Friday, May 28, 2010

The O’Hare Family Name

If you have ever seen greyhounds chasing a mechanical rabbit around a dog track, you have seen the most conspicuous contribution of a Chicago businessman known as Edward O’Hare. He did quite well for himself in the Second City during the Prohibition era, but, unfortunately, got mixed up with a very rough crowd. Legend has it that he was an associate of Al Capone.

Edward O’Hare came to a very bad end. He died as a result of a blast of submachine gun fire. A great many people on both sides of the law figured that O’Hare had gotten what he deserved. One of O’Hare’s mourners was his son, Butch, who had gone to military school. Some reports are that his father had asked that his son receive a commission as a naval aviator in exchange for him turning state’s evidence against Capone. I can only imagine how young Butch felt at his father’s funeral; not only had his father died young, but under circumstances that forever put the O’Hare family name in disgrace.

Ironically, Butch O’Hare turned out to be a very talented fighter pilot. In early 1942, he and the Wildcat squadron he was leading shot down a group of Japanese bombers that were in danger of sinking his carrier. For his actions, O’Hare received the Congressional Medal of Honor and spent the next eighteen months living a dream life, selling war bonds in the States. Midway through 1943, the need for good fighter pilots was so great that Lieutenant O’Hare was called back into action. He was sent to the Pacific and died under still-mysterious circumstances. O’Hare left a young widow and a lot of grieving friends. In his short life, however, he achieved what many would have considered impossible: he redeemed his family name. Anyone who changes planes in Chicago will walk through the world’s busiest airport: O’Hare International, and will see a replica of Butch O’Hare’s Wildcat fighter.

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