Butch and Eddie O’Hare: The War Hero Whose Father Was a Partner With Gangster Al CaponeTruth!


Summary of 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.

The Truth:

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 undercover men.

Last updated 6/20/01

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

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 the flaeet.

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?

Well, you see, Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.