The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 18, 2012

Joplin family has connection to Doolittle’s Raiders

JOPLIN, Mo. — There were 80 then; now there are five.

On April 18, 1942 — 70 years ago today — 80 U.S. Army Air Corps crew members in 16 B-25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier 670 miles east of Tokyo. Their mission was to do the unimaginable: bomb mainland Japan.

Led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, the crew members — who became known as Doolittle’s Raiders — were forced to take off sooner than planned when their carrier was spotted by a Japanese fishing boat. The planes reached their targets, dropped their bombs and then, dangerously low on fuel, headed for China. Only one plane would land safely. The other 15 either crash-landed or had crews that bailed out.

Of the 80 men who took off, three were killed on the mission and eight were captured by the Japanese. Four of the captured Americans died in captivity — three by firing squad and one from illness.

The men who survived the raid would continue their service throughout the war, and 13 more would be killed in action. The surviving Raiders stayed close for the rest of their lives, gathering for annual reunions. As the years went on, time began doing to those brave men what the war did not.

Now, only five remain.

Joplin was home to one of Doolittle’s Raiders for almost 20 years. In 1988, Col. Travis Hoover moved to Joplin to be closer to his stepdaughter, Beverly Zerkel. Beverly’s husband, Jim, is a former B-25 pilot who served under Hoover.

After bombing his target, Hoover flew his plane toward a safe landing zone in China. Before he could reach the landing area, his plane ran out of fuel, and he was forced to land in a rice paddy. Hoover and his crew, with the help of Chinese guerrillas, avoided Japanese patrols searching for them. After a few days, the guerrillas recruited a young English-speaking Chinese engineer by the name of Tung-Sheng Liu to lead the Americans to safety. It was an incredibly dangerous task, and Liu showed uncommon courage in agreeing to help five men he had never met.

Hoover and Liu were reunited in 1948, and the two men developed a bond that would remain strong for the rest of their lives.

I got to witness that bond in 2006, when Beverly and Jim invited me to sit in on one of the last meetings between the two men. Hoover was 85 at the time and living at the Webb City Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Liu was a dignified and humble man who chose to talk about his friendship with Hoover.

“We are closer than friends. We are brothers,” Liu said.

Hoover died later that year. Liu, who long ago was named an honorary Doolittle Raider, died in 2009.

On Tuesday, I chatted with Beverly about the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle raid. I told her that I was worried that the date might go unnoticed, and that men such as Hoover and Liu would be forgotten. Beverly told me that I didn’t have to worry. She said she and Jim were leaving Thursday to attend a private dinner for the families of Doolittle Raiders at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio. Wright-Patterson is the home of the National Museum of the Air Force, where the annual Raiders’ reunion is being held this week.

“We aren’t going until Thursday because we didn’t make our reservations in time,” Beverly said. “All of the (reunion) events sold out within two hours.”

I think that’s something.

Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at

Text Only
Local News
  • State audit of Joplin School District begins

    Staff members from the state auditor’s office have begun their audit of the Joplin School District, Superintendent C.J. Huff said Monday. They are expected to be in the district four days per week for the next five to six months, or perhaps longer, until the audit is complete, Huff said.

    July 21, 2014

  • Burglary conviction draws shock prison time

    A Joplin man who received 120 days of shock incarceration time Friday in a drunken-driving case in Jasper County Circuit Court was assessed a concurrent sentence Monday in a burglary case.

    July 21, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Family gatherings mirror circle of life

    The annual family gathering is getting bigger. There tends to be an ebb and a flow to most family gatherings. When you’re a kid, and especially if you’re a kid from a large Catholic family, the gatherings seem to be huge.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • 071714 Jasper Cty Dispatch1_72.jpg Area communities, Jasper County work to improve communications

    The first law enforcement officer to respond to a fatal shooting last November at Northpark Mall was from the Duquesne Police Department — not Joplin. Joplin police Chief Jason Burns said he wasn’t bothered by that. “We dispatch for them, and they had an officer close who could get there faster,” he said. “And getting help to people as quickly as possible is more important than jurisdictions.”

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • New and old TIF districts on agenda for Joplin council

    Another tax increment financing district is being proposed for Joplin, this one along South Main Street. The area is close to the new Mercy Hospital Joplin that is set to open next year. RKS Development is seeking authorization from the Joplin City Council when it meets Monday night to prepare a request to establish a TIF district.

    July 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Family grows by one — a black Lab named Raven

    If you haven’t experienced the feeling of a tiny puppy in your lap at the end of a perfect July Saturday — hammock time, s’mores, leisurely walks, you know the kind — I highly recommend it. It is pure joy.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Car show, sidewalk sale and more scheduled for weekend in Carthage

    All roads leading to Carthage should be packed this weekend as numerous events geared toward entertainment, cultural pursuits and bargain hunting are expected to pull in large crowds.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read


A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter