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An Unusual Jade Gift

Doolittle Raid - Crew of Lt. Hoover in China

Jade is a beautiful and highly desirable material. It’s valued for the fabulous and magnificent works of art that are created from it, and for the deeper meanings people attach to it. In different periods of Chinese history Jade was associated with heaven, as a symbol of authority. Confucius used jade into a metaphor for virtue, kindness, wisdom, justice, civility, music, sincerity, truth, Heaven and Earth. But sometimes, its not the cultural symbolism or monetary value of an object which is, but the personal sentiment. This story is one such example.

The story begins with the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into the Second World War. Through the first six months of the war the United States suffered a series of defeats – in the Philippines, Wake Island, and the Java Sea. Seeking a way to achieve a victory to raise American morale – and deal a blow to Japanese morale, a plan was conceived whereby the Japanese home islands would be bombed by U.S. Army Air Force B25-B bombers loaded onto and launched from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

The bombers were loaded onto the carriers Hornet and Enterprise on April 1st, 1942. The aircraft were launched 10 hours ahead of schedule on April 18th when the carrier task force was sighted by a Japanese ship. The aircraft dropped their bomb loads over Tokyo and other Japanese cities, causing minor damage to their targets but inflicting a major shock to the Japanese military and government. The consequence of launching earlier was the planes were launched 200 miles further from Japan than planned, making them unable to reach the landing bases prepared by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Chinese forces – an ally against Japan. 15 of the 16 planes managed to reach the Chinese coast thanks to a lucky tailwind, the 16th plane reaching the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, none of the places reached safe Chinese bases, instead running out of fuel in areas occupied by or threatened by Japanese troops. Chinese locals and military forces helped hide and rescue the American crews. The Chinese, who had already been at war with Japan for years before this, and had been taking blows from the Japanese were greatly appreciate of the counterblow delivered by the Americans. One of the rescued pilots, Lt. Travis Hoover, was presented with a gift by Mr. Tung-Sheng Liu, a Chinese district commissioner who also acted as an interpreter and guide for Hoover’s crew, helping them reach safety. The gift was a delicately carved piece of Jade. Today, this Jade is located and on display with artifacts from the Doolittle Raid at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The image for this post shows the U.S. Army Air Force crew of the North American B-25B Mitchell bomber (s/n 40-2292, Lt. Travis Hoover). They had left the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) as No. 2 plane of the “Doolittle Raid” on 18 April 1942 and bombed Tokyo. After running out of fuel the plane crashed near Ningpo, China. Mr. Tung-Sheng Liu (劉同聲, third from right in white jacket) stands with the crew of Lt. Travis Hoover. He helped these men escape capture following the Doolittle Raid. He later immigrated to the United States and was one of four individuals names as honorary Doolittle Raiders.

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Image Credit: By USAF – National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 100907-F-1234S-001, Public Domain,