Jimmy Doolittle – the man who bombed Tokyo just 5 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – called Bob Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.” Hoover had only been flying for five years by the time World War II broke out.
Hoover was captured by the Nazis after being shot down on his 59th mission over Europe.
The ace wasn’t about to spend the war in a prison camp, though. After 16 months as a POW, he was determined to get out and get back to the action. He staged a fight between fellow prisoners, jumped over the Stalag’s barb wire fence, and stole an unguarded Focke-Wulf 190 from the nearby airfield. He then flew it to newly-liberated Holland.
After the war, Hoover had an illustrious aviation career. He became a test pilot and Air Force legend, even backing up Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 in 1947.
A “pilot’s pilot,” Hoover continued to fly in air shows until 2000.
Sadly, Hoover died on October 25, 2016, but was fondly remembered by his admirers and friends in the aviation community, including Buzz Aldrin, who tweeted:
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) October 25, 2016