Skip to main content

The author of these remarks, one of the very early members of this journal’s board of directors, has led an active professional life abroad in the Foreign Service, the military, and the private sector. Here he shares insights, especially on overlapping friendships and contacts over the years.— Ed.

by Carl Fritz

On a map the world looks like a very large place. It appears different to me, however, born in Tiffin, Ohio in 1923, a 1941 graduate of Tiffin Columbian High School, and after three years of WWII experience, a 1948 graduate of Heidelberg College. Thereafter, I traveled the world widely much of my life, and kept meeting various people in such widely scattered places, I finally decided the world must be a small place.

My first World War II overseas post with the 382nd Air Service Group (ASG) was Chittagong, then part of British India, now located in Bangladesh. My bamboo basha was about one-fourth mile from the bamboo mess hall. In my trip through the woods to my first meal there, I encountered Peewee, a fellow who had been lifeguard at Kopp’s swimming pool in Mechanicsburg, an area in my hometown, Tiffin. I never knew Peewee’s real name. We remembered each other, however, and Peewee gave me a couple packs of cigarettes, as I had run short. Later the unit was transferred to a highly damaged area of China. In fact, the airfield at Liuchow was loaded with mines, and the pilot of our aircraft was obviously frightened. Accordingly, he decided to land on a small dirt lane some distance from the landing strip.

When the war ended in 1945, the 382nd ASG became scattered all over China, filling needed positions in a number of airfields. On the recommendation of our radio officer, Rufus Long, I was transferred from being a ground speed radio operator to the radio operator position on the unit’s only aircraft. The aircraft was used to carry monthly pay and PX supplies. We also found ourselves sometimes responsible for carrying drums of gasoline and even foreign refugees, e.g., German Jews and Russians.

When Moon Poo Gee, one of our unit’s men, who was originally Chinese, learned the plane was going to Canton, he mentioned that he would like to go along as his wife might be in that neighborhood. I mentioned this to the pilot who agreed to let Moon come along. When the plane arrived in Canton, Moon went around to various places to obtain information on his wife. While he found people with information about her, he actually never contacted her before we had to leave.

I left Shanghai by troopship for the U. S. in December 1945. At a hotel in Seattle I called home, reaching my father. When I told Dad where I was, he exclaimed, “Your cousin, Marie, was there yesterday!” It so happened that she, now an employee of UNICEF, sailed on a ship that included her future husband and then headed for Korea. Cousin Marie then went on to China, where her job took her to the same war-wrecked city of Liuchow, from which I had just come.

In late 1951 I began my career in foreign aid, assigned to India with the Technical Cooperation Administration. I arrived there along with the first director of the Point Four Mission, Clifford Willson. We were met by Horace Holmes, the first chief agriculturist of the mission and advisor to the ministry of agriculture. I had much to do with Horace, cooperating in the preparation of project proposals and agreements. I also traveled all over India, helping new agricultural advisors get used to their new homes and jobs and learning much at the same time.

In 1957 my brother George, then in the States, and I in Ceylon, agreed by mail and phone to send our father, Gottlob, to Germany to visit his family whom he had not seen since emigrating in 1912. Cousin Marie, then living with her husband in Heidelberg, Germany, got the news that Gottlob might be visiting Germany and decided to visit Undingen, Wuerttemberg, home of Gottlob’s brother, Gotthilf. Arriving at Undingen, she met an old man on the street and asked if he knew Gotthilf Fritz. The old man believed this young lady could not possibly be interested in him. She must be looking for his son, Gotthilf II. After he explained that Gotthilf was at work but could be reached at home after six p.m., Marie decided she had to return to Heidelberg.

Gottlob was so excited about his trip to Germany he could not await my home leave from Ceylon. He took a ship to Germany and a train to Undingen. After a couple weeks of celebration, the family returned to their respective occupations, and Gottlob found himself alone in Gotthilf’s house during daytime hours. Germany had not quite recovered from the war, and was still rationing coal. The house became quite cold and Gottlob caught pneumonia. After Marie learned of the situation, she took Gottlob to her home in an American community near Heidelberg known as Patrick Henry Village. After my home leave in Ohio, I flew to Heidelberg and stayed with Marie and her husband while Gottlob was still there.

After completing wartime service, I returned to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and completed my studies in 1948. Among the people I met there was the dean, Frederick Lemke. Many years later, in the early 1990s, retiring in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I joined a number of elderly men in a discussion group called Plato’s Loft which met in a room above the garage behind the house of Dr. George Graham, a retired Princeton professor. In one of the first meetings of the group, George asked me if I happened to know Fredrick Lemke, with whom he had often drunk coffee when the two of them studied for their Ph.D. exams in Illinois many years previously. George died at the age of 100 in 2005.

After a year working for the H. J. Heinz Company at Tiffin, I attended the Columbia University School of International Affairs (now known as the School of International and Public Affairs or SIPA) in 1949-51. The first director of the School (now known as the dean) was Dr. Schuyler Wallace. My teacher in international relations was Professor Grayson Kirk, who later became Provost of the University, still later succeeding Dwight Eisenhower as University President. Among my many fellow students was Rudolph Grimes, a Liberian who had previously gotten a law degree at Harvard.

Another student was Richard Rowson, in the class one year ahead of me, who served as chief editor of the Columbia Journal of International Affairs. I became the business editor.

While at Columbia, I decided to look up my old radio operator buddies in New York City. I found both Charlie D’Onofrio and Moon Poo Gee. Moon Poo Gee had his family with him, both his wife and two teenage sons who acted much like American boys.

During my early months in India, I learned that my old professor, Grayson Kirk, now president of Columbia University, was visiting New Delhi and was making a speech one night. I attended the speech, had a chance to talk briefly with him and was surprised and pleased to note that Grayson Kirk no longer stuttered over the hard consonants as he had when I attended his lectures at Columbia.

Near the beginning of my tour in India, I hired a young Indian man, Tilak Malhotra, as a clerk typist. Tilak was only about eighteen years old, but was a very good secretary, could take dictation and type as fast and as neatly as most of the American secretaries in the Mission. I became interested in Tilak’s background. He had come to Delhi from Pakistan, when the latter country was formed, on the roof of a train at the age of about fourteen. As time went on, Tilak went to college at night and succeeded in getting both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Prior to my departure from India, I promoted Tilak to administrative assistant.

After some time, AG Advisor Horace Holmes completed his assignment and was replaced by Dr. Frank Parker, who had come from the Department of Agriculture in Washington. Frank and I worked closely together. He informed me that the secret to successful agriculture was good coordination among agricultural research, education, and extension services, and that American success in this regard was due to our land grant college system. I took these facts to heart and remembered them in my work. I arranged to send several key Indian agriculturists around the world to study how various countries approached this question. Finally I devised a number of projects involving participation by six U. S. land grant universities: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In 1956 a major international conference was held in Bandung, Indonesia. Reading the New Delhi newspaper, I learned that several Liberians were passing through Delhi en route to the conference. I called an Indian government office to learn at which hotel they were staying, then went there to meet them. Rudolph Grimes was one of the Liberians in the group. I learned from Rudolph that since leaving Columbia he had founded a law school in Liberia and had become counselor in Liberia’s Department of State.

My departure from India in 1956 did not necessarily mean I would lose track of Horace Holmes and Frank Parker. During the early 1960s, working in East Africa, I often visited Uganda. On one such trip, I stayed with the Kearls. Bryant Kearl was from the University of Wisconsin and serving on the staff of the University of East Africa, one of the projects I initiated. While there the Kearls received a visit from Horace Holmes, still active and at that time working for the Ford Foundation. In the late 1990s, I wrote an article about my India experiences for the online journal, American Diplomacy. One day much later I got a telephone call from a young lady asking him what I could tell her about Horace Holmes, her grandfather, who had just recently passed away.

In the early 1970s, I was posted to USOM Bangkok. One day, while passing through someone else’s office, I heard Frank Parker, visiting the mission, calling from a sitting position: “Carl, You should be proud of yourself. Remember that sequence of events you set in train back in the early 1950s? It has resulted in fourteen states of India passing land grant legislation.” This statement did indeed make me feel proud.

One of the people with whom I worked in India was James P. Grant, the legal advisor, who served in that position for a number of AID missions in central Asia. At one point he was appointed as director of a new mission in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He requested me to join him in Ceylon, and I agreed. Getting to know Jim, I learned he had grown up in Peking, where his father had helped form an educational unit for public health.

One of the visitors to the Ceylon Mission was D. A. Henderson, a dean at Johns Hopkins University, who later became famous for his role in eradicating smallpox. I met him again in the 1990s in Chapel Hill, N. C. Dr. Henderson had handwritten a note to Dr. Al Sommer, a successor as dean, praising a book I had published regarding a research project I had participated in, along with Al, the chief scientist involved. The book was entitled Combating Nutritional Blindness in Children. Al passed the note on to me, and I took it to the University of North Carolina where Dr. Henderson was giving a lecture. I asked Dr. Henderson if he recognized the writing. He did!

In 1961 AID sent me, along with about twenty other employees, to a special course at the School of Advanced International Studies, a branch of Johns Hopkins University located in Washington, D. C. A favorite teacher was Dr. Sereno, a man who seemed to specialize in the cultural side of international affairs. Much later, in the late 1980s, while attending the United Church of Chapel Hill in North Carolina, I was meandering through the social hall after the main service. Struck by the name tag of a young man I passed, Julian Sereno, I turned back to him, and said I had noted the name tag, which contained the last name of a professor I had known. Julian asked at which college I had known that name. When I mentioned John Hopkins. Julian exclaimed, “That was my father!” Julian is now editor of a Chatham County, N. C., newspaper.

During the 1990s, while serving as president of the Society for International Development, North Carolina Chapter, I attended a national meeting of the Society in Washington, D. C. While there I happened to meet a Liberian. Aware of the difficulties experienced in Liberia at that time, I asked him what had happened to Rudolph Grimes. The Liberian replied that he was living in the United States. He said that if I would furnish my name and address, he would mail me the details. I gave the man my name and address, but received no information.

Several years later, while working at my computer at home, I received an e-mail message from a friend saying he was about to pick up some Liberians. I replied, saying the friend should be sure to ask the Liberians what had happened to Rudolph Grimes. Several hours later he received a message that Rudolph was living with a sister in New Jersey. I made a telephone call and reached Rudy. Since that time we have exchanged Christmas greetings.

I served as AID’s first regional activities officer for East Africa in Nairobi, 1963-66. Sometimes in idle moments I sat in front of the New Stanley Hotel drinking tea. On one occasion, while so occupied, I glanced down the street and noticed what appeared to be a familiar human figure. I stepped out on the sidewalk and saw Dr. Schuyler Wallace, first director of Columbia’s School of International Affairs, walking along rather slowly with Mrs. Wallace. Both were somewhat elderly, and appreciated my invitation to sit and drink tea.

On another occasion, when beginning a trip to Uganda, I met Mr. and Mrs. William Lefes in the Nairobi airport. They were on their way to Uganda where Bill had been assigned as an AID employee. They had a problem, however. They had come from Somalia, which had no diplomatic relations with Uganda. Therefore, they had no visa giving them official permission to enter Uganda. Taking frequent official trips to Uganda and Tanganyika, I had been issued a little book known as an inter-territorial pass. When we three arrived in Entebbe, the airport location for Kampala, the capital of Uganda, I went to the head of the line, showed my inter-territorial pass, and spoke to a Uganda official. I explained that my friend had been assigned by the U. S. government to Uganda for a period of two years, and would appreciate entrance. This explanation secured their admission to the country.

I met Dr. Winfield F. Niblo, an education advisor in Nairobi who became a longtime friend, and who worked with me in developing the regional education projects. “Windy” was an older AID employee, but full of pep, both physical and mental.

In South Vietnam, I was assigned to CORDS in the northern part of the country in 1969-70. Preceding me there was an officer named Charles T. Cross. He left shortly after my arrival, but I learned much about him while we traveled together by helicopter as he taught me about the job. He had been born in Peking of American parents. He joined the U. S. Marines during WWII, and returned to Peking as a Marine. After leaving Vietnam Mr. Cross became U. S. ambassador to Singapore and later first president of the American Institute of Taiwan. In the late 1990s, during retired life, I learned he had published a book entitled Born a Foreigner. As a member of the editorial board of the online journal, American Diplomacy, I published a review of the book. Later I wrote to Cross and asked if he had happened to know James P. Grant in Peking. “Know him?” he replied. I went to school with him, starting in kindergarten!”

During retired life in Chapel Hill, I joined the N. C. chapter of the Society for International Development. I became friendly with the chapter treasurer, Marion Salinger, who had been chapter president for an extended period. When I learned she had originated in Buffalo, N. Y., I mentioned that I had cousins there. When I gave her the name, Reimers, she asked if the father had been minister at a German Reformed Church. When I replied in the affirmative, she exclaimed that she and the son, Alfred, had been sweethearts when they were young!

In the late 1980s I undertook a private contract taking me to Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the Lefe’s had settled in Cary, N.C., near Raleigh, and had joined the Society for International Development. In fact, Bill shortly thereafter became chapter president. When I returned from Bangladesh, I learned I had become vice president of the chapter. Later I was elected president, and remained in that position for six years. I always figured Bill had had something to do with my election as vice president, though I could not prove it.

During my 1963-66 tour as regional activities officer in East Africa, I developed some three-country projects in education. Two of these were contracted by Teachers College of Columbia University. Later, in 1967, I became deputy director in AID/Washington for Eastern and Southern Africa. Traveling through Africa, I met in Kampala the chief of party for the East Africa Teacher Education Project, Carl Manone. I was favorably impressed by his background and obvious ability. I also met “Windy” Niblo once again, then serving as education advisor in Ethiopia. Later, about 1971, I was engaged in USAID Bangkok as assistant director for program. I found it to be a very busy job, and often worked late in the evening, after everyone else had gone home. On one occasion, about 7:00 p.m., I received a telephone call originating on the ground floor of the same building. The caller said he was Rufus Long and he was trying to locate the residence of a particular man, who happened to be my deputy. I asked if the caller had been a lieutenant in China during World War II. The caller responded that he had been. I then said that I was Carl Fritz. Rufus then took the elevator to the fourth floor, where I was waiting for him. After I led him into my office, Rufus exclaimed, “My god. I used to be your lieutenant. Now you could be my general!” Rufus and I have met several times since then, in Washington and in North Carolina, where Rufus happened to originate.

At one point I learned that the Thai mission was in need of a teacher training advisor. When Carl Manone’s name arose, I announced that I was acquainted with him, and he would be a very appropriate candidate. Carl Manone won the job. After he arrived, we spent much time together. On one occasion I ate dinner at Manone’s house when Kenya’s ambassador was visiting. I had met the ambassador previously when the latter had been principal of a school in Kenya’s Rift Valley, which I visited along with the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, when we delivered speeches to the school.

This is how I met my wife: On another occasion, I mentioned I was somewhat struck by an attractive Thai woman who often passed my office but never entered it. Manone said he knew who that woman was. She had been in education prior to joining the USAID. Manone said he would fix up a double date. The double date never happened, however. Some time later I made an official trip to Washington. One day Manone saw the Thai girl and told her Carl Fritz would be returning to Bangkok the next day. He belonged to the American community bowling league, as did she. Therefore Carl would be at the bowling alley the following night. Manone suggested she tell Carl he wanted to see him. When this happened, I had no idea why Manone wanted to see me. However, my meeting with Carl led to a meeting with the Thai girl. Thereafter, one thing led to another and we met often. After my tour came to an end, I headed for the States, taking the Thai girl, Tarinee, with me as far as Taiwan. She also agreed to come later to the U. S. where we married. So far our marriage has lasted over 32 years!

In 1976 I got a chance to work with Helen Keller International, then known as the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind. I retired from AID before taking the new job and went to New York for discussions with members of the firm, including an officer named Susan Pettiss. As we walked together on the Manhattan streets, I remarked that Susan’s walking pace reminded me of the pep of my friend, Windy Niblo. Susan asked if I happened to mean Dr. Winfield Niblo. They had dated when Winfield had attended Columbia Teacher’s College! In later years Windy also got a consulting position in Indonesia. When he heard my story about Susan Pettiss, he joked that Carl was now accusing him of going out with old women!

I obtained a second post-retirement consulting position in Indonesia, a nutrition project funded by the World Bank. Another advisor on the project was a retired food secretary from India. One night the latter held a large party at his home. I was a guest, but most were Indians. I talked to someone about my excellent secretary in India, Tilak Malhotra. One guest spoke up saying, “You’re talking about my old boss!” It appeared that Tilak had been the UN technical assistance chief in Yemen. In later years, I learned from Jerry Berke, a retired UN officer, that Tilak had served as UN technical assistance chief in a couple of countries.

During the 1990’s, while I was living a retired life in North Carolina, Jim Grant, then head of UNICEF, came to town and gave a lecture at the University at Chapel Hill. During his speech he spoke of the poor condition of children in North Carolina. At one point, I rose from my seat in the audience and said, “Jim, the governor of North Carolina is aware of the condition of children in the state, and he wishes to improve their condition. Recently he held a week-long international conference in Durham to call attention to the problem, and to means for improving it.” Jim replied, “My friend and colleague, if you say it is true, I believe you!” It so happened that I had served for some months as coordinator for the preparation and conduct of the conference.

During retirement in Chapel Hill, I regularly attended meetings of the American Legion Post 6. One of the other regular Legion members was Nicholas Rawluk, who lived in the neighborhood of the Legion hall, regularly opened the building for meetings, and took care of the Post’s flags. Sorrowfully, Nick died during this period. His son came down from New York for the funeral ceremony. I understood that the son was employed by CBS, so asked whether he happened to know Charles D’Onofrio. “Know him?” responded the Rawluk son, “He taught me everything I know!”

By now perhaps the reader will be convinced, as well as Foreign Service officers-that the world is indeed a small place!End.


Comments are closed.