The Price Of A Good Name
By James Maloney
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, Butch poked at his fuel gauge and realized someone had forgotten to top off His fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete the mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.
Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the Lexington he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese bombers was speeding their way toward the American fleet.
The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet and he couldn’t warn the fleet of the approaching danger.
There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert all those bombers from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. His wing mounted .50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking the surprised enemy planes one after another. Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition was spent.
Undaunted, he continued his assault. He dove at the planes, trying to at least clip off a wing or a tail, in hopes of rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships and dropping those bombs he was certain would take the lives of his friends and crewmates. Finally, the exasperated Japanese pilots took off in another direction.
Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped home to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect the fleet. He had destroyed five enemy bombers and for his actions on that day, February 20, 1942, he became the US Navy’s first ace of World War II and the first Naval Aviator to be the recipient of the MEDAL OF HONOR.
A year later Butch O’Hare was killed in aerial combat. He was 29 years old.
His hometown took the news of his death hard and they determined not to allow the memory of his heroic actions to die. Today, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you’re in O’Hare visit his memorial with his statue and Medal of Honor, it’s located between terminals 1 and 2.
Some years earlier there was a man in Chicago people called Easy Eddie. At that time Al Capone virtually owned the city. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic and his exploits were anything but praiseworthy. He was, however, notorious for enmeshing the city of Chicago in everything from bootlegged booze to prostitution and murder.
Easy Eddie was Al Capone’s lawyer and for good reason. He was very good! In fact, his skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.
To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money very good but Eddie got special bonuses. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago city block. Yep, Easy Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little thought to the atrocities that went on around him.
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything; clothes, toys, and a good education. Nothing was withheld, price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime.
Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. He tried to teach him to rise above his own sordid life and become a better man than Eddie was himself. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things that Eddie couldn’t give his son.
There were two things that Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son: a good name and a good example. One day Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches he could lavish on him. He had to somehow rectify all the wrong he had done. He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Scar-Face Al Capone.
He would then try to clean up his name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this he would have to testify against the Mob, and he knew the cost would be great. But more than anything, he wanted to be an example to his son. He wanted to do his best to make restoration and hopefully have an honorable name to leave his son.
So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in hail of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. But he had accomplished what he had set out to do, he had left behind a name his son could be proud of, but at the greatest price he would ever pay.
I know what you’re thinking. What do these two stories have in common? Well, you see, Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.
This article “The Price Of A Good Name” written by James Maloney is excerpted from an Unknown Source.