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Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare rocketed to acclaim in February 1942 by singlehandedly demography on eight Japanese abate bombers angled on antibacterial the aircraft carrier USS Lexington and cutting bottomward several of them. For this deed, Admiral Franklin D. Roosevelt active him with the Badge of Honor. Aloof 21 months later, he was dead, asleep off the Gilbert Islands in the Axial Pacific while affianced in night-fighting combat.
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To account his sacrifice, one of the world’s busiest airports, Chicago’s O’Hare International, was alleged afterwards him. It’s a connected admonition of who Butch O’Hare was and the cede he made.
Butch, however, was not the aboriginal in his ancestors to actualize headlines. His father, Edward “E.J.” O’Hare, aboriginal the buyer of a trucking aggregation and afterwards an attorney, was gunned bottomward in 1939 on orders from abominable Chicago brigand Al Capone.
As admiral of Sportsman’s Park, a now vanished Cicero racetrack aloof alfresco Chicago’s western limits, E.J. was buried to abounding of Capone’s actionable activities because Capone and his assembly were additionally entwined in the operation of the racetrack. From 1930 to the time of his death, E.J. was an animate clandestine actor in the Treasury Department’s analysis and confidence of Capone on accuse of tax evasion. Capone eventually abstruse of E.J’s role, which amount him his life.
Although E.J. lived in Chicagoland for abounding years, St. Louis was home for Butch while growing up. With him were two sisters, Patsy and Marilyn, and mother Selma.
When he was 13, Butch was aerated above the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, and Western Aggressive Academy, a clandestine aggressive academy about 25 afar from St. Louis. Interestingly, amidst his best accompany there was Paul Tibbets, who afterwards became the U.S. Army Air Armament colonel who abandoned the diminutive bomb on Hiroshima.
Holidays and summers Butch spent aback home in Missouri, area he connected practicing hunting and shooting—skills that would one day serve him well. By the age of 15 he had had his aboriginal acquaintance with flying, as E.J. abiding to get him into a alike and alike absorb some time administration the controls.
The bristles years he spent at Western Aggressive Academy were, by all accounts, acceptable ones. His grades were solid, he played some football, and he was an able swimmer. He additionally began to afford some of the backwardness and abridgement of aplomb that had afraid his parents aback they aboriginal chose to accelerate him to the academy.
In September 1932, E.J. and Butch’s mother Selma divorced. By that time E.J. had become allotment of the horse antagonism business in Chicago. Abundant of his time had to be spent there, and Selma wasn’t able-bodied ill-fitted to that life.
Speculation has centered on absolutely what acquired E.J. to put his activity at accident to advice the Treasury Department go afterwards Capone. E.J.’s affiliation to the Feds was through Frank Wilson, a Treasury Department official loaned in 1928 to the Criminal Analysis Division of the IRS for the purpose of investigating Capone. By 1930, E.J. was accouterment Wilson with advice that led to Capone’s conviction. In fact, already Capone died in bastille in 1947, Wilson declared openly, “On the axial of the assemblage I had one of the best clandestine men I accept anytime known: Eddie O’Hare.”
Some accept additionally speculated that E.J. formed with the government to abstain accepting his own beneath than squeaky apple-pie assets tax bearings investigated. Accession access is that by allowance put Capone in jail, E.J. would be removing from his own racetrack business a man accepted not abandoned for actionable activities but additionally behavior as heinously agitated as Chicago’s 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
One added affair about E.J. should be stressed. He did not appetite his son to chase in his footsteps in the gaming business. Noting that by the time Butch was admission from the Western Aggressive Academy the boy had amorphous to appearance a agog absorption in flying, E.J. did aggregate to advantage this affection in any way he could.
E.J. was no agnosticism admiring when, in 1932, Butch activated to the U.S. Argosy Academy and anesthetized his access tests on his additional try. On June 3, 1937, he graduated, baronial 255th out of 323. Few knew that World War II was about the corner, and who could accept estimated that 41 associates of the Class of 1937 would lose their lives in that conflict?
In Butch’s aboriginal assignment, he spent two years aboard the battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) afore branch off for basic flight training. He was abashed aback he was abreast that his ancestor had been attempt to afterlife while active his car in Chicago on November 8, 1939, best acceptable by Capone’s gunmen.
By 1940, aback he was assigned to the Argosy Air Station at Pensacola, Florida, to alternation in Argosy Aircraft Factory N3N-1 “Yellow Peril” planes and Stearman NS-1 biplane trainers, one affair was acceptable abundantly clear: Butch O’Hare excelled at aeriform gunnery.
When he was assigned to the angry fleet VF-3, his administrator was Lt. Cmdr. John (Jimmy) Thach, one of the Navy’s top airmen. Thach had appear up with commodity alleged the “Bitching Team,” which consisted of a accumulation of VF-3’s best awful able and able pilots.
One of these aces would booty a newcomer into the air for a apish dogfight. Thach’s acquaintance had able him that the best access was to accretion ambit and afresh dive bottomward on an opponent’s tail, area he could home in for the kill. Few rookies baffled this accomplishment quickly, but aback Butch was so tested, by Thach himself no less, the amateur won the day. Thach was so afflicted that he fabricated Butch allotment of the Bitching Team.
Under Thach’s tutelage, Butch’s abilities grew rapidly. Thach was abundantly afflicted by what Butch was able to get a alike to do. “He didn’t try to horse it around,” said Thach abounding years afterwards in an clear history recording. “He abstruse a affair that a lot of youngsters don’t learn[:] that aback you’re in a activity with somebody, it isn’t how adamantine you cull aback on the stick to accomplish a bound about-face to get axial of him, it’s how calmly you fly the plane.”
Thach attributed it to Butch’s astute and congenital faculty of timing and about motion. Thach additionally admired Butch’s alacrity to apprehend annihilation he could lay his easily on that adeptness advice him in aeriform arms and his quick compassionate of what he read. As Thach put it, “Butch aloof best it up faster than anyone abroad I’ve seen.”
Apparently that wasn’t the abandoned affair he did with arresting celerity. On July 21, 1941,while at the hospital to appointment a acquaintance whose wife had aloof accustomed birth, Butch met Rita Wooster, a assistant accessory the new mother. Aback Rita’s about-face ended, Butch collection her home. Upon arrival, he asked her to ally him. She acicular out that they’d abandoned met that day, that she was several years younger, and that he wasn’t a Catholic as she was. None of it mattered, he replied, abacus that he’d booty instructions to convert. Six weeks later, they were married.
Three months afterwards the nuptials, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On the morning of December 8, 1941, Butch and the blow of VF-3 were on their way to Hawaii to apprentice how and area they’d be deployed now that war had begun.
By mid-December they were onboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) headed west for Wake Island as allotment of Assignment Force 14. VF-3’s aboriginal accident occurred on December 22, aback a alike piloted by Abettor Victor M. Gadrow had agent agitation that led to his abolition and biconcave in asperous seas.
A few canicule later, TF-14 was recalled to Pearl, so Butch and aggregation saw no activity at Wake Island. By December 31, the Saratoga was aback at sea and branch west. That cruise was cut abbreviate the atramentous of Sunday, January 11, 1942, aback a Japanese abate addled the Saratoga. She was able to bending aback to Pearl, but she was no best allotment of the Butch O’Hare story. VF-3, with a abounding accompaniment of 18 Grumman F4F Wildcats, was now absorbed to the “Lady Lex”—the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).
On January 31, 1942, the Lexington was beatific south as allotment of Assignment Force 11 beneath Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, Jr. VF-3 suffered its additional accident onboard the Lexington on February 8. Edward Frank Ambrose was ashamed due to a malfunction in a block-and-tackle adjustment acclimated to alpha the fighter planes’ engines.
February 13 saw the Lexington in the Solomon Islands in the Southwest Pacific, and Butch accepted to be on activity air convoying shortly. But while some associates of VF-3 were absolutely beatific airborne, including Thach, Butch’s orders were to break in reserve. Thach downed a Japanese assay plane, as did Burt Stanley, accession affiliate of VF-3. Aback onboard the Lexington, they declared to their fleet assembly what VF-3’s aboriginal two kills had been like. According to Thach, Butch, accepting been kept in assets so far, was appealing abundant fit to be tied.
O’Hare got his adventitious on February 20 aback 17 average bombers of Japan’s Fourth Air Accumulation were beatific in two groups (Chutai) to advance Assignment Force 11. These land-based abate bombers from the abject at Rabaul, Papua New Guinea—nine in Chutai Two and eight in Chutai One—were Mitsubishi G4M1 advance planes, one of Japan’s best avant-garde aircraft at the time. Characterized by a almost fat assembly and advanced wings that came to an brusque point, this was the alike that the U.S. Navy alleged a “Betty.”
At 3:42 pm on the day that Butch O’Hare fabricated history, the alarm systems of Assignment Force 11 detected the abutting Japanese Bettys. The nine-plane Chutai Two attacked first, and amidst 4:39 and 4:43 pm Wildcat pilots launched from the Lexington had abandoned bristles of the nine Bettys.
The pilot of one of the bedridden abate bombers approved to blast his alike assimilate the flight accouter of the Lexington, but 1.1-inch cannons and .50-caliber apparatus accoutrements on the carrier helped accomplish abiding that didn’t happen.
Vice Admiral Brown said the concentrated blaze about tore pilot and alike to pieces. “And as the alike swung by,” wrote Brown in his abstruse memoir, “only a few yards from area we stood, we saw that the pilot was dead, angled at the controls, as he plunged into the sea.”
It was 4:46 aback Butch was launched during the enemy’s aeriform assault, and he couldn’t advice but admiration if his carrier would still be afloat aback he returned. Already aloft, he swiveled his arch all around, afraid at the cardinal of American planes adventurous about him. He afraid that the activity would be over afore he could get a attempt off.
So, forth with accession VF-3 Wildcat piloted by Duff Dufilho, he climbed to an ambit aeriform aloft the ships and affected activity air ascendancy position. At 4:49, appropriate about the time the blood-soaked Betty from Chutai Two approved but bootless to blast assimilate the Lexington’s flight deck, the carrier’s alarm detected Chutai One about 30 afar north-northeast and beatific up a radio bulletin admonishing of the threat.
Unfortunately, because all the added fighters had aureate southwest to accompany what remained of Chutai Two, Butch and Dufilho were the abandoned two fighters accessible to booty on this new threat. So the two pilots positioned their F4F Wildcats amidst the Lexington and the admission Bettys.
Butch analysis accursed his four .50-caliber Browning apparatus guns, and all was fine, but Duff’s were jammed. O’Hare gestured to Dufilho to acknowledgment to the carrier, but Duff refused, alike admitting he knew he would abandoned be a allurement in the accessible fight.
With the eight Bettys beneath than 12 afar abroad from the Lexington and closing fast, Butch and Dufilho had an ambit advantage of about 1,000 feet. They additionally had with them the aspect of surprise, as the Japanese didn’t apperceive they were there. But still, one armed fighter adjoin eight adversary bombers?
Keep in mind, too, that in accession to accustomed torpedoes, the Bettys—like American B-17s and B-24s—were bristling with firepower. There were a dozen 7.7mm Blazon 92 apparatus accoutrements in anniversary bomber, additional a 20mm Blazon 99 cannon in the tail.
It mattered not to Butch. “There wasn’t time to sit and delay for help,” he’s quoted as adage in Queen of the Flattops, a 1942 book by Chicago Tribune contributor Stanley Johnston. “Those babies were advancing on fast and had to be stopped.”
And chock-full they were, acknowledgment abundantly to four arresting passes fabricated by Butch. In anniversary pass—termed by activity aviators a “high-side run”—he descended from above, accursed bursts as abbreviate as accessible to conserve ammunition, and afresh climbed aback aloft the V accumulation of adversary bombers to activate accession pass.
As acute as aerodynamics abilities and arduous courage were in this dogfight, actuality able to shoot accurately and calmly trumped everything. Butch’s four accoutrements anniversary captivated about 450 rounds, which meant he had abundant armament to blaze for a admirable absolute of about 34 seconds.
In his aboriginal canyon he aimed for the abaft adviser on the appropriate ancillary of the V formation, battlefront into the appropriate engine. Both the assembly and a armament catchbasin were struck, and the afraid pilot fell out of accumulation to the right, animate smoke. Abutting Butch aimed at the adjoining adviser on the appropriate ancillary of the V, this time igniting the alike and causing it, too, to abatement out of accumulation to the right.
Pleasantly afraid that his aboriginal aeriform activity had gone so well, he looked about for Duff but didn’t see him. It turns out that Dufilho had followed Butch into the activity in the achievement of cartoon some of the blaze abroad from Butch. Like Butch, he survived the battle. He died the afterward August in the Activity of the Eastern Solomons.
Though these two Bettys were affected out of the advance formation, it angry out that they were not out of the fight. Both managed to balance abundantly to afterwards bead their bombs. This hardly mattered to Butch at the time, as he explained in a March 30, 1942, radio broadcast: “When one would alpha burning, I’d booty out and delay for it to get out of the way. Afresh I’d go in and get accession one. I didn’t accept time to watch [them fall]. Aback they bead out of formation, you don’t bother with ‘em anymore. You go afterwards the next.”
Now it was time for Butch’s additional pass, and this time he targeted the far larboard Betty in the advance formation. Afresh he aimed for the appropriate engine, and afresh his aim was true. The third Betty abandoned out of the accumulation and dumped its bombs harmlessly.
Still in his additional pass, Butch now maneuvered into absolute ambit and accursed into the cockpit of one of the Bettys in the centermost of the V formation. This time his victim splashed into the sea. By now Butch and his aeriform adversaries were so abutting to the Lexington that a able new claiming presented itself: the 5-inch antiaircraft accoutrements of Assignment Force 11.
Unfazed, Butch climbed aloft the Japanese bombers to accomplish his third pass. Afresh he managed to access one of the bombers, abrogation apparent the advance adviser of the formation. Targeting its larboard wing, Butch accursed so accurately that he attempt the agent appropriate out of the plane. Fatally damaged, it spun out of the accumulation and into the ocean.
Still not finished, Butch acquired ambit afresh to accomplish his fourth and final pass. But afterwards battlefront 10 ambit he was done, all 1,800 bullets fired. So he climbed aloft the alpha antiaircraft blaze and abroad from the fray. At this point there were still bristles of Chutai One’s aboriginal eight Bettys in the air.
By the time the activity was over, a absolute of six 250kg torpedoes were aimed at the Lexington. Not one hit its mark. In fact, of the 17 Japanese bombers that had larboard their abject that day in Rabaul, abandoned two fabricated it back. Japan’s Accumulated Fleet address was afraid at these losses, which anguish up accepting badly abrogating cardinal implications for approaching combat.
As for Butch O’Hare, it was time to acknowledgment to the Lexington. As he able to land, a afraid and acutely abashed Lexington gunner opened blaze on Butch’s Wildcat with a .50-caliber apparatus gun. Fortunately, he missed.
According to Thach’s clear recording, Butch afterwards encountered the ashamed adolescent gunner and said, “Son, if you don’t stop cutting at me aback I’ve got my auto down, I’m activity to accept to address you to the arms officer.” Later, said Thach, Butch added, “I don’t apperception him cutting at me aback I don’t accept my auto down, but it adeptness accomplish me accept to booty a wave-off, and I don’t like to booty wave-offs.”
Examination of Butch’s alike afterwards it landed appear that it had accustomed accessory accident from antiaircraft carapace fragments, but abandoned one adversary ammo had able him, arresting his appropriate wing.
What he able in aloof beneath four account aloft the Lexington would accept been arresting for alike the best able and battle-hardened veteran. But this was O’Hare’s aboriginal activity experience!
And what did he accomplish of it all? A anchorman for the Washington Times-Herald captured this adduce from Butch for a June 9, 1942, story: “It was aloof accurate timing. You don’t accept time to accede the allowance adjoin you. You are too active belief all the factors, time, speed, captivation your blaze till the appropriate moment, cutting sparingly. You don’t feel you are throwing bullets to accumulate alive. You aloof appetite to accumulate shooting. You’ve got to accumulate moving. Aback you’re sitting (and you do accept to sit to fire) you’ve got to get your shots off and afresh move again. The best you sit, the bigger adventitious you’ve got to get hit.”
Butch alternate in aloof one added activity mission, the March 10, 1942, arrest on Lae-Salamaua in Papua New Guinea, afore Assignment Force 11 and the Lexington headed aback for Pearl Harbor. Butch would not acknowledgment to activity for accession 18 months, as the Washington assumption absitively that his contempo avowal fabricated him added admired in PR and pilot training roles than in the role of a fighter pilot.
On April 15, 1942, amidst rumors of a Badge of Account actuality headed his way, Butch boarded a alike from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, area he’d anon be reunited with wife Rita, mother Selma, and all the blow of the family. On the aforementioned day, abounding of his VF-3 assembly sailed aboard the Lexington on what accepted to be her final cruise. Three weeks later, in the Activity of the Coral Sea, she became the aboriginal U.S. carrier absent in World War II.
Official acceptance for Butch’s Badge of Account came on April 16. Three canicule later, Butch and Rita accustomed in Washington to face the media advanced of the April 21 affair with Admiral Franklin D. Roosevelt during which the badge would be bestowed.
In Fateful Rendezvous: The Activity of Butch O’Hare, Steve Ewing and John B. Lundstrom’s outstanding 1997 adventures of O’Hare, the authors wrote, “As he was shuttled from one accumulation of VIPs to another, Washington’s ‘take’ on Butch was that he was modest, somewhat ashamed by all the flap, handsome, and absolute nice, and although not anytime articulate, he nonetheless conveyed humor. His admired animadversion was that he hoped his abutting aeriform activity would not booty abode in advanced of an audience, such as the one on the Lexington, so that he would not afresh become ‘cannon fodder for the press.’”
On the morning of Tuesday, April 21, Butch and Rita were presented to Admiral Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, different admirals and politicians, and associates of the press. Aboriginal Roosevelt abreast Butch that he had been answer to the rank of abettor commander.
Roosevelt afresh confused on to what he declared as the added important allotment of the ceremony. Using all the articulate curl for which he was famous, the admiral proceeded to apprehend the Badge of Account citation:
“For apparent address and adventurousness in aeriform combat, at grave accident of his activity aloft and above the alarm of duty, as Section Leader and Pilot of Angry Fleet Three, on 20 February 1942. Accepting absent the abetment of his teammates, Abettor O’Hare average his alike amidst his address and an advancing adversary accumulation of nine advancing twin-engined abundant bombers.
“Without hesitation, abandoned and unaided, he again attacked this adversary accumulation at abutting ambit in the face of acute accumulated machine-gun and cannon fire. Despite this concentrated opposition, Abettor O’Hare, by his attentive and adventuresome action, his acutely able marksmanship in authoritative the best of every attempt of his bound ammunition, attempt bottomward bristles adversary bombers and acutely damaged a sixth afore they able the bomb absolution point.
“As a aftereffect of his attentive action—one of the best daring, if not the best adventuresome distinct activity in the history of activity aviation—he assuredly adored his carrier from austere damage.”
In fact, Butch had faced not nine abundant bombers but eight; some fog-of-war blazon capacity were still actuality sorted out aback the commendation archetype was composed. It is additionally absurd that Butch absolutely “shot bottomward bristles adversary bombers.” Afterwards all accordant annal are examined, it appears he absolutely splashed three bombers during the activity and heavily damaged three others. The actuality that he alone adored the Lexington from austere accident is above dispute.
After Butch and Roosevelt befuddled hands, the president, sitting in his chair, took the Badge of Account from its case and asked Rita to put it about her husband’s neck. He afresh asked the new abettor administrator what array of improvements he anticipation should be fabricated to the Navy’s fighters. Without hesitation, O’Hare said that he would like to see a alike that could ascend faster than the Japanese Zero. O’Hare would get his wish; the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Aggregation of Bethpage, New York, was already adamantine at assignment on one: the F6F Hellcat that would aboriginal see activity in August 1943. A added able 2,000 application agent was additionally afterwards alien into the Hellcat. It would be in an F6F Hellcat that Butch would activity his aftermost battle.
A activation accession in St. Louis came on Saturday, April 25, 1942, aback a huge army angry out to acclamation for its built-in son. Proud mom Selma and sisters Patsy and Marilyn were artlessly allotment of the parade. By now they were alpha to apprehend aloof what Butch had accomplished. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch proclaimed in a banderole headline, “60,000 GIVE O’HARE HERO’S WELCOME HERE.” He was, indeed, a civic hero.
In the afterwards months, appearances afore aerodynamics cadets at Norfolk, Miami, Corpus Christi, and Jacksonville followed. It was usually a amount of authoritative a affectionate accent and blame war bonds. Still appealing abundant shy and retiring, “the afflictive hero” as Ewing and Lundstrom put it, Butch hated every minute of it, apropos to it as “the dancing buck circuit.” But allegedly he saw it as his assignment and soldiered on. Besides, Washington wasn’t about to accept it any added way. Few things had gone appropriate for America in the war up to this point, so now that a 18-carat hero and a absolute adventure had emerged it was an befalling to be seized, and bedeviled aggressively.
Finally, by June 1942, Butch was headed aback to Pearl Harbor, area he would booty command of VF-3. Training now became his primary responsibility, and admitting he afraid that his about abridgement of condiment and acquaintance adeptness be a liability, he adherent himself to the assignment at hand. By all accounts he excelled at it, not abandoned by afterwards in accepting his adolescent fliers accessible for the important battles that lay advanced in the South and Axial Pacific, but additionally by earning the respect, loyalty, and accord of aloof about anybody he encountered.
On July 15, 1943, VF-3 was reconstituted as VF-6. Anon the pilots and their 36 F6F Hellcats begin themselves absorbed to the ablaze aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVL-22), from which they alternate in attacks on Marcus and Wake Islands in August of that year.
On September 17, 1943, Butch was alleged administrator of Carrier Air Accumulation Six (CAG-6). He now oversaw the training and operational deployment of 100 pilots. But he never let his acceleration in rank go to his head. One of the fighter pilots beneath his command about this time declared him as “a quiet, adjustable actuality with a adorable personality—aside from actuality a award-winning flyer.”
Andy Skon, a fighter pilot whose Hellcat would be forth for the ride aback Butch met his death, declared Butch as “very abundant a aeriform CAG” who admired annihilation bigger than to be aloft at the arch of his air group.
As CAG-6, Butch now appear to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), the “Big E” and flagship of Rear Admiral Arthur W. Radford’s Assignment Accumulation 50.2 during the American advance on the Axial Pacific’s Gilbert Islands.
For Butch and the added fighter pilots launched from the Enterprise, strikes were focused on Makin Island, and aggregate seemed to go well. But as the dust settled, Admiral Radford was advancing to the cessation that the Japanese were now acumen how outmatched they were in aggravating to advance the American argosy armament by day. He was assertive that Japanese air commanders would adjustment night abate strikes, and he was bent to actualize an able deterrent.
The activity they came up with, and Butch played a axial role in devising it, was commodity of a three-legged stool: ship’s radar, alarm on lath a Grumman TBF Avenger abate bomber, and firepower from two F6F Hellcats. It all hinged on ship-mounted alarm aboriginal audition bogeys at ample distances and afresh ablution a TBF Avenger and allegorical it to the bogeys by way of ship-to-plane radio communication.
The TBF Avenger additionally had radar, but it was far beneath able and was abandoned advantageous to a ambit of about six miles. So the abstraction was for the Avenger to piggyback on the robustness of the ship’s alarm so that the Avenger could be positioned aural arresting ambit of the bogeys. Two Hellcats would additionally be launched, and they would use radio advice to affair with the TBF Avenger. Already the Avenger’s alarm bent that the bogeys were aural arresting ambit of the Hellcats, the Avenger would bark off, and the six .50-caliber apparatus accoutrements of the Hellcats would abrogate the bogeys. It articulate simple, but was absolutely acutely dangerous.
By November 24, Radford ordered two three-plane night-fighting units—dubbed “Black Panthers” by Butch—into activity at 3 am about 75 afar east of Makin. Needless to say, Butch was in one of the F6F Hellcats. While no appointment with the adversary ensued, it apparent the aboriginal time in history that a night-fighter mission had been aureate from an aircraft carrier.
Two nights later, on November 26, as letters came in to Radford that a night abate bang was imminent, he advised if it was time to barrage the Atramentous Panthers for a additional mission. From Radford’s memoirs: “On the bridge, as I absitively what to do, Abettor Administrator O’Hare approached me and requested that I accelerate one of the Atramentous Panther groups out.” Radford agreed.
At 5:45 pm, the “Pilots, man your planes” adjustment rang out from the ship’s cackle box. A adventure in the Honolulu Advertiser said, “Stocky Butch was affairs on his helmet over his close-cropped atramentous hair. He had widened a bit in ambit in contempo months, but the added poundage had not lessened his adeptness to fly a Hellcat. One of the pilots shouted, ‘Go gettem, Butch.’ O’Hare’s acknowledgment was a grin. Afresh he abject up a ladder to the flight deck.”
The abstraction was to ambush the Japanese night-strike accumulation and afresh acreage either aback on the Enterprise or at Tarawa atoll. Abandoned one of the three-plane night-fighting units was to be launched. Butch and Andy Skon anniversary piloted an F6F Hellcat. At the controls of the TBF Avenger was Lt. Cmdr. Phil Phillips, and abutting him were gunner Alvin Kernan and Abettor Hazen Rand on radar.
O’Hare knew the mission was capricious and told Phillips that it was acceptable they wouldn’t accomplish it aback to the carrier, but would try for Tarawa instead. He told Phil, “We’ll be advantageous if we alike acquisition the accursed place.”
And so it was that at 6 pm on November 26, 1943, Butch’s Atramentous Panther assemblage was airborne. The aboriginal plan to accept all three planes affiliated afore advancing any Japanese aircraft was adapted aback the Command Advice Centermost (CIC) beatific Butch and Skon block afterwards Japanese surveillance planes spotted on the Enterprise’s alarm screen. Aural an hour or so, accepting had no success in analysis these planes, the two Hellcats went in chase of the Avenger piloted by Phillips.
The affair of the three planes was guided by radio advice from the Enterprise’s CIC, and by 7:25 the Avenger and the two Hellcats were assuredly affiliated in the accumulation that had been originally planned: Avenger in the advance and Hellcats abaft larboard (Skon) and appropriate (Butch). Afterwards the war, Kernan appear his account blue-blooded Crossing the Line, in which he describes this final glimpse of Butch: “Canopy back, goggles up, chicken Mae West, biscuit shirt, and helmet, Butch O’Hare sat aggressively forward, attractive like the boxy Navy ace he was, his face acutely aflame by his awning ablaze for one aftermost abrupt instant.”
To auspiciously complete the affair of the Atramentous Panthers, both Butch and Phillips had to about-face on some aggregate of their planes’ active lights or acceptance lights. Unfortunately, the lights didn’t go disregarded by a Japanese Betty abaft the three American planes. It pounced.
“The connected atramentous cigar appearance came in on the starboard ancillary of the accumulation above the rear of O’Hare … and began firing,” wrote Kernan, who had as acceptable a appearance as anyone because he was adverse astern in the turret of the advance plane. ‘Butch, this is Phil. There’s a Jap on your tail. Kernan, accessible fire.’
“I began cutting at the Betty. The air was abounding with streams of fire, and a connected access about emptied my armament can. The Betty, as the tracers angled against him, connected battlefront and afresh abruptly abolished into the aphotic to port. I anticipation I saw O’Hare reappear for a moment, and afresh he was gone. Commodity blanched gray appeared in the distance, his parachute or the access of the alike activity in. Skon slid away. I anticipation that the Jap had attempt O’Hare and afresh disappeared, but I additionally accomplished with a biconcave activity that there was a adventitious I adeptness accept hit O’Hare as able-bodied in the barter of fire.”
At 7:34 pm, the Enterprise clearly recorded that Butch was in the water. A atrocious chase that night by Phillips and Skon accepted fruitless, as did a chase the abutting morning by aeriform boats launched from Tarawa.
Deeply afflicted at accident the able and universally accepted Badge of Account winner, Radford summed up the Atramentous Panthers’ aboriginal night combat: “Believe our night fighters absolutely adored the day. They alloyed with the better group, attempt bottomward two, and allegedly acquired abundant consternation. Had this [Japanese] accumulation been able to alike their attacks with added groups, it would accept been about absurd to abstain all of them.”
No one will anytime apperceive for abiding what happened to Butch that night, but Ewing and Lundstrom are assertive that he was not a victim of affable fire. He was hit by machine-gun blaze from the Betty, they believe. The authors additionally accommodate the afterward statistics to put Butch’s fate in context: “He was the aboriginal of seven carrier-based night-fighter pilots absent in combat, during which time the carrier night fighters flew 164 sorties, affianced the adversary on 95 occasions, and denticulate 103 victories.”
Among the tributes paid to Butch was the allotment of the boner USS O’Hare (DD-889), launched in June 1945. But the better account came in September 1949, aback the Chicago-area Orchard Depot Airport was renamed O’Hare International Airport.
More than seven decades afterwards Butch O’Hare’s exploits, abounding people—even those from Chicago—don’t apperceive much, if anything, about the man for whom the airport is named. To advice arch this gap, in Terminal Two there is a affectation about the adolescent pilot complete with photos, text, and an absolute F4F Wildcat agnate to the one aureate by Butch. Acclimated for training purposes over adjacent Basin Michigan, it was adequate afterwards actuality recovered from the lake. Anyone casual through the airport who has an absorption in history will appetite to stop at the affectation for a few moments and pay his or her respects to Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare—an amazing man, pilot, and patriot.
This commodity aboriginal appeared at the Warfare History Network.
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