Wednesday, September 26, 2012


9/26/1933 - Years of planning and effort result in a jailbreak that shocks the Midwest.  Running loose since his parole in May, John Dillinger has been robbing stores, payrolls, and banks with one express purpose ... acquire enough money to bribe officials to look the other way, find suitable hiding places for a number of wanted men, and procure the weapons by which his convict pals can force their way out of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City.


Dillinger's first attempt to get weapons to his friends ends in failure when a convict not in on the plot finds the pistols the outlaw has thrown over the thirty-foot high prison wall the night before and turns the weapons over to Deputy Warden H. D. Claudy.  The second attempt is more successful and when a two-hundred-pound crate of thread bearing a small red cross in crayon on its top from the Henry Myer Manufacturing Company of Chicago is received at the Gordon East Coast Shirt Factory within the prison, the plotters have their guns ... three carefully wrapped .45s and ammo which bank robber Walter Dietrich hides in a small carton of buttons.  Break set for the 28th, when the individuals involved discover that jailhouse snitches are talking to guards about an upcoming escape, the convicts move up their date with freedom to the 26th.  In on the plot are a who's who of Indiana bad apples consisting of:

*Harry Pierpont, thirty-one, serving 10-21 years for bank robbery
*Charles Makley, forty-four, serving 10-20 years for bank robbery
*Russell Clark, thirty-five, serving 20 years for bank robbery
*John Hamilton, thirty-four, serving 25 years for bank robbery
*Walter Dietrich, twenty-eight, serving life for bank robbery and murder while a member of the 1920s Baron Lamm Gang
*James "Oklahoma Jim" Clark, thirty-one, serving life for bank robbery and murder while a member of the 1920s Baron Lamm Gang
*Eddie Shouse, serving twenty-two years for armed robbery
*Joseph Fox, serving a life sentence for bank robbery
*James Jenkins, Dillinger's cellmate, serving a life sentence for the murder of a grocer
*Joseph Burns, serving a life sentence for murder

Ready, shortly after 1:00 and the end of lunch, as the prison begins its work assignments for the afternoon, nine convicts receive sick passes to go the the institution's hospital ... instead, they join Walter Dietrich in the basement of the shirt factory.  Dietrich gives Makley, Pierpont, and Hamilton the .45s, and arms the rest of the men with recently made fake weapons and the break begins with the group taking the superintendent of the factory, G. H. Stevens, and Day Captain, Albert "Big Bertha" Evans hostage (and in addition, they tie up the factory foreman Dudley Triplett and five convicts who have come downstairs for supplies), then covering their weapons as if they were carrying stacks of shirts, and a hidden battering ram the men have procured, the group marches in regulation quick step through the rain and across the open prison yard to the door to the Guard's Hall.  Above them, armed guards on the walls believe it is just another routine shirt delivery for future sales to the public ... at least that is what the guards that are awake believe, in one of the towers, a soon to be fired rifleman sleeps through the entire escape.   At the door, a pistol thrust into the face of guard Frank Swanson convinces the elderly man to unlock the heavy metal gate.  Two barriers left to go, inside, a turnkey, Guy Burklow, use to deliveries, opens one door as soon as he sees the men approaching, while the second turnkey, Fred Wellnitz, is hit over the head with a blackjack by Shouse, his keys procured, and the final door breached (it is here the the men abandon their battering ram).  Now inside the Administration Building, the warden, Louis Kunkel, and members of his staff are taken prisoner and locked in a vault ... and a few more injuries are sustained by the prison personnel ... Superintendent of Prison Industries, Lawrence Mutch, is beaten up when he bravely refuses to open the door to a storeroom containing machine guns and rifles, Day Captain Evans is slugged when he protests the beating Wellnitz takes, and when he moves too slowly, seventy-two-year-old clerk Finley Carson is shot in the stomach (it is never established which convict does the shooting) ... a wound he will survive.  Success, the ten convicts then step outside into the rain again, and in the parking lot, beginning looking for vehicles with which to make Part Two of their escape.

                                                           Michigan City


No comments:

Post a Comment