Cadet Picture Of Butch O’Hare,'32 Being Presented To His Mother

Withers and Heiser show Mrs. O'Hare the huge portrait of her hero son.

Butch O'hare was later killed, November 1943, during the The Great Marianas "Turkey Shoot," in the battle for the Gilbert islands in the Pacific. He was accidentally shot down by another American airplane on the first successful night-fighter operation from a carrier.

On November 10, 1943, his air group was assigned to the USS Enterprise, which joined a task force bound for the Gilbert Islands southwest of Hawaii. The task-force commander, Rear Adm. Arthur W. Radford, asked Butch to devise a defense against such dusk attacks.He created three-plane teams--two Hellcats and an Avenger torpedo bomber carrying radar. The Enterprise would launch these night-fighter teams at dusk, and the fighter-director officer in the carrier's combat-information center would direct them toward Japanese planes as they appeared on radar. The Avenger pilot would follow the center's directions, flying toward the Japanese planes until they showed up on his plane's radar screen, too. When the pilot could see the enemy plane's blue exhaust flares, he would direct the two Hellcats to attack.

Butch called his night-fighter teams "Black Panthers."

On the afternoon of November 26, the Enterprise's combat-information center alerted Butch to a group of about 20 inbound Bettys. He asked Radford to order the Black Panthers aloft. As night fell, the Enterprise launched Butch and another Hellcat, piloted by his usual wing man, Ensign Andy Skon. The Avenger that was to guide them, piloted by Lt. Cdr. Phil Phillips with Hazen Rand as the radio/radar operator and Alvin Kernan (now an eminent literary critic) as the gunner, had not yet been launched when the Enterprise's fighter- direction officer abandoned Butch's plan. The FDO sent Butch and Skon on a search for low-flying Bettys.At 7:05 p.m. the incoming Bettys, flying at wave-top level, attacked. The American ships protecting the carriers raised a dense curtain of anti-aircraft fire, and Radford maneuvered the entire task force to deny the Bettys any good torpedo-attack angles. Phillips shot down one Betty. To the east, Butch and Skon in their Hellcats fired at several fleeting Bettys but hit nothing.

Butch's plane never returned to the Enterprise. Search teams failed to find any signs of Butch or of his plan.

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