January 30, 2004 by

Travis Hoover


Categories: Military

Retired Air Force Col. Travis Hoover, one of the famous Doolittle Raiders who led the first U.S. retaliatory raid on Japan after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, died on Jan. 17. Cause of death was not released. He was 86.

Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s 79-member crew flew 16 Army Air Corps bombers off the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet on April 18, 1942. They brought the United States into World War II by flying to Japan and bombing industrial targets in Tokyo — without enough fuel to safely reach landing strips in China. The raid inflicted little damage, but roused American spirits and proved that Japan was vulnerable to U.S. bombers.

Hoover flew the second B-25 bomber behind Doolittle. When his plane ran out of fuel, he crash-landed the aircraft into a Japanese rice paddy. Hoover and his four crewmen survived the rough landing, and were met by Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese aeronautical engineer who helped them evade Japanese troops and reach China. For his service in the historic raid, Hoover received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The New Mexico-native earned an associate of arts degree from Riverside City College before enlisting in the National Guard in 1938. Hoover joined the Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant after completing his pilot training. He later received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkley.

After the raid, Hoover remained in the military to fly B-24s, B-25s and P-38s in England, North Africa and Italy. He retired as commander of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi in 1969.

34 Responses to Travis Hoover

  1. Ed Dillon

    Sorry to hear of the Colonel’s passing. I shall always remember him as the gentleman he was. I enjoyed listening to his stories and will always be proud to have been an Aviation Cadet under his command at Harlingen.
    Edward B. Dillon Major USAF Retired
    Class 60-09

  2. Larry D. Emlet Class 58-E

    I was honored to have Col Hoover as my Wing Commander while learning to fly the B-25 at Reese AFB. I still treasure my first instrument card, signed by Col. Hoover.

  3. Gary Lowenberg

    I had the pleasure of meeting Travis Hoover in 1979 in, of all places, Bullhead City, Arizona, where I lived at the time. Travis’ older brother Troy and his wife Kay were my neighbors and good friends. Travis and his wife drove their motorhome from San Antonio into Bullhead City and stayed with Troy and Kay for a weekend, and I had the good fortune to talk with Travis about the raid on Tokyo and his Air Force career. A very pleasant, low-key and unassuming guy. I always hoped I would run into him again someday. It was an honor meeting him.

  4. Don Short

    Col. Travis Hoover,as Group Commander at Reese AFB, TX was the endorsing officer of my very first OER. I had the pleasure and honor of serving as a B 25 flight instructor and later as
    School Secretary in the undergraduate pilot training program. 1955 to 1958. A finer gentleman, you will never meet.

  5. Meagan

    I lived next door to Col Hoover for six of my growing up years in Joplin, MO. “The Colonel,” as we called him, had an incredible outdoor fishpond that the neighborhood kids and I would go stare at every day. Whenever he saw us, he would bring the food out so we could feed them. He was such a sweet man.

  6. Ed Koporc

    I graduated from B-25 school at Reese AFB in January, 1958. Col. Hoover was the Group Commander. I’m looking at his photo in my 58-F Class Book and can still picture him on the reviewing stand at the parade grounds. What a great guy and a real hero.

  7. Leonard W. Mueller

    I had the pleasure serving under Col. Hoover while stationed on Okinawa during 1953 to 1954. A really fine man, just a joy to be near him. So sorry to learn ofhis death.

  8. 2nd Lt. David Simpson Civil Air Patrol

    The Civil Air Patrol Squadron in Joplin, Mo is named the Colonel Travis Hoover Squadron in honor of Col. Hoover. Our patch incorporates the Civil Air Patrol logo into a display which has a small B-25 dropping two bombs. Each of the bombs is recognized by the number 2, to indicate Col. Hoover was the second in line.
    We are working on a history of him and his service and any military or civilian information which can be contributed would be great. We would love to have copies of old pictues of him. We will be recognizing him at our formal dining out on December 3,2005. Please send copies of anything pertaining to Col. Hoover to
    Lt. David Simpsn
    12300 S.H. 10
    Wyandotte, Oklahoma 74370
    It would be wonderful if someone who actually served with Col. Hoover would be our guest at our dining out. If there is any one interested please let me know. Our Cadets would be very impressed, and would love to ask you questions about Col. Hoover.

  9. Tim Rockey

    When my dad was stationed at Harlingon AFB, TX. from 1957 – 1962. Col. Hoover lived above us in a converted barracks for part of that period. Since I was 7 to 12 years old, he did not go into much detail about the raid.
    However, the book ‘Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” had been released and he took my book to several of the reunions. He was always a really nice man who would joke with us kids.
    We were transferred to Randolph AFB in 1963 and living on one side of us was General Hilger, across the street from us lived Col. Knoblock. What a terrific group of neighbors for a young boy to have as models of what the human spirit can accomplish.
    All these years I have hoped to run in to Col. Hoover and the others at one of the reunions and had actually planned to be there this year. Looking his name up on the internet today I was shocked to discover I had waited too long.
    R.I.P “Trav” You were always a hero to me.
    Tim Rockey
    Son of Lt Col Carlton G. Rockey Jr.

  10. Pam

    “Trav” as he asked me to call him, was a true man among men. I came to know him in his last few years of life. What a special person he was: Modest, unassuming, caring and tender hearted–these are just a few of the words that characterize him. I dearly miss him–he was a precious soul and a true American hero.

  11. Maj. Debbie Leslie

    I am the commander of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron in Joplin, Mo. It was an exciting day, when Col. Travis Hoover’s family, granted our squadron permission to rename our squadron the Col. Travis Hoover Composite Squadron.
    In a previous writing, Lt. David Simpson wrote asking for bits of history of Col. Hoover. If you sent any mailings to Lt. Simpson, they never reached the squadron as he is no longer a member of this squadron. Anything sent should be sent to:
    Commander – Col. Travis Hoover Composite Squadron
    P.O. Box 1032
    Joplin, Mo
    Currently, we are building a website. If you have something concerning Col. Hoover you would like to see on our site, please submit to above address.
    Maj. Debbie Leslie
    Commander (2000-present)
    Col Travis Hoover Comp. Sq.

  12. Leo Koerkenmeier, Colonel, USAF, Rtd

    Colonel Hoover checked out myself and Terry Prossner (now deceased), 57T, on our night flight at Reese AFB in 1957. He was quiet and spoke very little but what he said was indicative of his experience in B-25s. He was always fiddling with the RPM to ensure that both engines were exactly in sync. My co-pilot and I were never able to do that exactly.
    Much later, late 80s early 90s, I attended an “Iron Gate” chapter of the AF Association in New York city and it turned out that Jimmy Doolittle was sitting at the table next to us (my wife and I), along with Johnny Cash. I engaged him and told him of the night check-out with Col Hoover. He said, oh yeah, that’s one of my boys. Give me that. And Doolittle then signed my invitation/agenda and passed it around around the table for everybody else to sign. What a memorable experience. I truly treasure it.

  13. troy Hoover

    I will always remember the stories that my uncle told me over the years. He was a great american and a wonderful person. He was a super uncle

  14. Robert "RL" Peterson

    I only found the website this week, but have often thought of Colonel Hoover over the years. I was a B-25 Instructor Pilot under him after graduating from pilot training at Reese AFB. My fondest memory is of Col. Hoovers practice of often flying with an instructional mission chosen at random. He brought along a “jump seat” of sorts and watched, saying nothing, as the instructor conducted a lesson for the student pilot, then asked to be let off near base operations and suggested a chat in his office the next day. Chat was never confrontational, always informative, but the bottom line was he knew exactly what was going on in his organization. A true leader of men and pilots. “RL” Pete Peterson

  15. Mitchell Maurer

    I met Travis when I was a reporter at the Tulsa World and interviewed him for a story. I talked with him a couple of times by telephone after that. He was one of the nicest gentlemen I ever interviewed and had fascinating tales I always enjoyed hearing, although I might have to coax him a bit to get him started. He was very humble.
    Over the years, I often thought his story would make a wonderful book.
    I decided to “google” his name today and discovered this site. I am very saddened to hear of his death. I am also upset that I waited so long to discover this.
    He will be missed.

  16. Col John R Edwards, USAF-Ret., Command Pilot

    I was six years old when the Doolittle Tokyo Raid occurred, and I remember how it was the talk of our little town–West Point, MS. You would have thought that General Doolittle and The RAIDERS had annillated the Japanese War Machine. In reality, as designed by President Roosevelt, it was a rallying point (right behind the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor)–the first thing to give us hope, brought us together, with the will to live and make it happen–winning the War!! Right behind the Raid came the Movie–Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo–and it seemed nobody missed seeing it. The Movie’s impact stayed with me all my “growing up” years, and it, in part, contributed to my becoming a USAF Offficer, Pilot/Navigator,and Special Operations Operative and Helicopter pilot in the Southeast Asia War. Colonel Travis Hoover entered my Life at Harlengen AFB, Texas, as I recall in 1958, when he was Vice Commander of the 3610th Flight Training Wing. As the Vice Commander, he seemed to be everywhere, and since I was “Permanent Party”, I had the opportunity to exchange converstions with him on many, many occassions-at work and in the Club– while he was stationed there. I remember that he could never be very still, for very long. Col Trav as I called him,,was a true hero to me, and I never forgot how fortunate I was to have been in his company and “rub shoulders” with the Number 2 Toyko Raider!!
    Colonel Trav you were a inspiration throughtout my SEA experience of “flying over the fence”, and returning home. God Bless You!! I’m sorry our paths did not cross again.

  17. Harold (Hal) Stein

    Colonel Hoover gave me my final check ride in pilot training November 1957.
    I was an Aviation Cadet class 58 D at Reese AFB, TX. My first instrument card was signed by the Colonel. I was always proud to have had the privilege of such a distinguished Aviator launching my Air Force flying career. I later attended a Doolittle Raider reunion aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown (CV10) in Charleston, SC. There were at least three or four others who had been under Colonel Hoovers command at Reese AFB, training in B-25’s, at the get together. Colonel Hoover poised with us for pictures. Colonel Travis Hoover a true American hero who help to pass the torch to another generation of Air Force flyers. Thank you Sir!!

  18. Richard Batchelor

    Colonel Travis Hoover, Commander 3500th Pilot Training Group , Reese AFB, TX, presented me with my graduation certificate from Class 57-T, pilot wings and commission as 2Lt in the USAF on 29 August 1957. It was such an honor for me to have him be the presenter, as the memory of his flight off the Hornet just 12 years earlier was still fresh in my memory of the WWII years.
    Richard (Dick) L. Batchelor AD18505044 (FV3080471)

  19. Glenn L. Stoner

    I was 6 years old when i met my father’s friend, Col. Travis Hoover, and i still remember him. He was the one who let me look through a telescope at the moon for the first time. i have my own telescope now, a big beautiful motor driven one -and i swear that i think of Colonel Hoover every single time i take it out. all through my childhood i would tell people that i met him- and i’d explain as best i could who he was and what he had done- as best i could. Heroes like Colonel Hoover don’t come along every day- i am honored to have met him.
    Glenn L. Stoner

  20. Kent C. Thelen, Captain "KC" Delta Air Lines

    I first met Colonel Hoover when our church youth group met in the Zerkel’s home (Col. Hoover’s daughter’s home) in Joplin, MO. Then, I was a confused teenage boy who dared to dream of flying. He spoke of his raid on Tokyo and his landing in a rice patty. I was totally taken in by this man’s bravery, experiences & humility.
    Years later I became a Naval Aviator and later after that a Delta Air Lines pilot. When I fly those Delta heavy jets over the Pacific, I think of how truly brave and self-sacrificing he was.
    Every year for about the last 7 years of his life I’d come home to Joplin, MO from Atlanta, GA and spend the day with Colonel Hoover. What a privilege and an honor it was for me. He showed tremendous charity to me considering my Navy underpinnings. Before he passed he gave me a set of gold Naval Aviator wings that were awarded to him at a ceremony. This will always be my most cherished set. After all, He was part Naval Aviator lest anyone forget.
    Finally, Colonel Travis Hoover and the Zerkel family blessed me with the opportunity to represent him as a family member at the 60th “Raiders Reunion.” This is an honor for which I will never forget, nor for which I can ever repay.
    I long for the day that I can be his friend in eternity.
    May God bless all who have been touched by this man’s dignity, honor, self-sacrificing love & humility the way I have.

  21. Jim Zerkel Jr

    At the dinner table tonight my son was telling a friend about his Great Grandad (Col Hoover)I took my Blackbeery out and googled Grandads name and this site came up. After telling my sons friend all about my Grandads herorics, I took the time to read the all the blogs.I especially like the stories from his students at Reese AFB, my birth place. I wanted to share a few thoughts about another side of him. A true sign of the man he was came after his years of service. After the 72 other missions he flew after the Doolittle Raid. My grandadmother became ill and and required constant attention. Grandad never left her side. It was a true measure of the man that he was.Until her death he was comitted to her, just as he was for his country. I once ask him why he would volinteer for such a dangerous mission as the Doolittle RaidM His answer was simple. “The Army Aircorp had spent time and money to train him for such a mission, why wouldn’t I” He is a true American Hero and will always be my hero, not only for his bravery, but for his compassion as a humen being


    I had the honor of having col. hover as my wing commander at Reese AFB. I was an instructor in the link trainer section.When i was an airman first class, my wife was in labor at the base hospital and i had been there for two days and a night before the baby came. Col. hover sent a runner to the hospital with a message for me to report to him right away.well, not having a shave or change of uniform for almost three days,i said i would report to the col. after i cleaned up, the sgt. that had delivered the message, said no,report now.I did and it turns out that the col. had known my condition and had a smile on his face when i arrived. He presented me with the airman of the month award along with a $50 bond,which really came in handy at the time.I was at reese for six years and from time to time the col. would come thru the link section and he always stopped and talked with me a while and one day he came by and gave my my orders promoting me to ssgt.Just after that i was sent to randolph afb.and lost track of a great person and officer and gentelman. TOMMY FOLLIS

  23. Jim Bowman

    My Dad had Col Hoover as his wing commander when he went thruogh B-25 training at Reese AFB. When I graduated from Pilot training in 1986 my Dad gave me the instrument card that he recieved signed by Col Hoover. I always kept it in my pubs bag that I carried in the F-15 and flew with it on every sortie until I retired. I still have it today and take great pride in the history and legacy of which it represents. Col Travis Hoover will never be forgotten and is a true American Hero

  24. Greg Wayland

    I was a reporter for WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg,Fl in April, 1982 when we got word the Doolittle Raiders were having their 40th reunion at a restaurant a short distance from the station. I went there with a photographer, met and interviewed General Doolittle and then proceeded to talk with crew members standing in groups on a lawn area enjoying cocktails. Col. Hoover proudly summoned me over. “Crew mates here,” he said of himself and the man stading next to him. I proceeded to interview both men and recall how Col. Hoover told of getting of the Hornet “at a rakish angle” with bow wash hitting the aircraft.
    I will always remember that day, those gracious,humble and brave men, their stories, the dignity and reserve of Gen. Doolittle (whom we persuaded to climb into the cockpit of a moth-balled B-17 for a photo op — wrong aircraft, I know) — but Col Hoover, being my first interview, remains most clear in my mind — especially since I managed that same day to find ( on a network documentary) images of him proposing a toast with a silver goblet at one of the Raiders’ 1940s reunions — a handsome young officer in uniform. I put it in my story.
    So here it is five years later and I’ve suddenly decided to check in on him and am so sad to learn of his passing.
    Somewhere under my desk at New England Cable News I may still have a salvageable copy of that story on 3/4 inch tape that I might try to retrieve and dub to a contemporary format. I would be happy to provide it to the Raiders and their families — especially since the Raiders held another reunion in Sarasota when I was back at WTSP for a second “tour of duty”, but I never got to cover them on that occasion.
    Meanwhile, I honor the memory of Col. Hoover on this Memorial Day Weekend.
    –Greg Wayland/Reporter
    NECN (New England Cable News)

  25. Eddie Cramblit

    I was fortunate to have Col. Hoover in my life when I was growing up. He was friends with my dad and mom. And, I went over to his house many many times while they would have dinner parties. I was really young and knew him while i was growing up. I remember seeing the little model of the B-25 on his coffee table and would play with it. He was a very kind and sincere man. And I count him as one my friends I have known the longest. I do miss him. He was friendly and always so sweet. I am honred to have known him – And will never forget.

  26. Harold L. Stratton, MD

    I was Chief of Aerospave medicine(Otherwise known as the flight Surgeon) at Reese AFB from 1956 to 1959. I met him many times. One day he took off from Reese AFB in a T-33 Jet(F-80), encountered a thunderstorm and severe turbulence(?a tornadO). He ejected and stated that his parachute went around & around like a ferris wheel. Somehow, he survived and ended up in the hospital in New Mexico where I was able to interview him,

  27. Thomas E Brown,SMSGT,USAF retired

    I was stationed at Keesler AFB 1968-1970 as Supervisor of the Chaplain Services Mgmt Course. I was nominated as Instructor of the Month and
    was required to meet the board that had been appointed to interview all candidates for the award. Col Hoover was the President of the Board and led the questioning and interview. At the time we were still in VietNam and the question
    he asked me was “Would you bomb enemy ships
    in the Haiphong Harbor?” I said yes-everyone knows we are at war with Viet Nam and I would
    consider Haiphong harbor as a target of opportunity because those ships were carrying supplies to our enemy.
    I was selected as Instrutor of the Month among
    the hundreds of Instructors stationed at Keesler.
    During that year the Doolittle Raiders held their
    annual reunion in Biloxi-Gulfport Ms. I went
    down to the hotel where they were staying and
    met other members of he Doolittle Raiders.

  28. Maj. Derek Detjen

    While a young Aviation Cadet at Harlingen AFB, TX I had the privilege to fly on a training msn one day w/Col. Hoover as our pilot. He was quite a handsome officer and was a double for Randolph Scott. He flew our little T-29 flawlessly, with a wicker insert in the left seat and a local newspaper up in the window shading the afternoon sun. Most of us were in awe of him, knowing his part in the Doolittle raid, and I thought “what a lovely way to wind down one’s career” at the time. I believe Col. Hoover was either the Wing CO or Vice CO at Harlingen. One of the best, we were proud to follow in his footsteps.

  29. Mary Kay Billings

    I am sorry to see this update about Col. Hoover. I have the distinction of having been named after his wife, Kay Hoover, who was my mother’s best friend while my father was stationed in Harlingen, TX. I rarely had the opportunity to know the Hoover’s better, since my parents were soon stationed at Lowry AFB after my birth, but his legend was a proud tale my mother would tell us and I always felt honored to have my name associated with him in some small way.

  30. Don A. Domenic

    Col. Hoover,a real American hero gave me my final check ride and instrument certification at Reese AFB, Lubbock,TX. We flew B-25’s in training and I was in the class of 57-L. I remember him saying as we approached the runway on an ILS, “Lt., if you get this sucker on the ground in one piece, you will be a pilot in the US Air Force.” For those who know the rigors of earning your Air Force wings, you know what that meant. God Bless Col. Hoover. May he rest in peace!!!

  31. Philip Beekley

    My father was the base chaplain at Incirlik AB, Turkey, under Colonel Hoover as the base commander, for almost three years in the early sixties. My parents played bridge almost weekly with Col Hoover and his wife, and we often shared a table at the Officer’s Club for dinner after Sunday services or on Tuesday Spaghetti nights. Some great stories related over plates of pasta. I can say that Col Hoover was one of my first real heroes. It seemed as if he had done everything in the Air Force, and his career partly inspired me to eventually join the AF as well. I attended Kay’s funeral here in San Antonio around 1998? or so? She was so vivacious and charming; he must have missed her terribly.

  32. Patricia Walkden

    Col. Hoover was the base commander of Incerlik AB, in Adana, Turkey in 1961 and 1962, while my husband was stationed there. Col. Hoover and his wife took us under their wings. We shared many meals together and my husband was well cared for during the time I was in Ankara, giving birth to our first child. I have the fondest of memories of this wonderful man and dear wife. A true Gentleman.

  33. Joe Carlisle

    I met Colonel Hoover at Incirlik AFB in Turkey in 1962. He was the base commander and I lived across the street from him, a mere military dependent. I had a book of famous flight photos and one of them was of the Doolittle Raiders. I took it across the street and asked him to autograph it. Not only did he sign it, but he also showed me some of his memorabilia from that mission. If you ever watch the newsreels from the raid, you will almost surely see one of the B-25s take off and then immediately drop off the end of the flight deck, disappearing from view. After an impossibly long time, the aircraft pulls back into view and climbs slowly upward. That is “No Flaps Hoover.” He admitted that he had forgotten to set his flaps properly for the takeoff and nearly crashed at the beginning of the mission instead of being the focus of one of the most unforgettable pieces of combat footage from WWII. I’m sorry to learn that he has passed. He was quite a guy.

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