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Thunderbirds: The Origins Of International Rescue

The missions of International Rescue are world famous to fans of Thunderbirds everywhere, but just how exactly did International Rescue come about? Let’s take a step back in time to a point many years before International Rescue emerged from the shadows and made their first assignment an unforgettable success.

Back to the Beginning

As the son of a Kansas farmer, Jeff Tracy was fascinated by complex machinery from a young age. This fascination stayed with him as he rose through the ranks of the World Space Administration to become an astronaut with the rank of Colonel.

Colonel Tracy was an experienced mission commander and planning specialist. He had a natural ability to foresee potential risks and plan accordingly. During his time with the WSA, he completed countless EVA missions and collected valuable data for the space program. On one occasion he was deliberately marooned on an uncharted island and kept under surveillance in order to evaluate his survival skills.

His exploits culminated in something Jeff had longed for: a landing on the Moon. But for all his career successes, Jeff’s real happiness lay with his growing family, his wife Lucille and their five young sons.

A Terrible Tragedy

With the boys growing up fast, life was good for Jeff and Lucille. None of them could have predicted the events that would unfold next, changing their lives forever.

The family took vacation to Aspen, where a freak avalanche resulted in the deaths of Lucille and Jeff’s father, Grant.

Jeff was hit incredibly hard by the events and suffered a severe breakdown during which he took a private jet and tried to locate the island he had been marooned on all those years ago. Unfortunately, Jeff blacked out at the controls and crashed on another small island. He would have been killed if not for the intervention of Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin, who lived on the island. Together they nursed Jeff back to health.

A New Mission

After he had fully recovered, Jeff began to think about how the tragedy that had befallen his family was far from an isolated incident and that countless people around the world were losing their lives every day due to the lack of adequate rescue services, or the time taken to reach disaster scenes.

The answer to the problem was simple – to create an International Rescue organisation dedicated to saving lives wherever they may be in distress when any normal means of rescue proved impossible.

With Jeff’s countless business ventures and patents money was no object, but such a daunting task may have put off lesser individuals. However, Jeff’s incredible conviction and belief in the idea and the tireless support of his five sons encouraged him to proceed.

Choosing a Base

One of the first big decisions facing the Tracy family was where to locate their new International Rescue headquarters. Obviously the base could not be located in a populated area as it would be exposed to constant scrutiny and the secrets of the organisation’s advanced technology would be vulnerable to theft or misuse.

International Rescue's base - Tracy Island
“A beautiful island in the South Pacific”

After some consideration, Jeff remembered the deserted island he had been stranded on during his survival training and after assembling a trusted team of construction engineers, Jeff and the boys set out to colonise ‘Tracy Island’.

Assembling the Team

While construction of living accommodation was proceeding on the island, Jeff began to collate a list of personnel who would be integral to the success of International Rescue. These people would form the backbone of the organisation and be totally reliable and trusted individuals.

The Tracy Boys

Naturally the first and most obvious choices for the pilots of the new rescue craft would be Jeff’s own sons: Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon and Alan. Each of his sons had proven themselves time and time again as brave, skilled and determined individuals, fiercely loyal to their father and dedicated to International Rescue’s mission.


The job of designing the incredible equipment would largely fall to one man, known as ‘Brains’. Jeff first met Brains during the presentation of the latter’s high level diploma for Advanced Mathematics and Engineering at Tracy College.

When developing the concept of his new rescue organisation, Jeff immediately recalled the gifted graduate and it wasn’t long before Brains agreed to join the team, thrilled at the idea of using advanced technology to benefit humanity.

Tin-Tin and Kyrano

Jeff never forgot the kindness of Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin and as a gesture of his sincere thanks, he offered them a new home at Tracy Island, including fully funded tuition for Tin-Tin’s studies at university in America.

Tin-Tin’s studies were more than purely academic as she became a gifted engineer and a valuable assistant to Brains in the maintenance of the Thunderbird craft.

Lady Penelope and Parker

Recognizing that a top secret organisation would occasionally need to perform covert assignments of their own, Jeff learned of the activities of Lady Penelope and her aide-de-camp Parker. Lady Penelope, the patron of several worthy causes in her role as an internationally famous aristocrat, was more than willing to join Jeff’s cause. Jeff assured her that her proficiency in espionage would be called on as well, something Penelope found most intriguing,

After the initial details had been agreed, Jeff welcomed Lady Penelope and Parker to the newly completed Tracy Island to formalise their induction into International Rescue as Agents 1 and 2 and give them a rundown of the Island’s features and the Thunderbird craft.

Sir Jeremy Hodge

Sir Jeremy Hodge, Jeff’s old acquaintance from the early days of Tracy Corp proved to be of vital importance during the setup of International Rescue. His financial skills and keen interest in scientific ventures complimented Jeff’s own expertise and interests perfectly and Hodge became one of International Rescue’s most important assets.

Not only did he oversee the creation of dummy corporations, but also set up key links with manufacturers who would produce essential components for the Thunderbird machines.

Jeremiah Tuttle

Jeff first met Jeremiah during his time in the WSA, and the two men have been firm friends ever since. Towards the end of Jeff’s illustrious career the pair discussed plans for the future, and after the death of Jeff’s wife, Jeremiah contacted him, guessing what Jeff’s next move might be.

Jeff was delighted to welcome Jeremiah into the International Rescue family as Agent 47, one of the many trusted local agents on duty around the world. Although his manner may appear laid-back, Jeremiah is as reliable as they come.

Constructing a Legend

Thunderbird 1

When planning the various rescue vehicles for the new organisation, it was decided that a rapid-response craft would be a vital part of the fleet. Thunderbird 1 was the first craft to be completed, being smaller and less complex than Thunderbird 2, which was under construction simultaneously.

The propulsion systems were given special attention to meet Jeff’s directive that the craft should be “sleek, first and fast” in order to be effective in its role. As a result, Thunderbird 1 is one of the fastest atmospheric craft ever constructed, and its ability to reach the danger zone quickly has saved countless lives.

Thunderbird 2

The first craft to be conceived and the second to be completed, Thunderbird 2 was built to fulfil the need for a heavy-duty transporter aircraft, capable of airlifting essential rescue equipment to the danger zone in the shortest possible time.

Storing the massive craft on Tracy Island presented a number of problems due to the craft’s size, but these problems were solved due in no small part to Brains’ engineering know-how.

Thunderbird 3

Even in the mid 21st century, Thunderbird 3 is a sophisticated craft. Capable of single stage to orbit (SSTO) operation, it was constructed to act as a resupply craft for the monitoring satellite that would later be known as Thunderbird 5.

Jeff’s experiences as an astronaut greatly helped shape the design of Thunderbird 3 and it was also outfitted with a range of life-saving equipment in the event that a space rescue mission was ever needed.

Thunderbird 4

A large water rescue craft would be slow and easily tracked, so it was decided that the rescue submersible would be compact, highly maneuverable and air lifted to the danger zone aboard Thunderbird 2.

Thunderbird 4 is a veritable swiss-army-sub, ready to handle countless marine rescue scenarios. It can dive to the deepest depths of the ocean, squeeze into the smallest natural caverns and is equipped with an arsenal of recovery gear outmatching many craft twice its size.

Thunderbird 5

Jeff knew from day one that the rest of the International Rescue setup would be for nothing if there was no way to intercept last chance distress calls from anywhere in the world and so a space monitoring satellite was of paramount importance.

Constructed by civil engineering crews as a ‘weather satellite’, Thunderbird 5’s covert monitoring and anti-detection systems were later transported and installed after the completion of Thunderbird 3. The finished craft is one of the most advanced space stations ever built, and a vital component in International Rescue’s operation.

Calling International Rescue

With the key personnel and equipment in place by 2065, the time had come for International Rescue to face their first mission, a call that could arrive from any disaster scene anywhere on the planet or even outer space.

Manning Thunderbird 5, John Tracy reported that the new atomic-powered Fireflash was in distress at London Airport.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

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Written by
Andrew Clements

A writer, film maker and self confessed Gerry Anderson fanatic. Free to good home.

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