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This star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame honors Lieutenant Commander Edward “Butch” O’Hare who saved the USS Lexington aircraft carrier from near-certain disaster by attacking nine enemy Japanese fighter aircraft. Word of O'Hare's heroics made headlines in American newspapers, and in April of 1942, President Roosevelt promoted the aviator and award him the Medal of Honor. O'hare died in a similar mission defending American carriers in 1943. O'Hare was born in St. Louis and grew up in Chicago, where his father provided vital information on Al Capone. On September 19, 1949, Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport was renamed to O'Hare International Airport to honor Butch O'Hare's military service.

"Butch" O'Hare Star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame

The Historical Marker Database

Edward "Butch" O'Hare

St. Louis Walk of Fame

Edward “Butch” O’Hare was born in St. Louis, Missouri where he lived with his parents, Selma and Edgar, along with his two sisters, Patricia and Marilyn. After his parents divorced, O'Hare's father moved to Chicago and ended up working as a lawyer for the notorious Al Capone. He later used a personal connection at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to set up a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service. He turned over documents that ultimately helped convict Capone of tax evasion in 1931. 

Edgar had a very strong influence on his son, and soon, his interest in aviation inspired Butch, who graduated from the Western Military Academy in 1932 and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy on his way to a career in military aviation. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1937 and went on to serve on the USS New Mexico before starting flight training at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in 1939. On November 8, 1939, after two training flights in the Florida Panhandle, Butch landed to hear the news of his father’s murder. Edgar was driving home from work when two men drove up next to his car and fired off a fatal shotgun blast—mere days before Al Capone would be released from prison. Butch continued to train in his father’s memory and went on to learn aerial combat, machine gunnery, and night landings, all of which would serve him well in the future. In 1941, Butch met and married a nurse named Rita. Shortly after his marriage, Butch was ordered to report back to the USS Saratoga carrier.


On December 7th, 1941, Butch was driving home to meet Rita for lunch when he heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio. He left with the Saratoga aircraft carrier the very next day. Butch O'Hare was transferred to the USS Lexington where he would see his first military action. They were ordered to leave Pearl Harbor and head for the South Pacific to attack the Japanese near Rabaul. The Japanese sent eighteen Mitsubishi bombers, known by the Americans as "Bettys," to attack the USS Lexington carrier. The first wave of Bettys were taken out by anti-aircraft fire and the Lexington’s "Wildcat" fighters. As the second wave approached, Butch was the only American positioned to defend the USS Lexington. He shot down five bombers in less than four minutes as four others fled. When Butch returned to the mainland, he and Rita were invited to The White House, where he received his Medal of Honor and became promoted to Lieutenant Commander by President Franklin Roosevelt.


Butch later oversaw three squadrons on the USS Enterprise as they attacked Japanese positions on the Gilbert Islands of Tarawa and Makin. O'Hare was asked to create a plan to defend the carrier from Japanese Betty night attacks. On November 26th, 1943, Butch and his team of “Black Panthers” took to the skies to defend the carrier against 20 Japanese Bettys. Only one U.S. plane failed to return, that of the squad leader Lieutenant Commander “Butch” O'Hare's.

After the War, Col. Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, proposed to have Chicago’s newest airport (being built on Orchard Field) to be named O’Hare International Airport in Butch O'Hare's honor.

Butch O’Hare, St. Louis Walk of Fame. Accessed November 15th 2021.

Offner, Larry. The Butch O'Hare Story, July 29th 2006. Accessed November 15th 2021.

Simon, Scott. He Gave His Life For The Nation And His Name To An Airport, May 24th 2014. Accessed November 15th 2021.

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