Edward “Butch” O’Hare


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Butch O’Hare and his F4F-3 Wildcat. Stud.

Most of you will recognize the namesake of one of Chicago’s international airports. What you probably may not know is that today in 1942, the USS Lexington came under attack by Japanese G4M “Betty” bombers while in the Japanese-held waters north of New Ireland.

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A flight of 9 Bettys approached the Lexington from an undefended side, and Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare and his wingman were the only aircraft available to intercept the formation. At 1700 hours, O’Hare arrived over the 9 incoming bombers and attacks. During the engagement his wingman’s (LT. Marion Dufilho) guns failed, so O’Hare had to fight on alone. He is credited with shooting down five Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth and probably saving lives aboard the Lexington (although she was scuttled at the Battle of Coral Sea in May that year).

VF-3: Front row, second from right: Lt. Edward Butch O'Hare.

VF-3: Front row, second from right: Lt. Edward Butch O’Hare.

As a result of this engagement O’Hare was promoted to LtCDR and received a Medal Of Honor. The citation reads as follows:

LIEUTENANT EDWARD HENRY O’HARE
UNITED STATES NAVY

Medal of Honor – Navy
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Born: 13 March 1914, St. Louis, Mo.
Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo.
Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3 on 20 February 1942. Having lost the assistance of his teammates, Lt. O’Hare interposed his plane between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machinegun and cannon fire. Despite this concentrated opposition, Lt. O’Hare, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point. As a result of his gallant action–one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation–he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

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Butch O’Hare receives the Medal Of Honor from FDR (with wife Rita at his side)

There’s a bit of fable involved in the tale of Butch’s entry into the US Navy. It makes for a great story but it’s just a fable indeed. Butch’s dad was Edward “Easy Eddie” O’Hare who was a tax accountant for the infamous Al Capone. O’Hare played a key role in Capone’s prosecution for tax evasion and as a result of working with the Feds, the rumor was that Butch received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in return. A great story indeed.

Easy Eddie was later assassinated (from Wikipedia):

O’Hare was shot and killed on Wednesday, November 8, 1939, while driving in his car. He was 46. That afternoon he reportedly left his office at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero with a cleaned and oiled Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol, something unusual for him. O’Hare got into his black 1939 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, and drove away from the track. As he approached the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell, a dark sedan rolled up beside him and two shotgun-wielding henchmen opened up on him with a volley of big-gameslugs. Edward Joseph O’Hare was killed instantly. As his Lincoln crashed into a post at the side of the roadway, the killers continued east on Ogden, where they soon became lost in other traffic.

Butch himself was later killed-in-action on 26 November 1943 while leading the first-ever night time fighter attack to be launched from a carrier.

If your ever at O’Hare airport and in terminal 2 go see the F4F-3 recovered from Lake Michigan:

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In the finest tradition of the Naval service, Chicago’s very own.

5 Comments

Filed under history, navy, planes, veterans, war

5 responses to “Edward “Butch” O’Hare

  1. I’ve walked right by that AC. I had time to stop and read the entire exhibit. I had forgotten that O’Hare was from Chicago, but remembered as soon as I turned the corner and saw the display.

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  2. She’s a beauty. They restored her well.

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  3. I think that is more likely an SNJ that he is stepping up onto the wing of.

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  4. phat

    If you’re passing through ORD and have the time, go to the exhibit. It’s very well done.

    Butch O’Hare, occupation: MAN.

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  5. SoCal Pir8

    Stopped me in my tracks as I first saw it. We were rushing due to change in gate so was unable to view the entire display.

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