Bob Hoover was born on January 24, 1922, in Nashville, Tennessee. He enlisted in the Air Corps Branch of the Army National Guard on January 28, 1940, and served as an aircraft mechanic and gunner with the 105th Observation Squadron in Columbia, South Carolina, until he entered the Aviation Cadet Program on January 14, 1942. Hoover was commissioned a Flight Officer and was awarded his pilot wings on September 15, 1942, and was then assigned to the 337th Fighter Group. He served as a Test Pilot and as a Ferry Pilot with the 12th Air Force in North Africa from December 1942 to August 1943, and then joined the 4th Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Group, where he flew British Spitfires in the Mediterranean Theater from August 1943 until he was shot down and taken as a Prisoner of War while flying his 59th combat mission on February 9, 1944. Hoover was held at Stalag Luft 1 at Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia, where he was held until being liberated by the Russians on May 1, 1945. During his time as a POW, Hoover attempted to escape 15 times, and when his camp was finally liberated he escaped in a German FW 190 fighter and flew to Holland. During World War II, Lt Hoover was credited with destroying 2 enemy aircraft and sinking 1 enemy cargo ship. After returning to the United States, he served as a Test Pilot with the Flight Test Division at Wright Field (later renamed Wright-Patterson AFB), Ohio, and at Muroc AAFB (later renamed Edwards AFB), California, where he flew flight tests in various aircraft, including participation in the X-1 project to break the sound barrier in 1947, from September 1945 until he left active duty on January 29, 1949. After leaving the Air Force, Bob went to work for General Motors and then for North American Aviation and later Rockwell International, where he served in flight testing and as a demonstration pilot for 36 years. He
was the Captain of the 1966 U.S. Acrobatic Team at the international competition in Moscow, and served two terms as President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (1969 and 1971). Hoover was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. His medical certificate was revoked without cause by the FAA in 1993, and was reinstated in October 1995. Bob Hoover accumulated over 20,000 flying hours in more than 300 different types of aircraft during his flying career. He Flew West on October 25, 2016.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations on 9 February 1944. As Flight Commander of a flight of four aircraft, Flight Officer Hoover was given the mission of dive bombing an enemy convoy steaming into the Harbor of Nice, France. While climbing up from the dive-bombing run, Flight Officer Hoover displayed great daring and courage in going to the aid of a comrade in attacking an overwhelming majority of enemy airplanes. His conduct was exemplary and was in accord with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.