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U.S. AIR FORCE THUNDERBIRDS HISTORY
In 1947, while the jet age was still in its infancy, military aviation was hurtled into the future with the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. Just six years later, on May 25, 1953, the Air Force’s official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, was activated at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The unit adopted the name “Thunderbirds,” influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force Base is located.
Seven officers and 22 enlisted were selected for the first demonstration team. Major Dick Catledge, a training squadron commander at Luke AFB, was chosen as the team’s leader. Twins Bill and Buck Pattillo were selected and flew the left and right wing, respectively. The Pattillos, both captains, were ideal choices as both had flown with a demonstration team for the previous three years. For the difficult position of slot, the position sandwiched between both wingmen and behind the leader, Capt. Bob Kanaga was selected. The spare pilot was Capt. Bob McCormick. Like the Pattillo brothers, he also had demonstration team experience. First Lieutenant Aubry Brown served as the maintenance officer for the team. Lieutenant Brown, along with Master Sgt. Earl Young, selected 21 enlisted men to help maintain the team’s aircraft. Captain Bill Brock was the final officer selected for the team.
He served as the information officer and team narrator.
From these humble beginnings and this group of men, the Air Force Thunderbird legend was born.
H/T Theo Spark
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