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Edward O'Hare - FU Hero

Posted by Jolly on May 29, 2009

Lt Edward "Butch" O'Hare

Edward "Butch" O'Hare. Butch O’Hare’s name graces the second busiest airport in the world located in Chicago. We all know about the Chicago landing strip but for those of us interested in heroes of the past, FU wants to reemphasize why they put this great man’s name on the field. Butch was a graduate of Annapolis and after doing his first required sea duty; he fulfilled his desire to fly airplanes by being selected to go to Pensacola for naval flight training. In November of that same year, His father, a wealthy business man, was gunned down by Capone’s men presumably for providing information to the feds concerning Capone. Corruption in Chicago…go figure.
Arriving at 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. After finishing his training, Butch was assigned to the USS Saratoga where he would work for the great “Jimmy “ Thach who would be his XO. Thach had a propensity to show the new guys how bad they sucked by whipping their asses in a dog fight while reading a newspaper or eating his lunch. Butch was an exception; this impressed Thatch and he took Butch under his mentorship as a rising star flying wise.
Thach & O'Hare in Wildcats, April 1942On 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 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 Thatch led six Wildcats into the air to intercept nine twin-engine enemy bombers. In the 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.
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 Thatch 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.
Butch was killed in combat November 27 1943 during combat conducted using newly formed tactics for night ops. Much of this plan was instigated and trained to by O’Hare and the details from that night are confusing to say the least. Butch is thought, by some, to have been brought down by friendly fire during the night mission he was on to destroy some “Bettys”. Further research concludes that he was probably brought down by a lucky shot from a Betty nose gunner. Whatever the cause, Butch was a hero and FU wants to give him supreme credit in our modern era so as to remember another of America’s finest and most important generation.


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