On this day in 1943, Lt Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare's plane was shot down and went missing.
So who was he?
Butch O'Hare was the son of Eddie O'Hare, mob lawyer and business manager to Al Capone, who, most likely provided information on Capone to get him indicted. Butch graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1939, and after two years, signed up for flight training and became a decent aviator. What made him known was his heroics in 1942. Nine Japanese bombers were heading towards the USS Lexington. O'Hare and his teammate, "Duff" Dufilho, were the only two standing between the bombers and the carrier. Dufilho's guns jammed, so it was Butch, all alone, with enough ammo for under 35 seconds of shooting.
That's right. One against nine.
Butch O'Hare managed to shoot down three bombers and damage two more while only getting shot once (friendly fire!) He did get credit for shooting down five planes and became the war's first ace. His heroics saved the USS Lexington and lots of sailors' lives. And like a true guy from the Midwest, Butch figured it was no big deal, and went back to work. The Navy thought he was a hero. And O'Hare became the first naval aviator to be awarded with the Medal of Honor and paraded him around to raise money for the war effort.
On O'Hare's final mission, the Japanese were running night missions to bomb carriers. As the CAG aboard the USS Enterprise, O'Hare was part of a team to stop them in what was then experimental night operations off of a carrier. And the first time it was ever put into practice, Butch O'Hare led the team to defend the Task Group and their job was to fly into the mass of Japanese planes, create chaos and destroy the enemy. Unfortunately, Butch O'Hare's plane was shot down and never to be recovered.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
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 February 20, 1942. Having lost the assistance of his teammates, Lieutenant O'Hare interposed his fighter 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 machine gun and cannon fire. Despite this concentrated opposition, Lieutenant 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.
So if you're at O'Hare this week, hoist a toast to Butch O'Hare, an American hero.
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