Avenging Pearl Harbor…Again

Today in History, April 18: 1943 – One year to the day after US forces avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor by bombing the Japanese mainland, including Tokyo, they carried out “Operation Vengeance”, a plan to assassinate the high level IJN Admiral who had planned the assault on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Yamamoto had studied in the US before the war, and had seen our incredible industrial capacity, and seen Americans as most Japanese had not. The 1970 movie Tora, Tora, Tora quotes him as saying after the attack, “I fear all that we have done is to awake a sleeping giant, and fill him with a terrible resolve”. The quote cannot be verified, but his belief in the statement can; as his comrades celebrated in the days after Pearl Harbor, he was nearly despondent. When American cryptographers discovered that he would be at Rabaul on a trip to improve morale after the loss of Guadalcanal, orders from the highest levels of American government and forces, (FDR – Nimitz – Halsey) ordered his demise. A squadron of long range P-38 Lightning twin engine fighters ambushed Yamamoto’s Betty bomber and sent it flaming into the jungle below while his Zero escort looked on helplessly.

An American Hero

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.