Leadership by example – two stories

Caution: This is a longer read than usual, but it is worth it, believe me.

 Story one

By the early 1930s, Al Capone dominated much of Chicago life.  He had become notorious in the windy city in everything from protection, bootlegged booze, prostitution to murder. Capone had formed a close relationship with a lawyer, nicknamed “Easy Eddie.”  Eddie was very good at his job.  Despite numerous prosecutions, he had succeeded in keeping Capone out of jail.

Capone paid well. Additionally, Eddie got ‘extras’ such as a mansion with live-in help.  For three years, Eddie enjoyed the high life and gave no consideration to the mayhem that went on around him.

However, Eddie did have a soft spot.  He had a son whom he loved deeply.  He wanted his boy to be better than him.  Eddie used his contacts to give him a start and, despite his own involvement with organised crime, Eddie did his best to teach his son the difference between right and wrong.

Eventually, Eddie tired of Capone.  Having access to Capone’s accounts records, he went to the IRS to reveal all and explode the myth that Capone was simply a second-hand furniture dealer.  He hoped to show to his son that he was not all bad; that he could tell right from wrong.  When he presented his evidence about Capone, he must have known that it could cost him his life.  And he was right about that.

In 1939, Easy Eddie was gunned down when waiting at traffic lights, blown away by two gunmen.  They were never identified or caught.  Police removed from his pockets a rosary and a crucifix, as well as a poem clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour.  Now is the only time you own.  Live, love, toil with a will.  Place no faith in time.  For the clock may soon be still.”


Story two

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.  He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day in early 1942 his squadron was sent on a mission to defend the carrier from Japanese bombers.  After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realised that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.  He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.  Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. 

As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese bombers was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The fleet was all but defenceless.  He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet.  Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.  There was only one thing to do.  Attack.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dived into the formation of Japanese bombers.  As he charged in, he used short machinegun bursts to attack one surprised enemy after another.  Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until his ammunition ran out.

Finally, the Japanese decided that they had had enough and retreated. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his bullet-ridden fighter limped back to the carrier.  Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return.  The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale.  It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet.  He had destroyed five enemy aircraft.  For that action, Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of the second world war and the first naval aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later, at the age of 29, Butch was killed in action.  But his hometown would not allow the memory of this hero to fade.  Chicago O’Hare International Airport is named in tribute to the courage of this great warrior.


These two stories are connected. Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.

Posted on 28th February 2023 by Simon Greenly