Remembering those who gave all
Memorial means to “remember” and every year on the last Monday in May, we honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of active military service. On Memorial Day we stop and pay our respect to all who were willing to stand in the gap between freedom and tyranny. The First Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink, but with the blood of over 1.1 million Americans that have died in U.S. wars along with many more that have suffered physically and mentally.
In March 1775, Patrick Henry said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” I am convinced this is the heart cry of those who have given their lives for our country.
This is a story about a World War II hero whose name was Lt. Cmdr. Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific and on Feb. 20, 1942 his entire squadron was sent on a mission.
After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader gave him a direct order for him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back.
As he was returning to the ship he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the aircraft carrier which was defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet, So, there was only one thing to do: He must somehow divert their attention away from the ship.
Laying aside all thoughts of this probably being his last moments, he aggressively dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber machine guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. O’Hare was weaving in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.
However — he did not stop there.
He continued the assault, diving at the fighters, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible. Suddenly, the Japanese squadron headed off in another direction which was nothing less than a miracle. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his damaged plane somehow made it back to the carrier.
Upon arrival, the film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It clearly revealed his daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft.
For this heroic act Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sadly, a year later Mr. O’Hare was killed in another aerial battle at the age of 29.
His hometown would not allow the memory of this war hero to fade, and today the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named as a tribute to the courage of this brave man.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach chaplain. Read more at: billyhollandministries.com