Saturday, February 20, 2016

America's first WWII Ace

On this day in 1942, Edward O'Hare became the first American ace of World War II.  He was also the first Navy man to receive the Medal of Honor.  Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is named after him.

Image via El Wik

O'Hare died a year later.  The famously rugged Hellcat wasn't tough enough to save his life during a night mission against a flight of torpedo bombers.

9 comments:

Sherm said...

It'd be interesting to know how many other planes, such as O'Hare's, simply disappeared in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Other's at least saw O'Hare disappear in the darkness.

There are cenotaphs to the missing in both Hawaii and the Philippines. O'Hare is listed in Hawaii. My mother's cousin, who disappeared during a flight over Bougainville in 1943, is listed in Manila.

The "official" death dates for those gone missing can be rather odd. The cousin, for example, "died" in 1946 despite disappearing in November 1943.

Old 1811 said...

Butch's old man, "Fast" Eddie O'Hare, was a business associate of Al Capone's. He dimed Al out to the G because Butch wanted to go to the Naval Academy, which wouldn't happen if his dad was in Federal prison.
In 1939, after Capone went to prison, Eddie was stopped at a traffic light on Ogden Avenue in Chicago when two people in the truck beside him had two simultaneous serious shotgun accidents, which unfortunately blew Eddie's head off.
But Butch got to go to Annapolis, and the rest is history.

Old 1811 said...

Sorry. Lt. Edward O'Hare,jr., was known as Butch. I didn't notice that you didn't mention that until I had posted the above comment.

Old NFO said...

The Hellcat on display at ORD has a nice write up on O'Hare...

Old 1811 said...

Hate to sound pedantic, but I remembered it as a Wildcat, not a Hellcat. I just looked it up, and it is in fact an F4F-3 Wildcat.

aurictech said...

O'Hare flew a Wildcat when he made ace in a single mission. When he was lost in action, he was flying a Hellcat.

Both planes contributed to the reputation that "Grumman Iron Works" had of building rugged aircraft for the Navy.

Ken said...

That Wildcat is about the only redeeming quality ORD has, for my money. :-)

Old 1811 said...

Aurictech is correct. Butch made his bones in a Wildcat (Hellcats didn't exist yet), and he was killed in a Hellcat.
I was referring, of course, to the Wildcat on display at O'Hare airport.
Incidentally, the Wildcat on display had no actual connection to Butch O'Hare, but it does have its own story. It was recovered almost intact from the bottom of Lake Michigan. Because both coast were vulnerable to espionage and torpedoes, the Navy had at least one training aircraft carrier in the Great Lakes to train pilots in carrier takeoffs and landings in a safer environment. Of course, carrier operations are by their very nature dangerous offenses against the laws of physics, so there are quite a few Wildcats, Avengers, and Dauntlesses at the bottom of the lakes.
The display Wildcat was repainted in the colors the plane O'Hare flew during his history-making mission.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Interestingly enough, those two training carriers were coal fired paddle wheel steamers, the Wolverine and the Sable.