A Legacy of Second Chances
Lieutenant Commander Butch was a U.S. fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington in the South Pacific. Butch had already proven himself an apt pilot and an American wartime hero. His final heroic war action, however, took place on the night of November 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier.
During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, Butch’s Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found.
Earlier in the bloody world war, on February 20, 1942, as the world wondered where to turn during this new global contest, Butch’s entire squadron was sent on a mission. After they were airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that his fuel tank indicator was in a dire position. 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 carrier, he saw a squadron of Japanese bombers speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was 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 the Japanese planes from the fleet.
Butch dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. He 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. Commander Butch 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, pilot Butch 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.
For that action Lieutenant Commander Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of WWII and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just over a year later he would be killed at the age of 29.
Four years before his death, Butch’s father, Eddie sat lifeless in his car. Eddie was a lawyer. He was a great lawyer, well known in the city and well liked. He had spent many years handling the legal affairs of his boss, a legend in the city, and his holding company. And there were many legal affairs to handle in this diverse, growing and very profitable business enterprise.
Eddie was paid well by his organization for his legal expertise and services. He was not in want. Over the years he had amassed a small fortune. The family dined at the nicest places in the city, attended the finest shows and was able to afford the best schooling for their children, including young Butch.
They lived in a company-sponsored mansion in the city, which took up an entire city block and was used for entertaining various VIPs and dignitaries. Young Butch was often by his dad’s side meeting and talking with the city’s best-connected politicians, business leaders and entertainers. Eddie loved his job but loved taking care of his family even more.
But on this particular day, lawyer Eddie was nervous, and concerned his services were no longer required in his organization’s ever-changing business. He was prepared for a radical change.
There was a point, months previously, when Eddie decided to secretly become an informant for the Internal Revenue Service. It was with his help that the government convicted and imprisoned his boss, Al Capone, for income tax evasion. Eddie would not see the day of his son’s departure to war, because this turn of events would cost him his life in a blaze of gunfire as Eddie sat, quietly, nervously, but at peace, in his car, which was owned by his now, convicted ex-boss.
The father, Eddie O’Hare, had done and seen enough, and desired to start over and make a new name for his son, whom he loved dearly.
The son, Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare was an American naval aviator of the United States Navy, who became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II. In 1945, after Butch’s death, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS O'Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor.
A few years later, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested that the name of Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport be changed as a tribute to Butch O'Hare. On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed O'Hare International Airport to honor Edward O'Hare's bravery.
The airport displays a Grumman F4F-3 museum aircraft replicating the one flown by Edward Butch O'Hare during his Medal of Honor flight. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on display was recovered virtually intact from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it sank after a training accident in 1943, when it went off the training aircraft carrier USS Wolverine (IX-64).
And so, the love of a son, and the desire to clear his name for future generations may very well have cost Eddie Sr. everything. However, this decision, his legacy, and his mostly misguided life created a wartime hero that saved thousands of lives in the line of duty and help end a war.
So, despite the sins of the father and the bad outcomes that you may be experiencing, now is the time to break the cycle and create your legacy and engage in meaningful, transformational community - you might just save a life or two.
And this is why, Legacy Matters…
Featurette No. 5 (c) www.legacyletters.xyz
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