Today in History, February 20: 1942 – Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare saves his ship. The USS Lexington was initiating a raid on Rabaul, a Japanese stronghold. However the Task Force was spotted, and many Japanese aircraft were sent to destroy the valuable aircraft carrier. Lt. O’Hare was part of the “CAP”, or Combat Air Patrol for the Lexington (CV-2).
O’Hare singe-handedly shot down five of the attacking “Betty” bombers, effectively saving his ship, one of the few aircraft carriers the United States had available at the time. This also made him the US Navy’s first ace of WWII. About a year later, O’Hare, ever the hero, would be lost in unknown circumstances in one of the first night time fighter operations. O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named for Butch. What many people don’t know is that this American hero, who gave the “last full measure of devotion” for his country, was the son of a gangster. His father had been Al Capone’s lawyer. The senior O’Hare (Fast Eddie), according to the story, had exchanged his testimony against Capone for a chance for his son to enter the Naval Academy. He paid with his life, gunned down by Capone’s thugs. As a result, thousands of American sailors aboard the Lexington were saved due to Butch’s heroism.