It takes many different kinds of soldiers, foot soldiers, seamen, and airmen, to win a war. One group supports the others, and without all of them, winning a war in modern times would be next to impossible. Partly because my dad fought in World War II, I find myself most interested in that war. I am very proud of the part my dad played in shooting down enemy aircraft from his position as top turret gunner, and along with his crewmembers, providing air support for ground missions. Of course, many of the heroes who are remembered in a war, are the men in the little fighter planes. The fighting they do is very dramatic, and watching movies or documentaries about the planes they shoot down is exciting. We know of the dangers they face every time they take off, and that adds to the amazement when they are successful.
During World War II, to acquire Ace status, a fighter had to shoot down five enemy planes. On February 20, 1942, the United States received it’s first Flying Ace of World War II. His name was Lieutenant Edward O’Hare. O’Hare was a US Navy fighter pilot with the Fighting Squadron 3, aboard the USS Lexington. The Lexington, sailed into the Coral Sea in mid-February, 1942. Then on February 20th, as the Lexington neared Rabaul, Japanese radar picked up the ship. Japanese bombers headed straight for it. O’Hare and his team went into action. They were piloting F4F Wildcats. In just four minutes, O’Hare shot down five Japanese G4M1 Betty bombers. This ended the Japanese attack and O’Hare became an Ace. It also ended the planned raid, because the element of surprise was gone. O’Hare was awarded the first naval Medal of Honor awarded in World War II. He was a great shot, but on November 26, 1943, his luck ran out. His plane was shot down during a nighttime fighter attack near the Gilbert Islands. It was never found. In 1945, the Navy named a destroyer the USS O’Hare after him. Later, Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport was renamed, O’Hare international Airport after him.
O’Hare was the first ace of World War II, but he was not the Ace with the most kills in World War II…that honor belongs to a man born in the same town I was…Superior, Wisconsin. Richard Bong shot down 40 enemy aircraft before he was killed on August 6, 1945 over North Hollywood, California, while testing a P-80A jet. The plane exploded causing Major Bong’s death. The flying aces of World War II were many…too many to name here, but among the notables are Edward O’Hare, Richard Bong, and Chuck Yeager. All the aces were heroes.