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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The sum of our actions

In 1909, Oliver P. Smith developed a mechanical rabbit for use in dog racing. He hired Edward J. O'Hare, a lawyer in St. Louis, to help patent the device. Smith and O'Hare placed the device in dog tracks, most of which were owned by the Mob in those days, in Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois.

Smith died in 1927 and O'Hare gained control of the rights to the rabbit for himself. O'Hare soon divorced his wife and moved to Chicago with his three children: Butch, Patricia and Marilyn.

Al "Scarface" Capone took an immediate liking to Edward J. O'Hare and brought him in as a major partner in the Hawthorne Kennel Club (dog track) in Cicero. Although dog racing was illegal in Illinois at the time, Capone continued to operate the track while the legalities were tied up in court for years. Capone and O'Hare soon gained control of dog tracks in Boston, Tampa and Miami. When the authorities closed the Cicero dog track, Capone and O'Hare converted it to a horse race track, named Sportsman's Park, with O'Hare as president.

Edward J. O'Hare also performed many legal services for Al Capone and his Mob associates -- from murder, prostitution and gambling problems to setting up elaborate real estate and stock transactions. He was a crooked lawyer doing business with ruthless gangsters in a politically corrupt city.

But Edward J. O'Hare was also a devoted father. When his son, Butch, graduated from high school, he had a burning desire to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. This was a problem for Edward because entry into the service academies required the backing of the local representative in Congress.

A reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, John Rogers, had been a longtime personal friend and knew Edward O'Hare wanted his son to go to Annapolis. Rogers also had a friend who was a federal prosecutor assigned to bring Capone to justice. Through Rogers, the prosecutor made a proposal to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, who then approached Congress with a plan. If Edward O'Hare would cooperate with the Feds, his son Butch would be admitted to the Naval Academy. Edward O'Hare agreed. Soon thereafter, Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

In 1937 Butch O'Hare graduated from Annapolis.

On Nov. 8, 1939, as Capone was due to be released from prison, Edward J. O'Hare was gunned down in his car by two men with shotguns at the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell in Cicero.

On Dec. 7, 1941, 28-year-old Lt. Butch O'Hare was transferred from his base in San Diego to the U.S.S. Lexington aircraft carrier.

In February 1942 Lt. O'Hare and another pilot were flying single-engine Grumman Hellcat fighter planes in the area of the Gilbert Islands. All the other aircraft were on the carrier being refueled. Lt. O'Hare spotted nine Japanese twin-engine bombers zeroing in on the U.S. fleet below. The other pilot quickly discovered his .50 caliber machine guns were jammed. Lt. O'Hare swooped into the enemy squadron alone and opened fire, single-handedly taking out five of the nine bombers, causing enough distraction to allow other fighters to take off from the carrier and join him.

For his actions on that day Lt. Butch O'Hare was designated the U.S. Navy's first "Ace" of World War II and immediately promoted two ranks to lieutenant commander.

On Nov. 26, 1943, Lt. O'Hare was shot down while on night patrol near Tarawa and lost at sea.

In 1949 in Butch O'Hare's hometown of Chicago, they honored his heroics by changing the name of the Orchard Depot Airport to O'Hare International Airport. Today it's the busiest airport in the world. We're on this earth for a short period of time and are the sum of our actions. Make the best of it.

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