USAFA Class of 2020 Chooses Bob Hoover as Exemplar

For the past few years each class at the US Air Force Academy has chosen an “exemplar,” a program USAFA describes as an opportunity for the class to

honor and identify with a past military giant, alive or dead.

This year, the USAFA Class of 2020 chose Bob Hoover.

Among other stories,

1st Lt. Robert Hoover, a former Army Air Corps, Air Force and civilian test pilot…of Nashville, Tennessee, was taken captive by the Germans after being shot-down by the Luftwaffe over France during World War II. He spent 16 months in Stalag Luft I, a German POW camp, before sneaking into a German FW-190 aircraft and flying to Holland. It was his fourth attempt to escape the prison.

Though officially listed as a general “military giant, alive or dead,” the exemplars chosen to date appear to be almost exclusively Air Force (or Army Air Corps) officers who have died — in most cases, very recently. (The Wright Brothers, for the Class of 2015, are the sole civilians.) For example, Louis Zamperini, Col Bud Day, Neil Armstrong, and now Bob Hoover have all been chosen in the months following their passing.

That might be one reason (among others) why Bob Hoover was chosen — and Chuck Yeager has not. Hoover was the backup to Yeager for his sound barrier-breaking flight in 1947, the act for which he is most well-known. Yeager — often viewed as brash and arrogant — stayed in the Air Force and had a colorful career, while Hoover exited soon after and became famous in his own right as an extraordinarily skilled aviator (and generally nice guy).