CHICAGO (CBS) — Seventy-five years after he became the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace of World War II, a Medal of Honor winner was being honored at the airport that now bears his name.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare single-handedly shot down five of nine Japanese bombers attacking his aircraft carrier, the Lexington, on Feb. 20, 1942. The other bombers dropped their munitions, but missed the carrier. O’Hare was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and in 1949, the city renamed Orchard Depot Airport as O’Hare International Airport.
The airport is home to a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat similar to the one O’Hare flew over the Pacific. The restored Wildcat on display was recovered from Lake Michigan, where it had crashed on a training exercise.
O’Hare was lost at sea, and presumed dead, after his F6F Hellcat went down in 1943 during one of the Navy’s first nighttime fighter attacks.
A picture of O’Hare receiving his Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt also is on display, along with the actual medal.
A large crowd gathered at the Butch O’Hare exhibit at Terminal 2 on Friday for what was dubbed a rededication of the airport and a chance to honor the man considered one of the greatest Naval aviators of all time.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the Chicago City Council’s unofficial historian, expressed the thanks of a “grateful city and a victorious nation which owes so much to Butch O’Hare and the greatest generation of heroes.”
About 35 members of the O’Hare family came from as far away as Colorado and Alaska on Friday to mark the anniversary of his heroic actions in 1942. O’Hare’s niece, Patsy Lowry, said it was
“It means that someone who does something significant is important always, and that each of us should strive to contribute to our freedom,” she said.
Many of the same family members were on hand 25 years ago at O’Hare for the 50th anniversary celebration, which Burke also helped host.