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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.


Clover Field: The First Century of Aviation in the Golden State. With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great.


Reinhold, Ruth. 1982. Sky Pioneering: Arizona in Aviation History. U. of Arizona Press. Tucson, AZ. 232 pp.


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Jack Thornburg, Brazil Visa Photograph, 1949 (Source: ancestry.com)
Jack Thornburg, Brazil Visa, 1949 (Source: ancestry.com)


Jack Thornburg (1901-1972) visited Tucson Monday, May 19, 1930 at 10:00AM. His photograph, left, is from a 1949 visa application. He flew solo in the Curtiss Robin [sic] he identified as NC382H. This number is clearly written in the Register. Unfortunately, a list of vintage registration numbers shows that number assigned to a Fairchild KR-34C, S/N 293. I have no explanation for this discrepancy. Regardless, 382H is not signed again in any Register, either as a Robin or Fairchild.

Thornburg lived an interesting and varied life, ranging from real estate development, engineering and four or five marriages, to military service interspersed with three "careers" in aviation. He made his first mark in real estate as a very young man in the 1920s.

He was the mastermind of a unique apartment housing complex in Berkeley, CA called Thornburg Village. The development still exists today as Normandy Village. The apartments are now condominiums, with one-bedroom units valued in the high six-figures. In addition, he owned, designed or built about twenty other properties in Berkeley between 1925 and 1928.

The Oakland Tribune, May 8, 1927 announced the completion of the first structure at Thornburg Village, below. Other structures in the Village followed in irregular order through 1955, as documented in a property diagram at the link.

Oakland Tribune, May 8, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)


Thornburg Village Architecture (Source: Web)


A contemporary view of the Normandy/Thornburg Village architecture is at right. Compare it to the news photo, above. The style was sometimes called "Medieval Revival," "Storybook" or "Fairy Tale" architecture.

I don't know where he acquired the cash to enable Thornburg Village, but the 1900 U.S. Census (a year before he was born) listed his father as a rancher. Perhaps it was cattle money.

About the time he was conceptualizing, developing and building Thornburg Village, he was married to Frances Ferris Geidner (1906–1947). Their early years were fraught, as documented in the following article that appeared in the Oakland Tribune, August 27, 1927.

Oakland Tribune, August 27, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, August 27, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)

The result of the court session described above followed the next day in the Oakland Tribune, August 29,1927, below.

Oakland Tribune, August 29, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, August 27, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)

While you might think their marriage was doomed, they remained together, became parents three more times, and did'nt part until her death in 1947. Her photograph from about 1930 when they lived in Phoenix, AZ is below, left.

Frances Thornburg, Ca. 1930 (Source: ancestry.com)
Frances Thornburg, Ca. 1930 (Source: ancestry.com)


Williams News
(AZ), October 23,1931
(Source: newspapers.com)



About Phoenix and Thornburg's first, early aviation career, two things. First, a friend of Delta Mike Airfield, G.B. Koontz, stated in an email to me, "[Irving] Kravitz and Jack Thornburg started Arizona Air Service in Phoenix and elsewhere [1929] in AZ, then hooked up with Glover [Edwin 'Roxy'] Ruckstell and moved to the Red Butte Aerodrome to form Grand Canyon Airlines [1930]."

The key contrbution of cash and management expertise to the Arizona Air Service enterprise by Ruckstell was documented in the Williams News (AZ), October 23, 1931, right. Parenthetically, this date was just three days after the birth of Thornburg's first daughter, Patricia (see below).

Note also in the article the explanation of the absorption of Arizona Air Service into Grand Canyon Air Lines (GCA). The acquisition of equipment, expansion of territory and addition of staff of the magnitude described in the article would certainly cost much more today. Additional photographs are exhibited, and the evolution of these businesses is disussed, at Irving Kravitz's link.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Thornburg was born April 8, 1901 in Long Beach, CA. His mother, 37, was Eva H. and his father, Charles H., 42, had four older sons living with them ranging in age from 10-5. The 1910 U.S. Census listed the family living in Pasadena, CA. His father was employed as a manager of a water company.

A decade later the 1920 Census placed his parents, one of his brothers, and Thornburg living in Los Angeles proper. Curiously, none were employed. By 1930, Thornburg was married seven years to Frances. Both were coded in the Census as age 28 [sic] and they had two children, Jack, Jr., 5 (1924-1966), and Charles Stephen, 4 (1926-1944). Tragically, Jack, Jr. would die by accidental drowning in Aransas Pass, TX on February 2, 1966. His death certificate read, "Fell from boat into bay while trying to untangle rope from boat propeller." He was 41 years old. And Charles was killed in an automobile accident.

Second, some of the photographs on this page can be found at the Arizona Memory Project (AMP) in The Ruth Reinhold Aviation Collection, Arizona Historical Society, Tempe, AZ. Reinhold's excellent book about early aviation in Arizona is cited in the left sidebar.

Below is Jack Thornburg in a photo dated 1929. The caption at AMP reads: "Jack W. Thornburg with his new 2T-1A Great Lakes and his new hangar at Phoenix Municipal." The prow of the airplane behind the Great Lakes appears to be that of Thornburg's Travel Air GXE. Both these aircraft were part of the early Arizona Air Service fleet.


Arizona Air Service Great Lakes Aircraft With Jack Thornburg, 1929 (Source: AMP)
Arizona Air Service Great Lakes Aircraft With Jack Thornburg, 1929 (Source: AMP)

According to the 1930 Census, Thornburg and Francis lived in Phoenix, AZ in an apartment they rented for $40 per month. His occupation was coded as "Aviator." Indeed, the birth certificate for his daughter, Patricia born October 20, 1931, listed his occupation at that time as aviator for GCA.

He soon left GCA. According to the TWA employees' publication Tarpa Topics, Thornburg flew for TWA from 1933-1937 (aviation "career" number two). But, see his obituary, below, which claimed a longer tenure. Regardless, according to Tarpa he was employed by TWA on July 1, 1933 and moved into the pilot's seat November 29, 1934. In 1934, he enjoyed seniority number 70. I found no other record of his work with TWA. If you can help fill in the blanks, please let me KNOW. It is worth pointing out that, in 1934, the top seven seniority numbers on the list of pilots flying for TWA were held by our Register signers. They were, #1. Silas A. Morehouse, 2. Edward A. Bellande, 3. Lewis Goss, 4. Jack Frye, 5. Paul Richter, 6. Frederick Whitney, and 7. Halbert H. Holloway.

I have no information about Thornburg's activities between 1937 and 1940. By 1940, the Census recorded three more children. Now there was Jack, Jr., 15, Charles, 14, Thomas, 10, Patricia, 8, and Karen, 5. In this Census, he was documented as attending college for three years (she one). Compare this finding with the statement in the news articles below that state that Thornburg graduated from the University of California. Frances and Jack's ages were coded in 1940 as 33 and 39, respectively, a more accurate recording than the 1930 Census. As documented above, she was actually 16 when they were married by the captain on a tugboat at sea. In 1940 they lived in Sheboygan, WI in a home they owned valued at $8,000. Puzzling was his stated occupation: "diesel engineer" for an engine manufacturer.

Oakland Tribune, April 9, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, April 9, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)


During WWII, Thornburg became commander of the Naval Air Transport Squadron Three in the Pacific (aviation "career" number three). His exploits, especially late in the war, were well-covered in local California newspapers, as in the Oakland Tribune, April 9, 1945, left. His command duties included flying transport aircraft into recently captured airfields like on Okinawa, as described in the article. He delivered medicine, medical supplies and personnel and mail, and returned with wounded to hospitals in the rear, Guam in this case.

Oakland Tribune, May 27, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, May 27, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)

Six weeks after his initial flight into Okinawa (on April 8th, his birthday), he returned to San Francisco. His return was recorded in the Oakland Tribune, May 27, 1945, above right. An idea of the magnitude of the relief effort Thornburg commanded can be gleaned from these two articles and the one below from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June. 25, 1945. Incidentally, the good news was that the marine described in the article with the triple leg fracture probably didn't have to return to Okinawa, because the end of the war was about six-weeks away.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June. 25, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)

Thornburg continued to fly in th weeks after the war ended. Several more graphic articles from September 1945 described his flights carrying POWs home from Tokyo. From their stories, the war couldn't have ended too soon.

Several examples of international travel. He flew as a passenger on American Airlines (NC90730) October 30, 1947 from Mexico City to El Paso, TX.

Below is his aforementioned visa to enter Brazil in 1949. He lived in Santa Monica,CA at the time. His 17-year-old daughter, Patricia Ann, accompanied him. I do not know why they traveled to Brazil.

J.W. Thornburg, Brazilian Entry Document, June 10, 1949 (Source: ancestry.com)
J.W. Thornburg, Brazilian Entry Document, June 10, 1949 (Source: ancestry.com)


Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1972 (Source: newspapers.com)
Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1972 (Source: newspapers.com)


Except for his first marriage to Frances, which lasted over 30 years, and ended with her passing in 1947, his record of marriages is spotty.

It appears he married Elva Boggs Graves (1895-?) on February 12, 1948. They divorced in 1949 in Pensacola, FL.

He then married Margaret E. Westberg in Santa Barbara, CA on June 2, 1951. He was 50 years old; she 37. This marriage lasted until 1964 at the outside.

Modesto News-Herald, September 1, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)
Modesto News-Herald, September 1, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)


He married Lauretta Beatty (or Beaty; or Foy) on October 23, 1964 in Imperial, CA. He was 63; she 52. He divorced Lauretta in May 1966. I found mention of a marriage to Frances Mary Mills (1912-2007), but I found no details or dates.

Thornburg flew West February 20, 1972 from San Diego, CA. His obituary, from the Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1972 is at left.

By the way, the judge who heard the case of the tugboat marriage filed the decision at right from the Modesto News-Herald, September 1, 1927, thus terminating any future misunderstandings between spouses.




The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Thornburg and correct information about his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


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