By Shannon Walker
On exhibit this month in the Thunderbird Archives is “Thunderbird Field #1: the Cadet’s Experience.” The aim of this collection of materials is to illustrate what daily life was like for cadets during their primary training here at Thunderbird field during World War II. On exhibit are articles, photographs, and written correspondence between Chinese and British pilots and their instructors.
In addition there is a publication that was sent to the families of cadets called “Your Cadet.” In the early 1940’s, there were four Thunderbird fields across the valley, all of them owned and operated by Southwest Airways. The fields were leased by the US Army Air Force and used to train American and later Chinese, British and Canadian pilots for World War II. In 1944, Southwest Airways published this booklet to inform and reassure cadet’s families that not only are their sons being well cared for but they will emerge from their experience as leaders. Here is an excerpt:
“Today, your cadet is preparing himself for a new way of life—America’s post-war era of flight. For the training he is receiving as a member of the ARMY AIR FORCES will enable him to become one of the leaders in the aviation industry of tomorrow. This new life in which travel to distant continents will be measured in hours, in which ordinary folks will own a family airplane, and fleets of giant freighters will shuttle back and forth between our cities, is no dream. Its birth is scheduled for the day after Victory. And it is the men who are flying and building and planning the planes of Victory, who will soon be flying and building and planning the planes of post-war Peace.” (Your Cadet, Southwest Airways, 1944)
We can be proud of our rich and unique history here at Thunderbird!
Shannon Walker is the Archivist at Thunderbird School of Global Management. The Archives are located in the Hangar, next to Mail Services. Open hours are on Fridays, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, come by for a visit!