USS Lexington fighters hit Japanese bombers

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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lee Pickles January 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I am looking for information on a Joseph Leland Danks who served as a fighter pilot off the New Lexingtyon in 1943? 1945?. I am interested in the plane that he piloted, markings, numbers, etc. Thanks for any help

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