In Honor of Veterans Day (11 am, 11th day, 11th month. 11-11-11)
Airports are named after famous people. I know about the namesakes of John Wayne and Ronald Reagan Airports, but who is O’Hare? I pondered this when I was stuck at that massive crowded airport.
WWII Navy Fighter Pilot
Chicago International Airport is named after Edward “Butch” O’Hare.
Butch became a lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, this 28-year-old lieutenant became a naval pilot. He was stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the South Pacific, and he was assigned to a single engine fighter plane.
Squadron of Japanese Bombers
On February 20, 1942, Butch and his squadron were sent on a mission. Some time after takeoff, Butch noticed that his fuel tank had not been topped-off. His commander ordered him to return to the carrier, accompanied by his wingman. Reluctantly, Butch dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.
As the two planes made their way back to the carrier, they saw a squadron of Japanese bombers flying toward the USS Lexington. The enemy was only about four minutes from their target. By now, Butch was out of radio range of the fleet and his fighter squadron.
Butch and his wingman decided to take on the nine bombers on their own. They were the only defense between the Japanese bombers and the 2,000 men on board the Lexington.
As the battle was about to begin, the wingman’s machine guns jammed. He had no choice but to break off and return to the carrier to warn the fleet.
Butch was low on fuel and all alone. The daring pilot flew straight into the middle of the enemy formation.
Wing-mounted 50-caliber machine guns blazed as he charged, attacking one surprised Japanese bomber and then another. He flew underneath one plane, blasting its fuel tanks and causing it to explode. Peeling off, he attacked another bomber from above forcing it to crash in the ocean.
Butch continued to weave in and out of the now scattered bomber formation. He fired at as many planes as possible.
He finally ran out of ammunition. Instead of breaking off his attack, he courageously continued the assault. Without any ammunition he dove directly at the enemy bombers. Using his fighter’s wings as his only weapon, he clipped the bomber’s wings and tails. The bombers that he hadn’t destroyed outright, were seriously damaged.
In a matter of minutes, Butch O’Hare single handedly destroyed five of the nine bombers, and damaged the other four. A fighter squadron aboard the Lexington finally arrived and shot down the rest of the bombers.
First Navy Ace, First Navy Congressional Medal of Honor
Butch O’Hare became the Navy’s first ace pilot of World War II. He was promoted to lieutenant commander. He was the first Naval recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally delivered the commendation.
One year later in another air fight, Butch died when his plane was shot down.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Revered in his hometown of Chicago, Butch O’Hare is remembered as a hero. Chicago O’Hare International Airport was named for him.
He left a reputation for courage, honor, and selfless sacrifice.
Butch’s Corrupt Criminal Father, “Easy Eddie,” Al Capone’s Lawyer
Ironically, Butch’s father had the opposite reputation. He was known for being sleazy, selfish, greedy, corrupt, and unscrupulous.
You see, Butch’s dad was Edward “Easy Eddie” O’Hare. Easy Eddie was the lawyer for Al Capone. Sometimes crime does pay temporarily, and Eddie became very rich.
When the law enforcement “Untouchables” started closing in on Capone, Eddie decided to save his own skin. He turned state’s evidence. He became a snitch. He provided the government with the information needed put Al Capone in prison for tax evasion.
By assisting the government, Easy Eddie avoided prison. By turning government informant, Eddie got his son Butch, a berth at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Later, at the age of 46, Eddie was driving when a car pulled alongside. Two men inside that car fired several slugs from shotguns. Fast Eddie was killed.
Father and son. Two men with the same name. Vastly different reputations.
Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”
(Sources: “Edward J. O’Hare,” “Edward Henry ‘Butch’ O’Hare,” Wikipedia; “A Father’s Day tale once told by former radio broadcaster Paul Harvey,” Kirk H. Neely, Herald-Journal, Jun 17, 2018, Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story,” Feb. 7, 2013; David Mikkelson, “Eddie O’Hare and Son,” snopes.com.)
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