Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Lt. Cdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare - Oct. 22nd, 2003
Posted on 10/22/2003 12:00:41 AM PDT by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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The FReeper Foxhole is dedicated to Veterans of our Nation's military forces and to others who are affected in their relationships with Veterans.
Where the Freeper Foxhole introduces a different veteran each Wednesday. The "ordinary" Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who participated in the events in our Country's history. We hope to present events as seen through their eyes. To give you a glimpse into the life of those who sacrificed for all of us - Our Veterans.
First U.S. Navy Ace,
Medal of Honor Recipient
Savior of USS Lexington,
First Hellcat Night-Fighter
Edward H. O'Hare was born on March 13, 1914 in St. Louis, the son of "E.J." O'Hare, a wealthy businessman and attorney. His parents sent him to Western Military Academy (WMA) at age 13, where he pursued an interest in marksmanship, becoming president of the rifle club. In 1932, he graduated from WMA, and in 1933 went on to the US Naval Academy. Many of his classmates from both schools died in WWII. Upon his graduation from Annapolis he received choice duty on the USS New Mexico (BB-40). While he was interested in aviation, all new officers had to spend two years in surface ships, before specializing in aviation or submarines. Thus in 1939 he started flight training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, learning the basics on N3N-1 and Stearman NS-1 biplane trainers.
Lt. Cdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare
In November, his father was gunned down by Al Capone's gunmen, most likely because he had given the government information useful in its prosecution of Capone. The gangland-style murder made big headlines, and the newspapers printed numerous speculations on the circumstances of the murder. Many of these were less than flattering and implied that E.J. was involved with the mob. (Ewing & Lundstrom's excellent biography, Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Butch O'Hare, covers these events in great detail.) Returning to Pensacola after the funeral, young O'Hare moved up to flying more advanced biplanes like the Vought O3U, the Corsair SU, and the Vought SBU-1 scout bomber (top speed 205 mph). In early 1940, he completed the required flying in patrol planes and advanced land planes.
When he finished his naval aviation training in May, he was assigned to VF-3, the USS Saratoga's Fighting Squadron. The CO was Warren Harvey; the great John "Jimmy" Thach was XO at this time, later succeeding Harvey as CO. VF-3 was flying the Grumman F3F-1 biplane and the newer Brewster F2A-1. In July, 1940, Ed O'Hare made his first carrier landing, "just about the most exciting thing a pilot can do in peacetime." Jimmy Thach used to knock the new pilots down a notch by outflying them. He would let a rookie gain an altitude advantage, and then, while reading a newspaper or eating an apple, he would out-maneuver him and get on his tail. But when he tried this on O'Hare, he couldn't gain an advantage. Duly impressed with O'Hare's impressive flying abilities, Thach closely mentored the promising young pilot.
In early 1941, VF-3 transferred to Enterprise, while Saratoga underwent a major refit at Bremerton. While the 'Big E' was at San Diego, Warner Brothers filmed the early Technicolor movie Dive Bomber on it, featuring Errol Flynn, Ralph Bellamy, and Fred MacMurray.
July was an important time for Ed O'Hare. He met his future wife, Rita (proposing to her the first time he met her) and also made his first flight in a Wildcat. He and Rita married six weeks later, and for a honeymoon, they sailed to Hawaii in separate ships, Butch on Enterprise and Rita in a passenger liner.
On February 20, 1942, Butch O'Hare demonstrated in real life, and when it counted most, the fighting skills he had mastered. The carrier Lexington had been assigned the dangerous task of penetrating enemy-held waters north of New Ireland. From there her planes were to make a strike at Japanese shipping in the harbor at Rabaul. Unfortunately, while still 400 miles from Rabaul, the Lexington was discovered by a giant four-engine Kawanishi flying boat. Lieutenant Commander John Thach, skipper of the Lexington's Wildcat fighters, shot down the Japanese "Snooper," but not before it had radioed the carrier's position. That afternoon Commander Thach led six Wildcats into the air to intercept nine twin-engine enemy bombers. In a determined attack each of the Wildcats destroyed a bomber and damaged two more. The ship's anti-aircraft guns finished off the rest. In the meantime, nine more Japanese bombers were reported on the way. Six Wildcats, one of them piloted by Butch O'Hare, roared off the Lexington's deck to stop them. O'Hare and his wingman spotted the V formation of bombers first and dived to try to head them off. The other F4F pilots were too far away to reach most of the enemy planes before they released their bombs. As if this weren't bad enough, O'Hare's wingman discovered his guns were jammed. He was forced to turn away. Butch O'Hare stood alone between the Lexington and the bombers.
Lieutenant Edward H. ("Butch") O'Hare, USN, (left)
Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach, USN.
Shaking hands in front of a Grumman F4F "Wildcat" fighter plane at an Oahu air base,
circa April-May 1942.
Both men were assigned to Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3),
of which Thach was Commanding Officer.
O'Hare didn't hesitate. Full throttle, he roared into the enemy formation. While tracers from the concentrated fire of the nine bombers streaked around him, he took careful aim at the starboard engine of the last plane in the V and squeezed his trigger. Slugs from the Wildcats six .50-caliber guns ripped into the Japanese bomber's wing and the engine literally jumped out of its mountings. The bomber spun crazily toward the sea as O'Hare's guns tore up another enemy plane. Then he ducked to the other side of the formation and smashed the port engine of the last Japanese plane there.
One by one he attacked the oncoming bombers until five had been downed. Commander Thach later reported that at one point he saw three of the bombers falling in flames at the same time. By now Thach and the other pilots had joined the fight. This was lucky because O'Hare was out of ammunition. The Wildcats took care of several more bombers and Lexington managed to evade the few bombs that were released. It was an amazing example of daring and shooting skill. Afterward Thach figured out that Butch O'Hare had used only sixty rounds of ammunition for each plane he destroyed. He had probably saved his ship. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and awarded the highest decoration of his country, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
With his Medal of Honor presentation, bond tours, and other commitments, Butch was out of combat from early 1942 until late 1943. On October 10, 1943, he flew with VF-6 in the air strikes against Wake Island. On this mission Alex Vraciu, the future ace, was Butch's section leader. Both O'Hare and Vraciu scored that day.
In November, 1943, the Americans landed in the Gilberts (Tarawa and Makin), and the carriers were covering the landings. Equipped with the new F6F Hellcats, the US fighter pilots owned the skies, and could protect the Navy's warships from Japanese aircraft. From their bases in the Marianas, the Japanese quickly developed tactics to send torpedo-armed Bettys on night missions against the US carriers. In late November they launched these low-altitude strikes almost nightly, in a deadly attempt to get at Enterprise and other American ships.
Ed O'Hare, now Enterprise Commander - Air Group (CAG), was deeply involved in developing ad hoc counter-tactics, the first carrier-based night fighter operations of the US Navy. As the primitive radars were very bulky, they were carried on the Enterprise, on the fairly large TBF Avengers, but not on the smaller and faster Hellcats. The plan required the ship's Fighter Director Officer (FDO) to spot the incoming Bettys at a distance and send the Avengers and Hellcats toward them. The radar-equipped Avengers would then lead the Hellcats into position behind the incoming Bettys, close enough for the Hellcat pilots to spot visually the Bettys blue exhaust flames. Finally, the Hellcats would close in and shoot down the torpedo-carrying bombers. All the planes on both sides would be flying at low level. The plan was experimental, complicated, risky, and necessary - if the Bettys were to be thwarted.
The night of November 27, 1943 was the first combat test of the plan, following an earlier mission that hadn't contacted the Japs. The 'Black Panthers', as the night fighters were dubbed, included two sections of three planes. Both included two Hellcats and one Avenger. Butch led his section from his F6F, Warren Skon flew on his wing; Lt. Cdr. Phillips piloted the TBF with radarman Hazen Rand and gunner Alvin Kernan crewing the plane. (Alvin Kernan's memoirs of his experiences as an enlisted man on US Navy carrier during WWII, Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey, describe this night in detail, from the perspective of the man who fired the Avenger's gun seconds before Butch disappeared. (The book also happens to be the best-written narrative of WWII naval aviation that I've read in a long time. I recommend it highly. But it's now out-of-print.)
The night's events were complicated and confusing: the Hellcats had trouble finding the Avenger, the FDO had difficulty putting any of them on the targets, and it was all new to everyone. Phillips, in his lightly armed Avenger, found some of the attacking Japanese bombers and surprisingly, shot two of them down. Following that brief action, in the dark, with nothing to be seen but the flaming gasoline from the downed Bettys burning on the water (for over an hour?), the O'Hare and Skon got into position behind the Avenger. About that time, the Avenger identified a Betty behind the Hellcats. Kernan fired at it. Moments later, O'Hare failed to respond to the radio; he had gone down.
What happened? There are three possible explanations:
For their roles in protecting the carrier and in carrying out the Navy's first combat night-fighting mission, Phillips, Rand, and Kernan were awarded Navy Crosses. (Cynics ever since have concluded that the Navy, having to choose between courts-martial or medals for the Avenger crew, opted for the latter, not wanting to admit that its biggest hero had been brought down by friendly fire.)
Having read Lundstrom's book, Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Edward O'Hare, and Kernan's memoirs, Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's World War II Odyssey, I'm inclined to accept Lundstrom's most likely explanation, and also his general conclusion. Both books are very well-written , and I recommend them to readers interested in this topic, not merely for the events of November 27, 1943.
O'Hare's original name was Orchard Field, which was renamed O'Hare International Airport in 1949 to honor naval pilot Lt. Cmdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare.
O'Hare International Airport is named for Lt. Cmdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, a World War II fighter pilot from Chicago known as one of the greatest heroes in naval history. O'Hare's incredible courage and effective leadership inspired Col. Robert H. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, to lead the charge to rename the Chicago-area airport (formerly named Orchard Field) in O'Hare's honor in 1949.
On February 20, 1942, the U.S.S. Lexington was approximately 400 miles from its destination of Rabaul Harbor in the Solomon Islands when the aircraft carrier was spotted by enemy patrols. Lt. O'Hare and another pilot picked up the formation of enemy fighters closing in on the Lexington and immediately ordered an attack. Within moments, his wingman's guns jammed, and without assistance, O'Hare carried out a swift and decisive strike on the enemy fighters, saving the U.S.S. Lexington and his fellow pilots.
For his heroic actions in battles near Marcus Island on August 31, 1943 and near Wake Island on October 5, 1943, O'Hare was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Gold Star, some of the Navy's highest honors.
Just one month later, in November 1943, O'Hare volunteered to lead his squadron on a daring mission to conduct the first-ever Navy nighttime fighter attack from an aircraft carrier. After receiving the go-ahead from his Admiral, O'Hare led the first fighter section to intercept a large force of enemy torpedo bombers, but his plane was lost in enemy action and never found. He was just 29 years old. On November 27, 1944, Butch O'Hare was declared dead. The U.S. Navy recognized his unparalleled bravery with the Navy Cross award. He is also listed in the Navy Memorial Foundation.
In his Congressional Medal of Honor winning flight to save the U.S.S. Lexington, Butch O'Hare flew an F4F-3 Wildcat. The Wildcat was an extremely basic flying machine - it had hand-cranked landing gear made primarily of bicycle chains and sprockets, manually-charged guns, vacuum-powered wing flaps, a simple electrical system, and no hydraulics. Despite its simple design, it was a tough plane with a high degree of pilot survivability in crashes. The Wildcat earned for the Grumman Aircraft Factory, where it was built, the nickname "The Iron Works."
There is still one reminder of that distant past when young men who fought America's battles in the skies knew it as Orchard Field. O'Hare's airport code used on tickets and baggage tags is ORD. A sense of history still has a place among all Chicago's achievements.
| The presentation offered in "Two Men, Two Lives" would have us believe that this is a tale of redemption; a little morality play that demonstrates the importance of recognizing the errors of one's ways, of atoning for one's misdeeds, of trying to do right and prevent one's sins from being visited on future generations. Those are all valuable lessons, but they have precious little to do with this story.
As described here, Edward O'Hare was nothing less than a corrupt lawyer and out-and-out hoodlum. Despite his having entered a profession in which he was expected, of all things, to uphold the law, he willingly broke it to enrich himself by engaging in a variety of unethical and illegal schemes in partnership with the most notorious gangster in American history, Al Capone. What's more, he served as Capone's attorney, aiding the mobster in setting up numerous illegal enterprises and helping to keep Capone and his cronies out of prison.
If "Easy Eddie" did eventually provide information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, it was not because he had an attack of conscience, wanted to right the wrongs he'd done, or sought to teach his son Edward Jr. (known as "Butch") the value of integrity -- he did it because he could see the handwriting on the wall (i.e., Capone was going to be nailed soon with or without his assistance), and by doing the feds a favor, he could secure an appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis for his son (presumably at expense of other worthy candidates who lacked the advantage of having mob-connected lawyers for fathers).
Perhaps Edward 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 Edward Sr., save that the old man traded on some mob connections to move his son to the head of the line for Annapolis.
Do we think Easy Eddie "was able to pass the value of integrity on to his son"? Hell, no. Quite the opposite: He taught his son that if you're clever enough and sufficiently lacking in moral values you can live a life of wealth and privilege by victimizing others, and if your gravy train should ever derail you can always grab a few last ladlesful by ratting on your associates.
Butch O'Hare was suitably honored when the Chicago airport known as Orchard Depot was renamed O'Hare International in 1949. It's unfortunate that he and the airport have to share the O'Hare name with his criminal father.
Veterans Day is right around the corner.
It's an opportunity for us to support our troops, our country and show appreciations for our local veterans. It's another way to counter the Anti-Iraq campaign propaganda. Would you like to help? Are there any VetsCoR folks on the Left Coast? We have a school project that everyone can help with too, no matter where you live. See the end of this post for details.
Three Northern California events have been scheduled and we need help with each:
Veterans in School - How you can help if you're not close enough to participate directly. If you are a veteran, share a story of your own with the children. If you have family serving in the military, tell them why it's important that we all support them. Everyone can thank them for having this special event. Keep in mind that there are elementary school kids.
Help us by passing this message around to other Veteran's groups. I have introduced VetsCoR and FreeperFoxhole to a number of school teachers. These living history lessons go a long way to inspire patriotism in our youth. Lets see if we can rally America and give these youngsters enough to read for may weeks and months ahead. If we can, we'll help spread it to other schools as well.
THANK YOU troops and veterans for your service to the USA!
Good Morning and welcome Meg33.
Thank you for "falling in" at the Foxhole. We do know that the Foxhole is used by teachers and families providing home schooling so we thank you for the compliment that it is a good resource for education.
I learn something everyday from these threads.
Don't be shy about posting, we don't bite and we do encourage discussion.
Our computer(Dell Dimension 4500S) Froze on us yesterday. Right after I clicked on Disconnect in the internet icon in the system tray. The 13th time it has happened since we got the computer in September 2002. It's working O.K. for right now.
Be sure to update your anti-virus software and ge the very latest critical updates for your computer.
Through prayer, finite man draws upon the power of the infinite God.
LOL. Well good, and you are quite welcome. SAM and I enjoy bringing the Foxhole to everyone, our readers and readers who post are very important to us.
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