Laurence Cardee Craigie

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Laurence Carbee Craigie
LGEN Craigie, Laurence C (MGEN).jpg
Laurence C. Craigie
Born(1902-01-26)January 26, 1902
Concord, New Hampshire
DiedFebruary 27, 1994(1994-02-27) (aged 92)
Riverside, California
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1923–1955
RankLieutenant General
Commands heldAllied Air Forces Southern Europe
Commandant, Air Force Institute of Technology
Battles/warsWorld War II, Korean War

Laurence Carbee Craigie (January 26, 1902 – February 27, 1994), was a United States aviator and United States Air Force general. He became the first U.S. military jet pilot in 1942 when he piloted the Bell XP-59. With Orval R. Cook he is also known as one half of the Cook-Craigie plan, a method of producing aircraft.


Born in Concord, New Hampshire on January 26, 1902, Laurence Craigie grew up in Concord, Somerville, Massachusetts, Keene, New Hampshire and graduated from Stoneham, Massachusetts 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 Field and Kelly Field, Texas, and was a flying instructor at both places. He was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1927.[1]


In February 1929 Craigie went to France Field, Panama Canal Zone, where he was an Engineering Officer with the 7th Observation Squadron. He returned to Brooks in May 1931 and went to Randolph Field, Texas the following October for varied assignments. In 1935 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, Alabama, 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, California, March 1943 he was assigned briefly to the 1st Fighter Command at Mitchel Field, New York, and the following month took command of the Boston Air Defense Wing in Massachusetts. 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 Corsica in the North African Theater in March 1944 as commander of the 12th Air Force's 63rd Fighter Wing. He was in command when the invasion of southern France was launched from Corsica in August 1944. In November 1944 he was 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 material 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. During the first year of the Korean War Craigie became vice commander of the Far East Air Forces in Tokyo, and for three months in 1951 served as the Air Force delegate on the United Nations Armistice Negotiations Team at the truce talks. In November 1951 he returned to U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Washington as Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development. He was promoted to lieutenant general July 5, 1952. In April 1954 he took command of NATO's Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (Italy, Greece and Turkey), at Naples, Italy.

In retirement[edit]

Following a heart attack in the Bavarian Alps he retired from the Air Force on June 30, 1955. In December of that year he and his wife Victoria moved to Burbank, California where he began a 25-year career in private industry. In 1956 he was a vice president of Hydro-Aire, Inc, and the following year a vice president of American Machine & Foundry Co. From 1957-64 he was director of the Air Force requirements section for Lockheed Aircraft Corp.

Since 1963 he was a director of the Flying Tiger Line (a freight airline), and was on the board of Hungry Tiger, Inc. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Falcon Foundation since 1965. In 1971 he was with the International Science Foundation. He was self-employed as a consultant after 1971.

In May 1990 he and his wife moved into a retirement community for retired service people in Riverside, California where he died on February 27, 1994.[2][3]


Laurence Craigie's brother, Second Lieutenant Karl Harrold Craigie (1898-1973), A.S.A., U.S.A., was a World War I aviator;[4] his other brother also served during the Great War—Hugh H. Craigie, Corp., Co. L, 33d U.S. (Reg.) Infantry. He was also the grandfather of folk singer John Craigie.