A subsequent publicity shot. Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters, of Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3) in flight near Naval Air Station, Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii, 10 April 1942. The planes are Bureau # 3976 (F-1, foreground), flown by VF-3 Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach, and Bureau # 3986 (F-13), flown by Lieutenant Edward H. O'Hare. Both of these aircraft were lost a little less than a month later with USS Lexington (CV-2), during the Battle of Coral Sea.

How many people flying into O’Hare International Airport, Chicago know who O’Hare was?

On 20th February 1942 Lieutenant Edward H. O’Hare made his name during the aerial defence of the USS Lexington when he and his wingman were the last airborne pilots able to take on nine Japanese Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers headed for the carrier. When his wingman’s guns jammed it was left to O’Hare to take on the bombers and his extremely accurate gunnery shot down three of them – at the time it was believed he shot down five. The remaining bombers were so disrupted that none hit their target.

It was a remarkable achievement to become an ‘Ace’ in just one combat mission and O’Hare became the first naval aviator to receive the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3 on February 20, 1942.

Having lost the assistance of his teammates, Lieutenant O’Hare interposed his fighter between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machine gun and cannon fire.

Despite this concentrated opposition, Lieutenant O’Hare, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point.

As a result of his gallant action – one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation – he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

Seated in the cockpit of his Grumman F4F "Wildcat" fighter, circa spring 1942. The plane is marked with five Japanese flags, representing the five enemy bombers he was credited with shooting down as they attempted to attack USS Lexington (CV-2) northeast of the Solomon Islands on 20 February 1942. The censor has blanked out the Fighting Squadron Three "Felix the Cat" insignia below the windshield.

An Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber plunges towards the water after being shot down during an engagement with U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters from Fighting Squadron VF-3 defending the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) off Rabaul, New Britain, 20 February 1942.

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‘Australia’s Pearl Harbour’ – the bombing of Darwin

19th February 1942: ‘Australia’s Pearl Harbour’ – the bombing of Darwin

After all the noise had gone and everything was quiet it was great fun talking about how we felt while the raid was on. Well, I for one had the wind up properly, but after it was over I was fine again but while it was on I hugged the ground pretty close.




A Jewish forced labour gang in Dresden

18th February 1942: A forced labour gang in Dresden – anti Nazi Germans soften persecution of Jews

Different foreman, different supervisor, again both were very-humane and anti-Nazi. “Don’t say that we treated you well, not at the Community either, rather say we were bad; otherwise we’ll be in trouble.” “Look, I can’t tell you, ‘Work more slowly’ you have to know that yourself,” etc., etc.




Marched into captivity on Singapore

17th February 1942: Marched into captivity on Singapore – witness to the ‘Sook Ching’ massacre

Next I saw a column of at least a hundred Chinese civilians being marched across a pedang in the same direc- tion as us. They wore white shorts and white T-shirts but were blindfolded. It struck me then as strange that we had not also been blindfolded. The future of these hapless Chinese, I thought, looked especially gloomy. It was obvious that they were about to be killed.




Heroic work saves HMS Thrasher from oblivion

16th February 1942: Bomb stuck on submarine – Heroic work saves HMS Thrasher from oblivion

I got a rather startled report back that there was what appeared to be a bomb lying on the fore-casing just under the gun, and there was a hole in the casing which seemed to indicate that something had gone into the casing and which might be causing this noise. I went up on the bridge myself and went down to investigate, and there, sure enough, there was a bomb lying on the casing – about two feet long it was.




The Fall of Singapore

It later transpired that the Japanese had brought up their veteran troops. As we had defended our ground so well, they thought we were a crack regiment under the direct command of General Wavell. These enemy companies acted more or less independently, and had few lines of communication. Their leaders had therefore not been able to inform them of the cease-fire, and as a result this was our worst period, as, without weapons, we were picked off one by one.




The last gallant battle of HMS Li Wo

14th February 1942: The last gallant battle of HMS Li Wo – Lieutenant T. Wilkinson, R.N.R. wins Victoria Cross

H.M.S. Li Wo hoisted her battle ensign and made straight for the enemy. In the action which followed, the machine guns were used with effect upon the crews of all ships in range, and a volunteer gun’s crew manned the 4-inch gun, which they fought with such purpose that a Japanese transport was badly hit and set on fire.




Desperate last hours in Singapore

13th February 1942: Japanese invasion – Desperate last hours in Singapore

Down below I found an air raid shelter built entirely of large tins of corned beef, and as I dived in, it was explained that the bomb splinters could slice through the sides of a ship, but could not penetrate the corned beef. Good old Admiralty ham. As the bombs exploded all around us I thought of those children standing on Clifford Pier unprotected.




Heroic attempt to halt the ‘Channel Dash’

12th February 1942:German warships breakout – Heroic attempt to halt the ‘Channel Dash’

After ten minutes flight his small force was heavily attacked by Messerschmitts and F.W. 190’s; despite these attacks, which had inflicted some damage on all his aircraft and separated him from his fighter escort, he flew on undeterred. He them encountered a withering anti-aircraft fire, which shot saw most of his port wing, but was observed to regain control of his aircraft , straighten up and fly on steadily towards the battle cruisers. In this manner he led the whole of his formation over the enemy destroyer screen into a position where they could launch their torpedoes.




The Japanese view of a ‘serene death’

11th February 1942: Invasion of Burma – the Japanese view of a ‘serene death’

The rest of the company, armed with rifles and bayonets, advanced in high spirits, bypassed the west of the hill where the enemy might be positioned, and kept moving south along the River Salween in the early morning light. Unexpectedly we found several tents. We advanced and stabbed a few men who were outside.