Two Medal of Honor recipients you should know if you are from Chicago.
Manuel Perez Jr: A Mexican-American Hero
Manuel Pérez Jr, was born March 3, 1923, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but as a young boy, his family moved to Chicago. Pérez attended Crane Technical High School on Chicago’s West Side and lived near the corner Racine and Taylor Streets. He also attended St. Francis of Assisi. In January of 1943, Perez was drafted at the age of 20.
Fort William McKinley, Luzon, Philippine Islands, February 13, 1945 – WWII
Perez destroyed 11 of 12 pillboxes (concrete dug-in guard posts equipped with strong firing weapons). In the reduction of these pillboxes, he killed 5 Japanese in the open and blasted others in pillboxes with grenades. Realizing the urgent need for taking the last emplacement, which contained 2 twin-mount .50-caliber dual-purpose machineguns, he took a circuitous route to within 20 yards of the position, killing 4 of the enemy in his advance. He threw a grenade into the pillbox, and, as the crew started withdrawing through a tunnel just to the rear of the emplacement, Perez shot and killed 4 before exhausting his clip. He reloaded killing 4 more when an escaping Japanese threw his rifle with fixed bayonet at him. In warding off this thrust, his own rifle was knocked to the ground. Seizing the Jap rifle, he continued firing, killing 2 more of the enemy. He rushed the remaining Japanese, killed 3 of them with the butt of the rifle and entered the pillbox, where he bayoneted the 1 surviving hostile soldier. Single-handedly, he killed 18 of the enemy in neutralizing the position that had held up the advance of his entire company.
Perez qualified for the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor. On Feb. 28, 1945, he wrote to his uncle, Private Jesse Pérez, who was also in the South Pacific:
“Dear Uncle … they are putting me in for a medal and it’s not the purple heart, you will be surprised how big it’s going to be … Your Nephew, Manuel Pérez, Jr.”
When a Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient is declared, the United States withdraws that Soldier back home to receive that great honor. Perez never received those new orders. A month after receiving the news of his MOH, still in combat, he was killed by a sniper bullet.
In 1943, Perez Sr. was awarded his sons Medal of Honor.
Edward Henry O’Hare – O’Hare International Airport
LT Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare was an aviator in the US Navy. Who on February 20, 1942 became the Navy’s first “flying ace” when he single-handedly attacked a formation of 9 heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down and damage several enemy bombers. On April 21, 1942, he became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor during WWII.
O’Hare’s final action took place on the night of November 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O’Hare’s F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found.
A few years later, Colonel Robert R McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested that the name of Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport be changed as a tribute to Butch O’Hare. On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed O’Hare International Airport to honor O’Hare’s bravery.
But as the story goes…
Butch’s father, Eddie O’Hare, was an attorney and business partner of the famous gangster Al Capone. At that time, Al Capone virtually owned the city. Eddie “Easy” O’Hare was Capone’s lawyer and for a good reason. He was very good! In fact, his 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; 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. Yes, Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddy did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddy 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. Yes, Eddie tried to teach his son to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things that Eddie couldn’t give his son. Two things that Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mob that he could not pass on to his beloved son: a good name and a good example.
Eddie O’Hare wanted to come clean and give a better name for his some. Eddie turned into an informant for police. Eddie had access to all of Al Capone’s information and helped put him away for tax invasion.
A few days after Al Capone was convicted and sentenced to jail, Eddie O’Hare was shot and killed.