was a military airfield in Glendale, Arizona, used for contract primary flight training of USAAF pilots during World War II. Created in 1939 as a collaborative project by Hollywood agent and producer Leland Hayward, former Air Service pilot John H Connely, and LIFE Magazine
photographer John Swope, the project was financially backed by investors that included Hollywood legend James Stewart ( later commander of the USAAF 445th Bomb Group), singer-actor Hoagy Carmicheal, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Robert Taylor, and Margaret Sullavan.
Construction of the pilot training facility began on 2 January 1941, and was completed in three months. The site, 25 miles from central Phoenix, was laid out by artist Millard Sheets to resemble (from the air) an etching of a mythical Anasazi Thunderbird. The control tower formed the head of the bird, the administration buildings and barracks its body, the hangars its wings, and the gardens its feathered tail. A Hollywood movie, Thunder Birds
(directed by William Wellman), was filmed on location at the field in the spring of 1942. Aerial shots clearly show the original Thunderbird design.
In November 1943, the facilities peak was reached; 615 cadets flew an average of two hours a day, making 1,845 separate takeoffs and landings. In a period of ten weeks, students received a total of 65 hours of flight training and 109 hours of ground school. In spite of the intensified training, the field gained a widespread reputation for thoroughness of instruction and high caliber graduates. Every graduating cadet received the coveted Thunderbird Field patch depicting the Anasazi Thunderbird.
Head over to the Eastman Civilian Design Classics section to check out our exacting replica of the 40's period Thunderbird Field A-1 flight instructor jacket complete with a beautiful reproduction patch made on original 1920s looms with authentic rayon yarns.