1950 and returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in November 1951 as deputy chief of staff for development. He was promoted to lieutenant general July 5, 1952. In April 1954 he took command of the Allied Air Forces in Southern Europe, at Naples, Italy. 

USMA Class of 1923. In 1925 he married Victoria Morrison. His ashes are interred in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York and the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 


His obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1994, below.

Laurence Craigie, First U.S. Military Jet Pilot, Dies : Aviation: The retired Air Force lieutenant general was 92. In 1942, he flew an experimental craft that paved the way for the fighter jets used in the Korean War.

Laurence C. (Bill) Craigie, the retired Air Force lieutenant general who became the nation's first military jet pilot when he flew the stubby Bell XP-59A Airacomet more than half a century ago, died Sunday. He was 92.
Craigie, who lived in Riverside, died at March Air Force Base Hospital of natural causes, said family friend Bradley Grose, of North Hollywood. Grose said Craigie had driven himself to the hospital two days ago because he was not feeling well.

The pioneering pilot modestly recalled his historic Oct. 2, 1942, flight two years ago during a ceremony at Edwards Air Force Base to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

"It was a great thrill to be part of it. But it really wasn't as emotional a flight as you might think," he said. "We were just feeling out the aircraft."

Craigie had made the historic 20-minute flight at Edwards (then Muroc Army Air Field) shortly after civilian Bell Aircraft test pilot Bob Stanley flew the craft. The United States was the fourth nation--following Germany in 1939, Italy in 1940 and Britain in 1941--to fly a jet plane. The Bell XP-59A never made it into World War II.
One of the war's best-kept secrets, Craigie's jet flight was not formally announced until 15 months after it took place. To conceal the jet's development, Craigie and Stanley (who died in 1977) attached a wooden propeller to the aircraft's nose when it was parked outside its hangar at Edwards and covered the air intakes for its twin jet engines with cloth.

The craft, and Craigie's flight, paved the way for jet fighters in the Korean War.

The original XP-59A is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Despite two heart attacks, Craigie remained vigorous until near the end of his life. Two years ago, he celebrated his 90th birthday as co-pilot in a B-25 in a formation flyby with four vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes over March Air Force Base [see below].

"Every 90 years we're going to do this," he said as he stepped out of the plane. "You're all invited in 2082. I'll make all the arrangements with St. Peter."

Educated at West Point and the then-new Air Force Academy in Colorado, Craigie was a pioneer aviator in both world wars.

Like so many fliers in the early years, he was forced in 1927 to join the "Caterpillar Club," fliers who must parachute from a disabled aircraft.

Craigie was the first military man to fly in a radio-controlled aircraft and, during the 1930s and '40s, was among the engineers who greatly advanced flight, substituting sheet metal for wood and monoplanes for biplanes, and developing the turbojet engine.

During World War II, Craigie was named Allied air commander at Corsica, the island from which the invasion of southern France was launched in August, 1944. During the Korean War, he served 18 months as vice commander of the Far East air forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. After that war he served on the truce team.

Craigie was stationed for many years at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, where he befriended Orville Wright, the first man ever to fly under power. Craigie was with Wright when the inventor first saw a jet plane in flight.

Craigie continued to experiment with new types of aircraft until his retirement in 1955.

"One thing you can say if you're 90 years old," he said two years ago, "is that all aviation--from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle--has happened in your lifetime. Isn't it wonderful that it could all happen in one lifetime?"

Craigie is survived by his wife of 68 years, Victoria Morrison Craigie; a son, Jack, of Los Angeles; a daughter, Gayle Craigie Chidlaw, of Boulder, Colo., and several grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for Saturday at March Air Force Base Chapel. At Craigie's request, his body will be cremated and his ashes divided between West Point and the Air Force Academy [see his two grave markers, below].

The family has requested that any memorial donations be made to the Gen. Curtis LeMay Foundation.

The formation flyby described in the article above follows, from the Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1992.

Flight Nine-Oh : First Military Jet Pilot in U. S. Returns to the Skies on His 90th Birthday

MARCH AIR FORCE BASE — Lt. Gen. Laurence C. (Bill) Craigie, the nation's first military jet pilot, climbed out of the cockpit of a World War II B-25 bomber Sunday, grinned a 90-year-old grin and announced the start of an unusual tradition.

It was his birthday, and Craigie had just celebrated his nine decades on Earth by leading four vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes in a formation flyby over March Air Force Base. He had to settle for co-pilot status--after two heart attacks, he no longer holds a pilot's license. But the man who befriended Orville Wright said the experience was so thrilling that he plans to repeat it.

"Every 90 years we're going to do this," he told a small group of friends and family as he stepped onto the Tarmac. "You're all invited in 2082. I'll make all the arrangements with St. Peter."

A friend called out: "I didn't know you were on good terms with St. Peter!"

"I am," Craigie shot back, "or else I wouldn't be here!"

Indeed, as a pioneer aviator and veteran air commander during two wars, Craigie has had more than one close call. In 1927, just three years after he got his wings, he joined--involuntarily, like all its members--the Caterpillar Club, an informal organization of fliers who had to abandon their disabled aircraft and "take to the silk," parachuting to safety.

During the 1930s and '40s, he was among the engineers who helped to change air travel, substituting sheet metal for wood and monoplanes for biplanes. Intimately involved in the development of the turbojet engine, he was the first military man to fly America's first jet plane, the Bell XP-59, in 1942.

By the time he retired in 1955, Craigie had been among the first to experiment with many new types of aircraft. He had served as a policy-maker as well, sitting on the truce team at the end of the Korean War.

"One thing you can say if you're 90 years old is that all aviation--from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle--has happened in your lifetime," Craigie said Sunday, glancing fondly at Victoria, his wife of 66 years. "Isn't it wonderful that it could all happen in one lifetime?"

Craigie's birthday gave his friends an excuse to celebrate that lifetime, to retell their favorite stories and marvel at how much had changed during the master pilot's career.

For 13 years, Craigie was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where he got to know Wright, the first man ever to fly under power.

When Wright got his first look at a jet airplane in flight, Craigie was standing at his side. "You could see the look of wonder on his face," Craigie said.

Craigie was the first military man to fly in a radio-controlled aircraft, which took off, flew and landed without him ever touching the controls.

Then, as World War II heated up, Craigie became the Allied air commander at Corsica, the island from which the invasion of southern France was launched in August, 1944. Later, for 18 months during the Korean War, he was vice commander of the Far East air forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Bradley Grose, an amateur historian and friend of Craigie's, said the flier's record had prompted him to arrange Sunday's party, to "keep the American spirit living."

"There's a lot of younger folks today who don't know anything about what happened 50 years ago," said Grose, who was born six years after Craigie retired. "We've got to pay attention to American history."

Attending the party were several generals--13 stars' worth, by Craigie's count--many of them his neighbors at the Air Force Village retirement community west of the base. His daughter, Gale, had flown in from Colorado, and his son, Jack, brought his family from Los Angeles.

But the guests of honor were the vintage aircraft and their owners, private businessmen and airplane hobbyists who had jumped at the chance to fly a mission with one of the great pilots.

The P-51 Mustangs--"Damn Yankee," "Miss Fit," "Miracle Maker" and "Healer"--flew into Riverside County from Rialto and Van Nuys. Mike Pupich--a Los Angeles businessman who flew his B-25, "Heavenly Body," in from Burbank--was honored to have Craigie in his cockpit.

"He's just unbelievable. He and George Burns are going to live forever," Pupich said before takeoff. Pupich said Craigie was determined that his birthday flight would at least momentarily distract his neighbors on Super Bowl Sunday.

"He said: 'We've got to make two low passes. The first one gets their attention. The second one gets them outside,' " Pupich said.

The planes rendezvoused at 11:30 a.m., hovering at 8,000 feet over Lake Hughes. With the four Mustangs tight on the B-25's wings, they flew over Craigie's neighbors first ("There was quite a gang outside," Craigie reported happily), and then swooped over the base runway, near where his guests stood, looking upward.

Then, at a luncheon at the officers' club, Craigie reminded his guests again to mark their calendars. St. Peter, he said, "is supposed to have a very good airstrip."


L.C. Craigie, Air Force Academy Grave Marker, 1994 (Source: findagrave.com)
L.C. Craigie, Air Force Academy Grave Marker, 1994 (Source: findagrave.com)
L.C. Craigie, U.S. Military Academy Grave Marker, 1994 (Source: findagrave.com)


Note that hisLos Angeles Times obituary reported that he was cremated and his ashes divided, half to the Air Force and half to the Army. His grave marker from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO is at right.

His grave marker at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY is at left.












Dossier 2.2.60

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 11/25/19 REVISED: 11/27/19

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