Little Bits of History

Medal of Honor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2013
Edward "Butch" O'Hare

Edward “Butch” O’Hare

February 20, 1942: Lieutenant Edward O’Hare becomes the first American in World War II to be declared a flying ace. The 27-year-old naval aviator received the Medal of Honor (one of about 500 to do so during the war) for his aeronautic skill demonstrated on this day. Lt. “Butch” O’Hare began his military career at Annapolis when he graduated on June 3, 1937 as an Ensign. He began flight training in 1939. He eventually became proficient with a variety of planes and trained in aerobatics and aerial gunnery.

By 1942, Lt. O’Hare was assigned to the USS Lexington, one of the US Navy’s early aircraft carriers. Japanese bombers were headed toward the ship and were shown on radar while still about 35 miles out from the ship. Six planes were sent up to intercept the enemy. First two planes were sent to investigate and shot down one enemy plane. Two of the remaining planes were sent to engage another Japanese squadron that appeared on the radar. Another threat was seen on the radar and then disappeared.

Butch and his wingman, “Duff” Dufilho were the only two Wildcat pilots left to engage this new threat. Dufilho’s guns jammed leaving Butch alone to defend the aircraft carrier. He was armed with four 50-caliber guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun – or about 34 seconds of firing. Nine planes were attacking in a V pattern. O’Hare shot down one plane, veered to the other side and took out a second. They were now within the range of the anti-aircraft guns from the ship. While they were engaged, the shipboard guns were ineffective. Butch managed to shoot down three more planes before running out of ammo. As he approached the ship to land, his own anti-aircraft guns fired on him, missing him, too. Butch’s plane showed one bullet hole.

His last flight was the first night mission for the Navy’s aviators. O’Hare led the fighter attacks from the carrier and engaged a group of Japanese torpedo bombers. O’Hare’s plane was shot down and he was lost at sea. Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune proposed that Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport be renamed to honor the fallen hero. On September 19, 1949 the Chicago airport became O’Hare International Airport.

“Son, if you don’t stop shooting at me when I’ve got my wheels down, I’m going to have to report you to the gunnery officer.” – Butch O’Hare to the anti-aircraft gunner who shot at him

“How strange is this combination of proximity and separation. That ground – seconds away – thousands of miles away.” – Charles A. Lindbergh

“The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.” – Walter Raleigh

“If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport.” – George Winters

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Edward “Butch” O’Hare was born in 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents divorced in 1927 and Butch and his two sisters stayed with their mother. Edward Sr., a lawyer, moved to Chicago and worked with Al Capone for a time. He finally turned against Capone and helped the government build and prosecute a case against the mobster for tax evasion. He was shot to death in 1939, probably by a friend of Al Capone, a week before Capone was released from prison. There was some speculation at the time that Edward, Sr. turned state’s evidence in order to ensure his son would be admitted to the Naval Academy. Butch graduated from the Naval Academy on May 2, 1940.

Also on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
The Met – In 1872. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.
Ice Skating – In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Olympics.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on February 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    It was the Navy’s relatively small fighter-bombers that ended the Vietnam War after the Air Force’s big bombers failed. They failed because their making much sound(Rolling Thunder they called it) that the Vietcong had about 30 minutes to run and find sheter or to the side out of the bombers’ path- to the side as I did and noticed how much time they had to escape. Two days later I saw that the attacked Vietcong were back as if nothing had happened. The leader of that particular clan said there were 44 dead or injured, most of the injuries from splinters and rock cuts as they ran, out of 12,000 attacked. Having these numbers I called for my US Navy helicopter that I had exclusive use of, went to the aircraft carrier that I had seen the F-100 series fighter-bombers and talked with the admiral and Air Force general in charge of the bombings. In the next 7 days there were 7 raids by 5 F-100s(4 in one raid) on the 3 troublemaker Vietcong clans which caused them to cease their normal ways of supporting themselves,raiding, and went to work for Ho Chi Minh. Total cost of all those raids was half the cost of one Rolling Thunder raid. I said 4 in one raid-that was the raid that John Mccain disobeyed a direct order by going off on his own and killed many Vietnam citizens(no military personnel) that were allies of the United States- he spent many years in the Hanoi City Jail for murder. I took 2 previous shot down pilots back to the aircraft carrier but I left mad dog Mccain there to wish he was dead- President Johnson had said that he wanted me to get John Mccain to stand court-martial and be shot, the Judge Advocate said that to me also;but, John Mccain calling my friends,or anybody, filthy chinks did not deserve anything American. Later I found that charges had been filed for his disobeying a direct order,the order was to read a notice that said that the Socialist Republic Of Vietnam(North Vietnam) were allies ofthe United States. The previous day, on the orders from the Commanding Officer of John Mccain I watched the commanding officer hand the notice to John Mcacain and his ordering(with order) John Mccain to read it and watching John Mccain throw the notice in a trash can without even looking at it. From that disobeying a direct order John Mccain went on to killing those civilians(no military personnel). Unfortunatelyto many, Racist John Mccain failed two times to kill himself while in Hanoi City Jail(Hanoi City Jail in big letters was on top of the building he was in all those years).

    • Sherry said, on February 21, 2014 at 10:03 am

      In one sad way you are fortunate to be mentally ill, Bobby Dias. Your routine slander of war hero John McCain, President Obama, and others (living and dead) cannot be taken seriously. If you weren’t so clearly delusional, I think you’d have some ‘splainin’ to do when certain federal entities came knocking at your door.

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