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Sins of Omission

Butch O’Hare

For years I taught a course on the history of World War II.  I liked to ask the students if any of them had ever flown into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.  Invariably, one or more in each class had.  This was not surprising, because for the last 40 or 50 years O’Hare has been the first- or second-busiest airport in the world, as measured by landings and takeoffs.  I then asked if anyone knew the origin of the airport’s name.  “Probably some Chicago mayor,” was the most common response.

The airport’s namesake, Edward Henry O’Hare, was born in March 1914, in St. Louis, Missouri.  He was followed by sisters Patricia and Marilyn, who described him as the ideal big brother.  O’Hare’s father, Edgar Joseph “E.J.” O’Hare, taught him to hunt, fish, and swim, and he, in turn, would later help teach his sisters to do the same.  One thing above all, though, interested O’Hare, and that was speed.  Whether it was a wagon, a bicycle, a horse, a motorcycle, or a car, O’Hare wanted to be riding in it or on it and going as fast as possible.  By the time he was a teenager, he was riding motorcycles and driving cars.  He didn’t care much for mechanics and let others soup up engines, but he was a demon in the saddle or behind the wheel.

By the time O’Hare reached his teenage years,...

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