Two different lives:

These stories came to me via e-mail. None of the language below is mine. The two stories are both about courage, although in very different ways:

Story number 1:

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of Jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well.

Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day.

The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything: clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; that he couldn't pass on a good name and a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie Wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity.

To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. He testified and within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay.

Story Number Two:

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.

Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold.

A squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.

There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.

Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dived at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return.

The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W. W. II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.

Humble Law Student:
Wow, what a story. Sometimes things do work out...
2.14.2006 2:06pm
Here is Snopes' entry on this subject:

[DK: The Snopes entry specifies something that I thought was implicit in the e-mail, but which was not explicitly stated. Easy Eddie's true sin was not that he was Capone's lawyer; after all, even notorious guilty criminals have a right to lawyer. Easy Eddie was also business partner of Capone. Snopes suggests that Easy Eddie turned state's evidence mainly to keep himself out of prison, rather than to start setting a better example for his son. Neither the e-mail nor Snopes provide evidence for their assessments of Eddie's motives. My own guess is that both motives could have played a factor; it's also true that people who take actions which are initially based on pure self-interest can often convince themselves--and other people--that their actions are based on nobler motives.]

[DK, post-script. A reader just sent a link to another website which provides the facts on the O'Hare stories. The website notes that there was a debate over Easy Eddie's motives at the time of his testimony, and thereafter. But apparently a favorable article in Collier's, which relied heavily on the attorney who prosecuted Capone and spoke highly of Easy Eddie, turned public opinion in his favor.]
2.14.2006 2:10pm
There goes Snopes again, ruining a perfectly good story with facts.
2.14.2006 2:23pm
triticale (mail) (www):
So the moral of the story (irregardless of Snopitude) is "Provide your son with a demonstration of what machine guns can accomplish and he'll grow up to be a hero."
2.14.2006 2:32pm
Been There, Done That:
who says its facts? sounds like their opinion.

you can ascribe whatever motives you wish to easy eddie.

they're just mad that they didn't get any mob props or the medal of honor.
2.14.2006 2:34pm
Snopes doesn't really disprove anything. It seems to me that all they do is cite their own opinion. All the facts in the story were true, its just a matter of whether or not you believe a person can be redeemed.
2.14.2006 2:36pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
I don't get it. May I ask why in your view this particular email forward is a post?

Now, if it is two separate emails you received, and you did some independent research and it all turned out to be a coincidence, THAT would be awesome.
2.14.2006 2:36pm
"These stories came to me via e-mail..."

Always a warning sign.
2.14.2006 2:38pm
Snopes classifies this story as, "indeterminate origin or unclassifiable veracity," not as false. This is consistent with the comments above, i.e., that the meaning and emphasis of the stories are subject to significant interpretation, but grounded in some fact.
2.14.2006 2:47pm
Been There, Done That:
O'Hare's ace record.
2.14.2006 2:50pm
te (mail):
Moral of the story: Even the sons of immoral gangsters can grow up and go to war and be shot down by friendly fire.

2.14.2006 3:00pm
uh clem (mail):
Did I mistakenly come upon the Paul Harvey blog by mistake? I'm way too young for this crapola.

[DK: Paul Harvey used to drive me crazy when I was your age. I was annoyed by his announcing of the page-turning, and by how often "the rest of the story" wasn't worth the wait. But now that I am middle-aged, I enjoy listening to him, partly because I remember listening to Harvey with my grandfather, since Harvey's show immediately preceded the farm price reports on the radio. So perhaps Paul Harvey is like a Manhattan--repulsive to younger tastes, but appreciated more by persons whose tastes have evolved with age. :)
2.14.2006 3:02pm
te (mail):
Now you know the rest of the story . . .
2.14.2006 3:04pm

And for all you people citing Snopes, it doesn't contradict any of the factual assertions in story David posted. Word to the wise, read and analyze before you snark!
2.14.2006 3:15pm
Adrian (mail):
OK, we don't know it's false. We don't know it's true, either. And given that, we can't really draw any practical conclusions about courage, inheritance or role-modelling from it. All it's good for is generating warm feelings about something we already approve of.

In other words, it's glurge. Please. I have to disinfect my monitor now.
2.14.2006 3:40pm
Where's the snark? All I said was "Here's Snopes' entry on the subject." I didn't say it contradicted anything in the story.
2.14.2006 3:49pm
Uh, Cabbage, reading here it appears the whole bit about being low on fuel and stumbling, alone, across a Japanese patrol and making a suicidal attack with no ammunition was false. The only true part is that O'Hare attacked a group of planes (bombers) and downed five by himself. The fictional story implies that he could have reasonably avoided combat, when in fact he was part of a mission to attack the very planes he did in fact attack.

It's kind of like saying that a group of amphibious assault ships on routine patrol and low on fuel stumbled into a landing zone in France, and realizing the opportunity and with no thought to the risk to themselves, attacked the German fortifications. It makes a great story, but it's not how D-Day happened.
2.14.2006 3:52pm
carl s (mail):
Also, as a factual matter, the senior O'Hare testified in 1931 and 1932, and was killed in 1939 prior to Capone's release from Alcatraz, not "within the year."
2.14.2006 4:19pm
The Original TS (mail):
To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. He testified and within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street.

Violating privilege is a very serious thing but I really think the Illinois State Bar goes a little overboard
in the diciplinary sanction department.
2.14.2006 4:22pm
Uh, Bruce, are you this tendentious in all your interactions with people? If so, you must be a lonely soul this Valentine's Day =)

Let's go over the course of events thus far on this posting and the comments. Dave posts what is in all fairness a possible "glurge" noting a connection between a mob lawyer and a WWII ace and making a somewhat banal observation about the nature of courage - it's apparently good! Not content to allow this fairly simple point stand unrebutted and demonstrating the qualities that makes lawyers the most beloved of professionals, someone immediately brings up (even though none of the details of the story posted are contested therein). There follows much unwarranted and unappealing snarking and for the most part avoidance of anything approaching appreciation for the pilot's heroism.

Then we get to Bruce who informs us that this pilot taking on nine enemy aircraft single-handedly was "just doing his job" and IN FACT (imagine Lisa Simpson at her most supercilious) "this guy wasn't even low on fuel or ammunition" (makes one wonder why they gave the slacker a medal of honor).

Of course it's just a bonus that Bruce was himself wrong on a nitpicky point - the very article he cites points out that in the course of the dogfight used up all his ammo…

"By now Thach and the other pilots had joined the fight. This was lucky because O'Hare was out of ammunition."
2.14.2006 4:25pm
Pyrthroes (mail):
Here I am, in tears on Valentine's Day. "Easy Eddie" in one generation, for all his faults followed by a heroic, selfless son... maybe there's hope for the rest of us.

Commend to you the tale of Lieutenant Waldron, leader of Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway. Previous sorties destroyed, no backup in prospect, Waldron's dive-bombers fell on the Imperial Japanese capital ships "like a silvery waterfall." One man survived, rescued in his lifejacket from shark-infested waters. Waldron's last words were, "OK boys, we're going in."

I happen to know that spirit's not dead yet. My 18-year old Eagle Scout, proud member of Purdue's Boilermaker Battalion in the Army ROTC, knows all about Waldron, and is about to encounter Butch O'Hare.

What do you get, crossing Groundhog Day with Valentine's? Why, a Day without Shadows, of course, courtesy of Waldron and O'Hare. Oh, dear, here I go again. Be well.
2.14.2006 4:27pm
tefta (mail):
I'm sorry I read all the clarifying comments. I like the story even if neither father nor son O'Hare are saints. I'm glad O'Hare is named after a hero and not some fat, red-faced politician.
2.14.2006 4:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If Waldron had the dive bombers, who had Torpedo Eight?

This was heroic in the sense that it was plainly suicide.
The doctrine was to attack with torpedo bombers and dive bombers at the same time, since the evasive manuvers for dodging one were not good for dodging the other. It would split the defense, while the American fighters kept the Japanese fighters off the bombers. Torpedo Eight arrived alone. It must have been a horrendously strong impulse to go home until we get it right. Then we can do some good.
Instead, the torpedo guys went in. The ships, unbothered by dive bombers, turned away and worked up to flank speed. This made the run-in of the lumbering torpedo bombers, low, slow, and straight, excruciating. Since they needed an intercept course for the ships, the bearing wasn't even changing, a simple target for anti-aircraft gunners.
All were shot down, one man survived. The Japanese gunners were looking at the horizon, the fighters were on the deck, and for a couple of minutes, the Japanese had won at Midway. Then, ten thousand feet up, the first US dive bomber turned over. Unhindered, within minutes they had sunk three carriers and a fourth later.
Churchill, hearing of Torpedo Eight, wept. He had many opportunities to weep in that time, but this was one he took.

Another batch the University of Washington would rather not be associated with.

The problem with guys like this is, when things get tight, you ask, "What would Hackney do?" Problem is, you know what Hackney would do. And you sure as hell don't want to do it, too. But you have to.
2.14.2006 4:51pm
Shangui (mail):
And that little boy who nobody liked, grew up to be...Roy Cohn.
2.14.2006 4:58pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
O'Hare's official citation is here

Hopefully this clarifies at least half of the story as to what he did or did not do.


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Born: 13 March 1914, St. Louis, Mo. Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3 on 20 February 1942. Having lost the assistance of his teammates, Lt. O'Hare interposed his plane between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machinegun and cannon fire. Despite this concentrated opposition, Lt. O'Hare, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point. As a result of his gallant action--one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation--he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.
2.14.2006 4:58pm
nk (mail) (www):
I appreciated the stories. Heroes and mythology go together. As do heroes and moral examples. After all, what is truth? The debunkers, the cynics and the nitpickers have their truth and the heroes have their own. I am a lawyer and from Chicago and I will pass this story on to all my friends.
2.14.2006 5:04pm
uh clem (mail):
[DK: Paul Harvey used to drive me crazy when I was your age.... But now that I am middle-aged, I enjoy listening to him... So perhaps Paul Harvey is like a Manhattan--repulsive to younger tastes, but appreciated more by persons whose tastes have evolved with age. :)

Hey, I'm 45. Developing a taste for Paul Harvey is about like acquiring a taste for creamed corn and a need for wearing Depends. While I hope to live that long, let's not rush things, mmmmK?
2.14.2006 5:05pm
Mike Schilling (mail):
And now you know ... the rest of the story.
2.14.2006 5:17pm
Bob Loblaw (www):
Moral of the story:

Law professors don't have their email BS detectors tuned very high.

Always Snopes.
2.14.2006 5:18pm
Cabbage, my only point is that the email story above is not how it happened. Read the Acepilots site. Read the citation printed above. If you can't spot any differences, then it's beyond my ability to remedy.
2.14.2006 5:55pm
Syd (mail):
This story proves that teaching your son right from wrong will get you both killed at a young age.
2.14.2006 6:04pm
Bruce, I indeed spotted a couple of differences. However, they were extremely minor differences - the site doesn't say he wasn't low on fuel. Well, so what?
2.14.2006 6:07pm
I'm reminded of the old proverb about teaching a pig to sing...
2.14.2006 6:11pm
BU2L (mail):
Bruce, (and fellow snarky naysayers),

Do you agree, that this example aside, courage and sacrifice for a larger cause are a good thing? Because I bet you don't. Your row here is not with the facts of the story, but its underlying point.

I just got back from school. The Army JAG's are interviewing today. The school is plastered with pictures from Abu Ghraib and pictures of dead and wounded Iraqi children. All the pictures are captioned, "JAG Interviews Today." Almost no one likes don't ask-don't tell - as a veteran, I hate it - but there is a long way from that to the visceral animosity toward all things military that a lot of people feel today.

Whatever happened to glorifying our military heroes for their courage and selflessness, criticizing the bad, but acknowledging the good? Butch O'Hare was a hero, that much we know. So why, Bruce, are you quibbling over bullshit?
2.14.2006 6:20pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
OK, the core of the story is true (corrupt guy's son won CMH for heroism and perhaps saving the carrier), but the details are romanticized. Hey, that's the way of legends! (I know it was dressed up when the tale said that all the fighters had been sent away -- a carrier never dispatches its entire fighter force and leaves itself open to attack).

I'd bet that on his last mission the Betty got him. Whatever gets him has to have done it so suddenly that the others did not notice. I think the friendly aircraft had 1 or 2 .30 calibers facing rearward. The Betty had a 20 mm cannon. One hit in the cockpit from that and he would have gone down without a fireball or a message.
2.14.2006 6:24pm
BU2L, I'll bet you're the kind of person that jumps to firm conclusions about people on the basis of very limited information. I suspect I'll be making more money off my bet than you will off yours.
2.14.2006 6:26pm
BU2L (mail):
..Just work with what you give me.
2.14.2006 6:29pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Yet another "test post" to see if comments are worth enabling... We fail.
2.14.2006 6:34pm
Jeff_M (mail):
Since we're on this topic, I offer a short biography of Hans Joachim Marseille. How about 17 kills in a single day with an average of 15 rounds expended per kill?
2.14.2006 8:23pm
nk (mail) (www):
Thanks, Jeff_M. I just could not wait to read about one of Hitler's enablers. Maybe I can interest you in the biography of John Wayne Gacy. What connection do you see between a Nazi two-legged aniaml and a defender of America?
2.14.2006 9:33pm
> What connection do you see between a Nazi two-legged aniaml and a defender of America?

Is this a joke? Are you seriously willing to deny the possiblity that a German fighter pilot was just as brave and worthy of respect as an American pilot simply because he served an evil leader? There were many good and honorable people who served in the German armed forces, and retroactively dehumanizing them may feel good, but it reveals one as a knee-jerk reactionary.
2.14.2006 10:55pm
Bleepless (mail):
The only "good and honorable people" in the Nazi military were those involved in the plots to kill Hitler.
2.14.2006 11:14pm
Barbar (mail):
Snopes says:

Butch O'Hare was suitably honored when the Chicago airport known as Orchard Depot was renamed O'Hare International in 1949. It's unfortunate that he and the airport have to share the O'Hare name with his unscrupulous father.

Bingo. Anyone who got a warm and fuzzy feeling from Easy Eddie's story should feel like a sucker. I know I do.
2.14.2006 11:54pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
Are you seriously willing to deny the possiblity that a German fighter pilot was just as brave and worthy of respect as an American pilot simply because he served an evil leader?

I'm reminded of the argument that the September 11 hijackers were courageous because they were willing to die for their cause. Of course they were, but we don't praise them for it. Their cause is so horrible that it doesn't matter how brave they are in fighting for it. Likewise, we don't praise suicide bombers for their courage.

A German fighter pilot may be brave, but he isn't worthy of respect. He risked his life and showed tremendous courage... in order to accomplish something as horrible as what the September 11 hijackers did. You don't respect people for sacrificing their lives so that Hitler can keep killing Jews, no matter how brave the sacrifice. (And don't tell me someone could advance all the way to fighter pilot and not know what Hitler was doing unless he's willfully ignorant.)
2.15.2006 1:42am
Jeff_M (mail):
Anybody who risks his life for their country, regardless of history's judgments about its leadership, is worthy of my respect, period. The poor sap on the tip of the spear has no say in the politics, and the things they do are in no way political. All soldiers understand that and share a mutual respect because they know, in a way others really cannot, what that means. Your mileage may vary, and I thank you for expressing your opinion.
2.15.2006 7:47am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
BU2L: "Do you agree, that this example aside, courage and sacrifice for a larger cause are a good thing? Because I bet you don't... So why, Bruce, are you quibbling over bullshit?"

I think Bruce prefers to believe things that are true, rather than believing things that he wishes were true, or imagining that things that would confirm his worldview are true.

Courage is good, and America is good. But if we overlook facts that don't confirm things we already think, America becomes less good.

I'm not sure how far apart we really are-- I agree that heroes are worth having, I can see your point that debunking this story might not be that important, and I agree that campus hostility to discrimination bleeds over into unwarranted hostility toward the military. But we all have to work with the same, actual, facts, not just the ones that enhance our preconceived ideas.
2.15.2006 8:27am
Smithy (mail) (www):
These are very touching stories. Those kinds of tough choices remind me of the tough choices that this White House has made, the kind the Clinton White House was too cowardly to make: taking out Osama bin Laden, taking out Saddam Hussein, dealing with the looming Social Security crisis. They've paid a political price for these tough choices, but they've given us, the American people, a priceless gift: freedom.
2.15.2006 8:37am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Snopes has a liberal agenda. No one really disputes that.
2.15.2006 8:39am
Ken Arromdee (mail):
Anybody who risks his life for their country, regardless of history's judgments about its leadership, is worthy of my respect, period.

Then you believe that September 11 hijackers and suicide bombers are worthy of respect. I disagree.
2.15.2006 9:31am
nk (mail) (www):
MSG: I am not retroactively de-humanizing the Nazis. They were not human to begin with. They were two-legged animals. Freaks of nature. They lost even their pretense of humanity when they slaughtered 40 million people. (Maybe as many as sixty million because there is evidence that the Soviet concealed theit losses). The Nuremberg trials said it best: Following orders is not a defense to crimes against humanity.
2.15.2006 10:32am
tefta (mail):
Why can't we just have a heartwarming story about one of our fellow Americans without tainting it with comparisons to terrorists of one sort or another?

You know, we're lucky past all understanding to be living in the home of the brave and land of the free. America is far from perfect, but we're striving toward that ideal. Where else on this planet is that happening?

Yes, I am sappily and happily pro-American. The question is, why aren't you all?
2.15.2006 11:55am
Freddy Hill (mail):

The Nuremberg trials did not try fighter pilots. Most German fighter pilots were not war criminals, and nobody claimed that they were. They belonged to a military tradition that imposed on them a code of ethics that was very similar to the one that bound American airmen and that went all the way back to the Napoleonic wars. When German and American veterans meet they generally shake hands and respect each other because they recognize the soldier in each other.
2.15.2006 12:09pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
It would be utterly impractical to try all German fighter pilots--by the same reasoning one could try any German soldier who did more than the minimum necessary to avoid being shot for draft evasion. Trying them wouldn't be practical, and a general policy of trying such soldiers would make wars a lot bloodier when soldiers refuse to surrender because they fear being put on trial.

That doesn't make them good guys, though, or worthy of respect.

Why can't we just have a heartwarming story about one of our fellow Americans without tainting it with comparisons to terrorists of one sort or another?

Because when you say you respect anyone who heroically risks their life, a category that includes many terrorists, you invite those comparisons yourself.

When German and American veterans meet they generally shake hands and respect each other because they recognize the soldier in each other.

Veterans have hefty psychological motives to not think of the other side as bad guys. They're only bad guys because of indirect effects (supporting evil governments) and the veteran would naturally pay more attention to the fact that the guy had similar experiences and did similar things rather than to the differences in those things' indirect effects. The enemy soldier only did the evil under a specific set of circumstances, and won't ever do it again, so remaining bitter towards him wouldn't accomplish anything. And the evil probably wasn't a type that would affect the soldier in the first place.
2.15.2006 3:53pm
ps (mail):
The distinction between this german figher pilot and the slime of 9/11 seems pretty obvious to me. One fought armed opponents in uniform, the other killed defenseless civilians. Do Lee and Stonewall Jackson lather you up as much as Nazis? They also fought for a revolting cause, but are considered among our greatest military heroes. As to O'Hare, the kid was hero. Geezuz, but you're all a bunch of dead fish. If you found $10 on the street you'd probably carp it didn't come in quarters for the meter.
2.15.2006 5:51pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
The 9/11 hijacker killed defenseless civilians. The German fighter killed armed men in uniform in order to help the survival of a government that killed defenseless civilians. Not that much difference, really.

As for the Civil War comparison, remember that the Civil War wasn't *just* about slavery. To the extent that Southerners were self-sacrificing for independence or something other than slavery, they can be heroes. It's theoretically possible that a German pilot might fight for, say, keeping Germany free from the Treaty of Versailles, in which case he might be a hero, but I find that a lot less plausible than the idea that a Southerner might fight for something other than slavery. Only a fourth of Southern families even owned slaves.

But no, a Southerner who sacrifices himself so that human beings can be owned as property isn't a hero. I don't really know enough about major Southern figures such as Lee to know if they fall into this category, but I suspect they would.
2.15.2006 6:53pm