Monday, July 6, 2009

That Al Capone was at the center of a lot of things

From Rick Beyer's The Greatest War Stories Never Told. I love it when a writer puts together two pieces of information you already knew independently but didn't realize were connected.

Butch O'Hare was America's first flying ace of World War II. On February 20, 1942, he spotted a formation of Japanese bombers preparing to attack the carrier USS Lexington in the waters off New Guinea. Diving into their midst, he shot down six of them single-handedly, saving the ship and the lives of thousands aboard. This action won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Butch died in combat the following year. In 1949 the citizens of Chicago honored Butch O'Hare by naming their airport after him.

That's not all there is to the story, however.

Butch's father was a lawyer and racetrack owner named Eddie O'Hare. "Artful Eddie," as he was known, got involved with Chicago mob boss Al Capone in the 1920s. That connection made him a ton of money, but he was worried about the impact on his teenage son. O'Hare was dead set on his Butch getting into the U.S. Naval Academy, and he figured he would have to break away from Capone before that could happen.

So "Artful Eddie" cut a deal with the feds. For the sake of his son's future, he volunteered to risk his life and inform on Capone. He detailed the mobster's operations for IRS agents, and led them to a bookkeeper who could testify about Capone's illegal income. As a result, prosecutors were able to convict Capone on charges of tax evasion and send him to prison in 1931. Butch O'Hare got an appointment to the Navy Academy a year later.

So while O'Hare airport bears the name of a World War II hero, it also commemorates a father willing to do anything for his son, and the man who helped prosecutors win their war against Al Capone.

And then there is the further connection I mentioned sometime ago between children's author Evaline Ness and Al Capone, here.

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