> 1941-1950 Illinois State Society History

1942: Butch O'Hare saves his ship

1942: Butch O'Hare saves his ship

Navy pilot Lt. Cdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare was flying his Grumman Wildcat fighter on February 20, 1942 when he and his wingman spotted a formation of nine Japanese bombers headed in the direction of their convoy near the Marshall Islands.

After his wingman's guns jammed, Butch was the only defender to face the nine Japanese planes that were lined up in a V formation to attack his aircraft carrier, The USS Lexington. In just ten minutes, Butch shot down five Japanese planes and damaged a sixth when other American planes from his ship finally were able to join the battle to chase off the remaining three planes. An ace is defined as a pilot who shot down five or more enemy planes.

Butch O'Hare was the first US Navy fighter pilot to become an ace in World War II and the first to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

O'Hare also was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He defintely saved the lives of 1,700 American seamen who were on board his carrier as well as the lives of men who were on nearby escort ships. Butch's squadron commander said of the dogfight, "O'Hare just outnumbered them."

Orchard Field (ORD) was named in honor of Butch in 1949 and is now called O'Hare International Airport.

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