THE HISTORY OF THUNDERBIRD FIELD NO. 1
Thunderbird Field No. 1, the site of the new ACU Glendale campus, was first established as a flight training school during World War II. Built in 1941, the site was designed by artist Millard Sheets to resemble the mythical Thunderbird from the air. The control tower formed the feathered tail of the bird, the administration buildings and barracks formed its body, the hangars its wings, and the gardens its head. The installation was situated on the southeast corner of what is now West Greenway Road & North 59th Avenue. Contractor Del Webb Construction built a hexagonal barracks, an administrative building, a mess hall, and four hangars on the site, as well as two swimming pools.
From 1941 – 1945, more than 16,000 cadets were trained at Thunderbird Field No. 1. At the conclusion of the War, Thunderbird Field No. 1 was sold by the Army as wartime surplus. The American Institute of Foreign Trade, later to become Thunderbird School of Global Management, was established on the site in 1946 and is now a part of the Arizona State University system.
TA 1942 Hollywood movie, “Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air” — was filmed on location at the field in the spring of 1942. Aerial shots clearly show the original Thunderbird design and the desert mountains surrounding this part of what is now the northwest Valley of the Phoenix metro area.
Arizona Christian University looks forward to continuing to write the history of this special location, as we move our campus to Glendale in 2019. Not only will ACU be moving, but there are plans in place to build new high-level athletic and educational facilities. ACU will be adding athletic facilities for softball, baseball, soccer, tennis, football and track. Plans also call for a multi-purpose arena including basketball and volleyball.