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.