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Two Stories for Father’s Day

June 15, 2009

I don’t recall where I first heard these stories. I do know that Paul Harvey told them. I have received them several times by e-mail. They are always told together.

The first story is about a young Chicago attorney who became connected with the crime boss Al Capone in 1927.  The two were first involved in the illegal sport of dog racing.  The young lawyer became one of Capone’s favorite colleagues.  The lawyer represented members of the Capone mob when they went to trial for crimes ranging from murder, to gambling, to prostitution. Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well.

The attorney, whose name was Edward, became known within the mob as Easy Eddie. He had a shrewd legal mind. He was able to rig trials, bribe juries, and pay off law enforcement officers. He was always handsomely rewarded by Al Capone.

Apart from his life of crime, Easy Eddie doted on his family. His three children, a son and two daughters, were his delight.  At some point in his life, Easy Eddie decided that he owed his children more than just the material and financial advantages that came from his life of crime.  He wanted to provide for them a good education. Despite his own involvement with organized crime, Eddie tried to teach his children right from wrong. He realized that there were two things he could not provide, a good example and a name of which they could be proud.

Eddie made a difficult decision. He wanted to give his children an example of intergrity.  In an attempt to rectify the wrongs he had done, he became a witness for the prosecution and testified against Al Capone and other members of the mob.  As a result, Capone was sentenced to eleven years in prison on charges of income tax evasion.

On November 8, 1939, the laywer was driving in the Cicero section of Chicago.  A car rolled up beside him, and a mobster opened a blaze of gunfire with a machine gun, killing Eddie instantly.

The second story is about a twenty-eight year old lieutenant, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II.  The young Naval officer became a pilot and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington,deployed in the South Pacific.  The lieutenant, known to his colleagues as Butch, was pilot of a single-engine fighter plane.  His entire squadron was sent on a mission February 20, 1942.

Once airborne, Butch looked at his fuel gauge and realized that the crew on the aircraft carrier had neglected to fill his tank.  His commander ordered him to return to the carrier, accompanied by a wingman.  Reluctantly, Butch dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As the two planes made their way back to the aircraft carrier, they saw a squadron of Japanese bombers flying toward their ship.  The enemy was only about four minutes away from their intended target.  Butch and his wingman decided to attack, but the guns on the second plane had jammed.  Butch, his fighter plane low on fuel, was the only defense between the Japanese bombers and the more than 2,000 men who remained on board the USS Lexington.

The daring pilot flew at the enemy planes.  Wing-mounted 50-caliber guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised Japanese bomber and then another. He came up underneath one plane, blasting its fuel tanks, causing it to explode.  Peeling off, he attacked another from above.

Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

In a matter of minutes, he had destroyed five of the nine bombers.  Three more were shot down by pilots from the Lexington who were able to take off after Butch first engaged the bombers.  The ninth Japanese plane crashed at sea.

Butch flew his damaged fighter back to the carrier. The film from the gun camera mounted on his plane told the tale of his heroic action.

The lieutenant became the Navy’s first ace pilot of World War II.  He was promoted to lieutenant commander and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He received a personal commendation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

One year later, the courageous pilot was shot down and died in another air fight.

Butch O’Hare is remembered as a hero.  His name is revered in his hometown of Chicago where the airport is named for him, O’Hare International. Butch’s memorial is located between Terminals 1 and 2. There you can find a statue of the courageous pilot, and his Medal of Honor is on display.

So, how are these two stories connected?

Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s beloved son. His father, Edward O’Hare, would have been proud of his son and his good name.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

It is one of the most important gifts any father can give to his children.

Kirk H. Neely

© June 2009

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