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Butch O’Hare Exhibit with a perfect Grumman F4F Wildcat

13 January 2014

Butch O’Hare Exhibit with a perfect Grumman F4F Wildcat

41° 58′ 33″ N / 87° 54′ 09″ W

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport installed an exhibit a handful of few years ago which is a restored Grumman F4F Wildcat honoring namesake Edward Henry “Butch “O’Hare which compliments the Douglas SBD Dauntless at Midway Airport (Chicago’s other major airport). The F4F Wildcat is wonderfully restored and exhibited as if landing on an aircraft carrier’s flight deck—flaps down and wheels just about to contact the wood planks. Signs around the exhibit explain his life as well as the combat action which earned him the Medal of Honor (MoH)—though  it is left to Bruce Gamble in his book Fortress Rabaul: the Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942–April 1943 to note another great accomplishment which was to clear his family’s name (the book has been reviewed in another post). Butch O’Hare did not survive the war perishing on a night-time fighter intercept mission protecting his aircraft carrier.

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

Butch O’Hare Exhibit just around the corner from Terminal 2’s TSA security screening—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

The F4F was restored and painted to represent Butch O’Hare’s Wildcat as it appeared early in World War II—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

Note the carrier deck of the Butch O’Hare Exhibit—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

The Wildcat had a narrow track main landing gear which was manually cranked into position—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

Perspective of a deck hand as the F4F comes in to catch a wire, note the split flaps and the early insignia (later the red circle was removed so as to not be confused with the Japanese “meatball” insignia)—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

A better view of the landing gear as well as ventral observation window—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

Butch O’Hare Exhibit’s early war rudder livery, quite distinctive and colorful (image taken with high ISO camera)—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Butch O'Hare Exhibit — photo by Joseph May

Better view of the U.S. Navy’s early World War II insignia (image taken with high ISO camera)—photo by Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

19 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 January 2014 02:19

    Beautiful images and good descriptions! Chicago Midway also has a nice WWII exhibit area, featuring a TBM (?), ADM Chester Nimitz, et al…

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      17 January 2014 06:49

      Thanks for the information regarding Midway Airport, David– I’ll have to bring my camera there!

    • John Gerty permalink
      10 October 2015 23:18

      The restored aircraft at Midway Airport is an SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber. SBD-B-16 Bureau Number 10575 was recovered from Lake Michigan in 1989. Around 200 WWII US Navy carrier based aircraft wound up on the lake bottom due to training mishaps.

      • travelforaircraft permalink
        11 October 2015 10:01

        Of course you are right as well as more than kind. I’ll correct the copy to indicate the Dauntless is in the Midway Airport near the entry to Terminal A (there is a post on that aircraft). Thank you, Joe

  2. John D Culp permalink
    23 December 2016 22:48

    The Wildcat on display at O’Hare is unique in that it was a specially built training version. No wing fold.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      26 December 2016 12:56

      A good historical note…thank you.

    • RICHARD permalink
      27 October 2021 15:44

      The Wildcat on display is an early F4F-3. Prior to the F4F-4, none of the Wildcats had folding wings. The -4 also added 2 wing guns, increasing total to 6. With the extra weight of the folding wings and additional guns, performance suffered. With 6 guns they actually carried less ammunition, so pilots had less firing time. These trade-offs were considered acceptable. However, the General Motors (FM-2) version produced later in the war, went back to 4 guns, fixed wings, different engine (with more HP) and additional weight reduction.

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        8 November 2021 11:17

        An accurate and concise summary…thank you 🙂

  3. Landon Cox permalink
    10 April 2018 10:23

    The is no military award called the CONGRESSIONAL Medal of Honor. It is simply the Medal of Honor.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      10 April 2018 11:18

      Landon–I disagree with you a bit and note that you omitted that it is quite often called the Congressional Medal of Honor–tsk tsk. I take your point though, after research, since I don’t take the word of anyone who yells as you did, and amended the text to use the official title and not the informal name. Tell me, I’m curious, you yelled about a minor error but have nothing else to say regarding the post? I just find that odd…

      • Landon permalink
        10 April 2018 16:44

        I didn’t mean to “yell” – just felt an obligation to correct the common misconception the the Medal of Honor has the word Congressional preceding it. 😉

      • travelforaircraft permalink
        10 April 2018 16:58

        I accept you didn’t mean to yell. Congress awards the MoH but let’s not say it is Congressional. Words in all caps usually mean yelling but you were emphasizing, not yelling. I hope you got more out of the post, however.

      • Landon Cox permalink
        10 April 2018 21:57

        I have been to OHare many times and have visited the memorial.

        Between 1943 and 1945, two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers stationed at Navy Pier in Chicago functioned as training platform for about 17,000 pilots, signal officers and other personnel. Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was among the pilots who learned to take off and land on the 500-foot long carrier decks. The carriers, the USS Sable (IX-81) and USS Wolverine (IX-64), were converted Great Lakes paddle steamers. They had shorter flights decks, no hangar bays, and required enough lake wind for operations. Lake Michigan was chosen for the secret training because it’s the largest body of water within the contiguous United States.

      • travelforaircraft permalink
        10 April 2018 22:47

        Thank you for this. Concise as well as insightful reporting. I was aware but had no idea so many personnel were trained off those carriers, or that the decks were shorter. Especially enlightening is your observation regarding Lake Michigan. I went to an aviation wreck recovery conference in Seattle a few years ago and there were quite a few talks about aircraft recoveries out of Lake Michigan–aircraft at the bottom due to training accidents. A few noted that an invasive clam species (sorry but I’ve forgotten the species name) were clearing up the turbid Lake Michigan water but the clams were using the aircraft wrecks as habitat==and they were alarmed.

  4. Sam Novella permalink
    11 September 2019 00:06

    I just found out this page, is all I need since I build WWII (mainly) plane scale models!! Thanks for this pictures, I’ll use them to paint my next scale project.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      11 September 2019 07:51

      Thank you. I often take photos with modelers in mind quite often.

  5. Dennis Coley permalink
    14 September 2019 21:29

    The plane on display is not a “specially built training model without folding wings”. It is an actual F4F-3 (like the one that O’Hare flew). The F4F-3 had fixed wings and only 4 .50 caliber guns. The next variant, The F4F-4 had the folding wings and 3 .50 caliber guns per wing (6 total). The extra weight of the wing folding mechanism, and the two extra guns caused performance to suffer. Dennis

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      16 September 2019 05:17

      Quite right. Additionally, the -3a version was an underpowered variant of the -3 due to a shortage of the required superchargers. A note, too, on the six guns…these had less rounds per gun than the four gun models so many pilots did not appreciate the extra pair considering the amount of punishment the Japanese aircraft could absorb.


  1. On Midway, Part 2: To Tell A Story | In The Corner, Mumbling and Drooling

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