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Thornton served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, reaching the rank of colonel and commanding a staff of officers in the office of statistical control. Following the war he offered the group of ten to several employers as an all-or-nothing proposition to provide the corporation with an analytical management team.
Henry Ford II had recently taken over Ford Motor Company which was in bad financial shape and had virtually non-existent financial control systems. He interviewed and hired the team, which became known as the "Whiz Kids". Seven of the ten went on to senior executive positions.
Thornton left Ford in 1948 to work for Hughes Aircraft. In 1953 he founded a company called Electro-Dynamics, then acquired the vacuum tube manufacturing business of Charles Litton, Sr. in 1953. In 1954 Electro-Dynamics also bought the rights to use the well-known "Litton" name. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions orchestrated by Thornton, Litton became a huge conglomerate with a wide range of products.
The music school at the University of Southern California is named in honor of Thornton's widow, Flora L. Thornton, due in part to a $25 million donation she made in 1999. Thornton was a trustee and donor to the university for many years. The Thornton Center for Engineering Management at Stanford University is also named in honor of Thornton.
 See also
- Robert Sobel, The Rise and Fall of the Conglomerate Kings (Beard Books, 1999) p49
- "Alphonsus E. McCarthy, Jr., vs. Litton Industries, Inc.". Case 410 Mass. 15. 1991. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
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