Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command


A pair of VF-3 fighters in flight on April 10, 1942. Wildcat F-1 (BuNo 3976) in the front is flown by Jimmy Thach.

The second aircraft F-13 (BuNo 3986) is flown by Butch O’Hare.

The airport bears his name

The successful aircraft survived its pilot.

Butch O’Hare became a fighter ace in a day

and on April 21, 1942, he was awarded Medal of Honor. Later he assumed command

of VF-3 which after an extended time spent

on training new pilots was renamed VF-6

and equipped with new Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters. Flying Hellcat O’Hare added

another two kills to his score. On November

26, 1943, he perished during the first ever

night interception mission off an American

aircraft carrier. The circumstances of his

death have not been clarified up until these

days. Probably he became a victim of a Japanese Betty’s gunner during this night mission. Neither his Hellcat nor his body were

ever found. Gearing class destroyer USS

O’Hare (DD-889) which entered service in

November 1945 was named after him. Butch’s mother Selma was at the ceremony.

This ship took part in the Vietnam War and

in 1978 was sold to Spain where it served

under the name Mendez Nunez. It was decommissioned and sent to the scrap yards

in 1992. In September 1949 the Chicago airport was named after him, O’Hare International Airport, ORD. Wildcat marked F-15

is exhibited in Terminal 2 at this airport.

It is an aircraft which had been recovered in

good condition from Lake Michigan where

it crashed in 1943 off the training aircraft

carrier USS Wolverine. In 2001 it was restored to represent Butch’s F4F-3.


INFO Eduard

Raid on Lae and Salamaua

Lexington was not to survive for too long

neither. After the battle with the Japanese bombers TF 11 retreated from Rabaul

but after joining forces with TF 17 gathered

around Yorktown aircraft carrier the formation wanted to return and attack again.

On March 8 the plans changed having found

out that Rabaul port is empty. The Japanese invaded New Guinea and all ships sailed to the ports of Lae and Salamaua on

the north-east coast of this island. In the

morning of March 10, Lexington launched

the first attack-eight Wildcats, 31 Dauntlesses and 13 Devastators armed with torpe-

Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

Yorktown (CV-5) deck, so it survived that

battle as well. Then it flew with VF-42 and

later in US Marines MAG-23. It was struck

of charge in July 1944.

does. 15 minutes later Yorktown launched

another 10 Wildcats, 30 SBDs and 12 TBDs,

armed with bombs this time.

Sixteen Japanese ships were near the coast in the vicinity of Lae and Salamaua-light

cruiser Yubari, 6 destroyers, 5 large cargo

ships, a minelayer, two small minelayers

and a float plane carrier. The American

pilots claimed ten ships sunk including

three cruisers and another five ships damaged. Three cargo ships were sunk and

fourth one was seriously damaged. Most

of the ships were claimed by Lexington aviators. One of the VF-3 Wildcats shot down

a Nakajima E8N Dave biplane floatplane

which aggressively tried to attack the American carrier-borne bombers. The Japanese AA defense shot down a Dauntless from

Lexington, the only American loss.

On March 26, after this raid, Lexington returned to Pearl Harbor where she

underwent a quick rebuild. Four turrets

with eight useless 203 mm caliber anti-ship cannons were removed and replaced with 28 mm caliber AA quad cannons.

22 single barrel 20 mm caliber cannons

were added as well. The ship armament then

consisted of 12 single barrel 127 mm caliber

cannons, 12 28 mm caliber quad cannons

and 22 Oerlikon 20 mm caliber cannons.

So equipped Lexington set sail for her last

battle. Initially nothing indicated a fatal encounter. Ship set sail from Pearl Harbor on

April 15, 1942, to deliver 14 Buffalo fighters

from VMF-211 to Palmyra atoll located in

the middle of the Pacific Ocean between

Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa. After this task, in relatively peaceful waters,

the ship was to conduct the exercises together with a battleship formation. On Ap-

Lexington in San Diego on October 14, 1941. Buffalo fighters can be seen in the front, Dauntless bombers

in the background.

December 2022