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Thunderbird history showcased through Arizona Memory Project

A photo history depicting the World War II airbase known as “Thunderbird Field I” and the early years of Thunderbird School of Global Management is now available as part of the Arizona Memory Project, an online effort to provide public access to the wealth of primary sources in Arizona libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions.

 “The Story of Thunderbird: From Airbase to Business School” begins with the development of Thunderbird Field I, a primary training base for World War II pilots.  It was created under a unique program to jump start America’s military force in which Gen. “Hap” Arnold urged private entrepreneurs to build air training bases.  Movie producer Leland Hayward and Life magazine photographer John Swope were two of the entrepreneurs who built Thunderbird Field. Swope also took many of the photos in the collection.

After the war, three newly retired Army officers realized that the business world would soon need well-educated international managers. They transformed the deactivated airbase into a school that has now become the world’s leading school of global management. The collection contains many photos of the airbase during the war as well as scenes from the early years of the school, then known as American Institute for Foreign Trade.

“We have wonderful historic photographs in the Thunderbird Archives, and we are glad they can now reach a very large audience,” says Carol Hammond, associate vice president for Information Services. 

The collection was developed as part of a grant for the Glendale History Online project and is partially funded by the Library Services and Technology Act through the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The online project is spearheaded by the Glendale Public Library and currently includes more than 50 collections, including Arizona aviation history, various other college histories, the Japanese relocation camps, and a large collection of Arizona Archives historic photos.  This initiative provides the opportunity to view some of the best examples of government documents, photographs, maps, and objects that chronicle Arizona’s past and present.

To visit the Arizona Memory Project, go to, click on browse, and under collections select “Thunderbird School of Global Management - Historical Collections.” The collection of photographs and the explanatory historical information was compiled by Thunderbird’s Archivist, Nelda Crowell.