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John Herbert DILLINGER





Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Bank robber - The first criminal in history to be named “Public Enemy Number One” on the FBI’s most wanted list
Number of victims: 0 - 1 +
Date of murder: 1933 - 1934
Date of birth: June 22, 1903
Victim profile: Officer William Patrick O'Malley, 43
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Ohio/Indiana/Wisconsin/South Dakota/Iowa, USA
Status: John Dillinger was shot and killed by the FBI special agents on July 22, 1934, at approximately 10:40 p.m.

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FBI Files


John Herbert Dillinger, Jr. (1903-1934) was a Midwestern bank robber, auto thief, and fugitive who captured the national imagination between 1933 and 1934. In March 1934, Dillinger stole a car and crossed state lines following a sensational prison break, giving the FBI jurisdiction to join the manhunt. On July 22, 1934, FBI agents closed in on Dillinger outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago and shot and killed him as he reached for his pistol.

FBI - Doc. 1 FBI - Doc. 2 FBI - Doc. 3

John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice. Dillinger was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana, police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet proof vest during a shoot-out, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger's only homicide charge.

In 1933–34, seen in retrospect as the heyday of the Depression-era outlaw, Dillinger was the most notorious of all, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. (Decades later, the first major book about '30s gangsters was titled The Dillinger Days.)

Media reports in his time were spiced with exaggerated accounts of Dillinger's bravado and daring and his colorful personality. The government demanded federal action, and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigation as a weapon against organized crime and used Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform to launch the FBI.

After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father's home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpănaş (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time).

On July 22, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot three times (four, according to some historians) and killed.

Early life

Family and background

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, Indiana, the younger of two children born to John Wilson Dillinger (July 2, 1864 – November 3, 1943) and Mary Ellen "Mollie" Lancaster (1860–1907).

According to some biographers, his grandfather, Matthias Dillinger, emigrated to the United States in 1851 from Metz, in the region of Alsace-Lorraine, then under French sovereignty. Matthias Dillinger was born in German-Prussian Gisingen, near Dillingen, Saarland. Dillinger's parents had married on August 23, 1887. Dillinger's father was a grocer by trade and, reportedly, a harsh man. In an interview with reporters, Dillinger said that he was firm in his discipline and believed in the adage "spare the rod and spoil the child".

Dillinger's older sister, Audrey, was born March 6, 1889. Their mother died in 1907 just before his fourth birthday. Audrey married Emmett "Fred" Hancock that year and they had seven children together. She cared for her brother John for several years until their father remarried in 1912 to Elizabeth "Lizzie" Fields (1878–1933). They had three children, Hubert, born c. 1913, Doris M. (December 12, 1917 – March 14, 2001) and Frances Dillinger (born c. 1922).

Initially, Dillinger disliked his stepmother but reportedly eventually came to love her.

Formative years and marriage

As a teenager, Dillinger was frequently in trouble with the law for fighting and petty theft; he was also noted for his "bewildering personality" and bullying of smaller children. He quit school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop. Although he worked hard at his job, he would stay out all night at parties. His father feared that the city was corrupting his son, prompting him to move the family to Mooresville, Indiana, in about 1920.

Dillinger's wild and rebellious behavior was resilient despite his new rural life. He was arrested in 1922 for auto theft, and his relationship with his father deteriorated. His troubles led him to enlist in the United States Navy where he was a Fireman 3rd Class assigned aboard the battleship USS Utah, but he deserted a few months later when his ship was docked in Boston. He was eventually dishonorably discharged.

Dillinger then returned to Mooresville where he met Beryl Ethel Hovious. The two were married on April 12, 1924. He attempted to settle down, but he had difficulty holding a job and preserving his marriage. The marriage ended in divorce on June 20, 1929.

Dillinger was unable to find a job and began planning a robbery with his friend Ed Singleton. The two robbed a local grocery store, stealing $50. Leaving the scene they were spotted by a minister who recognized the men and reported them to the police. The two men were arrested the next day.

Singleton pleaded not guilty, but after Dillinger's father (the local Mooresville Church deacon) discussed the matter with Morgan County prosecutor Omar O'Harrow, his father convinced Dillinger to confess to the crime and plead guilty without retaining a defense attorney.

Dillinger was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He expected a lenient probation sentence as a result of his father's discussion with prosecutor O'Harrow, but instead was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for his crimes. His father told reporters he regretted his advice and was appalled by the sentence. He pleaded with the judge to shorten the sentence but with no success. En route to Mooresville to testify against Singleton, Dillinger briefly escaped his captors but was apprehended within a few minutes.

Criminal career

Prison time

Dillinger had embraced the criminal lifestyle behind bars in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Upon being admitted to the prison he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here." His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful.

He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released. Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.

His father launched a campaign to have him released and was able to get 188 signatures on a petition. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years. Dillinger's stepmother became sick just before he was released from prison, she died before he arrived at her home.

Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding employment. He immediately returned to crime and on June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, which occupied the building which still stands at the southeast corner of Main Street and Jefferson (State Routes 235 and 571) in New Carlisle, Ohio.

On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery. After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.

Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and six others he had met while previously in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their prison cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger's capture.

The group, known as "the First Dillinger Gang," comprised Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John "Red" Hamilton, a member of the Herman Lamm Gang.

Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont shot him dead, then released Dillinger from his cell. The four men escaped back into Indiana where they joined the rest of the gang. Sheriff Sarber was the gang's first police killing of an estimated 13 lawmen deaths by Dillinger gang members.

Bank robberies

Dillinger is known to have participated with The Dillinger Gang in twelve separate bank robberies, between June 21, 1933 and June 30, 1934.

Relationship with Evelyn Frechette

Evelyn "Billie" Frechette met John Dillinger in October 1933, and they began a relationship on November 20. On December 19, 1933 they rented a two story house located at 901 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, Florida.

After Dillinger's death, Billie was offered money for her story and eventually penned a memoir for the Chicago Herald and Examiner in August 1934.

Escape from Crown Point, Indiana

Dillinger was finally caught by Matthew "Matt" Leach, the Indiana police state chief, and imprisoned within the Crown Point jail sometime after committing a robbery at a bank located in East Chicago on January 15, 1934.

The local police boasted to area newspapers that the jail was escape-proof and posted extra guards to make sure. What happened on the day of Dillinger's escape on March 3 is still open to debate.

Deputy Ernest Blunk claimed that Dillinger had escaped using a real pistol, but FBI files make clear that Dillinger carved a fake pistol from a potato. Sam Cahoon, a trustee that Dillinger first took hostage in the jail, believed that Dillinger had carved the gun with a razor and some shelving in his cell. However, according to an unpublished interview with Dillinger's attorney, Louis Piquett and his investigator, Art O'Leary, O'Leary claimed to have sneaked the gun in himself.

On March 16, Herbert Youngblood, a fellow escapee from Crown Point, was shot dead by three police officers in Port Huron, Michigan. Deputy Sheriff Charles Cavanaugh was fatally wounded in the battle and died a few hours later. Before he died, Youngblood told the officers that Dillinger was in the neighborhood of Port Huron, and immediately officers began a search for the escaped man, but no trace of him was found. An Indiana newspaper reported that Youngblood later retracted the story and said he did not know where Dillinger was at that time, as he had parted with him soon after their escape.

Dillinger was indicted by a local grand jury, and the Bureau of Investigation (a precursor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) organized a nationwide manhunt for him. After escaping from Crown Point, Dillinger reunited with his girlfriend, Evelyn Frechette, just hours after his escape at her half-sister Patsy's Chicago apartment, where she was also staying (3512 North Halsted).

According to Billie's trial testimony, Dillinger stayed with her there for "almost two weeks," but the two actually had traveled to the Twin Cities and moved into the Santa Monica Apartments, Unit 106, 3252 South Girard Avenue, Minneapolis, on March 4 (moving out on March 19) and met up with Hamilton (who had been recovering for the past month from his gunshot wounds in the East Chicago robbery), and mustered a new gang, and the two joined Baby Face Nelson's gang, composed of Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and Eddie Green.

Three days after Dillinger's escape from Crown Point, the second Dillinger Gang robbed a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A week later they robbed First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa.

Lincoln Court shootout

Dillinger and Billie eventually moved into apartment 303 of the Lincoln Court Apartments, 93-95 South Lexington Avenue (now Lexington Parkway South) in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Tuesday, March 20, using the aliases "Mr. & Mrs. Carl T. Hellman". The three-story apartment complex (still in operation) had 32 apartments, 10 units on each floor, and two basement units.

Daisy Coffey, the landlord/owner, would testify at Frechette's trial that she spent most evenings during the Hellmans' stay furnishing apartment 310, which enabled her to observe what was happening in apartment 303 directly across the courtyard.

On March 30, Coffey went to the FBI's St. Paul field office to file a report, including information about the couple's new Hudson sedan parked in the garage behind the apartments. The building was placed under surveillance by two agents, Rufus Coulter and Rusty Nalls, that night, but they saw nothing unusual, mainly due to the blinds being drawn.

The next morning at approximately 10:15, Nalls circled around the block looking for the Hudson, but observed nothing. He parked, first on Lincoln (the north side of the apartments), then on the west side of Lexington, at the northwest corner of Lexington and Lincoln, and remained in his car while watching Coulter and St. Paul Police detective Henry Cummings, pull up, park, and enter the building. Ten minutes later, by Nalls's estimate, Van Meter parked a green Ford coupe on the north side of the apartment building.

Meanwhile, Coulter and Cummings knocked on the door of apartment 303. Frechette answered, opening the door two to three inches. She said she was not dressed and to come back. Coulter told her they would wait.

After waiting two to three minutes, Coulter went to the basement apartment of the caretakers, Louis and Margaret Meidlinger, and asked to use the phone to call the bureau. He quickly returned to Cummings, and the two of them waited for Frechette to open the door. Van Meter then appeared in the hall and asked Coulter if his name was Johnson. Coulter said it was not, and as Van Meter passed on to the landing of the third floor, Coulter asked him for a name. Van Meter replied, "I am a soap salesman." Asked where his samples were, Van Meter said they were in his car. Coulter asked if he had any credentials. Van Meter said "no," and continued down the stairs. Coulter waited 10 to 20 seconds, then followed Van Meter. As Coulter got to the lobby on the ground floor, Van Meter opened fire on him. Coulter hastily fled outside, chased by Van Meter. Eventually, Van Meter ran back into the front entrance.

Recognizing Van Meter, Nalls pointed out the Ford to Coulter and told him to disable it. Coulter shot out the rear left tire. While Coulter stayed with Van Meter's Ford, Nalls went to the corner drugstore and called first the local police, then the bureau's St. Paul office, but could not get through because both lines were busy. Van Meter, meanwhile, escaped by hopping on a passing coal truck.

Frechette, in her harboring trial testimony, said that she told Dillinger that the police had showed up after speaking to Cummings. Upon hearing Van Meter firing at Coulter, Dillinger opened fire through the door with a Thompson submachine gun, sending Cummings scrambling for cover.

Dillinger then stepped out and fired another burst at Cummings. Cummings shot back with a revolver, but quickly ran out of ammunition. He hit Dillinger in the left calf with one of his five shots. He then hastily retreated down the stairs to the front entrance. Once Cummings retreated, Dillinger and Frechette hurried down the stairs, exited through the back door and drove away in the Hudson.

The couple drove to the apartment of Eddie Green at 3300 South Fremont in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Green called his associate Dr. Clayton E. May at his office in Minneapolis, 712 Masonic Temple (still extant).

With Green, his wife Beth, and Frechette following in Green's car, Dr. May drove Dillinger to 1835 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, to the apartment of Augusta Salt, who had been providing nursing services and a bed for May's illicit patients for several years, patients he could not risk seeing at his regular office.

May treated Dillinger's wound with antiseptics. Eddie Green visited Dillinger on Monday, April 2, just hours before Green would be mortally wounded by the FBI in St. Paul. Dillinger convalesced at Dr. May's for five days, until Wednesday, April 4. Dr. May was promised $500 for his services, but received nothing.

Return to Mooresville

After leaving Minneapolis, Dillinger and Billie traveled to Mooresville to visit Dillinger's father. Friday, April 6 was spent contacting family members, particularly his half-brother Hubert Dillinger.

On April 6, Hubert and Dillinger left Mooresville at about 8:00 p.m. and proceeded to Leipsic, Ohio (approximately 210 miles away), to see Joseph and Lena Pierpont, Harry's parents. The Pierponts were not home, so the two headed back to Mooresville around midnight.

On April 7 at approximately 3:30 a.m., they rammed a car driven by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Manning near Noblesville, Indiana, after Hubert fell asleep behind the wheel. They crashed through a farm fence and about 200 feet into the woods. Both men made it back to the Mooresville farm.

Swarms of police showed up at the accident scene within hours. Found in the car were maps, a machine gun magazine, a length of rope, and a bullwhip. According to Hubert, his brother planned to pay a visit with the bullwhip to his former one-armed "shyster" lawyer at Crown Point, Joseph Ryan, who had run off with his retainer after being replaced by Louis Piquett.

At about 10:30 a.m. on April 7, Billie, Hubert and Hubert's wife purchased a black four-door Ford V8, registering it in the name of Mrs. Fred Penfield (Billie Frechette). At 2:30 p.m., Billie and Hubert picked up the V8 and returned to Mooresville.

On Sunday, April 8, the Dillingers enjoyed a family picnic while the FBI had the farm under surveillance nearby. Later in the afternoon, suspecting they were being watched (agents J. L. Geraghty and T. J. Donegan were cruising in the vicinity in their car), the group left in separate cars. Billie drove the new Ford V8, with two of Dillinger's nieces, Mary Hancock in the front seat and Alberta Hancock in the back. Dillinger was on the floor of the car. He was later seen, but not recognized, by Donegan and Geraghty. Eventually, Norman, driving the V8, proceeded with Dillinger and Billie to Chicago, where they separated from Norman.

The following afternoon, Monday, April 9, Dillinger had an appointment at a tavern at 416 North State Street. Sensing trouble, Billie went in first. She was promptly arrested by agents, but refused to reveal Dillinger's whereabouts. Dillinger was waiting in his car outside the tavern and then drove off unnoticed. The two would never see each other again.

Dillinger reportedly became despondent after Billie was arrested. The other gang members tried to talk to him out of rescuing her, but Van Meter knew where they could find bulletproof vests. That Friday morning, late at night, Dillinger and Van Meter took Warsaw, Indiana police officer Judd Pittenger hostage. They marched him at gunpoint to the police station, where they stole several more guns and bulletproof vests.

After separating, Dillinger picked up Hamilton, who was recovering from the Mason City robbery. The two then traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Hamilton's sister Anna Steve.

Hiding in Chicago

By July 1934, Dillinger had dropped completely out of sight, and the federal agents had no solid leads to follow. He had, in fact, drifted into Chicago where he went under the alias of Jimmy Lawrence, a petty criminal from Wisconsin who bore a close resemblance to Dillinger.

Working as a clerk, Dillinger found that, in a large metropolis like Chicago, he was able to lead an anonymous existence for a while. What he did not realize was that the center of the federal agents' dragnet happened to be Chicago. When the authorities found Dillinger's blood-spattered getaway car on a Chicago side street, they were positive that he was in the city.

Dillinger had always been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and instead of lying low like many criminals on the run, he attended Cubs games at Wrigley Field during June and July. He's known to have been at Wrigley on Friday, June 8, only to watch his beloved Cubs lose to Cincinnati 4-3. Also in attendance at the game were Dillinger's lawyer, Louis Piquett, and Captain John Stege of the Dillinger Squad.

Plastic surgery

According to Art O'Leary, as early as March 1934, Dillinger expressed an interest in plastic surgery and had asked O'Leary to check with Piquett on such matters. At the end of April, Piquett paid a visit to his old friend Dr. Wilhelm Loeser.

Loeser had practiced in Chicago for 27 years before being convicted under the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1931. He was sentenced to three years at Leavenworth, but was paroled early on December 7, 1932, with Piquett's help.

He later testified that he performed facial surgery on himself and obliterated the fingerprint impressions on the tips of his fingers by the application of a caustic soda preparation. Piquett said Dillinger would have to pay $5,000 for the plastic surgery: $4,400 split between Piquett, Loeser and O'Leary, and $600 to Dr. Harold Cassidy, who would administer the anaesthetic. The procedure would take place at the home of Piquett's longtime friend, 67-year-old James Probasco, at the end of May.

On May 28, Loeser was picked up at his home at 7:30 p.m. by O'Leary and Cassidy. The three of them then drove to Probasco's place. Dillinger chose to have a general anaesthetic. Loeser later testified:

I asked him what work he wanted done. He wanted two warts (moles) removed on the right lower forehead between the eyes and one at the left angle, outer angle of the left eye; wanted a depression of the nose filled in; a scar; a large one to the left of the median line of the upper lip excised, wanted his dimples removed and wanted the angle of the mouth drawn up. He didn't say anything about the fingers that day to me.

Cassidy administered an overdose of ether, which caused Dillinger to suffocate. He began to turn blue and stopped breathing. Loeser pulled Dillinger's tongue out of his mouth with a pair of forceps, and at the same time forcing both elbows into his ribs. Dillinger gasped and resumed breathing. The procedure continued with only a local anaesthetic. Loeser removed several moles on Dillinger's forehead, made an incision in his nose and an incision in his chin and tied back both cheeks.

Loeser met with Piquett again on Saturday, June 2, with Piquett saying that more work was needed on Dillinger and that Van Meter now wanted the same work done to him. Also, both now wanted work done on their fingertips. The price for the fingerprint procedure would be $500 per hand or $100 a finger. Loeser used a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid—commonly known as aqua regia.

Loeser met O'Leary the following night at Clark and Wright at 8:30, and they once again drove to Probasco's. Present this evening were Dillinger, Van Meter, Probasco, Piquett, Cassidy, and Peggy Doyle, Probasco's girlfriend. Loeser testified that he worked for only about 30 minutes before O'Leary and Piquett had left.

Loeser testified:

Cassidy and I worked on Dillinger and Van Meter simultaneously on June 3. While the work was being done, Dillinger and Van Meter changed off. The work that could be done while the patient was sitting up, that patient was in the sitting-room. The work that had to be done while the man was lying down, that patient was on the couch in the bedroom. They were changed back and forth according to the work to be done. The hands were sterilized, made aseptic with antiseptics, thoroughly washed with soap and water and used sterile gauze afterwards to keep them clean. Next, cutting instrument, knife was used to expose the lower other words, take off the epidermis and expose the derma, then alternately the acid and the alkaloid was applied as was necessary to produce the desired results.

Minor work was done two nights later, Tuesday, June 5. Loeser made some small corrections first on Van Meter, then Dillinger. Loeser stated:

A man came in before I left, who I found out later was Baby Face Nelson. He came in with a drum of machine gun bullets under his arm, threw them on the bed or the couch in the bedroom, and started to talk to Van Meter. The two then motioned for Dillinger to come over and the three went back into the kitchen.

Peggy Doyle later told agents:

Dillinger and Van Meter resided at Probasco's home until the last week of June 1934; that on some occasions they would be away for a day or two, sometimes leaving separately, and on other occasions together; that at this time Van Meter usually parked his car in the rear of Probasco's residence outside the back fence; that she gathered that Dillinger was keeping company with a young woman who lived on the north side of Chicago, inasmuch as he would state upon leaving Probasco's home that he was going in the direction of Diversey Boulevard; that Van Meter apparently was not acquainted with Dillinger's friend, and she heard him warning Dillinger to be careful about striking up acquaintances with girls he knew nothing about; that Dillinger and Van Meter usually kept a machine gun in an open case under the piano in the parlor; that they also kept a shotgun under the parlor table.

O'Leary stated that Dillinger expressed dissatisfaction with the facial work that Loeser had performed on him. O'Leary said that, on another occasion, "that Probasco told him, 'the son of a bitch has gone out for one of his walks'; that he did not know when he would return; that Probasco raved about the craziness of Dillinger, stating that he was always going for walks and was likely to cause the authorities to locate the place where he was staying; that Probasco stated frankly on this occasion that he was afraid to have the man around."

Agents arrested Loeser at 1127 South Harvey, Oak Park, Illinois, on Tuesday, July 24. O'Leary returned from a family fishing trip on July 24, the day of Loeser's arrest, and had read in the newspapers that the Department of Justice was looking for two doctors and another man in connection with some plastic work that was done on Dillinger.

O'Leary left Chicago immediately, but returned two weeks later, learned that Loeser and others had been arrested, phoned Piquett, who assured him everything was all right, then left again. He returned from St. Louis on August 25 and was promptly taken into custody.

On Friday, July 27, Jimmy Probasco jumped or "accidentally" fell to his death from the 19th floor of the Bankers' Building in Chicago while in custody.

On Thursday, August 23, Homer Van Meter was shot and killed in a dead-end alley in St. Paul by Tom Brown, former St. Paul Chief of Police, and then-current chief Frank Cullen.

Polly Hamilton, Dillinger's last girlfriend

Rita “Polly” Hamilton was a teenage runaway from Fargo, North Dakota. She met Anna Cumpănaș Chiolak (aka Ana Sage) in Gary, Indiana, and worked periodically as a prostitute (in Anna’s brothel) until marrying Gary police officer Roy O. Keele in 1929. They later divorced in March 1933.

In the summer of 1934, the now twenty-six-year-old Hamilton was a waitress in Chicago at the S&S Sandwich Shop located at 1209 ½ Wilson Avenue. She had remained friends with Sage and was sharing living space with Sage and Sage’s twenty-four-year-old son, Steve, at 2858 Clark Street.

Dillinger and Hamilton, a Billie Frechette look-a-like, met in June 1934 at the Barrel of Fun night club located at 4541 Wilson Avenue. Dillinger introduced himself as Jimmy Lawrence and said he was a clerk at the Board of Trade. They dated until Dillinger's death at the Biograph Theater in July 1934.

Informant betrays Dillinger

Division of Investigations chief J. Edgar Hoover created a special task force headquartered in Chicago to locate Dillinger. On July 21, Ana Cumpănaș (a/k/a Anna Sage), a madam from a brothel in Gary, Indiana, contacted the FBI. She was a Romanian immigrant threatened with deportation for "low moral character" and offered agents information on Dillinger in exchange for their help in preventing her deportation.

The FBI agreed to her terms, but she was later deported nonetheless. Cumpănaş revealed that Dillinger was spending his time with another prostitute, Polly Hamilton, and that she and the couple would be going to see a movie together on the following day. She agreed to wear an orange dress, so that police could easily identify her. She was unsure which of two theaters they would be attending, the Biograph or the Marbro.

On December 15, 1934, pardons were issued by Indiana Governor Harry G. Leslie for the offenses of which Anna Sage was convicted on November 24 and April 16, 31.

Sage stated that on Sunday afternoon, July 22, Dillinger asked her if she wanted to go to the show with them, he and Polly.

She asked him what show was he going to see, and he said he would 'like to see the theater around the corner,' meaning the Biograph Theater. She stated she was unable to leave the house to inform Purvis or Martin about Dillinger's plans to attend the Biograph, but as they were going to have fried chicken for the evening meal, she told Polly she had nothing in which to fry the chicken, and was going to the store to get some butter; that while at the store she called Mr. Purvis and informed him of Dillinger's plans to attend the Biograph that evening, at the same time obtaining the butter. She then returned to the house so Polly would not be suspicious that she went out to call anyone.

A team of federal agents and officers from police forces from outside of Chicago was formed, along with a very small number of Chicago police officers. Among them was Sergeant Martin Zarkovich, the officer to whom Sage had acted as an informant.

At the time, federal officials felt that the Chicago police had been compromised and therefore could not be trusted; Hoover and Purvis also wanted more of the credit. Not wanting to take the risk of another embarrassing escape of Dillinger, the police were split into two groups. On Sunday, one team was sent to the Marbro Theater on the city's west side, while another team surrounded the Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue on the north side.

Shooting at the Biograph Theater

Sage, Hamilton, and Dillinger were observed entering the Biograph at approximately 8:30 p.m., which ironically was showing the crime drama Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and William Powell.

When Dillinger was in the theater, Samuel P. Cowley, the lead agent, contacted J. Edgar Hoover for instructions; he recommended they wait outside rather than risk a gun battle within the theater. He told the agents not to put themselves in harm's way and that any man could open fire on Dillinger at the first sign of resistance.

During the stakeout, the Biograph's manager thought the agents were criminals setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police, who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by the federal agents, who told them that they were on a stakeout for an important target.

When the film ended, Purvis stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger's exit by lighting a cigar. Both he and the other agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked directly at the agent as he walked by, glanced across the street, then moved ahead of his female companions, reached into his pocket but failed to extract his gun, and ran into a nearby alley. Other accounts stated Dillinger ignored a command to surrender, whipped out his gun, then headed for the alley. Agents already had the alley closed off, but Dillinger was determined to shoot it out.

Three men pursued Dillinger into the alley and fired. Clarence Hurt shot twice, Charles Winstead three times, and Herman Hollis once. Dillinger was hit from behind and fell face first to the ground. Dillinger was struck four times, with two bullets grazing him and one causing a superficial wound to the right side.

The fatal bullet entered through the back of his neck, severed the spinal cord, passed into his brain and exited just under the right eye, severing two sets of veins and arteries. An ambulance was summoned, though it was soon apparent Dillinger had died from the gunshot wounds; he was officially pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital. According to investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word.

Dillinger was shot and killed by the special agents on July 22, 1934, at approximately 10:40 p.m, according to a New York Times report the next day. Dillinger's death came only two months after the deaths of fellow notorious criminals Bonnie and Clyde.

Two female bystanders, Theresa Paulas and Etta Natalsky, were wounded. Dillinger bumped into Natalsky just as the shooting started. Natalsky was shot and was subsequently taken to Columbus Hospital.

There were reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the pool of blood that had formed, as Dillinger lay in the alley, as keepsakes.

Winstead was later thought to have fired the fatal shot, and as a consequence received a personal letter of commendation from J. Edgar Hoover.

Nash theory of Dillinger's escape

In The Dillinger Dossier, author Jay Robert Nash maintains that Dillinger escaped death at the Biograph Theater simply by not being there. In his stead was a "Jimmy Lawrence", a local Chicago petty criminal whose appearance was similar to Dillinger's.

Nash uses evidence to show that Chicago Police officer Martin Zarkovich was instrumental in this plot. Nash theorizes that the plot unraveled when the body was found to have fingerprints that didn't match Dillinger's (the fingerprint card was missing from the Cook County Morgue for over three decades), it was too tall, the eye color was wrong, and it possessed a rheumatic heart.

The F.B.I., a relatively new agency whose agents were only recently permitted to carry guns or make arrests, would have fallen under heavy scrutiny, this being the third innocent man killed in pursuit of Dillinger, and would have gone to great lengths to ensure a cover up.

In shooting the Dillinger stand-in, F.B.I. agents were stationed on the roof of the theater and fired downward, causing the open cuts on the face which were described through the media as "scars resulting from inept plastic surgery". The first words from Dillinger's father upon identifying the body were, "that's not my boy." The body was buried under five feet of concrete and steel, making exhumation less likely.

Nash produced fingerprints and photos of Dillinger as he would appear in 1960 that were allegedly sent to Melvin Purvis just prior to his 1960 alleged suicide (more probably an accident). Nash alleged Dillinger was living and working in California as a machinist, under what would have been an early form of the witness protection program.


Dillinger's body was available for public display at the Cook County morgue. An estimated 15,000 people viewed the corpse over a day and a half. As many as four death masks were also made.

On July 24, the body was returned to Mooresville. It was put on exhibition at intervals during the evening to satisfy the curiosity of the crowd. The next day at 2 p.m., funeral services were held at the home of Audrey Hancock, Dillinger's sister, in Maywood.

Dillinger's gravestone has been replaced several times because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs. Hilton Crouch (1903-1976), an associate of Dillinger's on some early heists, is buried only a few yards to the west.

Film depictions

  • 1935: The MGM crime film Public Hero No. 1 incorporates fictionalized details from Dillinger's narrative, including a gun battle at a Wisconsin roadhouse and the killing of the fugitive gangster (Joseph Calleia) as he leaves a theater.

  • 1941: Humphrey Bogart, who bore some physical resemblance to Dillinger, played a Dillinger-like role in High Sierra, a film based loosely on research into Dillinger's life by W. R. Burnett.

  • 1945: Lawrence Tierney played the title role in the first film dramatization of Dillinger's career; Dillinger.

  • 1957: Director Don Siegel's film Baby Face Nelson, starred Mickey Rooney as Nelson and Leo Gordon as Dillinger.

  • 1959: The FBI Story starring James Stewart, Jean Willes plays Anna Sage and Scott Peters plays Dillinger. Peters, a small-time actor, went uncredited in this role.

  • 1969: Director Marco Ferreri's film Dillinger Is Dead includes documentary footage of real John Dillinger as well as newspaper clips.

  • 1971: "Appointment with Destiny; The Last Days of John Dillinger," narrated by Rod Serling, 52 minutes. Shot in newsreel style, very accurate for its time. The late Joseph Pinkston served as technical advisor. Pinkston himself makes an uncredited cameo in the Biograph sequence, playing an agent.

  • 1973: Dillinger, directed and written by John Milius with Warren Oates in the title role, presents the gang in a much more sympathetic light, in keeping with the anti-hero theme popular in films after Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

  • 1979: Lewis Teague directed the film The Lady in Red, starring Pamela Sue Martin as the eponymous lady in the red dress. However, in this film, it is Dillinger's girlfriend Polly in red, not the Romanian informant Anna Sage (Louise Fletcher). Sage tricks Polly into wearing red so that FBI agents can identify Dillinger (Robert Conrad) as he emerges from the cinema.

  • 1991: A TV film Dillinger, starring Mark Harmon.

  • 1995: Roger Corman produced the fictional film Dillinger and Capone, featuring Martin Sheen as Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham as Al Capone. Dillinger survives the theater stakeout when the FBI mistakenly guns down his brother and is then blackmailed by Capone into retrieving $15 million from his secret vault.

  • 2004: "Teargas and Tommyguns; Dillinger Robs the First National Bank," DVD, Mason City Public Library, 38 minutes. Documentary regarding the bank robbery, including contemporary interviews with still-living witnesses; also contains the H.C. Kunkleman film in its entirety.

  • 2009: Director Michael Mann's film Public Enemies is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. The film features Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis. Although the film has accurate portrayals of several key moments in Dillinger's life—such as his death and dialogue at his arraignment hearing—it is inaccurate in some major historical details, such as the timeline (and location) of deaths of key criminal figures including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Homer Van Meter.

  • 2012: British actor Alexander Ellis portrays Dillinger in the first Dollar Baby screen adaptation of Stephen King's short story, "The Death of Jack Hamilton".


John Dillinger's life and times in chronological order

June 1903 through July 1934

June 22, 1903: John Herbert Dillinger is born in Indianapolis, IN. From birth to age sixteen young John lived at 2053 Cooper Street in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Feb. 1, 1907: When John Dillinger was 3-years-old, when his mother became very ill, and was hospitalized. She had developed serious health problems, suffered a stroke, underwent surgery and died. She was 47 years old.

1908: John Dillinger enters school at Public School 38, in Oak Hill, Indianapolis, Indiana.

1912: John's father courted, and married Elizabeth Fields of Mooresville, a small town South of Indianapolis.

1914: John Dillinger’s half brother Hubert was born.

1916: John Dillinger’s half sister named Doris was born.

1922: John Dillinger’s half sister named Frances was born.

March 1920: Dillinger family moves to Mooresville, IN, located approx. 20 miles south of Indianapolis. He purchased a sixty-seven acre farmhouse, just off Highway 267.

July 24, 1923: Dillinger joins the U.S. Navy. He was listed as a Fireman Third Class and stationed on U.S.S. Utah, scheduled to ship out in three weeks.

December 4, 1923: after being reported for going AWOL, Dillinger deserts the Navy and is dishonorably discharged. He returns to Mooresville and joins a baseball team in Martinsville, IN called the Atletics (AC); he was noted as a good second baseman, and a shortstop, where he meets and courts 17-year-old Beryl Ethel Hovious.

April 12, 1924: John Dillinger marries Beryl Ethel Hovious of Martinsville. Beryl’s brother William Hovious was one of the witnesses. Dillinger and brother-in-law become good friends.

July 1924: Dillinger works at Mooresville Furniture Factory as an Upholsterer.

September 6, 1924: John Dillinger and Ed Singleton are intoxicated on (Corn Liquor) Moonshine when they attempt to rob Mooresville Grocer Frank Morgan. The robbery is unsuccessful.

September 6, 1924: Deputy sheriff John M. Hayworth and Marshal Greeson arrested John Dillinger on charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and assault with intent to rob.

September 14, 1924: John Dillinger admits to his crime with the advice of his father, who tells him to tell the truth.

September 15, 1924: John Dillinger is taken to the same courthouse where he had married beryl Hovious, five months earlier. In a trial that lasted all of five minutes with no legal council present, Dillinger was sentenced two-to-fourteen years on first account and ten-to-twenty on the second charge.

September 16, 1924: A bitter John Dillinger begins his sentence at Pendleton Indiana State Reformatory.

May 22, 1933: Released from Indiana State Prison at Michigan City; sentence began September 16, 1924.

June 20, 1929: Beryl Hovious divorces John Dillinger because she believes he will never get out of jail (according to Beryl Hovious).

July 15, 1929: John Dillinger transfers to Indiana State Penitentiary at Michigan City.

April 1933: Mooresville citizens sign petition to have John Dillinger paroled from jail.

May 20, 1933: John Dillinger’s stepmother Lizzie suffers a stroke.

May 22, 1933: John Dillinger paroled from prison. John Dillinger’s stepmother Lizzie dies.

June 24, 1933: Dillinger and William Shaw attempt to rob the Marshall Field Thread Mill in Monticello, Indiana.

June 29, 1933: Dillinger and Shaw rob sandwich on East 28th Street, Indianapolis.

July 17, 1933: John Dillinger, Harry Copeland and Hilton Crouch rob the Commercial Bank of Daleville and escapes with $3,500 in cash.

August 4, 1933: John Dillinger, Copeland and Crouch rob First National Bank of Montpelier, Indiana, and escapes with $6,700 in cash.

August 14, 1933: Dillinger, Copeland and Crouch rob Citizens National Bank of Bluffton, Ohio, and escapes with $6,000.

September 6, 1933: Rob Massachusetts Avenue State Bank in Indianapolis with Copeland and Crouch and escapes with $24,000.

September 1933: Patricia Long introduces Johnnie to Evelyn Frechette in North Side Chicago nightclub.

September 22, 1933: John Dillinger is captured in Dayton, Ohio, while visiting Mary Longnaker. A map of Indiana State Prison at Michigan City in found in his possession.

September 23, 1933: Dillinger is transferred to Allen County Jail, Lima, Ohio under heavy guard.

September 26, 1933: Dillinger aids in the escape of ten prisoners from Indiana State Prison at Michigan City. The escapees include: Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, John Hamilton, James Jenkins, Ed Shouse, Walter Dietrich, Joseph Fox, James Clark and John Burns.

September 29, 1933: Michigan City escapee James Clark arrested in Hammond, Indiana.

September 30, 1933: Michigan City escapee James Jenkins (brother of Mary Longnaker) is killed by vigilantes in Bean Blossom, Indiana.

October 12, 1933: Harry Pierpont, Charley Makley and Russell Clark enter the Lima jail to liberate Dillinger. Harry Copeland, John Hamilton or Ed Shouse stands guard outside. During the ordeal Pierpont kills Sheriff Jesse Sarber.

October 14, 1933: John Dillinger, Harry Pierpont and others rob the Auburn, Indiana police department of their arsenal, which includes three bulletproof vests, one Colt .45, two .38 pistols, one .44 Smith & Wesson, one .45, one German Luger one Thompson machine gun, one .30-caliber rifle, one shotgun and over 1,200 rounds of ammunition.

October 20, 1933: Six days later, Dillinger, Pierpont and Makley rob the Peru, Indiana, police department of their arsenal, which includes two Thompson machine guns, six bulletproof vests, two sawed-off shotguns, four .38 police specials, two .30.30 Winchesters.

October 23, 1933: Dillinger robs Central National Bank of Greencastle, Indiana, along with Pierpont, Makley and Harry Copeland or John Hamilton. Copeland is later convicted of the crime and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. The gang escapes with $74,728.

November 11, 1933: Police attempt to arrest Tommy Carroll in Minneapolis on suspicion of participating in the Brainerd holdup. Escaping barefooted, he leaves behind $1,600 in cash, a rifle, a machine gun, and a shotgun.

November 15, 1933: Dillinger seeks treatment from Dr. Charles Eye in Chicago after catching ringworms during his stay at Lima jail. Police Informant Arthur McGinnis contacts authorities, shots are fired but Dillinger and Frechette escapes trap.

November 17, 1933: Harry Copeland is arrested in Chicago, after drawing a gun on his girlfriend during a heated argument.

November 19, 1933: Harry Copeland is returned to prison.

November 20, 1933: John Dillinger, Pierpont, Makley, Clark, Hamilton rob the American Bank and Trust Company in Racine, Wisconsin and escapes with $27,000.

December 6, 1933: Walter Dietrich and Jack Klutas are trapped in Bellwood, Chicago. Klutas is killed as he goes for a gun, and Dietrich is captured and returned to prison.

December 11, 1933: Tommy Carroll kills Detective H.C. Perrow during a fierce gun battle with police in San Antonio, Texas.

December 14, 1933: Three days later, John Hamilton kills Sgt. William T. Shanley as he attempts to pick up his car being repaired at Broadway Auto Shop in Chicago.

December 1933: John Dillinger and Billie Frechette drive to Daytona Beach, Florida, where they meet up with Russell Clark and Opal Long, Harry Pierpont and Mary Kinder.

December 20, 1933: Edward Shouse captured in Paris, Illinois, but not before officer Eugene Teague is accidentally killed by another police officer. Shouse is returned to Michigan City Penitentiary.

December 21, 1933: Charley Makley and Homer Van Meter arrive in Daytona to meet the rest of the gang.

December 25 1933: Christmas Day After exchanging gifts, John Dillinger sends Billie Frechette back to the Neopit, Wisconsin Indian reservation.

January 1, 1934: The Dillinger gang blasts their machine guns in the air on Daytona Beach to celebrate the New Year.

January 1934: Billie contacts lawyer George R. Brokins, about divorcing her husband, Welton Spark, who is serving time in Leavenworth Penitentiary, in Kansas.

January 1934: Charley Makley and Russell Clark leave for Tucson, Arizona, and arrive around January 10. Harry Pierpont and girlfriend Mary Kinder join the group, arriving in Tucson on the January 16.

January 15, 1934: John Hamilton and others robs First National Bank of East Chicago, Indiana, and kills Officer William Patrick O'Malley, after O’Malley wounded Hamilton. Hamilton is shot in right hand and four times in groin. Hamilton loses two fingers, earning the nickname 3-finger-jack. Dillinger is later blamed for this murder, even though he is not present during this robbery. The gang escapes with $20,000.

January 15, 1934: The same day of the East Chicago robbery, John Dillinger and Billie Frechette were busy attending an automobile show in St. Louis at the Municipal Auditorium.

January 16, 1934: The bloodstained and bullet-riddled Plymouth used in the East Chicago robbery (getaway car) was found at Byron Street and California Avenue, Chicago. The blood was John Hamilton’s.

January 22, 1934: The Congress Hotel catches on fire cause from a boiler in the hotels basement. This is the same hotel where Clark and Makley are staying. Makley pays firemen $3.00 to retrieve two heavy suitcases.

January 23, 1934: Alert firemen flipping through pages of detective magazine recognize Clark and Makley and contact Tucson police.

January 25, 1934: Russell Clark is traced to 927 North Second Avenue. After a fierce fistfight with officers he is apprehended. Soon afterwards, Pierpont reads of Clarks captured and is also arrested on South Sixth as he tries to flee town. Next Charles Makley arrested in a radio store in downtown Tucson. John Dillinger and Billie Frechette are also arrested at the North Avenue residence where Clark was captured.

January 26, 1934: The gang appeared before the Justice of the Peace C.V. Budlong, at the Pima County Courthouse. Bond set at $100,000 for Dillinger and gang members.

January 29, 1934: Dillinger is forcefully taken by officers and flown on American Airlines to Douglas, Arizona, to Dallas, Fort Worth, Little Rock, and Memphis and onto St. Louis. The plane touches down at Midway Airport in Chicago.

January 30, 1934: Thirteen-car motorcade with 180 armed guards takes Dillinger to Crown Point, Indiana. The outlaw arrives at the Lake County Jail at 7:40 p.m. and is greeted by hundreds of spectators and the press.

February 1, 1934: Attorney Louis Piquett arrives in Crown Point Indiana to meet with Dillinger. After being searched by Warden Lou Baker he is allowed to see Dillinger.

February 5, 1934: Dillinger enters the Lake County Court for a preliminary hearing before Judge William J. Murray. He is shackled with no less than fifty armed guards present. Dillinger is represented by Joseph Ryan (a lawyer paid by Dillinger’s father), but the outlaw demands to see Piquett as his defense lawyer.

February 9, 1934: Dillinger is arraigned and a trial is set for March 12.

February 10, 1934: Prosecutor Robert Estill recommends that Judge Murray transfer Dillinger to the Michigan City Penitentiary until his trial, but the request is denied by Murray.

February 17, 1934: While Dillinger faces the electric chair in Crown Point, Harry Pierpont, Charley Makley and Russell Clark all plead not guilty to the killing of Sheriff Jesse Sarber. Feb. 26, 1934, Billie Frechette is allowed to visit Dillinger at the Jail in Crown Point, pretending to be his wife.

February 28, 1934: The wooden gun that Dillinger will use to escape Crown Point is being made by a unidentified German woodworker in Chicago.

March 3, 1934: Dillinger escapes from Crown Point jail with inmate Herbert Youngblood, armed only with the wooden gun and his wits. Dillinger also steals Sheriff Lillian Holley's police car and speeds for Chicago.

March 4, 1934: Billie Frechette rents a room at the Santa Monica Apartments apartment at 3252 South Girard Avenue, Minneapolis.

March 5, 1934: Sheriff Lillian Holley's car is located at 1057 Ardmore, Chicago. Dillinger is now wanted by the FBI for driving a stolen car across state lives, violating the Dyer Act, a federal offense.

March 6, 1934: Dillinger, Homer Van Meter, Eddie Green, Tommy Carroll, and Baby Face Nelson rob the Security National Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, escaping with $49,500.

March 7, 1934: The FBI officially announces they are entering the Dillinger case. March 13, 1934, Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter, Eddie Green, Tommy Carroll, and John Hamilton rob the First National Bank of Mason City, Iowa, escaping with $52,000.

March 14, 1934: Herbert Youngblood is killed in a shootout in Port Huron, Michigan. During the battle, officer Charles Cavanaugh is also killed.

March 14, 1934: Hamilton is taken to the home of Dr. Mortensen, located at 2252 Fairmount Avenue, St. Paul.

March 18, 1934: Billie Frechette travels to Mooresville to deliver a letter from Dillinger, and wooden gun is given to Audrey Hancock’s husband.

March 20, 1934: Dillinger and Frechette move into the Lincoln Court Apartments, at South Lexington Avenue, St. Paul, using the alias names of Mr. and Mrs. Carl T. Hellman.

March 23, 1934: Dillinger drives to Leipsic, Ohio, and visits Harry Pierpont's mother to help finance his trial.

March 24, 1934: Pierpont and Makley sentenced to death for the murder of Jesse Sarber, both are given the electric chair. June 13, 1934 is date of executions. Russell Clark is sentenced to life in prison.

March 27, 1934: Harry Pierpont and Charley Makley transferred to the Columbus State Penitentiary to await execution.

March 31, 1934: Suspicious neighbors contact the FBI, Agents along with a St. Paul detective who investigate the residence at apartment number 303. Homer Van Meter posing as a soap sells man fires shots as agents and escapes on a coal truck. Dillinger hears shots and is wounded in left calf during his escape. Dillinger and Frechette drive to Eddie Green's apartment at 3300 Fremont Avenue. Green takes Dillinger to see Dr. Clayton E. May, at 1835 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, treats Dillinger’s leg. He stays with Dr. May and his nurse, Augusta Salt, until April 4.

April 3, 1934: Eddie Green machine gunned by Federal Agents at his residence located at the 778 Rondo Avenue, St. Paul. Agents mortally wound the outlaw as he attempts to flee. He is unarmed.

April 4 1934: During a nationwide hunt, Dillinger and Frechette quickly flee to Mooresville, Indiana to visit John's father, arriving on the 5th. Knowing that the cops are looking for him, Frechette tries to talk Dillinger out of going to Mooresville. Dillinger replies, “Now Billie, who’s smarter, me or the cops?”

April 8, 1934: Dillinger attends a family reunion in Mooresville, while the farm is under surveillance by the State Police. Newspapers have a field day when the FBI claims they are hot on the outlaws trail.

April 9, 1934: Billie Frechette is arrested in a Chicago Tavern located at 416 North State, while Dillinger watches from across the street.

April 11, 1934: Dillinger outlaw Eddie Green dies and is buried at St. Peter's Cemetery, Mendota, Minnesota.

April 13, 1934: Dillinger and Homer Van Meter rob the Warsaw, Indiana, police department of their arsenal, taking two pistols and several bulletproof vests.

April 17, 1934: John Dillinger and John Hamilton drive to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to visit Hamilton's sister and leave several weapons in a parked car.

April 20, 1934: John Dillinger, Homer Van Meter, Marie Comforti, John Hamilton, Pat Cherrington, Tommy Carroll, Jean Delaney, Pat Reilly, Helen Gillis and Baby Face Nelson all arrive at Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish, Wisconsin for a vacation from bank robbery.

April 21, 1934: Homer Van Meter sends Pat Reilly and Pat Cherrington to drive to St. Paul to collect $10,000 from Harry Sawyer.

April 22, 1934: The FBI surrounds the Little Bohemia Lodge after being tipped off by Mrs. Emil Wanatka, wife of owner of the Lodge. The gang escaped without firing a shot. Helen Gillis, Marie Comforti, and Jean Delaney are captured by Federal Agents. The FBI wounded innocent victims John Hoffman, John Morris and killed Eugene Boiseneau. Agents J.C. Newman, Carl C. Christensen are wounded at nearby Lodge by Baby Face Nelson during his escape. Nelson also killed agent W. Carter Baum.

April 23, 1934: Attempting to drive into St. Paul, John Hamilton is fatally wounded in back as Dillinger, Van Meter battle with police. Dillinger contacts Doc Moran, an underworld Doctor who had treated the Barker-Karpis gang, but he refused to help.

April 27, 1934: John Hamilton dies in Aurora, Illinois. He is buried by Dillinger, Van Meter, and members of the Barker-Karpis gang.

May 2, 1934: The most talked about bloodstained getaway car is found abandoned at 3333 North Leavitt, Chicago.

May 15, 1934: Trial of Billie Frechette, Dr. Clayton May and Augusta Salt begins in St. Paul.

May 23, 1934: Frechette and May found guilty of conspiring to harbor John Dillinger. Nurse Salt was released and charges dropped. Billie Frechette was sentenced to two years at the women’s federal prison in Milan, Michigan. Dr. May sentenced to two years at Leavenworth penitentiary.

May 24, 1934: East Chicago Officers Martin O'Brien and Lloyd Mulvihill are killed by Mobsters in East Chicago. John Dillinger and Van Meter gets the blame, but this was not their style.

May 27, 1934: Dillinger moves into the home of James Probasco at 2509 Crawford Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

May 28, 1934: Dr. Wilhelm Loeser and assistant Harold Cassidy begin plastic surgery on Dillinger at the Probasco home. Loeser also removes Dillinger's fingerprints with boric acid.

May 31, 1934: Dillinger’s bandages are removed to display his new face.

June 1934: While trying out his new face, Dillinger meets Polly Hamilton at the “Barrel of Fun Club” in Chicago.

June 3, 1934: Dr. Loeser now begins plastic surgery on Homer Van Meter as he did John Dillinger with the help of his assistant Dr. Cassidy.

June 7, 1934: Dillinger gangster, Tommy Carroll is shot to death by Waterloo detectives in Iowa. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul.

June 21, 1934: Homer Van Meter picks up girlfriend Marie Comforti and the two travel to Calumet City, Illinois, where they rent a room under assumed names.

June 22, 1934: John Dillinger celebrates his 31st birthday with Polly Hamilton at the French Casino nightclub, in Chicago. The FBI sends a birthday present for Dillinger… on this day he is the first criminal in history to be named “Public Enemy Number One” on the FBI’s most wanted list.

June 23, 1934: John Dillinger and Polly Hamilton return to the French Casino Nightclub to celebrate her birthday.

June 26, 1934: With Polly Hamilton, John Dillinger attends Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

June 27, 1934: Harry Copeland sentenced to 25 years for his part in the Greencastle bank robbery.

June 30, 1934: Supposedly John Dillinger, Homer Van Meter, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and John Paul Chase rob the Merchants' National Bank in South Bend, Indiana, The gang escapes with $30,000. There is actually no solid evidence that Dillinger and Floyd were involved in this robbery.

July 2, 1934: John Dillinger enjoys a movie at the Biograph Theater located at 2433 Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

July 7, 1934: Pat Cherrington and Opal Long are sentenced to two years on harboring charges in the federal prison for women at Milan, Michigan, on harboring charges.

July 10, 1934: John Dillinger, Polly Hamilton, Van Meter and Marie Comforti all attend the World's Fair together.

July 11, 1934: John Dillinger meets with Arthur O'Leary in Chicago to help Billie Frechette gain her freedom.

July 22, 1934: After making a deal with the Feds to help save her from being deported out of the country, Madam Anna Sage calls Agent Melvin Purvis to inform him that Dillinger, Polly Hamilton and herself will either attend the Biograph or the Marlboro Theater. The FBI set a trap. About 8:30 P.M., John Dillinger, Polly Hamilton and Anna Sage (The Lady In Red) all arrive at the Biograph Theater. The three enter the theater, while 22 federal agents and five East Chicago officers surround the area so tight, a Nat couldn’t escape the net. At 10:35 P.M., Dillinger leaves the Theater with a woman on each arm. Four shots are fired, and Dillinger is hit twice, one bullet hit his left side, and the other entered the back of his neck and exiting beneath the right eye, killing the most celebrated gangster of the 1930s. Dillinger is carried in wicker basket from the undertaker to the hearse to begin journey to Mooresville. After a six-hour ride, the caravan arrives. The body is carried into the Harvey Funeral Home. Body is removed at 10:15 p.m. and moved to Maywood, Indiana, to the home of Audrey Hancock, Dillinger's sister.

July 25, 1934: Audrey Hancock allows public viewing of her brother, and America’s number one criminal John Dillinger. Dillinger is buried next to his mother at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Dillinger, The Hidden Truth – A Tribute to Gangsters & G-Men of the Great Depression era by Tony Stewart.


Weapons used by John Dillinger


American gangster and bank robber John Dillinger is known to have used many weapons during his criminal career.

  • Colt .38 Super automatic, with Cutts compensator, 22-round magazine, and vertical foregrip. Modified by San Antonio arms supplier Hyman S. Lehman (his gun shop was located at 111 South Flores Street). Available in .38 or .45. A machine pistol was left behind by Dillinger at the Lincoln Court Apartments on March 31, 1934. A machine pistol was used by Baby Face Nelson with deadly results near Little Bohemia in April 1934.

  • Colt Monitor, the commercial version of the Browning Automatic Rifle. Used by Nelson and Chase in Barrington on November 27, 1934. The 30.06 Monitor was introduced in 1931. Only 125 were ever produced. Discontinued circa 1940. Rate of fire: 500 rounds per minute. Exceedingly rare, Monitors fetch upwards of $100,000 in today's market. If the Nelson/Chase Monitor were ever to surface, it would probably top $1 million.

  • Model 1905 Smith & Wesson Hand-Ejector .38, used by Detective Henry Cummings on March 31, 1934, at the Lincoln Court Apartments during his shootout with Dillinger. A six-shooter, Cummings testified at the Frechette trial that he fired five times in Dillinger's direction and was out. As a backup, he was also carrying a Colt .25 Model 1908 Vest Pocket, but probably wisely decided to reload the .38 instead of employing the Colt. Donated to the Minnesota Historical Society by Cummings' heirs.

  • Dillinger's wooden gun. At last count, there are approximately eight wooden guns that have surfaced, with most of them being of recent vintage. There are a handful of researchers who believe the gun Dillinger is holding in the famous photograph taken at the family farm on April 8, 1934, hasn't been found yet. The argument is that the barrel on the gun Dillinger is holding appears to be a bit longer than those that have surfaced, as well as being almost perfectly round. The barrel is reflecting the sun, suggesting a metal barrel. The matter is still open to debate. According to G. Russell Girardin, Dillinger's first biographer, O'Leary had made a duplicate of the gun. He kept the original for himself and returned the phony to Dillinger's family, where it was subsequently stolen. The O'Leary duplicate is reportedly in a private collection in Washington State.

  • Savage Model 1907 .32 ACP automatic, black, No. 258872. The gun Herbert Youngblood, Dillinger's co-escapee at Crown Point, used to kill Under-Sheriff Charles Cavanaugh, critically wound Deputy Sheriff Howard Lohr, and also wound Sheriff William Van Antwerp and civilian Eugene Field in Port Huron, Michigan, on March 16, 1934. Youngblood was also carrying a nickel-plated Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special, with six-inch barrel, bearing No. 613951 on the butt of the gun, and chamber No. 33524. This gun was used to cause his own death at the hands of civilian Eugene Field. Both guns taken March 3 during the Crown Point escape.

  • Thompson submachine gun. Models 1921 and 1928 were the weapons of choice for nearly all 1930s outlaws. If acquired legitimately, a Thompson originally sold for $200. Rate of fire: 720 rpm (Model 1928), 850 rpm (Model 1921). A Thompson was first secured by the gang during their raid of the Auburn, Indiana, police station on October 14, 1933, and made its debut nine days later at the Greencastle robbery. Three officers were killed with the Thompson by Dillinger gang members: Martin J. O'Brien and Francis Lloyd Mulvihill (by Van Meter on Thursday, May 24, 1934) and William Patrick O'Malley (by Dillinger on Monday, January 15, 1934). All three policemen are buried near each other at Calvary Cemetery in Portage, Indiana. According to records research Colt Thompson Submachine Gun serial number 5878 which was stolen from the Peru, Indiana police department is currently located at the Tucson, Arizona Police Dept. HQ. This weapon was seized along with others after the fire at the Congress Hotel where Dillinger's Gang had been hiding out in January 1934.

  • .351 Winchester Model 1907, modified by Lehman, with a 20-round magazine and vertical foregrip. A favorite of Van Meter's, he used one at the South Bend robbery on Saturday, June 30, 1934, killing Officer Howard Wagner. Found in most recovered Dillinger arsenals, including Tucson and Little Bohemia.

  • Colt .38 Super automatic (stock). One of the pistols found in Mary Longnaker's Dayton, Ohio, apartment on Friday, September 22, 1933, at 1:30 a.m. The .38 was found between the cushions of the sofa, along with several other guns in Dillinger's luggage. The bandit was standing in the middle of the living room looking at photographs of their recent trip to the World's Fair when detectives stormed in. Currently in possession of the Dayton History at Carillon Park.


The Dillinger Gang was the name given to a crew of American Depression-era bank robbers led by John Dillinger and included other famous gangsters of the period, such as Baby Face Nelson. The gang was noted for a successful string of bank robberies, using modern tools and tactics, in the Midwestern United States from September 1933 to July 1934.

During the execution of these crimes, the gang killed 10 men and wounded 7 more. During this period they also performed three escapes from jail that resulted in the death of a sheriff and the wounding of two guards.

The increasing use of modern law enforcement techniques by the newly strengthened Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led to the destruction of the gang. Many of its members were killed or imprisoned. Most notably, the FBI killed Dillinger in 1934 when he exited a movie theatre.


The gang employed military-inspired tactics taught to them in prison by men such as Herman Lamm. Tactics included the use of roles during the robbery: Lookout, getaway driver, lobby man and vault man. Gang members had modern weapons like the Thompson submachine gun and also had bullet proof vests.

Lamm is credited with creating the first detailed getaway maps, known as "gits", to improve the chances for escape after the robbery. Powerful vehicles, like Ford coupes with a V8 engine, at the scene of the crime were known as "work cars" but were discarded after the crime to foil eye-witness reports given to police. Gangsters made use of caches of gasoline for their getaway cars as well as medical kits to treat injuries.


Before Lima

  • New Carlisle National Bank, New Carlisle, Ohio, of $10,000 on June 21, 1933;

  • The Commercial Bank, Daleville, Indiana, of $3,500 on July 17, 1933;

  • Montpelier National Bank, Montpelier, Indiana, of $6,700 on August 4, 1933;

  • Bluffton Bank, Bluffton, Ohio, of $6,000 on August 14, 1933;

  • Massachusetts Avenue State Bank, Indianapolis, Indiana, of $21,000 on September 6, 1933;

After Dillinger was broken out of Lima

  • Home Banking Company, Saint Mary's, Ohio of $12,000;

  • Central National Bank And Trust Co., Greencastle, Indiana, of $74,802 on October 23, 1933;

  • American Bank And Trust Co., Racine, Wisconsin, of $28,000 on November 20, 1933;

  • First National Bank, East Chicago, Indiana, of $20,000 on January 15, 1934;

After Dillinger's escape from Crown Point

  • Securities National Bank And Trust Co., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, of $49,500 on March 6, 1934;

  • First National Bank, Mason City, Iowa, of $52,000 on March 13, 1934;

  • First National Bank, Fostoria, Ohio, of $17,000 on May 3, 1934;

  • Merchants National Bank, South Bend, Indiana, of $29,890 on June 30, 1934.

To obtain more supplies, the gang attacked the state police arsenals in Auburn and Peru, stealing machine guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition and bulletproof vests. On October 23, 1933, the gang robbed the Central National Bank & Trust Company in Greencastle, Indiana, making off with $74,802. They then headed to Chicago to hide out.

The gang traveled to Racine, Wisconsin and robbed the American Bank and Trust Company, making off with $28,000. On December 14, 1933, CPD Detective William Shanley was killed.

The police had been put on high alert and suspected the Dillinger gang of involvement in the robbery of the Unity Trust And Savings Bank of $8,700 the day before. The robbery was eventually determined to have been the work of another outfit. Shanley was following up on a tip that one of the gang's cars was being serviced at a local garage. John "Red" Hamilton showed up at the garage that afternoon. When Shanley approached him, Hamilton pulled a pistol and shot him twice, killing Shanley, then escaped. Shanley's murder led to the Chicago Police Department's establishment of a forty-man "Dillinger Squad."

Daytona Beach, Florida

Dillinger and Frechette, were at a house on Daytona Beach, Florida on December 19, a day or two later they were joined by members of his gang, these were Pierpont, Makley, Russell Clark and Opal Long. Edwin Utter was the caretaker who occupied the garage apartment at the same address, and he told how the couples didn't bother anyone (they kept to themselves) and had no outside contacts, as far as he knew, and he didn't see anyone visit them.

To Utter the group had the appearance of gangsters. Someone in the group at some time mentioned to him they were coming from Chicago. Utter said the group received a considerable amount of mail. After the gang had gone, several letters came addressed to Frank Kirtley (an alias of Dillinger), J.C. Davies (alias of Makley), and J.C. Evans (an alias of Pierpont), but as the gang had not left a forwarding addresses, they were returned to the postman.

Utter stated there was considerable drinking going on, especially at night. He said the gang stayed at the cottage until about January 12, leaving at night. This January date would have posed yet another problem for Dillinger's defense team had he gone to trial for Officer O'Malley's killing.

East Chicago robbery

While Makley, Clark, and Pierpont extended their vacation by driving west to Tucson, Arizona, Dillinger left Florida on January 12 and met up with Hamilton in Chicago at noon on January 15, a meeting that had been arranged between the two men while Dillinger was in Daytona Beach. Later that afternoon they robbed the First National Bank in East Chicago.

East Chicago marked the first time serious violence occurred at a Dillinger robbery, a trend that would continue through South Bend, the last job. Killed by Dillinger was East Chicago patrolman William Patrick O'Malley, the outlaw's first and only murder victim. At approximately 2:50 p.m., 10 minutes before closing time, Dillinger and Hamilton, and an unidentified driver, pulled up in front of the bank on Chicago Avenue on the wrong side of the street, facing east in the westbound lane, double parked, and exited the vehicle, leaving the driver to wait in the idling car.

Hamilton waited in the bank's vestibule, while Dillinger entered the main room of the bank. Once inside, Dillinger leisurely opened up a leather case containing a Thompson, pulled it out, and yelled to the 20 to 30 people in the bank, "This is a stickup. Put up your l and get back against the wall."

The bank's vice president, Walter Spencer, while hiding, kicked a button which touched off the burglar alarm. Dillinger then went to the door of the vestibule and told Hamilton to come in. Hamilton produced a small leather bag and began scooping up the cash cage by cage. Dillinger told him, "Take your time. We're in no hurry."

Meanwhile, the first police contingent arrived on the scene after receiving the alarm at police headquarters. Four officers arrived: Patrick O'Malley, Hobart Wilgus, Pete Whalen, and Julius Schrenko.

After a quick look through the windows of the bank, the officers could see a holdup was in progress and that one of the men was carrying a submachine gun. Shrenko ran to a nearby drugstore and called for more backup. While Schrenko was calling headquarters, Wilgus entered the bank by himself, but was soon covered by Dillinger. The outlaw "relieved" him of his pistol, emptied the cartridges, then tossed it back to the officer. Referring to his Thompson, Dillinger told Wilgus, "You oughtn't be afraid of this thing. I ain't even sure it'll shoot."

Turning his attention to Hamilton, Dillinger said, "Don't let those coppers outside worry you. Take your time and be sure to get all the dough. We'll take care of them birds on the outside when we get there." Dillinger then discovered the hiding VP, Spencer, and ordered him up against the wall with everyone else.

Schrenko's call for backup emptied the station of all but its phone operator. Four more officers arrived: Captains Tim O'Neil and Ed Knight, and Officers Nick Ranich and Lloyd Mulvihill (Mulvihill would be murdered by Van Meter towards the end of May).

These four officers joined the other three in positions on either side of the Chicago Avenue entrance to the bank. Apparently, not one of them noticed the getaway car double parked on the wrong side of the street right outside the bank door, with its driver sitting unconcerned in the seat with the motor running.

Dillinger then ordered Spencer and Wilgus to lead the way out of the bank, acting as shields. The four walked down the sidewalk toward the car. O'Malley, standing about 20 feet from the front door, saw an opening and fired four times at Dillinger, the bullets bouncing off the outlaw's bullet-proof vest.

Dillinger pushed Spencer away with the barrel of his Thompson and yelled, "Get over. I'll get that son of a bitch." O'Malley fell dead, with eight holes in a line across his chest. As Hamilton made his way into the street, he took a bullet to the right hand, causing him to drop an emptied pistol. Dillinger kept firing until he climbed into the rear seat of the car. Two game wardens who had driven up to the scene emptied their guns into the car as it started to pull away. The car actually started to pull away before Hamilton had closed the left rear door, and the door was partly torn off as it caught on the rear of another vehicle.

The Ohio plates used at the gang's earlier robbery of a Greencastle bank in October were used on the East Chicago getaway car. Police believed the car "may have been a Plymouth," but was actually a 1934 Ford Tudor Sedan. The abandoned car was found the following day at Byron Street and California Avenue, Chicago.

Every officer, as well as numerous witnesses inside the bank, identified Dillinger as being one of the robbers – and the gang member who shot Officer O'Malley. Prints were taken of the piece Hamilton left behind, which ID'd him. Dillinger was officially charged with Officer O'Malley's murder, although the identity of the actual killer is debatable, and it is still questioned by some whether Dillinger participated in the robbery at all.

As police began closing in again, the men left Chicago to hide out first in Florida; later at the Gardner Hotel in El Paso, Texas, where a highly visible police presence dissuaded Dillinger from trying to cross the border at the Santa Fe Bridge in downtown El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and finally in Tucson, Arizona.

Hiding out in Tucson

On January 21, 1934, a fire broke out at the Hotel Congress in Tucson where members of the Dillinger gang were staying. Forced to leave their luggage behind, they were rescued through a window and down a fire truck ladder. Makley and Clark tipped several firemen $12 (each, according to a bureau report) to climb back up and retrieve the luggage, affording the firefighters a good look at several members of Dillinger's gang.

One of them, William Benedict, later recognized Makley, Pierpont, and Ed Shouse while thumbing through a copy of True Detective and informed the police, who traced Makley's luggage to 927 North Second Avenue. Officers from the Tucson Police Department went to the address on the afternoon of January 25, and there arrested Clark after a struggle. They found him in possession of $1,264.70 in cash.

Makley was then followed to the Grabbe Electric & Radio Store on Congress Street, where he was looking at a radio capable of picking up police calls, and was apprehended there. He had $794.09 of cash in his possession.

To capture Pierpont, the police staged a routine traffic stop and lured him to the police station, where they took him by surprise and arrested him. There was $99.81 recovered in Pierpont's personal effects and $3,116.20 on Mary Kinder.

Dillinger was the last one taken, caught when he returned to the bungalow where Clark was captured. He had $7,175.44 in his possession, including notes from his robbery of the First National Bank in East Chicago, A000919 through A001107. These amounts, along with a leather money bag found, totaled over $25,000 in cash, as well as a cache of machine guns and several automatic weapons.

The men were extradited to the Midwest after a debate between prosecutors as to where the gang would be prosecuted first. The governor compromised, and ordered that Dillinger would be extradited to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point for Officer O'Malley's murder in the East Chicago bank robbery, while Pierpont, Makley and Clark were sent to Ohio to stand trial for Sheriff Sarber's murder. Shouse's testimony at the March 1934 trials of Pierpont, Makley and Clark led to all three men being convicted. Pierpont and Makley received the death penalty, while Clark received a life sentence.

On September 22, Makley would be shot dead by guards when he and Pierpont attempted to escape with fake pistols that were carved from bars of soap and painted black with shoe polish. Pierpont was wounded, and executed on October 17. Clark would ultimately be released in 1968, dying of cancer a few months later.

Dillinger was flown back from Douglas Airport, Tucson, to Midway Airport, Chicago over the course of two days. With Lake County Chief Deputy Carroll Holley (Sheriff Lillian Holley's nephew), and East Chicago Chief of Police Nick Makar escorting the outlaw, the plane departed Tucson at 11:14 p.m. on Monday, January 29.

After stops in Douglas, AZ (plane change), El Paso, Abilene, Dallas (another plane change), Fort Worth, Little Rock and Memphis (another plane change, a Ford Tri-Motor), there was yet another stop in St. Louis, where Chicago Times reporter/photographer Sol Davis boarded the aircraft and was obliged by Dillinger to take a few photos and ask some questions.

After a while, growing weary of the questions and being photographed, the outlaw told Davis, "Go away and let me sleep." Dillinger's brutal flight schedule ended at about six p.m. January 30 when the plane finally touched down at Midway. Waiting for him on the ground were 32 heavily armed Chicago policemen. A 13-car caravan consisting of 29 troopers from Indiana was ready to escort Dillinger to Crown Point, 30 miles away, to be tried for the O'Malley killing.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, robbery

Dillinger was for a time imprisoned at Crown Point jail, although he later escaped. Three days after Dillinger's escape, at about 9:45 a.m. on March 6, a vehicle (green 1934 Packard Super 8, 1934 Kansas license 13-786) filled with six members of the gang parked near the curb at the Security National Bank and Trust Company in Sioux Falls.

One of the bank's bookkeepers, Mary Lucas, was applying some lipstick when she looked out the window and saw the Packard roll up the street. "If I ever saw a holdup car, that's one," she said to a bank stenographer next to her. The stenographer laughed, saying that she'd been hearing too much lately about bank robberies.

Before they could get back to their desks, Dillinger, Nelson, Green and Van Meter had entered the bank and subdued both tellers and customers. Hamilton, the driver, stayed with the car, while Tommy Carroll patrolled outside the bank with a Thompson. Inside, Nelson spotted motorcycle patrolman Hale Keith who was approaching the bank on foot. He fired his Thompson at Keith through a plate glass window while standing on an assistant cashier's counter.

Multiple bullets hit Keith in the abdomen, in the right leg, about six inches below the hip, the right wrist, and the right arm, just below the elbow but would survive. Nelson was reported to have laughed when Keith fell, then saying, "I got one! I got one!"

H.M. Shoebotham, a reporter for the Daily Argus-Leader, was in the office of Sheriff Mel Sells at the time of the Sheriff receiving a call informing him of the robbery. Mel grabbed a machine gun and a riot gun, and gave the riot gun to Shoebotham. They both got into a car and drove to the robbery scene, three blocks away.

On the way to the bank, Sells figured his strategy. Across from the bank stood the Lincoln Hotel. He planned to reach a second floor window, stick his gun out and fire at the robbers. When he reached the bank, scores of spectators were watching the activities. In the center of the street in front of the bank Carroll was standing with a machine gun. Occasionally, he would fire a few volleys, supposedly to keep the assembled people impressed.

There exists a photograph taken of Tommy Carroll from across the street during the robbery, an "action" photo that is most likely unique to prewar bank robberies. Sheriff Sells backed his coupe into the alley behind the Lincoln Hotel and took his weapon to the second floor, leaving the Thompson with Shoebotham.

Surrounding themselves with bystanders, the gang backed out of the bank to the Packard. No officers dared to shoot. The outlaws picked out five people to go with as hostages and commanded them to stand on the running boards. The hostages were Leo Olson, a bank-teller; Mildred Bostwick, Alice Biegen, Emma Knabach, stenographers; and Mary Lucas.

As the Packard sped away from the bank, Patrolman Harley Chrisman managed to shoot out the radiator. Shortly after they left town, they swerved to avoid collisions with two horse-drawn milk wagons. Moments later, Dillinger released Olson, then made the women get into the car, which was already packed with the rest of the gang, their guns, extra gasoline cans, and the robbery loot.

Bill Conklin of the Wilson service station on South Minnesota Avenue saw the Packard coming down the street with smoke pouring from the hood and assumed the car was on fire. He ran into the station, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran back out. One of the robbers said, "Get back in there" as they had slowed up for him.

The car eventually began to slow down right outside of town, giving three pursuing police cars time to catch up. Two miles outside of the Lakeland farm, the gang got out of the Packard and made the hostages stand around them, then opened fire on their pursuers. The three squad cars retreated. The gang then hijacked a car owned by local farmer Alfred Muesche, and transferred the gas cans and money into it.

About 10 miles outside of Sioux Falls, the gang released the hostages, and drove off. The hostages were eventually picked up by a passing motorist who drove them back to the bank.

The police scoured the highways by ground and by air over a 50-mile segment of territory south and east of Sioux Falls. The men they were looking for were believed to have ditched Muesche's Dodge for "a big Lincoln" about two or three miles northwest of Shindler. From St. Paul came the assurance that 20 police cars were patrolling all roads heading into St. Paul and Minneapolis, but the gang made it safely back to the Twin Cities and began preparing for the Mason City heist.

Mason City, Iowa, robbery

Seven days later, on the afternoon of March 13, at 2:40 p.m., the same six (Dillinger, Nelson, Hamilton, Green, Van Meter, and Carroll), plus an added seventh man as the probable driver, either Joseph Burns or Red Forsythe, drove down State Street in a 1933 blue Buick 90 series sedan (with the rear window removed) and parked in front of Mulcahy's prescription shop.

All sources tell a different story as to who went in the bank and who patrolled outside, but it was believed certain that Dillinger took a position outside the front entrance, with Nelson on the north side of the street near the alley behind the bank, and at least Hamilton and Green entered the bank, with probably Van Meter. From descriptions by witnesses later, Tommy Carroll was also positioned outside. Carroll stood in the doorway of the prescription shop on State.

Freelance photographer H.C. Kunkleman happened to be filming the bank when the robbery began. Kunkleman was told by one of the bandits to turn the camera off, that they would be the ones doing all the shooting. He began filming again once the gang made their getaway (the five-minute film still exists).

Green and Hamilton (and probably Van Meter) entered the bank and fired volleys into the walls and ceiling. Thirty-one employees and approximately 25 customers were ordered to put their hands up. Tom Walters, a bank guard positioned in an elevated bulletproof observation booth near the front entrance, fired a teargas cartridge, according to procedure, which hit Green in the back. Walters' tear gas gun then jammed.

One of the robbers, either Van Meter or Green, sprayed the booth with machine-gun fire, which shattered the glass, but left Walters unharmed. Tom Barclay, a clerk, threw a teargas grenade over the balcony of the lobby.

While the tellers' cash drawers were being emptied (drawers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, missing 5, about $5,000), Hamilton grabbed assistant cashier Harry Fisher and brought him back to open the vault. About a week earlier, Eddie Green (most likely) had appeared at Fisher's door asking for directions, then peered attentively at Fisher's face, something Fisher would later remember. Directions for alternate routes for the getaway were also mapped out at this time.

Once they got to the vault, Hamilton erred by allowing a steel gate to close and lock between him and Fisher. Fisher now could only hand stacks of $5 bills to Hamilton through the bars, greatly reducing the gang's take from $250,000 to $52,000. During the robbery, Green would periodically yell out the time to the others.

Meanwhile, crowds began to form outside after word had spread that a robbery was in progress at the bank. James Buchanan, an off-duty officer, who had grabbed a sawed-off shotgun when he heard about the robbery, hid behind the Grand Army of the Republic monument. Unable to fire because of the crowd of people, he instead exchanged barbs with Dillinger.

Of the robbers, Dillinger was the only one for whom a clothing description could be provided: light gray suit, dark overcoat and dark hat. Buchanan called back for him to get away from the crowd and he would fight it out with him. Buchanan said that Dillinger's upper lip turned into a snarl as he talked. Dillinger, armed with a Thompson, drew a .38 from an inside pocket and fired at Buchanan, but missed.

Outside the bank, Nelson was acting somewhat crazily, firing randomly in different directions. One man, R.L. James, was hit in the leg by one of Nelson's bursts. Tommy Carroll came over to check on James' condition. An oncoming car came and Carroll blasted it with his machine gun. "The radiator of the car was filled with lead and the frantic driver backed out at the rate of 25 mph."

From his third-floor office above the bank, police judge John C. Shipley heard the gunfire and went to the window. Dillinger sent a volley of shots in Shipley's direction, warning him to stay back. The judge retreated, but went to his desk and grabbed a pistol, then returned to the window and fired, hitting Dillinger in the left shoulder.

Hamilton, Green and Van Meter, with a large canvas bag of cash, left through the front door of the bank, surrounding themselves with hostages that Dillinger had collected. The entire gang moved as one around the corner onto State Street, with Dillinger in the center of the group. Judge Shipley, again, was at a window from above the bank and risked firing into the group, this time striking Hamilton in the shoulder. When Hamilton saw R.L. James lying on the street wounded, he said, "I thought there wasn't going to be any more of this?" Nelson, who had now joined them, said, "I thought he was a copper."

Nelson then stopped two women who had just come out of a nearby butcher shop and were at the intersection of State Street and the alley directly east of the bank, and marshalled them to the car and commanded them to stand outside of it. Before they reached the car, Nelson snatched the package of meat from Mrs. Clark's hands, threw it to the ground and stomped on it, silencing her protests with, "You'll get paid plenty for it."

The number of hostages varies wildly in Dillinger books, but the Mason City Globe-Gazette' from that day names 11 people. A couple women sat inside the car on the robbers' laps. Bill Schmidt, an employee of Killmer Drug, was delivering a bag of sandwiches to the bank and was stopped by Dillinger and also shoved into the Buick. While riding through town, the bag of sandwiches was discovered and they were quickly eaten by the gang.

The Buick slowly moved north on Federal Avenue to 2nd Street, taking a left, headed west to Adams, taking another left. The car stayed at about 25 mph within the downtown area. Near 4th Street, Clarence MGowan, along with his wife and five-year-old daughter, spotted the car. McGowan began to pursue the bandit car after mistakenly believing the vehicle, loaded with people on the outside of the car, to be part of a wedding or "some kind of wild demonstration." He was shot in the abdomen after pulling up too close to the Buick. McGowan went home and bathed before going to the hospital. Both McGowan and R.L. James, Nelson's casualty, recovered.

The Buick stopped from time to time so that roofing nails could be spread across the highway, "sacks full of them." Oncoming cars were stopped by the gang and were ordered to stay where they were for five minutes before moving on. Bill Schmidt said that "The bandits would drive fairly fast on the straight away, but slowed down for the bumps."

The hostages were let off a few at a time and individually. Mrs. Clark (carrying the meat earlier) and Mrs. Graham were the last two hostages to be released, at a point three and a half miles south and a mile and a half east of Mason City. Asked if she'd be able to identify any of the men, Mrs. Clark said, "I sure would; especially the one who winked at me."

The Buick was found in a gravel pit about four miles south of the city later that evening. According to police, two cars had been waiting for the gang, with one driver in each vehicle.

Once the gang made it back to St. Paul, Green showed up at Pat Reilly's, 27-year-old fringe gang member, husband and father, and also bartender at St. Paul's Green Lantern, asking him if he knew where Dr. (Nels) Mortensen's home in St. Paul was, and requested that he accompany him to see the doctor.

Reilly later stated to agents that at that time Eddie Green was driving a Hudson and that Dillinger and Hamilton were in the back seat; that both individuals had gunshot wounds in the shoulders and that Dillinger appeared to be nauseated and slightly dizzy.

All four proceeded to Mortensen's home at 2252 Fairmount Avenue in St. Paul, arriving just after midnight. Mortensen answered the call in this night clothes. He examined both men, probing the wounds.

Reilly said that during this time Dillinger was "quite ill and wobbly or faint" and had to sit down on the couch. Mortensen told them the wounds weren't serious and that he didn't have his medical bag there. He asked them if they had any liquor. They replied in the affirmative. He instructed them to go home and take a stiff drink and to return to his office the next day. They didn't appear.

The four returned to Green's car and drove to the intersection of Snelling and Selby, where Green gave Reilly a $5 bill and let him out of the car. Reilly said he hailed a Blue and White taxi and then returned home.

Eddie Green was later questioned by the FBI, and gave the names of the two doctors to them while in a critical state in the hospital.

Proceeding the events of the Mason City, Iowa robbery, John Dillinger and his crew reached for safety at Little Bohemia Lodge, located in northern Wisconsin. The owner of the lodge grew suspicious after seeing the behavior of the group of men, and tipped the FBI.

Three FBI agents positioned themselves about the cabin, and waited. Eventually, the agents opened fire on the lodge towards the gangsters, and Dillinger and his crew decided to flee through the woods after returning fire briefly. They escaped, and with no casualties.

Little Bohemia Lodge

About 1:00 of the afternoon of April 20, Van Meter, Marie Comforti ("Mickey"), and Pat Reilly were the first to arrive at Little Bohemia Lodge, located 13 miles south of Mercer in northern Wisconsin, in the town of Manitowish Waters.

Emil Wanatka, born in Bohemia (in Czech Republic) in 1888 and who opened the resort just four years prior, greeted them. Arriving later, about 5:30, were Dillinger, Hamilton and Cherrington by way of Sault Ste. Marie, then Nelson and wife Helen, who had come in from Chicago, and last to arrive were Tommy Carroll and Jean Delaney.

Reilly stated that on that first night he, Carroll, Lester Gillis (Nelson), Dillinger, and Emil Wanatka played "hearts" for several hours and that the game broke up around midnight. He went to the bar to get a drink while the others went to their various rooms.

Hamilton and Pat Cherrington occupied the end room on the left side of the upstairs in the lodge, while Van Meter and Comforti occupied the room opposite. Tommy Carroll and Jean Delaney, together with Gillis and Helen, occupied the little cottage on the right of Little Bohemia, near the entrance.

Dillinger slept in the first bedroom on the left upstairs in the main lodge. Reilly stated to agents that he was told by Van Meter that Dillinger's room had two beds and that he would be sleeping in the same room with Dillinger.

Reilly stated that as he entered the room, Dillinger was lying on the bed on the left side of the room, reading a detective magazine and with a bottle of whiskey on the stand near the bed; that as he came into the room Dillinger laid his magazine on the table but that no conversation took place between them. He noticed when Dillinger turned over as though to sleep he had a .45 automatic under his pillow. Reilly advised that he then took a drink of whiskey out of the bottle, which was 16-year-old bonded whiskey, the name of which he couldn't recall. He then locked the door and turned out the light and went to bed on the right-hand side of the room.

The gang had assured the owners that they would give no trouble, but they monitored the owners whenever they left or spoke on the phone. Emil's wife Nan and her brother managed to evade Baby Face Nelson, who was tailing them, and mailed a letter of warning to a U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago, which later contacted the Division of Investigation.

Days later, a score of federal agents led by Hugh Clegg and Melvin Purvis (The G Man) approached the lodge in the early morning hours. Two barking watchdogs announced their arrival, but the gang was so used to Nan Wanatka's dogs that they did not bother to inspect the disturbance.

It was only after the federal agents mistakenly shot a local resident and two innocent Civilian Conservation Corps workers as they were about to drive away in a car that the Dillinger gang was alerted to the presence of the BOI. Gunfire between the groups lasted only momentarily, but the whole gang managed to escape in various ways despite the agents' efforts to surround and storm the lodge.

J.J. Dunn, Dakota County Sheriff, received a call from the Department of Justice at 3:40 a.m. on Monday, April 23, giving notice of the possibility that the gang might be headed his way and to look for Wisconsin plate No. 92652 on the Model A. Dunn gathered a posse that included deputy sheriffs Joe Heinen, Norman Dieters, and Larry Dunn, with Hastings night policeman Fred McArdle.

The coupe was spotted six hours later, shortly after 10 a.m., entering the city from the south on Highway 3, then "turned the drug store corner to cross the high bridge, in the direction of St. Paul."

The officers used Heinen's Buick sedan in the pursuit, with Heinen driving and McArdle armed with a .30-30 and Dieters a .30-40. A large cattle truck slipped in between the officers' car and the Model A, and Heinen was unable to pass the truck until he reached the opposite side of the spiral bridge. Upon leaving the north end of the bridge, the bandit car was seen climbing the hill a half a mile across the valley.

The Buick started to creep up on the trio. McArdle and Dieters fired warning shots outside their windows as the two cars were leaving St. Paul Park. Dillinger, the middle passenger, with Van Meter driving, returned fire with his .45 through the rear window of the coupe. As the cars roared up the highway toward Newport, approximately 50 shots were exchanged. The chase that started near St. Paul Park, according to the officers involved, was for about 20 miles, not 50, as it is usually reported.

McArdle fired the lucky shot that inflicted the mortal wound to Hamilton. In describing the death shot, McArdle said, "When the bullet hit the car, the coupe seemed to wobble for a minute and then we thought it was going into the ditch. The driver managed to keep it on the pavement, however, and after doubling back to St. Paul Park and crossing the highway toward Cottage Grove, they lost us in the hills."

The car would soon be replaced before heading to Chicago to seek out medical attention for Hamilton. It should be remembered that the trio hadn't slept at all the night before. It was also extremely cramped in the coupe with three people, one of them being mortally wounded, as the length of a Model A seat is only 39 inches across.

Much has been written about the slowness of the Model A used in the escape (top speed about 45 mph), but with a large part of the driving done in darkness, Van Meter wouldn't have been going much faster than 40-45 mph in any car, since headlight systems in all cars of the period were notoriously inadequate. High speed at night was simply too dangerous. It's unfortunate for Dillinger, Van Meter and Hamilton that they didn't ditch the coupe for a faster car at daybreak. It probably wasn't possible to do so.

Hamilton was taken by Dillinger and Van Meter to see Joseph Moran in Chicago, though Moran refused to treat Hamilton. He died at a Barker-Karpis hideout in Aurora, Illinois, three days after the shooting near Hastings. Dillinger, Van Meter, Arthur Barker, Volney Davis and Harry Campbell, members of the Barker-Karpis gang,buried him in Oswego, Illinois.

On May 3, one week after Hamilton's death, Dillinger, Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll robbed the First National Bank of Fostoria, Ohio. In the robbery, Fostoria police chief Frank Culp was wounded when Van Meter shot him in the chest with a Thompson. Dillinger and Van Meter spent most of May living out of a red panel truck with a mattress in the back.

In early May, Dillinger paid a visit to Fred Hancock at 3301 East New York Street, Indianapolis (the Shell filling station where Hubert and Fred worked), and gave him $1,200 in cash. Fred Hancock:

"It was on Thursday, May 10, that I next saw John. A fellow came into the station between 5:00 and 4:00 p.m. on this date dressed in overalls, wearing glasses, no coat, wearing a sleeveless jacket. He was unshaven, and this party stood by the kerosene drum. I did not recognize him at the time and continued to wait upon a customer who was in the station, and then walked into the filling station house, thinking that this party standing by the kerosene drum was a kerosene customer. This party then walked over to the filling station house and knocked on the window to attract my attention. When I looked at him more closely I realized that it was John. He left with me a package containing money and told me where to take it. He said to tell Dad if anything happened to him to give Billie some of that money. He gave me $1,200 made up in four packages -- $500 for Grandpa, $500 for my mother, Audrey Hancock, $100 for Hubert and $100 for myself, and I personally delivered this money to the people it was intended for. John told me how 'hot' he was. This was after the time the shooting had occurred at Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin. He said he would return in two weeks. He was walking at the time, and I do not know how he came into the station. When leaving, he walked out of the station and walked south on LaSalle Street to Washington Street. The money was all made up of one-, five- and ten-dollar bills. There were very few ten-dollar bills in the money, it being mostly ones and fives. I used the $100 John gave me in connection with some work I was having done on the eyes of my little girl, and I understand that Mother and Grandpa later paid out the $500 they each received to some attorney, possibly John (sic) Ryan, in connection with John's case."

Agent Whitson had been observing the activity at the Shell station on the corner of New York and LaSalle. Whitson:

"On 5-10-34 I noticed a stranger talking to Fred Hancock near the kerosene drum in the yard of the station at about 3:45 p.m. He was wearing blue overalls, brown vest, blue shirt and tie, dark hat, and wore spectacles, either rimless or with a thin metal rim. His complexion was ruddy and he had a stubble of beard. In his right hand he carried at all times what appeared to be a pint milk bottle wrapped in newspaper. About 3:50 p.m. the stranger left the station, going south on LaSalle Street toward Washington Street. Agent noted that the man appeared to have a deep cleft in his chin, and decided to follow him and have a better look at him. Agent reached the street without being observed by Hancock and followed the stranger, who was walking rapidly and without any noticeable lameness or infirmity in either leg. The man turned west on Washington Street when Agent was still between 25 and 30 yards behind him. When agent reached the street intersection, the man was nowhere in sight."

On May 24, it is alleged that Van Meter killed two East Chicago police detectives who had tried to pull them over. On June 7, Tommy Carroll was shot and killed by police in Waterloo, Iowa. Dillinger and Van Meter reunited with Nelson a week later and went into hiding.

On June 30, Dillinger, Van Meter, Nelson, and an unidentified "fat man" robbed the Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. The identity of the "fat man" has never been confirmed, it is widely suspect that he was one of Nelson's associates, or, as suggested by Fatso Negri to the BOI, Pretty Boy Floyd.

During the robbery, a police officer named Howard Wagner was killed when Van Meter shot him in the chest as he responded to the sound of a burst of submachine gunfire coming from inside the bank. Van Meter was shot in the head during the resulting shootout, and was seriously wounded.


John Dillinger

During the 1930s Depression, many Americans, nearly helpless against forces they didn't understand, made heroes of outlaws who took what they wanted at gunpoint. Of all the lurid desperadoes, one man, John Herbert Dillinger, came to evoke this Gangster Era, and stirred mass emotion to a degree rarely seen in this country.

Dillinger, whose name once dominated the headlines, was a brutal thief and a cold-blooded murderer. From September, 1933, until July, 1934, he and his violent gang terrorized the Midwest, killing 10 men, wounding 7 others, robbing banks and police arsenals, and staging 3 jail breaks -- killing a sheriff during one and wounding 2 guards in another.

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, a middle-class residential neighborhood. His father, a hardworking grocer, raised him in an atmosphere of disciplinary extremes, harsh and repressive on some occasions, but generous and permissive on others. John's mother died when he was three, and when his father remarried six years later, John resented his stepmother.

In adolescence, the flaws in his bewildering personality became evident and he was frequently in trouble. Finally, he quit school and got a job in a machine shop in Indianapolis. Although intelligent and a good worker, he soon became bored and often stayed out all night. His father, worried that the temptations of the city were corrupting his teenaged son, sold his property in Indianapolis and moved his family to a farm near Mooresville, Indiana. However, John reacted no better to rural life than he had to that in the city and soon began to run wild again.

A break with his father and trouble with the law (auto theft) led him to enlist in the Navy. There he soon got into trouble and deserted his ship when it docked in Boston. Returning to Mooresville, he married 16-year-old Beryl Hovius in 1924. A dazzling dream of bright lights and excitement led the newlyweds to Indianapolis. Dillinger had no luck finding work in the city and joined the town pool shark, Ed Singleton, in his search for easy money.

In their first attempt, they tried to rob a Mooresville grocer, but were quickly apprehended. Singleton pleaded not guilty, stood trial, and was sentenced to two years. Dillinger, following his father's advice, confessed, was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony, and received joint sentences of 2 to 14 years and 10 to 20 years in the Indiana State Prison. Stunned by the harsh sentence, Dillinger became a tortured, bitter man in prison.

His period of infamy began on May 10, 1933, when he was paroled from prison after serving 8 1/2 years of his sentence. Almost immediately, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Dayton police arrested him on September 22, and he was lodged in the county jail in Lima, Ohio, to await trial.

In frisking Dillinger, the Lima police found a document which seemed to be a plan for a prison break, but the prisoner denied knowledge of any plan. Four days later, using the same plans, eight of Dillinger's friends escaped from the Indiana State Prison, using shotguns and rifles which had been smuggled into their cells. During their escape, they shot two guards.

On October 12, three of the escaped prisoners and a parolee from the same prison showed up at the Lima jail where Dillinger was incarcerated. They told the sheriff that they had come to return Dillinger to the Indiana State Prison for violation of his parole.

When the sheriff asked to see their credentials, one of the men pulled a gun, shot the sheriff and beat him into unconsciousness. Then taking the keys to the jail, the bandits freed Dillinger, locked the sheriff's wife and a deputy in a cell, and leaving the sheriff to die on the floor, made their getaway.

Although none of these men had violated a Federal law, the FBI's assistance was requested in identifying and locating the criminals. The four men were identified as Harry Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, and Harry Copeland. Their fingerprint cards in the FBI Identification Division were flagged with red metal tags, indicating that they were wanted.

Meanwhile, Dillinger and his gang pulled several bank robberies. They also plundered the police arsenals at Auburn, Indiana, and Peru, Indiana, stealing several machine guns, rifles, and revolvers, a quantity of ammunition, and several bulletproof vests.

On December 14, John Hamilton, a Dillinger gang member, shot and killed a police detective in Chicago. A month later, the Dillinger gang killed a police officer during the robbery of the First National Bank of East Chicago, Indiana. Then they made their way to Florida and, subsequently, to Tucson, Arizona.

There on January 23, 1934, a fire broke out in the hotel where Clark and Makley were hiding under assumed names. Firemen recognized the men from their photographs, and local police arrested them, as well as Dillinger and Harry Pierpont. They also seized 3 Thompson submachine guns, 2 Winchester rifles mounted as machine guns, 5 bulletproof vests, and more than $25,000 in cash, part of it from the East Chicago robbery.

Dillinger was sequestered at the county jail in Crown Point, Indiana, to await trial for the murder of the East Chicago police officer. Authorities boasted that the jail was "escape proof." But on March 3, 1934, Dillinger cowed the guards with what he claimed later was a wooden gun he had whittled. He forced them to open the door to his cell, then grabbed two machine guns, locked up the guards and several trustees, and fled.

It was then that Dillinger made the mistake that would cost him his life. He stole the sheriff's car and drove across the Indiana-Illinois line, heading for Chicago. By doing that, he violated the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, which made it a Federal offense to transport a stolen motor vehicle across a state line.

A Federal complaint was sworn charging Dillinger with the theft and interstate transportation of the sheriff's car, which was recovered in Chicago. After the grand jury returned an indictment, the FBI became actively involved in the nationwide search for Dillinger.

Meanwhile, Pierpont, Makley, and Clark were returned to Ohio and convicted of the murder of the Lima sheriff. Pierpont and Makley were sentenced to death, and Clark to life imprisonment. But in an escape attempt, Makley was killed and Pierpont was wounded. A month later, Pierpont had recovered sufficiently to be executed.

In Chicago, Dillinger joined his girlfriend, Evelyn Frechette. They proceeded to St. Paul, where Dillinger teamed up with Homer Van Meter, Lester ("Baby Face Nelson") Gillis, Eddie Green, and Tommy Carroll, among others. The gang's business prospered as they continued robbing banks of large amounts of money.

Then on March 30, 1934, an Agent talked to the manager of the Lincoln Court Apartments in St. Paul, who reported two suspicious tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Hellman, who acted nervous and refused to admit the apartment caretaker.

The FBI began a surveillance of the Hellman's apartment. The next day, an Agent and a police officer knocked on the door of the apartment. Evelyn Frechette opened the door, but quickly slammed it shut. The Agent called for reinforcements to surround the building.

While waiting, the Agents saw a man enter a hall near the Hellman's apartment. When questioned, the man, Homer Van Meter, drew a gun. Shots were exchanged, during which Van Meter fled the building and forced a truck driver at gunpoint to drive him to Green's apartment. Suddenly the door of the Hellman apartment opened and the muzzle of a machine gun began spraying the hallway with lead. Under cover of the machine gun fire, Dillinger and Evelyn Frechette fled through a back door. They, too, drove to Green's apartment, where Dillinger was treated for a bullet wound received in the escape.

At the Lincoln Court Apartments, the FBI found a Thompson submachine gun with the stock removed, two automatic rifles, one .38 caliber Colt automatic with twenty-shot magazine clips, and two bulletproof vests. Across town, other Agents located one of Eddie Green's hideouts where he and Bessie Skinner had been living as "Mr. and Mrs. Stephens." On April 3, when Green was located, he attempted to draw his gun, but was shot by the Agents. He died in a hospital eight days later.

Dillinger and Evelyn Frechette fled to Mooresville, Indiana, where they stayed with his father and half-brother until his wound healed. Then Frechette went to Chicago to visit a friend--and was arrested by the FBI. She was taken to St. Paul for trial on a charge of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive. She was convicted, fined $1,000, and sentenced to two years in prison. Bessie Skinner, Eddie Green's girlfriend, got 15 months on the same charge.

Meanwhile, Dillinger and Van Meter robbed a police station at Warsaw, Indiana, of guns and bulletproof vests. Dillinger stayed for awhile in Upper Michigan, departing just ahead of a posse of FBI Agents dispatched there by airplane. Then the FBI received a tip that there had been a sudden influx of rather suspicious guests at the summer resort of Little Bohemia Lodge, about 50 miles north of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. One of them sounded like John Dillinger and another like "Baby Face Nelson."

From Rhinelander, an FBI task force set out by car for Little Bohemia. Two of the rented cars broke down enroute, and, in the uncommonly cold April weather, some of the Agents had to make the trip standing on the running boards of the other cars. Two miles from the resort, the car lights were turned off and the posse proceeded through the darkness. When the cars reached the resort, dogs began barking.

The Agents spread out to surround the lodge and as they approached, machine gun fire rattled down on them from the roof. Swiftly, the Agents took cover. One of them hurried to a telephone to give directions to additional Agents who had arrived in Rhinelander to back up the operation.

While the Agent was telephoning, the operator broke in to tell him there was trouble at another cottage about two miles away. Special Agent W. Carter Baum, another FBI man, and a constable went there and found a parked car which the constable recognized as belonging to a local resident. They pulled up and identified themselves.

Inside the other car, "Baby Face Nelson" was holding three local residents at gunpoint. He turned, leveled a revolver at the lawmen's car, and ordered them to step out. But without waiting for them to comply, Nelson opened fire. Baum was killed, and the constable and the other Agent were severely wounded. Nelson jumped into the Ford they had been using and fled.

When the firing had subsided at the Little Bohemia Lodge, Dillinger was gone. When the Agents entered the lodge the next morning, they found only three frightened females. Dillinger and five others had fled through a back window before the Agents surrounded the house.

In Washington, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover assigned Special Agent Samuel A. Cowley to head the FBI's investigative efforts against Dillinger. Cowley set up headquarters in Chicago, where he and Melvin Purvis, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office, planned their strategy. A squad of Agents under Cowley worked with East Chicago policemen in tracking down all tips and rumors.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, July 21, 1934, the madam of a brothel in Gary, Indiana, contacted one of the police officers with information. This woman called herself Anna Sage, however, her real name was Ana Cumpanas, and she had entered the United States from her native Rumania in 1914. Because of the nature of her profession, she was considered an undesirable alien by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and deportation proceedings had been started. Anna was willing to sell the FBI some information about Dillinger for a cash reward, plus the FBI's help in preventing her deportation.

At a meeting with Anna, Cowley and Purvis were cautious. They promised her the reward if her information led to Dillinger's capture, but said all they could do was call her cooperation to the attention of the Department of Labor, which at that time handled deportation matters. Satisfied, Anna told the Agents that a girlfriend of hers, Polly Hamilton, had visited her establishment with Dillinger. Anna had recognized Dillinger from a newspaper photograph.

Anna told the Agents that she, Polly Hamilton, and Dillinger probably would be going to the movies the following evening at either the Biograph or the Marbro Theaters. She said that she would notify them when the theater was chosen. She also said that she would wear a red dress so that they could identify her.

On Sunday, July 22, Cowley ordered all Agents of the Chicago office to stand by for urgent duty. Anna Sage called that evening to confirm the plans, but she still did not know which theater they would attend. Therefore, Agents and policemen were sent to both theaters. At 8:30 p.m., Anna Sage, John Dillinger, and Polly Hamilton strolled into the Biograph Theater to see Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama." Purvis phoned Cowley, who shifted the other men from the Marbro to the Biograph.

Cowley also phoned Hoover for instructions. Hoover cautioned them to wait outside rather than risk a shooting match inside the crowded theater. Each man was instructed not to unnecessarily endanger himself and was told that if Dillinger offered any resistance, it would be each man for himself.

At 10:30 p.m., Dillinger, with his two female companions on either side, walked out of the theater and turned to his left. As they walked past the doorway in which Purvis was standing, Purvis lit a cigar as a signal for the other men to close in. Dillinger quickly realized what was happening and acted by instinct. He grabbed a pistol from his right trouser pocket as he ran toward the alley. Five shots were fired from the guns of three FBI Agents. Three of the shots hit Dillinger and he fell face down on the pavement. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, John Dillinger was pronounced dead in a little room in the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

The Agents who fired at Dillinger were Charles B. Winstead, Clarence O. Hurt, and Herman E. Hollis. Each man was commended by J. Edgar Hoover for fearlessness and courageous action. None of them ever said who actually killed Dillinger. The events of that sultry July night in Chicago marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era.

Eventually, 27 persons were convicted in Federal courts on charges of harboring, and aiding and abetting John Dillinger and his cronies during their reign of terror. "Baby Face Nelson" was fatally wounded on November 27, 1934, in a gun battle with FBI Agents in which Special Agents Cowley and Hollis also were killed. Dillinger was buried in Crown Point Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.


John Dillinger

by Marilyn Bardsley

Little Bohemia

Banks were having miserable public relations problems in the Depression. Many of them failed, sweeping away the life savings of millions of hard working people. Those that stayed in business foreclosed on people's homes, farms and businesses as the economy went from bad to worse.

So bank robbers were not particularly viewed as terrible criminals by the average American. There was even a touch of Robin Hood when bank robbers destroyed all of the mortgage records at the banks they hit. The daring daytime robberies and skillful getaways were glamorous and exciting, especially if the robbers were handsome, polite and photogenic.

And so, John Dillinger and Harry Pierpont, Baby Face Nelson and the rest of the Dillinger Gang were celebrities whose exploits were followed closely by a Depression-weary American public that followed their every adventure like a running television series.

Of course, not every one was equally entertained by the new American outlaw folk heroes of this Midwestern crime spree. Back in Washington, D.C., old fashioned J. Edgar Hoover was outraged that America seemed to idolize Handsome Johnnie and was so completely absorbed in the vicarious excitement of their adventures.

Harry Pierpont's self-serving rationale -- "I stole from the bankers who stole from the people" -- did not go over at Mr. Hoover's straight-laced FBI. Hoover saw Dillinger and his gang as a threat to the national morals. Quickly enacted new anticrime laws made bank robbery, the transport of stolen goods or flight of a felon over state laws to avoid prosecution a national crime which came under the enforcement jurisdiction of the FBI.

Hoover's big chance came in early March of 1934 when Dillinger broke out of an "escape-proof" jail in Indiana, stole the sheriff's car and drove across the Illinois state line, putting himself in the jurisdictional sights of the FBI. Hoover mounted a special operation to capture Dillinger.

Young Melvin Purvis, the son of a well-connected wealthy southern aristocrat, was in charge of the Chicago office of the FBI. Dillinger became his project. What "Little Mel" lacked in height and weight, he made up for in ambition and intelligence. But Purvis was up against a wily group with the Dillinger Gang. These men were real professionals.

For more than a month, Dillinger escaped the traps that were set for him. In April of 1934, the gang needed a place to hide out. One of them suggested a summer resort in northern Wisconsin called Little Bohemia. The lovely lodge had been built a few years earlier by Emil Wanatka, an emigrant of Bohemia, who became friendly with bootleggers and gangsters during Prohibition.

On April 20, Dillinger and his gang, along with wives and girlfriends showed up at the lodge. It was off season and rooms were available. After dinner, Wanatka sat down with his guests to play cards. It was then that he noticed the guns and the shoulder holsters. He and his wife Nan figured out who the guest really were and they were terrified.

Finally, Wanatka confronted Dillinger, who did what he could to put his host at ease.

"Don't worry," Dillinger told him. "I want to sleep and eat a few days. I want to rest up. I'll pay you well and then we'll all get out."

The gangsters turned the lodge into an armed fortress. Every time the phone rang, one of the gangsters eavesdropped. Every time a car came, Wanatka had to explain who it was. Every time someone from the lodge went into town, a gangster went with them. He was afraid for Nan and his ten-year-old son. "Baby Face" Nelson was a really dangerous psychopath and made Wanatka particularly afraid for his family and staff.

Wanatka had enough. He wrote a letter to a man he knew in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago. Nan slipped the letter into her corset and got permission from Dillinger to go to her brother's birthday party. Dillinger, surprisingly, didn't insist that a gang member go with her.

Intensely relieved, Nan and her son got into the car and drove away. Then she noticed that a car was following her. When she slowed down, she almost panicked -- the most frightening man in the gang, Baby Face Nelson, was following her.

John Toland in his book The Dillinger Days tells the story of her daring plan. Nan drove slowly up to the S curve in the road before her brother's house. As soon as she was out of Nelson's sight, she raced into her brother's driveway and picked him up and got back on the highway before Nelson knew what she had done. She gave the letter to her brother and pulled the same trick at the next S curve where she dropped off her brother, just outside the town of Mercer.

She went to a grocery store in Mercer and bought some candy. Nelson pointed his finger at her as a warning. Nan saw her brother, who had mailed the letter, picked him up and the three of them drove to her older brother's birthday party in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. There she confided in her family about the Dillinger Gang at Little Bohemia.

They came up with a plan. Realizing that the sheriff's office was not up to handling the Dillinger crowd, they would contact the Chicago office of the FBI. This was chance Melvin Purvis was waiting for. Unlike other FBI agents, he liked publicity.

Toland describes the hard-working young bachelor: "He was a small man with bright, alert eyes who dressed fashionably and was so fastidious he often changed shirts three times a day. A law graduate of the University of South Carolina, he spoke with a polite, pleasant drawl. One might have thought he was a successful young bond salesman perhaps -- but certainly not a G-Man. He was a competent executive, a man of unquestioned courage despite his excitability, and was well liked by those who worked under him."

As soon as he got the news about Little Bohemia, he called Hoover who promised to fly in reinforcements from the St. Paul office.

Along with them came Assistant FBI Director Hugh Clegg. Clegg, an FBI superstar, would be first in command, Purvis, second. The agents from Chicago would meet them at the airport in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, which was the nearest airport to Little Bohemia.

Just as the federal forces were gathering for the attack, Dillinger and company were getting ready to move on. Dillinger asked for an early dinner so that they could all get on the road. It was a Sunday afternoon and the bar was filled with patrons. Upstairs, Dillinger was studying a road map.

Around 4 P.M., Nan's sister, Mrs. Voss, drove up to tell her sister that her husband Henry had gotten in touch with the FBI. Nan whispered that the gangsters were leaving early that evening. Mrs. Voss left soon after to relay the information to her husband who was going to meet the FBI forces at Rhinelander airport.

It was past 6 P.M. when the FBI agents landed at Rhinelander. They had planned to conduct the raid at 4 A.M the next morning, but now everything changed and the attack had to proceed immediately.

"Three agents wearing bullet-proof vests would storm the main door of the lodge. A group of five would flank the lodge on the left in a line all the way to the lake and intercept anyone who tired to break through. A similar group would do the same on the right. Thus the gang would be trapped on three sides. The fourth side, the lake, was impassable.

"The plan was good but it did not take into consideration three key terrain factors, all missing from Voss's map: a ditch on the left of the lodge, a barbed-wire fence on the right, and the steep bank near the lake which could mask an escape along the shore. Nor did it occur to Voss to warn Purvis about Wanatka's two watchdogs." (Toland)

As the agents quietly approached the brightly lit lodge, they got a real surprise. The two watchdogs barked furiously. The agents ran to their positions, believing that the element of surprise was gone. But as it turned out, the dogs barked frequently and the gangsters were used to the noise.

Three of the bar's customers chose that particular moment to pay up and go home. At the same time, two bartenders went out on the porch to see what was bothering the dogs. The three customers walked to their car in the parking lot.

The agents assumed that the five men were Dillinger Gang members who had been alerted by the dogs. The agents called out for them to halt, but the sound of the car starting up and its loud radio drowned out the warning.

The agents shot the tires and smashed the glass windows of the car. One, a salesman, was wounded and crept into the woods. The second one, a cook, staggered out of the car, with four bullets in him. The third customer, a young man, lay dead in the car.

If the dogs didn't alarm the Dillinger gang, the gunfire surely did. Machine gun fire erupted almost immediately from the lodge. Soon Dillinger and several of the others jumped from an upstairs window and escaped along the hidden bank of the lake shore.

The federal agents in pursuit fell into the drainage ditch and became entangled in the barbed-wire fence. Last to leave was Baby Face Nelson, who, during his escape shot three of the agents, killing one of them.

Hoover had promised the newspapers some thing special. It was special all right. It was one of the worst public relations fiascoes in FBI history. Will Rogers summed it up: "Well, they had Dillinger surrounded and was all ready to shoot him when he came out, but another bunch of folks came out ahead, so they just shot him instead. Dillinger is going to accidentally get with some innocent bystanders some time, then he will get shot."

Johnnie Boy

Little Johnnie Dillinger was a bad boy. The older he got, the worse his delinquency became. Johnnie was born in a quiet middle class Indianapolis neighborhood on June 22, 1903. His father, John Wilson Dillinger, was a somber, church-going grocer who did his very best to inculcate into his son his own strict moral standards. While his father was a stern disciplinarian, it did not stop him from indulging the lad with material goods, bicycles and toys.

Johnnie's mother died of a stroke when he was only three years old. His sixteen-year-old sister Audrey took over as the woman of the house. This arrangement did not last long as in a little more than a year, Audrey married and began a home of her own. When Johnnie was nine, his father married a young woman named Elizabeth Fields. While, the boy was initially jealous of the warmth and affection that his father gave to his new bride, eventually Johnnie came to admire and adore his stepmother.

Not long after, Johnnie became the leader of a kid gang called the Dirty Dozen. Eventually the gang started stealing coal from the Pennsylvania Railroad cars that came through the neighborhood. Inevitably, they were caught and taken to Juvenile Court. Dillinger was the only one of the kids that wasn't intimidated by the courtroom and judge. Almost as a precursor of things to come, "Dillinger stood arms folded, slouch cap over one eye, staring steadily at the judge -- and chewing gum. When the judge ordered him to take off the cap and remove the gum, Dillinger smiled crookedly and slowly stuck the gum on the peak of his cap." (Toland)

By this time, Dillinger had a new baby brother. He and his closest friend, Fred Brewer, who was the product of a broken marriage, stuck together constantly. The two boys often played in a wood veneer mill and learned how to run the saw when nobody was around. One day they tied another boy on the carrier and turned on the large circular saw. It was only when the boy was a yard away from death, did Dillinger turn it off.

His father was becoming increasingly concerned about Johnnie and he had every right to be. Beatings and other punishments just made Johnnie more defiant. One afternoon, when he was thirteen, he and his buddies grabbed a girl and took her into an old shack where they each took a turn with her.

Against his father's wishes, he quit school at the age of sixteen and went to work at the veneer mill. He demonstrated great mechanical aptitude, but the job was boring and he quit. Then he got a job as a mechanic. All was well for a little while and his father breathed easier. But Johnnie's good behavior didn't last. Soon he was staying out until the early morning hours, totally focused on the opposite sex.

Dillinger's father made a major decision: he was ready to retire and indulge in his dream of owning a farm, so he sold his grocery store and several houses he owned. Then they all moved to the wholesome rural atmosphere of a farm in Mooresville, his second wife's place of birth.

Again, Johnnie behaved well initially and enrolled in the local high school, but he had no interest and failed every subject except "applied biology." Eventually, when the local girls got tired of his antics, Johnnie quit school and went back to work eighteen miles away in Indianapolis. Dillinger's favorite role model at the time was Jesse James. What impressed him most about this frontier outlaw was his courage and his politeness, especially to the ladies.

His behavior made living in the house with his father intolerable, so he moved to Martinsville where he could spend all of his spare time hanging around the pool hall and seducing one girl after another. One girl alone commanded his respect -- his uncle's stepdaughter Frances Thornton. He was ready to renounce his wild life and marry her, but the uncle forced the relationship to break up. It had a lasting effect on him.

After so much rejection from respectable girls in Mooresville and other places, he threw in his lot with the women whose love he could buy. He ended up with a severe case of gonorrhea and eventually was fired from his job.

One night in 1923, Johnnie had a date. He needed a car, but his father wouldn't let him use his, so he stole a new car from a church parking lot. Eventually, a policeman caught up with him, but he escaped as the cop tried to arrest him. The next day, Johnnie enlisted in the Navy using an out-of-town address.

For someone like Johnnie, the discipline of the military was intolerable. Eventually, he ended up in the brig after going AWOL. Not surprisingly, he deserted and ended up back in Mooresville at his father's home. In 1924, he married a sixteen-year-old girl named Beryl Hovius.

But married life didn't change him. He was caught stealing a load of chickens. Had it not been for the elder Dillinger's money and influence, Johnnie would have gone to jail right then. But, jail was inevitable and there was nothing Johnnie's father could do to stop it.

Johnnie started hanging around with an undesirable named Ed Singleton. The two of them decided to rob a kindly old grocer named B. F. Morgan. One September evening in 1924, Johnnie mugged the old man and slammed him on the head with a huge bolt wrapped up in a handkerchief. The revolver Johnnie was carrying discharged in the direction of the old man and Johnnie was afraid that he had shot Morgan. In a panic, Johnnie ran to the getaway car where Singleton was waiting.

The police determined who was responsible and arrested Johnnie. His father didn't believe in hiring a lawyer for his guilty son, so Johnnie went to trial without counsel. The prosecutor had convinced his father that if Johnnie confessed that the court would be lenient.

The prosecutor lied. The judge sentenced Johnnie to Pendleton Reformatory for ten to twenty years. Ed Singleton, who was an ex-con, had a different judge and a lawyer and received a much lighter sentence. Johnnie was very bitter.

Relentlessly defiant, Johnnie told the superintendent of the reformatory, "I won't cause you any trouble except to escape. I can beat your institution."

The Apprentice

True to his word, Dillinger made a number of attempts to escape from the Pendelton Reformatory -- each one unsuccessful, each one adding to the time he would have to serve. Suddenly, he smartened up, stopped rebelling, turned himself into a model prisoner and started to focus on getting himself paroled.

Inside he made good friends with a man that would strongly influence the rest of his life -- Harry Pierpont. Harry, like Dillinger, was a handsome, soft-spoken young man who was gifted in his relationships with the opposite sex. Pierpont was over six-feet tall with blue eyes and sandy brown hair.

A year older than Dillinger, Pierpont had been in Pendleton once before for stealing a car and wounding its owner. He had been returned there after robbing a bank in Kokomo. After trying to escape, Pierpont was transferred to the penitentiary at Michigan City.

Dillinger's excellent deportment earned him a comfortable job in the prison shirt factory where he made friends with a tall, slender prankster named Homer Van Meter. Homer was always clowning around and was consistently and severely punished for it by the guards. Homer was in for liberating several hundred dollars from some passengers on a train -- that after car theft and other minor charges. Van Meter, because of his obsessive clowning, was considered a dangerous degenerate and was also transferred to Michigan City.

Still married and very lonely, Dillinger wrote extravagantly affectionate letters to his wife Beryl: "....Dearest we will be so happy when I can come home to you and chase your sorrows away and it won't take any kids to keep me home with you always for Sweetheart I love you so all I want to do is just be with you and make you happy...."

For someone as young as Beryl, the wait was intolerably long. She divorced him in the summer of 1929. Depressed as he was, he pulled himself together and enrolled himself in the prison school. For once in his life, he studied hard and was an excellent student.

When he was turned down for parole after five years in prison, he requested a transfer to Michigan City where he would at least be with his two friends, Pierpont and Van Meter. In July of 1929, he got his wish.

While the Michigan City penitentiary was a depressing place, Dillinger was initiated by Pierpont into the clique of the prison elite -- bankrobbers. He had graduated from petty crime to a master's program. This master's program was augmented by the inclusion of Walter Dietrich, who taught Pierpont and his colleagues the methods of Herman "Baron" K. Lamm, a Prussian officer turned highly successful bankrobber.

The first step in the method was learning the layout of the bank that was targeted, where the safes were and who was responsible for opening them. The next step was rehearsal where every one was given a specific job and a narrow time frame in which to complete the job. The robbers must leave the bank within the scheduled time, with or without the loot. The final step was the acquisition of a very fast car and a well-rehearsed escape route.

Pierpont's tightly knit group was composed of "Fat Charley" Makely, a forty-four-year-old veteran bankrobber from Ohio; John "Red" Hamilton, a tough, intelligent, thirty-four-year-old bankrobber; Russell Clark, a young man who was in jail for a single bank robbery; Dillinger and, later, Dietrich.

All but Dillinger had lengthy prison terms ahead of them and were desperate to escape. Makely, the oldest and most experienced, came up with a simple escape plan in which bribery was the centerpiece. All that was needed was enough money to bribe a few key guards, a few guns and a place to lay low.

"Pierpont approached Dillinger, who had served most of his sentence. If he helped them escape, he could be the driver in their bank-robbing scheme. Of course, such an escape would cost a large amount of money and they would have to teach him how to get it.

They promised to give him a list of the best banks and stores to rob, and the names and addresses of reliable accomplices. He would be told where to fence stolen goods and money; how to get rid of bonds. He would, in short, know almost as much about bank robbery as they did." (Toland)

The offer was irresistible to Dillinger and he readily agreed. Dillinger now had a true vocation and a trade to learn. He was paroled in May of 1933 because of good behavior and a petition from his neighbors in Mooresville. The happy moment turned to tragedy when he rushed home to be at the side of his stepmother who was dying, only to arrive an hour too late to see her one last time.

A couple of weeks after he was paroled, Dillinger had lined up two of the men on Pierpont's list, William Shaw and Paul Parker, telling them both that his name was Dan Dillinger. Shaw and his ex-con friend, Noble Claycomb had a group that called themselves the White Cap Gang, which specialized in small, local robberies.

The first place they hit was a supermarket. All they got was $100.

With such small pickings, Dillinger would never be able to get his buddies out of the pen. Dillinger set his sites on his first bank. It was beginner's luck. He, Shaw and Parker knocked over the New Carlisle National Bank without a hitch. Incredibly enough in the midst of the Depression, they walked away with over $10,000.

But that was only the beginning, Dillinger and his colleagues hit a drug store and another supermarket, coming away with $3,600. In these two robberies, it became clear to Dillinger that his two accomplices were incompetents. He started to contact other men on Pierpont's list.

With Harry Copeland, a new accomplice, Dillinger drove to the town of Daleville on July 17. Inside the tiny Commercial Bank, teller Margaret Good spoke to the dignified looking Dillinger, who had asked to speak to the bank's president. Margaret explained that the president of the bank was not in.

Suddenly, she was looking at the long barrel of a gun. "Well, honey," he told her, "this is a stickup."

For some unknown reason, Dillinger gracefully leaped over the railing into the vault and helped himself to $3,500. Then he told everyone to get inside the vault and he walked out. The leap across the railing was a dramatic flourish that many would remember. It also attracted the attention of Captain Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police. It wasn't long before Leach realized that the new bankrobber was John Dillinger.

When Dillinger had been in prison, one of his friends talked continuously about his attractive sister, Mary Longnaker. Dillinger drove to Dayton to meet her, suggesting that he could arrange for her brother to escape. Mary was a good-looking, twenty-three-year-old woman with young children and a husband that she was divorcing.

Dillinger became completely infatuated with her and offered to pay for her divorce. He pursued her continuously, trying to wrest a commitment from her to be his girl. "Honey," he wrote, "I miss you like nobody's business and I don't mean maybe. I hope I can spend more time with you, for baby I fell for you in a big way and if you'll be on the level I'll give everybody the go by for you and that isn't a lot of hooey either. I know you like me dear but that isn't enough for me when I'm as crazy as I am about you. You may never get to feel the same toward me as I do you in which case I would be better off not to see you very much for it would be hell for me... Lots of love from Johnnie."

Mary stayed somewhat noncommittal. She was already seeing a decent man who would make a good husband and stepfather for her children, but she didn't want to do anything that would ruin her chances of her brother escaping from prison.

Captain Matt Leach was determined to get Dillinger. He got a tip from Pinkertons that Dillinger had a girlfriend in Dayton, but he didn't know who she was or where she lived, only that she was the sister of a prison inmate. Leach asked the Dayton police for help. A few days later in early September, 1933, Leach got the address of the boarding house where Dillinger rented rooms on his trip to Dayton. Police secretly opened the letters that he sent to Mary in hopes of finding out when he would be visiting her next. Two detectives moved into the same boarding house, taking the rooms opposite Dillinger's.

Meanwhile, Dillinger and Harry Copeland continued to rob banks in Ohio and Indiana, saving up the money to finance the prison break for his pals in Michigan City. They got lucky on September 6. The Real Silk Hosiery payroll was at the State Bank of Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis when Dillinger walked up to the assistant manager and told him it was a stickup. The manager looked up to see "Dillinger sitting cross-legged up on the seven-foot-high barrier. A straw hat was tilted cockily on his head and he was almost casually pointing an automatic." (Toland) Incredibly they got almost $25,000. Dillinger now had collected enough for the prison break.

With the help of two of Pierpont's women friends, Pearl Elliott and Mary Kinder, he put the operation in motion. Pearl couriered messages and paid bribes. Mary was to find an apartment in which the escaped men would hide. Dillinger bought guns and threw the packages containing the guns over the prison wall near the athletic field. Unfortunately, an inmate found them and gave them to the guards.

Pearl smuggled out a letter from Pierpont telling Dillinger how to get another set of guns into the prison shirt factory hidden in a box of thread. Dillinger made all the arrangements and the prison break was set for September 27.

On September 22, he finally had time to visit Mary in Dayton. The police, who had given up waiting for him, told the landlady that if Dillinger showed up, she should call them immediately.

Toland tells the story of Sergeant W.J. Aldredge of the Dayton police who got a call shortly after midnight.

'"He's here," a woman cried out.

'"Who's here?" Aldredge asked patiently.

'"John Dillinger, you dumb flatfoot!'"

In no time, the detectives had barged into Mary's rooms and arrested Dillinger. Now with his friends days away from their daring attempt to break out of Michigan City, Johnnie Boy was on his way back there.

Going Home

While Dillinger sat in the Lima, Ohio, jail, a huge box of thread arrived at the prison shirt factory. Storeroom manager Walter Dietrich, disciple of the legendary bankrobber "Baron" Lamm, took the box and removed the four guns and ammunition that Dillinger had put inside. The break was planned for September 25, but Pierpont and the other planners feared word would leak out, so they moved it up to the very next day, September 26. Actually, the new warden, Louis Kunkel, had no inkling of the break, although the deputy warden knew something was imminent, but not how imminent.

The afternoon of the 26th, ten men gathered in the shirt factory storage room. Guns were given out to Makely, Pierpont and Hamilton. The others had fake guns. One of these guns was shoved into the back of the superintendent of the shirt company while he led the men out to the yard.

There in the yard, they took a guard hostage, the huge mountain of a man they called "Big Bertha." Pierpont told him, "If you try anything, you're dead where you stand. Get it, you big, brave man?" "Bertha" got it.

The superintendent, with a pile of shirts in his hands, led the convicts, who also carried shirts, across the yard to the Guard's Hall. "Big Bertha" brought up the rear. Nobody was suspicious because this was a fairly common occurrence and the site of "Big Bertha" made it all seem kosher.

Just as they were approaching the main gate, the convicts mugged the turnkey. Warden Kunkel heard the commotion from the business office. Someone yelled, "It's a break!" With Pierpont's gun aimed at his stomach, Kunkel decided just to be a spectator and not a dead hero that day.

It was pouring rain when they ran through the unlocked gate. Three of the convicts borrowed a car from a sheriff, who had just brought in a prisoner, and drove off towards Chicago. The other six, Pierpont and Makley et al, hijacked a car at the gas station across the street on sped off towards Indianapolis.

The largest prison break in Indiana history had just been made.

Eventually the men reached their hideout in Hamilton, Ohio, but narrowly escaped a blockade that Matt Leach had set up. As it was, one of the convicts, Jim Jenkins, Mary Longnaker's brother was killed by a local posse. Walter Dietrich, Jim Clark and Joseph Fox were apprehended shortly after the prison break. Once they had a chance to rest, Pierpont realized that even though the Dayton jail was just a little over a hundred miles away, they wouldn't be able to try to spring him without the proper expense money and guns.

Mary Kinder, Pierpont's mistress, rejoined the gang and agreed to be the "wheel man" for their next bank robbery. Makley convinced the group that they should rob the bank in his home town of St. Marys, Ohio. Even though the bank had been closed by the Treasury Department, it just happened to have a large amount of money on hand for the planned reopening of the bank.

Pierpont went up to the cashier with a map. The cashier looked up, ready to help Pierpont with directions and saw the gun that was concealed under the map. Pierpont and Makley left with two sacks of cash, while the police chief sat a few blocks away watching the World Series. They got away with $11,000, much more than they needed in expenses to raid the Lima jail and far more than they expected from the little bank.

While Dillinger was in jail, he wrote to his father: "Hope this letter finds you well and not worrying too much about me. Maybe I'll learn someday, Dad that you can't win in this game. I know I have been a big disappointment to you but I guess I did too much time for where I went in a carefree boy I came out bitter toward everything in general. Of course, Dad, most of the blame lies with me for my environment was of the best but if I had gotten off more leniently when I made my first mistake this would never have happened....I am well and treated fine. From Johnnie."

He was being treated very well by Sheriff Jess Sarber and his wife, who lived at the jail building.

Pierpont had brought along Dillinger's new girlfriend, Billie Frechette. She was a pretty dark-haired woman, part American Indian, who grew up on a reservation. His intent was to pass off Billie as Dillinger's sister and get her inside the jail so that they had some idea of the layout before they attacked. Pierpont asked a local lawyer if he would arrange for Dillinger's "sister" to be able to see him. Instead of a simple "yes" or "no," the lawyer said he'd talk it over with Sheriff Sarber the next day.

Concerned that Sarber might see through the ruse, Pierpont decided to try to free Dillinger right away. The plan developed almost instantly: Ed Shouse would be the lookout; Harry Copeland would guard the cars; and John Hamilton would stand near a couple hundred feet away from the jail.

Toland tells how at 6:20 P.M., Pierpont, Makley and Clark armed with pistols went into the jail, which was also the residence of Sheriff Sarber. Sarber and his wife had just finished dinner and were sitting in the office with their deputy. Pierpont told them, "'We're officers from Michigan City and we want to see Dillinger.'

"'Let me see your credentials,' Sarber responded."

"Pierpont calmly pulled out a gun. 'Here's our credentials.'

"'Oh, you can't do that,' said Sarber, reaching for the gun in the desk drawer.

"Pierpont panicked and impulsively fired twice. One bullet went into Sarber's left side, through the abdomen and into his thigh. He fell to the floor.

"'Give us the keys to the cell,' said Pierpont, but Sarber's answer was to try to rise. Makley stepped forward and hit him over the head with the butt of his gun, accidentally discharging a wild shot. Sarber collapsed, moaning."

Mrs. Sarber grabbed the keys and gave them to Pierpont. He opened up the cell, gave Dillinger one of his guns, and they ran out to the car.

Sarber, in great pain, looked at his wife, "Mother, I believe I'm going to have to leave you." He died an hour and a half later.

The Terror Gang

They were initially called The Terror Gang because of their boldness and impudence. Once Dillinger had been freed, they all headed back to Chicago to put together the most organized and professional bank robbing scheme ever devised in the county. One thing they needed was the very best in guns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests.

What better place to get such equipment than from the police themselves. A week after Dillinger's escape from the Lima, Ohio, jail, he and Pierpont decided to hit the enormous police arsenal in Peru, Indiana. A month earlier, Dillinger and Homer Van Meter posed as tourists there and asked what the local policemen had in the way of fire power if the Dillinger Gang ever showed up in those parts. The officers proudly showed the two "tourists" the kinds of weapons they would use against the Terror Gang.

Late on the evening of October 20, 1933, Pierpont and Dillinger entered the arsenal, subdued three lawmen and made off with several loads of machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. When this loot was added to the guns and ammunition they had stolen earlier from an Auburn, Indiana, police station, they were ready for business.

Law enforcement officials were outraged at the brazenness of the gang. Captain Matt Leach, who was afflicted with a serious stutter, wanted to try a bold approach of his own. He knew that both Henry Pierpont and John Dillinger were men with very large egos. Often the gang had been referred to in the newspapers as the Pierpont Gang. What if Captain Leach could persuade reporters to start calling it the Dillinger Gang instead. Maybe a leadership fight would break out amongst the gang members and they would split up. The newsmen agreed to his proposal.

Toland says that there was never a struggle for leadership, despite the spate of stories that started to appear calling Dillinger the leader: "Pierpont knew [the stories] were false and he was too grateful to Dillinger to be jealous. Dillinger, however, read and reread every story and even saved the clippings; but instead of becoming boastful, his manner and dress became more conservative. The gang lived quietly in expensive Chicago apartments, the men drinking only beer and little of that. According to Pierpont's code, a crime not only had to be committed without the benefit of drink or drugs but prepared in sobriety...the men would sit around the living room discussing future plans much like any group of respectable businessmen. Usually Pierpont assembled their various ideas. Sometimes it would be Makley. But everyone had a chance to voice an opinion, no one overriding a majority."

Jay Robert Nash in Bloodletters and Badmen agrees: "There was no real leader... Pierpont was the most daring and nerveless of the group, but his impulsiveness oft-times outweighed his considerable intelligence. Hamilton was the old pro. Whenever any bank job was discussed, he could offer the soundest advice based on experience. Makley and Clark, for the most part, listened. Pierpont appreciated and more or less encouraged Dillinger's role as leader...telling him that [the name Dillinger] was both euphonic and memorable since it reminded everyone of the pistol, derringer."

With their finely-honed precision system for bank robbing, they executed the first target in their plan on October 23 when they pulled up to the Greencastle, Indiana, Central National Bank. Hamilton stayed outside the door to watch, while Pierpont, Makley and Dillinger went inside. Using "Baron" Lamm's method, they already knew the inside of the structure well since they had cased the bank thoroughly a few days earlier.

Dillinger, the showoff, leaped over a high counter into the teller's cage and started to scoop up money, while Pierpont and Makley made sure that nobody moved. Hamilton, standing by the door with a stopwatch so that they didn't overstay their five-minute time limit, looked up to see an elderly, foreign-born woman walk out of the bank. He told her to get back inside.

Completely disregarding the gun had in his hands, she walked calmly by him, saying "I go to Penney's and you go to hell!"

Jay Robert Nash tells the story of the farmer standing at the teller's cage with a stack of bills in front of him. Dillinger saw the money and asked, "that your money or the bank's?"

"Mine," the farmer told him.

"Keep it. We only want the bank's."

With no other surprises or any gunfire, the gang left the bank with almost $75,000 -- an enormous sum in those Depression years.

There was something in Dillinger that set him apart from the rest of the gang. He just couldn't stop poking the police in the eye. Sometimes, it was something as simple as walking up with his girlfriend to a cop and taking his photograph or asking directions. Other times, it was directly antagonistic, such as when he called up Captain Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police shortly after the Greencastle robbery and joked, "This is John Dillinger. How are you, you stuttering bastard?" Dillinger did this kind of thing to Leach more than once, which simply increased his motivation to get Dillinger.

Things became too hot in Chicago. One of the former gang members, Ed Shouse, who had been kicked out of the gang for drinking and making advances to the girlfriends of the other gang members, was caught by the Chicago police and told them that Dillinger was being treated for a minor skin condition by a Dr. Charles Eye. The "Dillinger Squad" of the Chicago Police lay in wait outside Dr. Eye's office, but when Dillinger came to see the doctor again, he saw suspicious cars outside the office and narrowly escaped capture.

The gang moved to Milwaukee where they planned the robbery of the American Bank and Trust in Racine, Wisconsin. On November 20, 1933, the good-looking, well-dressed Henry Pierpont confidently walked into the bank with a roll of paper under his arm. Then he pasted up a big Red Cross poster in the picture window of the bank, which happened to block the tellers' cages from being seen from the street. Mrs. Henry Patzke, the bookkeeper noticed, but didn't think anything of it.

Shortly afterward, Dillinger, Makley and Hamilton walked into the bank and went up to the window where Harold Graham, the head teller stood. "Go to the next window, please," he told them. Graham had heard someone say that it was a stickup, but the phrase was often bantered around as a joke.

Makley repeated his order more forcefully, "Stick 'em up!" Graham made a sudden movement and Makley fired, hitting Graham in the elbow and hip. Graham fell and set off the silent alarm that rang in the police station.

Pierpont ordered everyone to the floor, flat on their stomachs, while Dillinger got the cashier and bank president to open the vault. Shortly afterwards, two policemen walked to the bank, expecting that this was just another false alarm, like many other ones before it. When they walked into the bank, Pierpont relieved one of them of his gun and told Makley to "get that punk with his machine gun!"

Makley fired at Sergeant Hansen and wounded him twice, but not too seriously. It was enough to start a panic: women inside the bank were screaming hysterically, a crowd was gathering outside and armed men were appearing from police cars. They grabbed several hostages, but only two -- Mrs. Patzke and the bank president -- went with them in the getaway car. Not long after, the two hostages were let go unharmed.

The take from this complicated robbery was a mere $27, 789. But it was enough to allow them to spend part of the winter in Daytona Beach. Then in January of 1934, Dillinger and Hamilton together headed towards Tucson, Arizona by way of Indiana.

On January 15, the two of them robbed the First National Bank of East Chicago, Indiana. While Hamilton was gathering up the money, Dillinger saw a cop outside. Actually there were four cops outside, three of whom were in plain clothes. They were there because the bank vice president had pressed the silent alarm. With a couple hostages as shields, Dillinger and Hamilton left the bank. Patrolman William Patrick O'Malley had a clear shot at Dillinger and took it, but didn't wound him because of the bullet-proof vest. O'Malley kept on shooting, finally Dillinger shot back and hit O'Malley right in the heart.

Dillinger helped Hamilton, who had been wounded, back to the car and the two of them made it back to Chicago with over $20,000 in cash. It was a poorly planned, unnecessary adventure with big costs. Dillinger had killed his first man and Hamilton was badly wounded.

The gang finally met up in Tucson, but it couldn't have been more of a disaster. Even though they thought they could successfully pose as tourists, the police started watching them almost from the start. First Makley was arrested, then Clark. Had the police left men at the house they had rented, they would have caught Pierpont and Mary Kinder an hour later when they went to the house. Pierpont saw some blood and figured out what happened. He arranged for a local lawyer to represent the two that had been caught.

Just by chance they caught Pierpont from a description that a neighbor had given when he saw Pierpont go up to the house where Makley and Clark had stayed. On Pierpont they found a piece of paper that he fought bitterly and vainly to swallow. It was the address of the place Dillinger and Billie were staying. It was just a matter of time before they came home and were arrested.

"In the space of five hours, without firing a shot at the cost of only a broken finger, the police of a relatively small city had done what the combined forces of several states, including that of America's second largest metropolis, had tried so long and so unsuccessfully to do." (Toland)

The news media poured into Tucson. Considering what a spot the gang members were in, they didn't seem to be taking it too hard. Dillinger enjoyed the attention: "We're exactly like you cops," he told Milo "Swede" Walker, one of the policemen who arrested them. "You have a profession -- we have a profession. Only difference is you're on the right side of the law, we're on the wrong."

When the governor of Arizona came to visit them, Pierpont and Makley chatted with him amiably. Pierpont had only good things to say about the policemen who arrested them. "I think Frank Eyman was a swell fellow not to shoot me... There are two kinds of officers -- rats and gentlemen. You fellows are gentlemen and the Indiana and Ohio cops are rats...If all this had happened in Ohio, we'd be laying on a slab. They'd have murdered us."

The capture of the gang touched off a huge jurisdictional war between Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. Indiana desperately wanted to send Dillinger to the electric chair for the murder of Patrolman Patrick O'Malley. Ohio wanted the same for Pierpont and the others who raided the Lima jail.

Reporters put aside the stories of the jurisdictional battle for a much better one: a marriage license had been issued to Mary Kinder and Harry Pierpont. Mary told reporters: "I love Harry Pierpont. He has always been gentle and kind to me... I realize that after we arrive in Indiana, we may never meet again, for the law intends, if possible, to 'burn' him on a murder charge. That's why I want to marry him and when the vows are taken by us we will be united forever -- in spirit at least. If the worst comes, I shall love him more even in death than life."

Harry Pierpont had asked for the license, but Mary could not sign it because she was not legally divorced from her husband. Later that day, she asked another inmate what had happened to Pierpont. The inmate told her that Harry, Makley and Clark were being extradited to Ohio. "Oh, my God," she said softly.

Dillinger was sent back to Indiana's Crown Point "escape-proof" jail to await trial for the robbery of the East Chicago, Indiana, bank robbery and the murder of Patrolman O'Malley. Clark, Makley and Pierpont were sent back to Lima, Ohio, to answer for the death of Sheriff Jess Sarber. It looked pretty bleak for the Dillinger Gang.

The New Gang

Back in Indiana at the Crown Point County Jail, Dillinger was a major celebrity. Reporters had even talked Indiana's Prosecutor Robert Estill into posing for a picture with his arm around Dillinger. For a man who was seeking the death penalty for a famous criminal, it showed very poor judgment and was the subject of much criticism. However, it seemed that everybody -- senators, judges, a governor -- had come to see John Dillinger, the folk hero, and wanted to have their picture taken with him.

Rumors circulated constantly that other gangsters were going to mount a raid on the jail to free Dillinger.

The local newspaper quashed the rumors the best it could: "All of these rumors, however baseless, had the tendency to tighten the guard around the jail until it is now as impregnable as the Rock of Gibraltar .There will be no jail delivery; there will be no kidnapping; there will be no repetition of the Lima, Ohio, jail delivery." National Guardsmen patrolled outside Crown Point jail.

One of the unanswered questions was Hamilton's whereabouts. Dillinger kept telling police that Hamilton had been killed, but no one believed him. His lawyer, Louis Piquett, was as unique as his client. Piquett had never attended law school, but was able to eventually pass the Illinois bar exam and became a prosecutor in Chicago. He was terrific with juries, but this case would be a really tough one. There were too many eyewitnesses that saw Dillinger kill O'Malley.

Dillinger saw only one way out for himself. Whatever the outcome, it couldn't be much worse than what the courts had in store for him.

On March 3, 1934, Sam Cahoon, an elderly jail attendant unlocked the door to the cell block to let the trusties in for the morning cleanup. Dillinger stuck a gun to his stomach and ordered him into the cell. Then he told Cahoon to call Deputy Sheriff Ernest Blunk and put him in the cell with Cahoon. Dillinger had Blunk call Warden Lou Baker, who also fell into the trap Dillinger set.

With machine guns taken from the warden's office, Dillinger and another prisoner, Herbert Youngblood, a black man awaiting trial for murder, captured a dozen guards. Then they herded a couple of hostages into the sheriff's car and they drove like mad all the way to the Illinois state line where they released his hostages with a few dollars.

The irony of the whole thing was that the "gun" that allowed Dillinger to escape from the "escape-proof" jail was a crudely-carved piece of dark wood. In this daring escape, only one big mistake had been made. It took Dillinger some time to realize it: by taking the sheriff's car across the state line, he had broken a federal law. This was just what Hoover had been waiting for. Now, Dillinger was in the sights of the national police whose jurisdiction did not stop at the state line. Even more serious, he was in the sights of one of the most determined lawmen ever -- J. Edgar Hoover.

Dillinger went straight to Chicago so he could form a new gang and get some money quickly. Unlike the original gang in which members were carefully chosen, Dillinger needed men fast. John Hamilton was second in command. They chose Lester Gillis, known as "Baby Face Nelson," to join up with them. Nelson was a mentally unstable, trigger-happy psychopath who killed for the pleasure of it. He was a short, young man with an explosive temper who had been part of the Capone gang. Homer Van Meter, Dillinger's friend from the Pendleton Reformatory and Michigan City was brought in as well. Van Meter brought in two others, Eddie Green, a very experienced bank robber and Tommy Carroll, a expert gunman.

The new gang relocated itself to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Eddie Green was an excellent "jugmarker," a man who evaluated bank targets and recommended which ones to rob. Green had already selected the first target and on March 6, 1934, a few days after the Crown Point escape, the new Dillinger Gang hit the Security National Bank and Trust in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

While the robbery went off without a hitch, there was one event that bore the signature of the inveterate comic, Homer Van Meter. Jay Robert Nash tells the story of how Tommy Carroll stood in the street outside the bank with a machine gun in his hands. "By the time Dillinger and the others came out of the bank, Carroll had lined up Sioux Falls' entire police force, including the chief.

Thousands of spectators milled around the bank, bemused. The good citizens thought the robbery was part of a film being made. A Hollywood producer had been in town a day previous telling everyone that he intended to make a gangster film there. The "film producer" had been Homer Van Meter.

After dashing off with $49,000, Dillinger got several miles out of town when he stopped the car and sprinkled roofing nails all over the road. "That ought to slow them up," he said. And it did.

This was the first robbery where Dillinger had been the undisputed leader. Ironically, authorities in Sioux Falls did not believe it was Dillinger who robbed the bank.

When Dillinger got his share of the money, he called his lawyer, Louis Piquett, and asked him to use the money to pay Pierpont, Makley and Clark's attorneys. Mary Kinder was to be the courier. Mary called the number that Piquett had given her and arranged to meet Van Meter. Van Meter gave her $2,000 in cash, but wouldn't let her know where Johnnie was.

Pierpont's trial was a circus. He was led into the courtroom in shackles and surrounded by machine-gun wielding guards. His mother had testified that the day of Sheriff Sarber's death, her son was home with her on her farm. However, Ed Shouse, the treacherous gang member from Chicago, provided surprise testimony against Pierpont when he took the stand.

Toland tells how the prosecutor accused Harry of engineering $300,000 in bank robberies in the short time he was out of jail. "'I wish I had,' Pierpont told the court. 'Well, at least if I did, I'm not like some bank robbers -- I didn't get myself elected president of the bank first.'

"The crowd burst into laughter and the judge ordered the last few lines stricken from the record.

"'That's the kind of man you are, isn't it?' prodded [the prosecutor].

"'Yes," retorted the prisoner, encouraged by the audience response. "I'm not the kind of man you are -- robbing widows and orphans. You'd probably be like me if you had the nerve."

The prosecutor demanded the death penalty. The jury deliberated less than an hour before determining that Harry Pierpont was guilty as charged. There was no recommendation for mercy.

Back in the Twin Cities, jugmarker Eddie Green sent the gang off again a week later to the First National Bank of Mason City, Iowa. The bank's vault reputedly contained more than $240,000 -- a veritable fortune in those days. On March 13, 1934, Assistant Cashier Harry Fisher looked up to see who was causing all the commotion. Three well-dressed men -- Van Meter, Green and Hamilton -- were waving guns at bank president Willis Bagley. Guard Tom Walters saw what was going on and fired a tear-gas pellet into Eddie Green's back.

Green grabbed a hostage to use as a shield. "I said everybody down!," he yelled and fired a burst of shots over everyone's heads. He also aimed at Tom Walters and hit him.

Hamilton ordered Cashier Harry Fisher to pass him money through the locked, barred door. Fisher started with the $1 bills. Hamilton could see the stacks of bills just inside the vault. Hamilton told him to open up the door, but Fisher told him he couldn't because he didn't have the key. He continued to hand him stacks of $1 bills.

Outside Dillinger was lining up hostages on the sidewalk. After five minutes, he yelled to Van Meter to tell the men inside that it was time to leave. Hamilton told Fisher to give him the big bills, but Fisher kept on handing him the little denominations. Van Meter told Hamilton that they were going immediately.

"It's hell to leave all that money back there," he said. Of the $200,000, Fisher had only passed him about $20,000. Hamilton picked up a huge bag of pennies, grabbed a human shield and left the bank. Once inside the getaway car, Dillinger had the hostages lined up on the running boards. Loaded down with human shields, the car could only travel at 15 miles an hour.

Suddenly an older woman, Miss Minnie Piehm, who had been hanging on the car desperately, yelled, "Let me out! This is where I live!" Dillinger let her off and the car proceeded slowly forward like a local service bus.

The police followed, but did not get too close, fearful of starting a gun battle in which the hostages on the running boards would be injured. Periodically, Nelson fired his machine gun at them, but eventually the police gave up and stopped following. Some thirteen miles later, they released the hostages, frozen from the cold ride.

The robbery had netted the bandits some $52,000. Hamilton was very upset that he hadn't just killed Fisher the cashier and not let the cashier make such a fool of him with the small bills.

Dillinger was making plans to get enough money together to leave the country. He knew that his extraordinary luck could not hold much longer. He did not want to end up like Pierpont, Makley and Clark. Makley, like Harry Pierpont, got the death sentence. Clark got life in prison. There was no chance that Dillinger would be able to spring them this time. The prison was guarded like Fort Knox.

FBI agents in St. Paul got a tip that a man of Dillinger's description and called himself Carl Hellman was living with a woman who looked a lot like Billie Frechette. On the evening of March 31, 1934, two FBI agents knocked at Hellman's door. Billie answered and told the agents that her husband Carl was sleeping. They wouldn't go away, so she went into the bedroom and woke up Dillinger, who quickly dressed and grabbed a machine gun.

While the FBI agents waited, Homer Van Meter came up the stairs. Van Meter told them he was a soap salesman. When the agents wanted proof, Van Meter took one of them downstairs to show him the soap samples he supposedly had in the car. When the two men reached the first floor of the apartment building, Van Meter pulled a pistol on the agent.

"You asked for it, so I'll give it to you now!" Van Meter told him.

The agent ran through the door and Van Meter followed him, shooting. The agent shot back and Van Meter went back to the safety of the apartment building. By this time, Dillinger was spraying the upstairs hallway with a machine gun, while the other FBI agent hid in the hallway.

Billie ran out of the apartment house with a suitcase, followed by Dillinger and the machine gun and sped off in a car. Van Meter had hijacked a truck and escaped to Eddie Green's apartment in Minneapolis.

Hoover sent one of his best men, Hugh Clegg, to St. Paul to take charge of the Dillinger case. An emergency effort was launched to find any other Dillinger safe houses. They found one in St. Paul and kept it under constant surveillance. Eventually a woman showed up to clean the apartment. When the FBI agents questioned her, she told them that a man was going to her home that night to pay her. Agents waited until Eddie Green showed up and told him to surrender. Green didn't surrender until the agents had shot him several times in the head. Green, in terrible pain, gave the FBI the names of the other gang members in exchange for some pain medicine. A week later, he died of infection.

On April 5, Dillinger astonished his father by showing up at the Mooresville farm with Billie. His father warned him about the FBI agents that were lurking around, but Johnnie had taken precautions. The next day the couple drove to the Pierpont farm to give Harry's parents some money for legal fees, but the farm was deserted. Then Dillinger went to the offices of an Indianapolis newspaper, brazenly read about his various adventures and ordered some copies to be sent to his father.

Next they went to Chicago, but shortly after they arrived, FBI agents arrested Billie when she went to her favorite tavern. Dillinger called Louis Piquett to defend her and went to Fort Wayne to hide out with Homer Van Meter. Based on a suggestion from one of the lesser known members of the gang, the group decided to hide out in the resort called Little Bohemia, but only after they had raided the Warsaw, Indiana, police station for some guns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests.

The Lady In Red

After the shoot out at Little Bohemia, the Dillinger Gang scattered in several directions. Dillinger, Hamilton and Van Meter headed toward St. Paul. Baby Face Nelson had run his car off the road into a mudhole and proceeded on foot. Tommy Carroll abandoned his car and ran away on foot.

The next morning, Deputy Sheriff Norman Dieter and three other lawmen were stationed at the bridge over the Mississippi River just south of St. Paul. He saw a Ford with three men start over the spiral bridge. It was Dillinger and his buddies. The chase was on. Van Meter put the accelerator to the floor while Dillinger knocked out the car's rear window and started shooting at the policemen who were chasing them. They escaped from Dieter, but Hamilton got a bullet in the back.

They stole a car and drove off to Chicago with the badly wounded Hamilton in the back seat. It took them almost two days to get there and another few days to find a doctor who would treat Hamilton. Unfortunately, gangrene had set in and he died a few days later. They buried their friend in a gravel pit, pouring lye on his face to prevent identification.

Dillinger and Van Meter found a hideout in Calumet City and virtually disappeared. Many thought the pair had left the country. Still, five states put a $5,000 bounty on his head and Hoover offered a $10,000 reward.

Billie Frechette was sentenced to two years in jail. Dillinger despaired of ever seeing her again, even though lawyer Piquett was optimistic that he could get her out soon.

Dillinger decided that he need to have plastic surgery. Dr. Loeser agreed to do it for $5,000. Dillinger wanted three moles removed, a depression on the bridge of his nose filled in and a scar on his lip and the dimple in his chin removed. They almost lost Dillinger during the operation when the ether was administered too quickly and Dillinger stopped breathing. Afterwards, Dillinger was unhappy with his swollen face. A caustic solution was applied to Dillinger's finger tips.

When then plastic surgery was completed on Dillinger, the doctor began on Homer Van Meter. Neither of the two men understood that it takes weeks for the swelling to go down after facial surgery. Van Meter also had the tips of his fingers treated to disguise his fingerprints.

While Dillinger was recovering, he heard that Tommy Carroll had been killed when two Waterloo, Iowa, policemen shot him. Now the gang was down to three members with Carroll and Hamilton dead. The only ones left were Dillinger, Van Meter and Baby Face Nelson.

That June, John Dillinger celebrated his thirty-first birthday. Hoover had named him Public Enemy Number 1. He became obsessed with getting enough money to get out of the country, preferably to Mexico. One last robbery and that was it.

On June 30, Dillinger, Van Meter, Nelson and two friends of Nelson went to the Merchants National of South Bend, Indiana. They estimated that the bank was keeping as much as $100,000. Inside the bank, the customers were frightened by the sight of the guns and surged as a group toward the back of the bank. Nelson's friend panicked and let loose a burst of machine gun fire that attracted a lot of attention outside.

A jeweler in a nearby shop grabbed his revolver and started shooting at Baby Face Nelson. Nelson went berserk and fired indiscriminately into the crowd. A man was hit in the leg. Then a teenager jumped on Nelson's back. Nelson threw the boy into a plate glass window and started shooting at him.

Patrolman were beginning to arrive. Dillinger and his colleagues came out of the bank with three hostages, but the presence of hostages didn't stop the police from shooting. In the fire fight, Van Meter was hit in the head. Dillinger shoved him in the car and they drove off. The police were never able to catch up to them.

The take from the bank was disappointingly small, especially considering the costs. Van Meter had been injured, a cop had been killed and six bystanders had been wounded. Dillinger only saw $4,800 from the robbery, not nearly enough to get him to Mexico.

Sure that he would never see Billie Frechette again, Dillinger had taken up with a twenty-six-year-old waitress named Polly Hamilton. He told her his name was Jimmy Lawrence and that he was a clerk for the Chicago Board of Trade. Even though she was teased about going out with a man that looked so much like Dillinger, her new boyfriend was worth keeping. He gave her a diamond ring and some money to have her teeth fixed.

Polly rented a room from a Romanian brothel keeper called Anna Sage whose son lived with her in an apartment on the north side of Chicago. Anna faced almost certain deportation for her vice operations. In Polly and Mrs. Sage's neighborhood, Dillinger lived like an ordinary citizen. As usual, he was taking enormous risks. The stakes were so high and the reward so attractive that many would be motivated to betray him.

He couldn't control himself. He just had to flaunt his presence to the police. One day, with Mrs. Sage, he walked into the police station and started talking to the desk sergeant. It wasn't long before Mrs. Sage was certain of his identity. Perhaps he continued taking those risks because he had already planned to leave for Mexico the next week.

In mid-July, Anna Sage contacted a police officer she knew in East Chicago, Indiana, named Martin Zarkovich. She hoped that by cooperating with the law regarding Dillinger that she could get the deportation charges against her dropped. Zarkovich told his boss, Captain Timothy O'Neill who was handling the Dillinger case after the death of Officer O'Malley.

The two men visited Captain John Stege of the Chicago Police Department's Dillinger Squad to make a deal. They would give Stege the information to trap Dillinger but only if Stege agreed to kill Dillinger on the spot. Stege told the two men, "I'd even give John Dillinger a chance to surrender," and suggested that they leave his office.

The two Indiana policemen then contacted the FBI's Melvin Purvis with the same deal. Purvis told Special Agent Sam Cowley, who Hoover had put in charge of the Dillinger Squad in Chicago after the fiasco at Little Bohemia. Cowley and Purvis seemed receptive and wanted to know more, but Anna Sage wanted confirmation that they would assist her in fighting her deportation and that she would also receive the reward money on Dillinger's head.

Purvis told her the FBI would do what it could to help her with the immigration authorities and that she would get a sizeable sum of money if Dillinger were taken. Then Anna proposed a plan to hand Dillinger over to the FBI. She would arrange for Dillinger to take her and Polly to the movies the next day.

Once the deal was set, Hoover was notified. Dillinger was to be taken alive, he ordered. He didn't even want the agents drawing their pistols if possible, since bystanders could be killed in the crossfire.

A tremendous amount of planning went into this new opportunity to catch Dillinger. The FBI could not afford to botch it this time. To minimize the chance of a mistake, the Chicago police were not notified about the operation. However, the East Chicago, Indiana, police were permitted to participate.

On Sunday, July 22, 1934, Anna Sage called the FBI at 5:30 P.M. and told them that Dillinger had agreed to take her and Polly to the movie that night, but she didn't know if it would be the Marbro Theater or the Biograph. The agents had been counting on the Marbro Theater, which is the only one that Mrs. Sage had mentioned in their earlier meeting. All of their planning had been around the layout and exits of the Marbro. Now, it could be the Biograph -- which Agent Cowley knew nothing about. Quickly, he sent some men to the Biograph to check it out.

At 7 P.M., Anna Sage telephoned again. She still didn't know which theater and they were going to be leaving the apartment shortly. Purvis and his colleague decided to sit in a car outside the Biograph and look for the threesome. Zarkovich and another agent would sit outside the Marbro.

Finally, it was clear that it was the Biograph as they watched Dillinger approach with Polly Hamilton on his arm. Next to them was Mrs. Sage, wearing an orange skirt that looked deep red in the artificial lighting around the theater. The movie Manhattan Melodrama would run two hours and four minutes.

Cowley and Purvis met together with the other agents. When the movie was over, they reasoned that Dillinger and the two women would probably take a particular route back to Anna Sage's apartment. As they passed, Purvis would light a cigar to identify them.

Around 10:30 P.M., the crowd started coming out of the theater. Dillinger and his lady friends were some of the first to emerge. Purvis lit the cigar and Dillinger looked at him directly. Special Agent Hollis and Purvis closed in behind him with their pistols drawn.

"Suddenly Dillinger reached into his right trouser pocket and sprinted toward the alley in a partial crouch. By now Dillinger had a Colt automatic in his right hand. Paying no attention to Purvis's squeaky command to halt, he continued down the alley. He must have known he had been betrayed -- and by a woman.

"Hollis and two other agents fired at the fleeing figure. One bullet went through Dillinger's left side. Another tore into his stooped back and went out the right eye. Dillinger dropped, his feet still on the sidewalk, his head in the alley. Purvis leaned over, spoke to Dillinger. There was no answer." (Toland)

When they got him to the hospital, he was already dead. As the news spread, hundreds of people were dipping their scarves and handkerchiefs into the pool of his blood outside the Biograph. It was the end of a long, exciting, adventure movie.

Many people did not believe it was really Dillinger. The body was too tall, too short, too heavy to be the real bandit. It was an elaborate ruse so that the real Dillinger could escape to Mexico. Finally, Dillinger's sister Audrey told authorities that she could positively identify her brother by a scar on his leg. She looked at the scar and said, "there is no question in my mind. Bury him."

John Dillinger was gone, even if his myth lived on.

The Dillinger Gangs, both of them, did not fare much better than their leader in that year. Homer Van Meter was gunned down in St. Paul in August. Charles Makley was shot to death in a prison escape attempt in September. Baby Face Nelson was shot by two FBI agents in November. Harry Pierpont was electrocuted in November.

Russell Clark made parole in 1970 and died shortly afterwards from cancer. Mary Kinder lived the rest of her life in Indianapolis. James Clark served a life sentence in Columbus, Ohio.

Anna Sage received $5,000 of the Dillinger reward money, but Hoover reneged on his help with the immigration authorities and she was deported to Romania.


  • Maccabee, Paul, John Dillinger Slept Here, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.

  • Nash, Jay Robert, Bloodletters and Badmen, "John Herbert Dillinger." M. Evans, 1995.

  • Quimby, Myron J., The Devil's Emissaries. A.S. Barnes, 1995.

  • Toland, John, The Dillinger Days. Random House, 1963.

  • Other sources used:

  • Gentry, Curt, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. Penguin, 1992.

  • Powers, Richard Gid, The Life of J. Edgar Hoover: Secrecy and Power. Macmillian, 1987.



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