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 (Easy 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.
Today in History, February 20, 1895:
Frederick Douglass dies of either a heart attack or stroke in Washington DC after having appeared at an event of the National Council of Women where he received a standing ovation.
Thousands paid their respects at his funeral before he was returned to New York City to be interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in his family plot.
Douglass had been born circa 1818 (he never knew his actual birth date) into slavery in Maryland.
In 1838, on his third attempt, he escaped slavery. In the coming years Frederick Douglass became a well respected orator and statesman for the growing abolitionist and equal rights movements, impressing his listeners with his intellect and powerful messages.
“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe.
In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.” – Frederick Douglass