I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Friday, February 20, 2015
Remembering the First American Flying Ace of WWII
was February 20. 1942 when an American Naval pilot became the first U.S.
Flying Ace of World War Two. Twenty-seven-year-old Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare made
history when his F4F Wildcat fighter intercepted nine Japanese bombers, not far
from the Solomon Islands, preparing to attack the USS Lexington.
Dufilho and O'Hare's Planes
plane was one of six fighters that took off from the Lexington’s deck to take on the nine incoming Japanese Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers. But only two
of the fighters were within striking distance of the bombers; O’Hare and “Duff” Dufilho.
Then Wildcats were flying in formation toward the Japanese bombers when Dufilho's guns jammed and he dropped off, leaving O’Hare to fly
solo into the enemy's formation. With remarkable skill, O’Hare
downed three of the bombers and heavily damaged two more in a matter of minutes,
using about 60 rounds per bomber.
Lt Comm Butch O'Hare
USS Lexington escaped without damage, and O’Hare was promoted to Lieutenant
Commander. He was also designated as the Navy’s first fighter ace. (The designation ace is only given to a pilot who had
downed five or more enemy planes.) O’Hare was also the first naval aviator to
be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery.
the next several months, O’Hare toured the country on promotional and war bond
tours. In June 1942, he was relocated to Maui, Hawaii and placed in command
of a group of combat pilots that he trained in fighting tactics.
did not fly a combat mission again until October 1943 when he took part in the
attacks on Wake Island. Then, on November 27, 1943, Butch O’Hare volunteered to
lead a team of three fighters during the Navy's first-ever nighttime fighter attack.
and his group took off from the deck of the USS Enterprise. But the mission
soon became muddled and radio contact with O’Hare was lost during the battle.
It is not known what happened to O’Hare or his Wildcat fighter, but no trace of
either was ever found.
November 1944, one year after the attack, Edward Butch O’Hare was officially listed as
dead. His wife Rita received her husband’s posthumous decorations, a Purple
Heart and Navy Cross.
continued to be honored, both during and after the war. A US Navy Destroyer was
named after him in 1945. And in 1949, the Chicago Airport was renamed O’Hare
International Airport in honor of the first Fighter Ace of WWII.