By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog
Chicago O’Hare Airport:
The Airport You Love To Hate
& How It Got Its Name
During the mid-to-late 90’s, I was a major road warrior as I traveled back and forth across the country on video shoots. At the time, I was United Airlines loyal and a Premier member so that meant the two hubs in my life were Denver Airport, my personal favorite, and Chicago O’Hare Airport, that was not my favorite since bad weather in Chicago usually meant delays and sometimes you’d have to walk "miles" between terminals even on the same airline. Also, after a day of traveling, it was almost impossible to get Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
out of my head (United’s theme song at the time).
As many times as I have been in and out of Chicago O’Hare Airport, there is one thing I never knew and that’s how it came to be named “O’Hare.” How many times have you been to this airport? Do you know the origin of its name?
Last weekend I attended New Horizon Church in Reseda, California. It was Father’s Day and Pastor Stan Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, shared this amazing story about two men that digs deep into how Chicago O’Hare Airport got its name. I think it will add new meaning to your next trip through or to the Windy City.
The Story of Easy Eddie.
In Chicago, there was a man named Easy Eddie. He was working for a man you've all heard about, Al Capone. Al Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic, but he was notorious for the murders he'd committed and the illegal things he'd done. Easy Eddie was Al Capone's lawyer and he was very good. In fact, because of his skill, he was able to keep Al Capone out of jail. To show his appreciation, Al Capone paid him very well. He not only earned big money, he would get extra things, like a residence that filled an entire Chicago City block. The house was fenced, and he had live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day.
Easy Eddie had a son. He loved his son and gave him all the best things while he was growing up; clothes, cars, and a good education. And because he loved his son, he tried to teach him right from wrong. But one thing he couldn't give his son was a good name, and a good example. Easy Eddie decided that this was much more important than all the riches he had given him. So, he went to the authorities in order to rectify the wrong he had done.
In order to tell the truth, it meant he must testify against Al Capone, and he knew that Al Capone would do his best to have him killed. But he wanted most of all to try to be an example and to do the best he could to give back to his son, a good name. So he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie was shot and killed on a lonely street in Chicago.
The Story of Butch O’Hare.
During the course of World War II, many people gained fame in one way or another. One man was Butch O'Hare.
He was a fighter pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. One time his entire squadron was assigned to fly a particular mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. Because of this, he would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to leave formation and return.
As he was returning to the mother ship, he could see a squadron of Japanese Zeroes heading toward the fleet to attack. And with all the fighter planes gone, the fleet was almost defenseless. His was the only opportunity to distract and divert them.
Single-handedly, Butch dove into the formation of Japanese planes and attacked them. The American fighter planes were rigged with cameras, so that as they flew and fought, pictures were taken so pilots could learn more about the terrain, enemy maneuvers, etc. Butch dove at them and shot until all his ammunition was gone, then he would dive and try to clip off a wing or tail or anything that would make the enemy planes unfit to fly. He did anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.
Finally, the Japanese squadron took off in another direction, and Butch O'Hare and his fighter, both badly shot up, limped back to the carrier. He told his story, but not until the film from the camera on his plane was developed, did they realize the extent he really went to to protect his fleet. He was recognized as a hero and given one of the nation's highest military honors. And as you know, the O'Hare Airport was also named after him.
This sounds like two unrelated stories. But, you see, Eddie “Butch” O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.
"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Author Unknown, July 1999
The Butch O'Hara story happened on February 20, 1942, and for that action he became the Navy's first Ace of WWII and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year later, at the age of 29, he was killed in aerial combat.
[Photo: A Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on Display in Terminal 2 at O'hare Airport. It is identical to the one flown by Edward O'Hare.]
His hometown would not allow the memory of his heroic action to die. In 1949 the Chicago City Council renamed Orchard Field as Chicago-O’Hare International Airport to honor naval aviator Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient from Chicago who died in World War II.
Today, Chicago O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man, Butch O'Hare. So the next time you're in O'Hare visit Butch's memorial with his statue and Medal of Honor. It is located between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport history is an interesting read. O’Hare officially opened to commercial air traffic in 1955 and served 176,902 passengers in its first year.
Planning a trip to Chicago or through Chicago? We also have some of the latest best travel deals right here on this website so check them out and save on your next trip.
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