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Larry Fritz TWA Division Supervisor
Divisional Superintendent of TWA, L. G. Fritz

TWA Pioneer
Lawrence 'Larry' G. Fritz
1896 - Nov 4, 1970
Vice President of Operations.

A Legacy of Leadership

"L. G. Fritz contributed a great deal to airline development during the formative years. He was test pilot for Ford Airways, chief pilot of Maddux Air Lines, vice-president of Southwest Air Fast Express, Divisional Superintendent of TWA then Vice-President of Operations for TWA." Legacy of Leadership, A Pictorial History of Trans World Airline.

Read an excerpt from "Legacy of Leadership, A Pictorial History of Trans World Airline." Here

Lawrence G. Fritz vice president of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. was granted leave by TWA to enter active service with the Army Air Force and rose to the rank of , commanding the North Atlantic Division of the Air Transport Command.

Larry Fritz Brigadier General
Brigadier General L. G. Fritz
Army Air Forces photo
From Jennys to Jets

Young Larry Fritz
Lawrence G. Fritz
"Lawrence George, left,(1896-1970), known as Larry, sailed on the Great Lakes before joining the army in 1917.  He took pilot training and after a brilliant career made Major General in 1944.  His first wife, Margaret Gretchen Schnepp, died in 1926 when their son Lawrence, Jr. was born.  He died of leukemia at eighteen.  Larry and his second wife, Ruth Merritt, had two sons and two daughters." Frances Louise Vondett Fritz, 1984.

Ruth's first marriage was to a Mr. Donohue.  They had one son, James Donohue, who later took the last name FRITZ. He was killed while flying a F86 in 1953. Right.

Lawrence G. FRITZ was educated in the schools of Marine City, Michigan, graduating High School there in the class of 1915. He subsequently sailed on the Great Lakes in the summer, earning money to attend Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing (now Mich. State University).  The U. S. entered World War I in April of 1917 and after returning from college elected to enlist in the Army and not wait upon the draft.  Larry wanted to get into the fledgling air corps and was assigned to the Army Signal Corps (which at the time, had the air corps connected to it). According to Larry's cousin, Edward William Fritz, there was no equipment for training and Larry was subsequently shipped overseas for service with the Royal Air Force where he received training as an aerial gunner and photographer. 

James Donohue
James Donohue FRITZ (1927-1953)

de Havilland DH4
de Havilland DH4
(Rosebud's WWI and Early Aviation Image Archive)
He was trained in the De Havilland, Model DH-4 bi-plane, left, this plane was subsequently manufactured in the U. S. under agreement with De Havilland.The DH-4 that L. G. FRITZ trained in was a two seat "tandem" aircraft. The pilot was separated from the observer by a 20 gallon gas tank that was situated immediately behind the pilot’s shoulders. These planes had been dubbed by English pilots as "Flaming Coffins." Right, Pilot falling from burning Albatros (Rosebud's WWI and Early Aviation Image Archive). When the war ended on November 11, 1918, the U.S. embarked upon a swift military demobilization. Larry was honorably discharged from the Armed Forces. He was given transportation costs to his place of enlistment which was Detroit, and subsequently received the $60 War Bonus.
Pilot falling from burning Albatros

The Curtiss JN-4
The Curtiss JN-4, Ft. Sill, OK - 1916
(Holcomb's Aerodrome)
By 1921, a tight fisted Congress allocated minimal monies for a reserve officer flight program.  Thousands of veterans and young men applied for the training but only a few were accepted.  Due to the high numbers of applicants, the standards were set very high.  Two notable men were accepted for the program at Kelly Field, Texas: L. G. Fritz and Charles Lindbergh.

Kelly Field, right,had been established during the war for training both American and Canadian airmen.  The new cadet pilots were issued standard Army uniforms, like those in the war, including the Smoky Bear type campaign hat.  Cadets wore a white band on the hat for identification.  After completion of ground school, Larry entered primary flight training where they flew the venerable Curtiss "Jenny" OX-5 left.  He went on through the Basic and Advanced flying program to receive his commission as 2nd Lieutenant, Reserve in the Army Air Corps and certification as an advanced aircraft pilot.
Historic postcard of Kelly Field
Historic postcard of Kelly Field
(National Park Service's National Register of
Historic Places)

William Mayo, Bill Stout, Edsel and Henry Ford in front of Trimotor
From left to right - William Mayo, Bill Stout, Edsel and Henry Ford in front of Trimotor.

The first of the Ford commercial air transport planes were all metal as opposed to wooden frames. These planes also had an enclosed flight deck and were equipped with more powerful engines. There was space for two pilots to sit side by side in the flight deck, allowing for pilot relief and longer non-stop flights. In addition to the modern flight deck, there was seating for 8 passengers, plus cargo. Ford initiated production of these planes a year later and they came to be known ever after as, “The Tin Goose“. Henry FORD then established another firm, FORD AIRWAYS at Dearborn, Michigan. Larry FRITZ was appointed as Chief Pilot of the new firm and immediately set up the first scheduled air routes between Dearborn, Chicago, and Cleveland. Henry Ford contracted to have a new airport built in Dearborn. At the time, late 1925, it was the most modern airport in the United States. It boasted a number of firsts: It had paved runways, modern hangers for maintenance, a professional staff for maintenance and repair, and a new passenger terminal. This pioneering airfield set the standard for new airports that were being developed across the country.
FORD AIRWAYS at Dearborn, Michigan A 1931
FORD AIRWAYS at Dearborn, Michigan A 1931 aerial view looking northwest at Ford Airport. (Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields)

Harry S. New, US Postmaster General & pilot Larry Fritz
This picture was taken the morning of the first commercial airmail flight. On left Harry S. New, US Postmaster General & pilot Larry Fritz. Photo from the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

First to fly the airmail

In 1926, Ford Airways received the first commercial airmail contract ever issued by the U. S. Post Office. Ford Airways Captain L. G. FRITZ, kicked the snow from his flying boots and climbed into the enclosed cabin of the airplane named "MAIDEN DETROIT." He flew the first commercial air mail from Dearborn, Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio in the flat time of two hours which was exactly as planned. Commercial Air Mail was inaugurated that day. During that first critical year, L. G. FRITZ and Ford Airways established a regular series of flight schedules that were 98% on time. Regular flights were initiated between both Chicago and Cleveland with capacity for up to 8 passengers per flight, plus mail or air cargo. Fritz, Edward Wilgar.
First airmail envolope
Jim Fritz Family Collection
First airmail envolope
E. W. Fritz Family Collection

Larry Fritz in typical flight gear
Larry Fritz in typical flight gear. Photo: "The Aviation Legacy of Henry Ford."
Maddux Airlines

Henry Ford entered into contract with his Lincoln dealer in Los Angeles to establish a new west coast airline, MADDUX AIRLINES. Jack Maddux was reluctant to engage in such a pioneering venture. He met with L. G. FRITZ to discuss routes and development. Maddux then agreed to establish the line, but only if Ford would release his Chief Pilot L.G. FRITZ to become Chief Pilot of Maddux Airlines. Mr. Mayo, the Chief Officer of Ford Airways had told Maddux, that the whole problem of organization, and routes could be solved by one intrepid pilot who had the guts and experience, and that man was L. G. FRITZ. Legacy of Leadership, "A pictorial History of Trans World Airlines"

A Ford 4-AT-E Trimotor.

Maddux made an initial purchase of 5 of the AT-4 Tri-motor planes for his airline. The first of the new planes, was to be flown from Detroit to Los Angeles, a route never flown before. Larry FRITZ laid out the route. The plane would carry a full load of 14 passengers, mostly reporters, and cargo. This was a pioneer commercial flight in all respects. Captain FRITZ made it seem like an everyday event. He had planned stops at Chicago, Kansas City, Wichita, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and on into Los Angeles. At each field, and they were exactly that, fields, crowds had turned out to witness this historic cross country flight. Captain FRITZ landed on schedule at Los Angeles. There they were greeted by large crowds including the Mayor of Los Angeles. Larry promptly invited the Mayor and Jack Maddux aboard and gave them a cook’s air tour of L. A.
Larry FRITZ & Larry Jr. in Kansas City, Missouri (E. W. Fritz Family Collection)

Transcontinental Western Air DC-1
Douglas Aircraft, Transcontinental Western Air DC-1 (Flying Higher)
Vice President of Operations, TWA

In 1928, L. G. FRITZ was offered the Vice Presidency of the newly formed airline, WESTERN AIR EXPRESS. A year later a merger took place between three airlines: Western Air Express, Transcontinental Air Transport, and Maddux Airlines who had merged to form Transcontinental and Western Airlines, TWA. This merger produced the largest airline network in the United States. In the new airline system, Larry became Regional Superintendent of the southwest routes. TWA was the first airline with coast to coast routes.

The period 1930 thru 1941 were marked by a deep depression that wracked the nation.  Airplane manufacturers and Airlines were hard pressed to make a profit.  A number of marginal airlines and manufacturers fell to the depressed economy.  During this era, L. G. FRITZ maintained his Army Air Corps reserve commission.  He maintained his flight skills by flying all of the types of aircraft that were available.  In 1934, Larry was promoted to Vice President of Operations.  It was the largest airline in the nation.
Transcontinental Western Air DC-2
Douglas Aircraft, Transcontinental Western Air DC-2 (Flying Higher, 2006)

Captain L. G. Fritz
Fritz Joins Army Air Force

On 24 April 1942: Captain L. G. Fritz USAACR, was granted leave by TWA to enter active service with the Army Air Force. He received a brevet to Lt. Colonel and assignment as Chief of Operations, Ferry Command, later the Air Transport Command.

In 1942 the war effort was in dire straits. Our vast production of war materials was subject to an unrelenting attack and destruction as submarines slaughtered our Merchant ships loaded with munitions and supplies of every kind. Colonel L. G. Fritz made a number of flights along the existing and planned North Atlantic routes for transport aircraft and was instrumental in solving the problem of routes, maintenance, fuel, and rest facilities to get both men and materials flowing by new air routes. Commercial air routes across the Atlantic did not exist. The North Atlantic Great Circle route to England was the most difficult in the early days of WWII. Weather was a continuous factor across the uncharted wastes of the high arctic deserts. It is an understatement to say that formidable challenges confronted the men who flew this route. In late 1942, L. G. Fritz was promoted to full Colonel, and later Brigadier General, commanding the North Atlantic Division of the Air Transport Command. Military decorations include: Legion of Merit; Distinguished service medal; Distinguished flying cross; Air Medal; Theater of war medals.

General Fritz was released from active service in 1946 and made Vice President of Overseas Operations for American Airlines. 
Larry Fritz Brigadier General
New York Times Articles

Larry Fritz Obit
For more information on Larry Fritz visit the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register Web site. Here

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