and Eddie O'Hare: The War Hero Whose Father Was a Partner With Gangster
eRumor Butch O'Hare, the war
hero after whom Chicago's O'Hare airport is named, was the son of
mob lawyer Eddie O'Hare. The email tells the story of Butch
O'Hare's bravery as well as a decision of conscience on the part
of his father that may have contributed to his character.
Lt. Commander Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare is the subject
of many articles that document his outstanding service as a pilot
during World War II. He was presented with the Congressional
Medal of Honor for his actions against the Japanese and defending
the U.S.S. Lexington. According to the official
citation of his Medal of Honor, he won the recognition
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial
combat..." It says he was the section leader of
Fighting Squadron 3 on February 20, 1942. According to an
article on aviation-history.com,
six Wildcats were sent into the air to protect the Lexington from
Japanese bombers. O'Hare and his wingman spotted the enemy
planes first. The wingman's guns jammed, however, and the
other four planes were too far away, so O'Hare faced 9 twin-engine
Japanese bombers alone. He shot down five of them and
damaged a sixth before other U.S. fighters arrived. No enemy
bombs made it to the Lexington. The Medal of Honor citation
calls it "...one of the most daring, if not the most daring,
single action in the history of combat aviation..."
O'Hare was killed in November of 1943 during the battle for the
Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific. He was accidentally
shot down by another American plane during a night mission.
It is true that Chicago's O'Hare airport is named after him and
there is a restored airplane on display there similar to the one
that O'Hare flew.
Butch's father, Eddie O'Hare, was an attorney and business partner
of the famous gangster Al Capone. He helped run Capone's
horse and dog track operation in Chicago. He was described
as being devoted to his son. There was a point when Eddie
decided to secretly become an informant for the Internal Revenue
Service and it was with his help that the government convicted and
imprisoned Capone for income tax evasion. Some have said
that Eddie became an informant because of a change of heart and a
desire to go straight. Others have said it was merely his
way of saving his neck in the face of potential prosecution.
It was an article in Collier's magazine in 1947 about Eddie
O'Hare's work as an informant that helped win public favor for him
and the eventual naming of Chicago's airport after his war-hero
sun. The article was written by Frank J. Wilson, the
Treasury Department investigator with whom O'Hare had worked on
the case. The article was titled "Undercover man: he
trapped Capone." Wilson called O'Hare one of his best
Last updated 6/20/01
A real example of the story as it has been circulated:
One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare.
He was a fighter pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier
Lexington in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.
After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that
someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough
fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader
told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly he dropped out of
formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the
mothership, he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of
Japanese bombers were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The
American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but
defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time
to save the fleet. Nor, could he warn the fleet of the approaching
danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove
into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed
as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.
Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many
planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent.
Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to at
least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes
as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do
anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another
direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped
back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event
surrounding his return. The film from the camera mounted on his plane
told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect
his fleet. He had destroyed five enemy bombers. That was on February 20,
1942, and for that action he became the Navy's first Ace of WWII and the
first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year
later he was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town
would not allow the memory of that heroic action to die. And today,
O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this
great man. So the next time you're in O'Hare visit his memorial with his
statue and Medal of Honor. It is located between terminal 1 and 2.
Story number two:
Some years earlier there was a man in Chicago called
Easy Eddie. At that time, Al Capon virtually owned the city. Capone
wasn't famous for anything heroic. His exploits were anything but
praiseworthy. He was, however, notorious for enmeshing the city of
Chicago in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.
Easy Eddie was Capone's lawyer and for a good reason. He was very good!
In fact, his skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a
long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only
was the money big; Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his
family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the
conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an
entire Chicago city block. Yes, Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago
mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around
him. Eddy did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved
dearly. Eddy saw to it that his young son had the best of everything;
clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no
object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even
tried to teach him right from wrong. Yes, Eddie tried to teach his son
to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than
he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things
that Eddie couldn't give his son. Two things that Eddie sacrificed to
the Capone mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son: a good name
and a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision.
Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches
he could lavish on him. He had to rectify all the wrong that he had
done. He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Scar-face
Al Capone. He would try to clean up his tarnished name and offer his son
some semblance of integrity. To do this he must testify against The Mob,
and he knew that the cost would be great. But more than anything, he
wanted to be an example to his son. He wanted to do his best to make
restoration and hopefully have a good name to leave his son. So, he
testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of
gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. He had given his son the greatest
gift he had to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.
I know what you're thinking.
What do these two stories have to do with one another?