Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare (March 13, 1914 – November 26, 1943) was an Irish-American naval aviator of the United States Navy who on February 20, 1942 became the U.S. Navy's first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. Butch O’Hare’s final action 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, O'Hare's F6F Hellcat was shot down…. A few years later, O'Hare was honored when Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested a name change of Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport as tribute to Butch O'Hare….
February 20, 1942…. At 1542 a jagged vee signal drew the attention of the Lex's radar operator. The contact then was lost, but reappeared at 1625 forty-seven miles west and closing fast. Butch O'Hare, flying F4F Wildcat BuNo 4031 "White F-15", was one of several pilots launched to intercept the incoming 9 Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers from 2. Chutai of 4. Kokutai, at this time five had already been shot down. At 1649, the Lexington's radar picked up a second formation of Bettys from 1. Chutai of 4. Kokutai only 12 miles out, on the disengaged side of the task force, completely unopposed. The carrier had only two Wildcats left to confront the intruders: Butch and his wingman "Duff" Dufilho. As the Lexington’s only protection, they raced eastward and arrived 1,500 feet above eight attacking Bettys nine miles out at 1700. Dufilho’s guns were jammed and wouldn’t fire, leaving only O'Hare to protect the carrier. The enemy formation was a V of Vs flying very close together and using their rear-facing guns for mutual protection. O'Hare's Wildcat, armed with four 50-caliber guns, with 450 rounds per gun, had enough ammunition for about 34 seconds of firing.
O'Hare's initial maneuver was a high-side diving attack employing accurate deflection shooting. He accurately placed bursts of gunfire into a Betty's right engine and wing fuel tanks; when the stricken craft of Nitō Hikō Heisō Tokiharu Baba (3. Shotai) on the right side of the formation abruptly lurched to starboard, he ducked to the other side of the V formation and aimed at the enemy bomber of Ittō Hikō Heisō Bin Mori (3. Shotai)[ on the extreme left. When he made his third and fourth firing passes, the Japanese planes were close enough to the American ships for them to fire their anti-aircraft guns. The five survivors managed to drop their ordnance, but all ten 250kg bombs missed. O'Hare's hits were so concentrated, the nacelle of a Betty literally jumped out of its mountings, after O'Hare blew up the leading Shōsa Takuzo Ito's Betty's port engine. O'Hare believed he had shot down five bombers, and damaged a sixth. Lieutenant Commander Thach arrived at the scene with other pilots of the flight, later reporting that at one point he saw three of the enemy bombers falling in flames at the same time.
In fact, O'Hare destroyed only three Bettys: Nitō Hikō Heisō Tokiharu Baba's from 3. Shotai, Ittō Hikō Heisō Susumu Uchiyama's (flying at left wing of the leading V, 1. Shotai) and the leader of the formation, Shōsa Takuzo Ito's. This last (flying on the head of leading V) Betty's left engine was hit at the time it dropped its ordnance. Its pilot Hikō Heisōchō Chuzo Watanabe tried to hit Lexington with his damaged plane. He missed and flew into the water near Lexington at 1712. Another two Bettys were damaged by O'Hare's attacks. Ittō Hikō Heisō Kodji Maeda (2. Shotai, left wing of V) safely landed at Vunakanau airdrome and Ittō Hikō Heisō Bin Mori was later shot down by LT Noel Gayler ("White F-1", VF-3) when trying to escape 40 miles from Lexington.
With his ammunition expended, O'Hare returned to his carrier, and was fired on accidentally but with no effect by a .50-caliber machine gun from the Lexington. O'Hare's fighter had, in fact, been hit by only one bullet during his flight, the single bullet hole in F-15's port wing disabling the airspeed indicator. According to Thach, Butch then approached the gun platform to calmly say to the embarrassed anti-aircraft gunner who had fired at him, "Son, if you don't stop shooting at me when I've got my wheels down, I'm going to have to report you to the gunnery officer."
Thach calculated that O'Hare had used only sixty rounds of ammunition for each bomber he destroyed; an impressive feat of marksmanship. In the opinion of Admiral Brown and of Captain Frederick C. Sherman, commanding the Lexington, Lieutenant O'Hare's actions may have saved the carrier from serious damage or even loss. By 1900 all Lexington planes had been recovered except for two F4F-3 Wildcats shot down while attacking enemy bombers.
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