World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare.
As he was returning in his Wildcat to the carrier USS Lexington, he saw something that turned his blood cold.
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese twin engine Betty bombers. (Depicted here by single engine Val Torpedo Bombers)
He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tanks. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the carrier USS Lexington, he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese bombers were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but defenseless (They were probably about to launch their combat air patrol). He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor, could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. (The Japanese had developed tactics to send torpedo-armed Bettys on missions against the US carriers) There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to at least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.
Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had destroyed five enemy bombers. That was on February 20, 1942, and for that action he became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. (First WWII Navy Ace in a day too)
A year later he was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of that heroic action to die. And today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you're flying in to O'Hare airport, visit his memorial with his statue and Medal of Honor. It is located between terminal 1 and 2.
Some years earlier there was a man in Chicago called Easy Eddie. At that time, Al Capone virtually owned the city. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. His exploits were anything but praiseworthy. He was, however, notorious for enmeshing the city of Chicago in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Easy Eddie was Capone's lawyer and for a good reason. He was very good! In fact, his skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big; Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Yes, Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddy did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddy saw to it that his young son had the best of everything; clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Yes, Eddie tried to teach his son to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things that Eddie couldn't give his son. Two things that Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son: a good name and a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches he could lavish on him. He had to rectify all the wrong that he had done. He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Scar-face Al Capone. He would try to clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this he must testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. But more than anything, he wanted to be an example to his son. He wanted to do his best to make restoration and hopefully have a good name to leave his son. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. He had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.
I know what you're thinking. What do these two stories have to do with one another? Well, you see, Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.
Now that is the common story and the part about Butch is true enough, however, according to Snopes.Com it is not necessarily the way it really was concerning his father. When "Easy Eddie" did eventually provide information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, it was far less likely that he did it because he had an attack of conscience, wanted to right the wrongs he'd done, or sought to teach his son the value of integrity. More probably he turned state's evidence because he could see the handwriting on the wall: Capone was going to be nailed with or without his assistance, but by doing the government a favor Eddie could keep himself out of prison. (Some sources even suggest the connections Eddie made by turning government informant were what got his son Butch a berth at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.)
Perhaps Eddie O'Hare believed or knew he would be killed for what he had done; perhaps not. Either way, it was his son Butch who redeemed the family name through his wartime bravery and heroism, and the price he paid for that redemption was his life. None of that redemption was achieved through the actions of Easy Eddie.
Michael Monsoor, Master at Arms Second Class, Sea, Air, and Land United States Navy SEAL
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