|Red Horses cavalry Lt. James Potts and fighter pilot Lt Cmdr. Edward O'Hare shared the same birthday.|
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James M. Potts never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on March 13, 1918, probably in Alabama. I was unable to find any census records on James or his parents Jessie and Elizabeth. James had one sister. He had a grammar school education and worked as a farm laborer.
James was drafted in the army on June 15, 1941. He became a private first class in the reconnaissance squadron of the 113th Cavalry Group know as the Red Horses. The unit was fully mechanized with jeeps, half-tracks, armored cars, light Stuart tanks, and trucks to allow for long distance reconnaissance. It arrived in England in January 1944 and joined the fighting in Normandy on July 7, 1944. Unable to take advantage of its mobility in the hedgerows of Normandy, it fought as an infantry unit alongside the 29th Infantry Division and 35th Infantry Division. By the end of the month it was able to use its mobility as the Americans began to breakout from Normandy. On August 1, 1944 Pfc. Potts was checking a hedge for German positions when he was killed by a sniper.
His grave is at Stevenson City Cemetery, Stevenson, Alabama.
Edward "Butch" O'Hare's birthday was also March 13, but he was born four years earlier in Missouri. His story warrants attention because of the important contributions he made as a Navy flier.
Edward's father was a lawyer who worked closely with the gangster Al Capone. He was killed by unknown gunmen, in 1939, most likely because his testimony sent Capone to prison. By this time Edward had graduated from the US Naval Academy and decided to became a carrier pilot. He was quickly recognized for having outstanding flying skills.
On February 20, 1942, Lt. O'Hare was flying F4F-3 Wildcats from the USS Lexington. Lexington was on a deep raid into Japanese territory. The Japanese discovered its presence and sent bombers to sink it. Lexington used radar to see the enemy planes arrive and sent out fighters to oppose them. The American fighters were all committed save Lt. O'Hare and his wingman Marion Dufilho when 9 new Japanese bombers appeared on radar. O'Hare and Dufilho were sent to intercept this latest threat. Dufilho's guns jammed, leaving only O'Hare to take out 9 Betty bombers. He had 34 seconds of ammunition. He managed to shoot down three of the planes including the leader and damage two more. The disrupted attack was ineffectual and Lexington was likely saved from grievous damage.
For his incredible marksmanship, Lt. O'Hare became the first naval aviator awarded the Medal of Honor. He would go on to earn the Navy Cross and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
After being recognized at home as a hero and to sell war bonds, Lt Commander O'Hare returned to service flying F6F-3 Hellcats. On the night of November 26, 1943, O'Hare participated in the very first carrier based night fighter mission. The Japanese had developed a new tactic of night attacks in the hopes of avoiding American fighters which as a rule did not fly at night. Relying on radar from an accompanying torpedo bomber, O'Hare and his wingman sortied to take on a flight of Betty bombers sent to attack USS Enterprise. A Japanese Betty got the drop on O'Hare and shot him down. He remains missing in action.
Chicago's O'Hare Airport is named after Lt. O'Hare.
Last year on this date I profiled Lloyd Naugle, 2nd Infantry Division. You can read about Lloyd (and his brothers Lemon and Orange!) here.
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.
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