While much of the country might have enjoyed reading about the exploits of various Public Enemies during the '30s to escape their own Depression woes, rooting for the cops or the robbers as if fans at a sporting event, the reality was that the bullets sent flying by both sides were all too real. Here is the toll in human carnage that the Dillinger crime wave produced!
#1 - 9/30/1933 - Having fallen out of the faulty back door of one of the cars stolen in the crash out of the Michigan City Penitentiary that his former cellmate John Dillinger has engineered, James Jenkins (he is also the brother of Dillinger's first post prison girlfriend, Mary Longnacker), makes the mistake of shooting at an Indiana farmer on vigilante duty looking for the escapees. The convict misses with a round from his revolver, but Benjamin Kanter doesn't with a blast from his .20 gauge double-barreled shotgun that takes out a fatal portion of Jenkins skull.
#2 - 10/12/1933 - Returning the favor of busting their friend John Dillinger out of the Lima, Ohio, jailhouse he has been residing in since his capture in September, recent Michigan City escapees Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, and Russell Clark confront Sheriff Jesse Sarber, pretending to be law enforcement agents seeking Dillinger's transfer. Charade seen through, when Sarber asks to see the men's credentials and reaches towards the pistol in his desk drawer, Pierpont pulls his own .38 and shoots the sheriff in the abdomen (a femoral artery severing mortal wound), and insult added to injury, as the dying officer struggles to rise, Makley cracks him over the head with the butt of his revolver ... and all of it takes place in front of Sarber's wife, Lucy, at the jail having dinner with her husband.
#3 - 12/14/1933 - Tipped off that Dillinger Gang members might be having their cars serviced at Tower Auto Rebuilders in Chicago, 42-year-old Sgt. William T. Shanley, operating alone as a shift change takes place, attempts to arrest John Hamilton and his girlfriend Elaine Dent when the pair arrives at the shop to claim their green convertible. Quicker on the draw, Hamilton fires a bullet into Shanley's chest, killing the decorated law man, a twenty year veteran of the Chicago police force who leaves behind a wife and four children.
Sgt. William Shanley
#4 - 12/20/1933 - Tragedy strikes in front of the France Hotel in Paris, Illinois, when Dillinger Gang getaway driver Eddie Shouse tries to flee a group of Indiana state police. Opening fire on the outlaw, Lt. Chester Butler accidentally hits 24-year-old rookie Trooper Eugene Teague in the head with a .32 caliber, double-ought buckshot blast, killing the in the wrong place at the wrong time officer instantly.
Trooper Eugene Teague
#5, #6, #7 - 12/22/1933 - And the lead keeps flying two days later! No questions asked, incensed at the recent deaths of Shanley and Teague, believing members of the Dillinger Gang are trapped in a local Chicago apartment, members of the specially formed Dillinger Squad, led by Captain John Stege and Sgt. Frank Reynolds, with their guns blazing, burst in on small-time hoodlums Louis Katzewitz, Charles Tattlebaum, and Sam Ginsburg. The result, three dead Jewish felons.
#8 - 1/15/1934 - Responding to a silent alarm set off at the First National Bank of East Chicago, 43-year-old Sgt. William O'Malley finds a position outside from which to fire and awaits the exit of whoever has made the mistake of thinking they can successful rob the institution. Taking his shot when the human shield John Dillinger is behind jumps away from his captor as the men exit the bank. O'Malley sends four .38 slugs into the chest of the robber, but the outlaw has come prepared for just such a situation by wearing a bullet-proof vest. Angered at the attempt on his life, Dillinger staggers back, screams "YOU ASKED FOR IT," and sends an eight bullet burst of Thompson sub-machine gun fire at the officer. Aiming to wound, Dillinger fires low at the legs of O'Malley, but instead of crippling him, kills the lawman when he falls forward into the line of fire and takes a round directly in the heart ... a slug that creates a widow and three fatherless daughters.
Sgt. William O'Malley
#9, #10 - 3/16/1934 - On the run after helping Dillinger escape from the Crown Point jail on March 3, 29-year-old black murderer Herbert Youngblood is betrayed by a friend and cornered in a Port Huron, Michigan, store. Thinking he is surrendering peacefully when he gives up the gun Dillinger gave him during their escape earlier in the month, Youngblood suddenly pulls a backup .32 and opens fire on Sheriff William L. Van Antwerp and his three deputies. In the hail of bullets that fly about the store, Van Antwerp, and Howard Lohr are wounded, while 47-year-old Charles Cavanagh, hit in the chest, dies later that evening at a local hospital (leaving behind a wife and child). The officers do not however go down without a fight and in the melee Youngblood takes ten slugs to the body, lead which turns him into a corpse four hours later.
#11 - 4/3/1934 - Having located the hideout of Dillinger Gang member Homer Van Meter using a phone number found in a St. Paul apartment Dillinger and Billie Frechette have abandoned after a gun battle, FBI agents set up an ambush using the black cleaning lady, Leona Goodman, that has been sent there by a mysterious local underworld character to remove an assortment of criminal odds and ends that include a machine gun stock, dynamite fuses, three notebooks filled with getaway maps, and lots of ammunition. Setting up in the woman's home and showing they are just as criminal and dangerous as the men they are hunting, when unarmed bank robber Eddie Green shows up to claim the booty and is identified by Goodman as the individual that hired her, without any orders to surrender, he is blasted in the back by the machine gun fire of two agents as he tries to make his way back to his car and his waiting wife. Mortally wounded by a bullet to the head, the delirious Green will be "questioned" in his hospital room by the FBI until 4/12, when he finally mercifully passes away at the age of 35.
#12 - 4/22/1934 - Done enjoying the regular one-dollar Sunday night dinner special and convivial after supper drinks, three slightly tipsy locals, 35-year-old Mercer CCC camp worker Eugene Boisneau, 28-year-old gas station employee John Hoffman, and the CCC camps 59-year-old cook John Morris, exit upper Wisconsin's Little Bohemia Lodge in the company of resort workers George Baszo and Frank Traube. Ready to return home, Hoffman, in the company of Boisneau and Morris, starts up his Chevrolet, cranks up to full volume the vechicle's powerful radio, puts the car in gear and begins to drive away from the lodge. But it is a short journey that is brought to an abrupt and deadly end when FBI agents (Melvin Purvis, Hugh Clegg, W. Carter Baum, and Jay C. Newman), spooked by two barking dogs, mistaking the men for the Dillinger Gang that is inside the lodge, and responding to fear of an escape when orders to stop which the vehicle's occupants can't hear are ignored over the din of the radio, open fire on the Chevy with pistols and machine guns, holing its side window, door, cowling ... and its occupants. Tragedy, Morris is wounded by four bullets in his shoulder, Hoffman receives a gunshot wound to his right arm and thigh and glass cuts from the exploding car window all over his face, and Boisneau, the middle passenger in the front seat is killed outright from multiple bullet hits. And warned by the gunfire, the Dillinger Gang, Dillinger, John Hamilton, Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll escape into the pitch black night.
The car Boisneau, Hoffman, and Morris were in at the Little Bohemia Lodge
#13 - 4/22/1934 - Fleeing FBI agents at the Little Bohemia Lodge, Baby Face goes in search of a car he can steal to escape the area and in his hunt creates more carnage. Bad timing, as the volatile killer is about to leave the home of Alvin Koerner's home with a number of hostages, a car carrying three lawmen pulls up to investigate a rumor that Dillinger Gang members might be in the area. In the area indeed, Nelson springs from his hiding place and with the words, "I know who you sons-a-bitches are and I know you're wearing vests so I'll give it to you high," opens fire on FBI agents Jay Newman and W. Carter Baum, and Constable Carl C. Christiansen with a .45 automatic that has been custom converted into a machine gun pistol holding thirteen rounds. An uneven one-sided gunfight, Christiansen is wounded by five bullets, Newman will survive a slug that glances off his head (dazed, the agent will empty his pistol at Nelson as the outlaw flees in the agent's car), and 29-year-old W. Carter Baum (upset at contributing to the death of Boisneau earlier in the evening, the rattled agent will forget to take the safety off his pistol when the encounter with Nelson takes place) will perish as a result of three rounds that hit him in the neck, above the bullet proof vest, just as Nelson had proclaimed.
W. Carter Baum
#14 - 4/23/1934 - Seeking haven with the St. Paul underworld after the shootout the previous night at the Little Bohemia Lodge, Homer Van Meter, John Hamilton, and Dillinger instead become involved in another gun battle. Driving a stolen blue Model A Ford coupe, the car's Wisconsin license plate, B92652, is spotted by Minnesota police officers, and as if Hollywood had written the script, a high speed chase with multiple bullet exchanges takes place. Trading volleys over 50 miles of road (with Van Meter driving, Dillinger will knock out the rear window of the car and fire at the officers with a .45, almost hitting Deputy Joe Heinen in the head) with the bandits, Deputy Norman Dieter will send out a slug from his .30-30 rifle that punches through a fender, the spare tire, the rear seat and drills directly into Hamilton's lower back. Superior driving skills eventually allow the gang to escape, but on the run with a whole country looking for them they are not able to get the medical help Hamilton needs, the grievous wound turns grave when gangrene sets in, and the desperado dies in terrible pain on 4/30.
#15, #16 - 5/24/1934 - A little after 11:00 in the evening, investigating a tip that Dillinger has been spotted in the area (there are also rumors that they are seeking a payoff to look the other way while the wanted man hides in their area of responsibility, and that they are set up to prevent them from testifying about graft in the department), East Chicago detectives Martin O'Brien and Lloyd Mulvihill make the mistake of pulling over a red paneled delivery truck. Purchased for $637, hiding in plain sight, unbeknownst to the lawmen, the vehicle has been the home of John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter for past three weeks. Pulling alongside to query the driver as to why he is driving about the remote section of town that is often used as a lover's lane (and a dump for stolen vehicles), without warning the officers are hit multiple times in the head and neck with a fatal barrage of machine gun spray compliments of Van Meter, firing from the passenger seat of the truck. And again the tragedy ripples outward in pain and grief ... 44-year-old O'Brien, a 14-year veteran of the department leaves behind a wife and three children, while 28-year old Mulvihill also leaves a widow behind and six young children.
#17 - 6/7/1934 - On the way to visiting his girlfriend's mother, 38-year-old Dillinger outlaw Tommy Carroll and Jean Delaney stop in Waterloo, Iowa, to put gas in their tan Hudson and have a bite to eat. Unfortunately for the criminal, he has the misfortune to have his gas pumped by a nosy attendant who finds multiple license plates hidden under a floor mat of the car. Reward wanted, the police are called and find the suspect vehicle parked in front of a local tavern where Carroll has stopped for a beer before continuing his journey (a bad spot, the tavern is right across the street from the police garage). Accosted by Detectives Emil Steffen and Paul E. Walker as he and Delaney return to the car, Carroll tries to draw his .380 Colt automatic but is knocked down by a right cross to the chin by Walker. Scrambling to his feet, the bandit continues to try to pull his weapon as he runs away ... all the warrant the officers need to put four bullets into the gunman's back, mortal wounds that will take his life at the town's St. Francis hospital later that day.
#18 - 6/30/1934 - A typical summer Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, explodes into violence. In a downtown area full of shoppers and people meeting for lunch, 29-year-old policeman Howard Wagner is directing traffic at the intersection of Wayne and Michigan Streets when the sound of gunfire (the firecracker popping noises of an outlaw unleashing a stream of machine gun fire into the ceiling of the nearby Merchant's Bank) draws his attention. Moving toward the disturbance with his gun holstered and his whistle in his hand, he is greeted by Dillinger Gang member Homer Van Meter, assigned to control the street as his job in the robbery. Seeing the policeman's hand moving towards his weapon, Van Meter pumps a rifle bullet from his Model 1907 Winchester .351 (modified to fire on fully automatic) into Wagner's abdomen which rips apart his right kidney, a wound that will cost the young officer his life within 30 minutes of the hit being taken. Like many others, Wagner leaves behind a widowed wife.
#19 - 7/22/1934 - John Dillinger is gunned down outside the Biograph Theater by Federal agents and East Chicago police. Or was he? This death will be the subject of a future commentary.
#20 - 7/27/1934 - Seeking information about his activities helping Dillinger hide while receiving plastic surgery (and if he has knowledge of the whereabouts of still at large gang members Homer Van Meter and Baby Face Nelson), underworld gopher James Probasco is questioned at the FBI headquarters on the 19th floor of Chicago's Banker's Building ... questioning that results in Probasco deciding to throw himself out a window to his death at the first moment he is alone, or questioning that includes being dangled out a window by his feet by his interrogators (several individuals over the years testify that they indeed did get such treatment themselves). Unwilling to upset the government or ask questions that might cause them to be dangled too, a coroner's jury rules Probasco's death a suicide.
#21 - 8/23/1934 - Killer Homer Van Meter makes the mistake of leaving his robbery assets in the hands of "friends" in the St. Paul underworld. Seeking traveling money to flee to Mexico from his deposits, Van Meter discovers instead that his bankers have ratted him out to authorities so they can keep his money ... a determination the outlaw makes when he is greeted at the agreed to exchange site at a Ford car dealership on Marion Street and University Avenue by Chief of Police Frank Cullen, former Chief Thomas Brown, and two police detectives all heavily armed and with their weapons already drawn. Fleeing, like his friend Dillinger, Van Meter only makes it to a nearby ally ... a dead end ally that becomes an abattoir when the police practice overkill on the criminal and empty their guns into Van Meter (his family describe the event as the authorities using Van Meter for target practice), hitting the Swiss cheesed outlaw over 50 times with shotgun, machine gun, and pistol fire.
Van Meter awaiting trip to morgue with crowd of well wishers
#22 - 9/22/1934 - Aware that there will be no outside help available to spring them from their prison cells now that their friend John Dillinger is dead, Ohio State death row inmates Charles Makley and Harry Pierpont decide to try bluffing their way to liberty using fake guns they have carved out of soap and covered with black shoe polish. The stunt gets the desperate men out of their cells, but not off death row when the guards of the facility decide to shoot it out with the duo ... no shocker, real rifle bullets trump wishful thinking and Makley dies of extensive internal hemorrhaging from wounds to his thorax and abdomen, while Pierpont survives but is gravely wounded.
#23 - 10/17/1934 - Shot to pieces during his attempt to escape his fate in September, bank robbing killer Harry Pierpont is strapped to a gurney, transferred to the Ohio State Prison at Columbus electric chair and given the juice for the 1933 murder of Sheriff Jesse Sarber ... the appropriate outlaw adios, the bandit leaves at the age of 32 years and 4 days old.
#24, #25, #26 - 11/27/1934 - Baby Face Nelson, Sam Cowley, and Herman Hollis shoot it out in Barrington, Illinois. These deaths will be the subject of a future commentary.
Participants in the Battle of Barrington