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Information Connection: Butch O'Hare

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During World War II, many people gained fame in one way; or another. One such person was Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. On a particular mission, he looked at his fuel gauge while airborne and realized someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. Because of this, he would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to leave formation and return.

American fighter planes were rigged with cameras, so that as they flew and fought, pictures were taken to allow pilots to learn more about the terrain, enemy maneuvers, etc. This is one way we know the following story.

As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw a squadron of Japanese Zeroes heading toward the fleet to attack. And with all the fighter planes gone, the fleet was almost defenseless. His was the only opportunity to distract and divert them. Single-handedly, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes and attacked them..

Butch dove at the enemy planes and shot until all his ammunition was gone. After that, he used his plane itself as a weapon, diving and trying to clip off a wing or tail or anything that would make the enemy planes unfit to fly. He did anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.

Finally, the Japanese squadron took off in another direction, and Butch O'Hare and his fighter, both badly shot up, limped back to the carrier.  He told his story. But not until the film from the camera on his plane was developed did the sailors realize the extent Butch really went to, to protect his fleet. He was recognized as a hero and given one of the nation's highest military honors. The O'Hare Airport was named after him.

Let's take a moment for another interesting story, which occurred before this. Easy Eddie lived in Chicago. He was working for Al Capone. Al Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic, but he was notorious for the murders he'd committed and the illegal things he'd done.  Easy Eddie was Al Capone's lawyer and he was very good. In fact, because of his skill, he was able to keep Al Capone out of jail.

To show his appreciation, Al Capone paid Easy Eddie very well. He not only earned big money, he would get extra things, like a residence that filled an entire Chicago city block. The house was fenced, and he had live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day.

Easy Eddie had a son. He loved his son and gave him all the best things while he was growing up; clothes, cars, and a good education. And because he loved his son, he tried to teach him right from wrong.  But one thing he couldn't give his son was a good name, and a good example. Easy Eddie decided this was much more important than all the riches he had given him. So, he went to the authorities to rectify the wrongs he had done.

To make things right, Easy Eddie had to testify against Al Capone. He knew that doing this was like signing his own death warrant. But he wanted most of all to be an example for his boy, and to give him a good name. So, he testified. And, that did indeed sign his death warrant. Within a year, he was shot and killed on a lonely street in Chicago.

These sound like two unrelated stories. But, they're not. You see, Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.

Both of these men were heroes. Whenever you fly through O'Hare, or any other airport, remember the brave men and women who have served in the military and who serve now. If you get a chance, let them in line in front of you or offer to pay for whatever they are buying. Butch and Eddie would have done at least as much for you.

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Epilogue:

Dan Katz, who lived in this era, wrote:

It so happens that O'Hare was killed, apparently, by the gunner of the TBF that he and 2 other Wildcats were working with on a night mission off a carrier, one of the earliest attempts at night fighting off of a carrier, attempting to find G4M "Betty" snoopers; the gunner (I can't recall whether it was the upper turret gunner or the lower position gunner) had fired at something he THOUGHT he saw--a shadow or something--and about that time O'Hare was no longer reachable by radio; his aircraft was never found, and there was no trace of him. That's how he disappeared.

The rest of the story is in the book, Fateful Rendezvous: The story of Butch O'Hare.

 

 

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