Friday, October 26, 2012


10/23/1933 - After raiding police stations in the towns of Auburn and Peru ... raids in which what will be called the First Dillinger Gang gains possession of three Thompson submachine guns, a teargas gun, two .38s, a .30-caliber Springfield rifle, a Winchester semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, two sawed-off shotguns, a 12-gauge automatic shotgun, a .32-caliber automatic pistol, two .45 Colt automatics, five .38 Special revolvers, a .44 Smith & Wesson revolver, a Spanish .25-caliber automatic pistol, a 9mm German Luger, ten magazines of machine-gun bullets, three badges, a pair of handcuffs, twelve bulletproof vests, two boxes of shotgun shells, and numerous rounds of ammunition ... Russell Clark, Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, John Hamilton, and John Dillinger make a major cash withdrawal from the Central National Bank of Greencastle, Indiana.

                              Pierpont                                        Clark
                                             The Central National Bank

Job timed to coincide with its coffers being full due to the "old Gold" weekend homecoming activities at nearby DePauw University, on Monday, at 2:45 in the afternoon a large black Studebaker double-parks in front of the Central National.  All wearing overcoats against the chilly day, and to hide their weapons, five men exit the vehicle ... Dillinger, Pierpont, Makley, and Clark enter the bank, while Hamilton takes the outside Tiger position near the front door as the gang's lookout (when an elderly foreign woman walks out the door while the robbery is in progress, the outlaw tells her to go back inside to which she replies, "I go to Penny's, you go to Hell" ... stupefied  Hamilton will let the woman go about her business).  As planned, they enter at just the right moment, elderly security guard Len Ratcliffe has just climbed down from a new steel cage constructed over the front door and is in the building's basement stoking the furnace.  Pierpont begins the action by asking Assistant Trust Officer Ward Mayhall to change a twenty dollar, and when he is told to go to another window, pulls a .45 Colt on the man and loudly declares to one and all that a holdup is now in progress and that no one should press any alarms.  At the announcement, the rest of the outlaws pull their guns and immediately begin plundering the establishment.  Stylish as always during a heist, with Makley and Clark keeping their weapons trained on the bank's dozen employees and ten customers, holding his machine gun at the ready, Dillinger vaults over a chest high counter into the loan teller's area and begins filling a muslin sack with money, while at the same time, Pierpont convinces Cashier Harry Wells to open the vault.  Plenty of money to be found, the gang fills it's sacks with over $74,000 (including $400 in half dollars, $200 in quarters, and eighteen silver dollars) in the less than five minutes they are in the bank.


A professional job, but not quite a perfect one.  Makley misses seeing bank employee William Styles slip out of a side door, where once free, he attempts to find some nails to puncture the tires of gang's driverless escape vehicle, and failing that (unbeknownst to Styles, the back seat of the car contains boxes of nails and tacks that the gang plans to use if they are pursued), foolishly calls the Greencastle police to report the in-progress robbery ... foolishly because the office of the County Sheriff is in the courthouse right across the street!  As Dillinger, Pierpont, and Makley are exiting the bank's front door they encounter grocer Rex Thorlton entering, and when the man reaches into his back pocket for the cash he is about to deposit, thinking he is drawing a weapon, Pierpont cracks him over the head with his pistol ... the only violence that takes place during the job.  And they miss by only a minute, Catherine Tillotson of DePauw's treasurer's office, arriving to deposit even more money in the bank.  Robbery complete, the last flaw in the day's activities almost results in unexpected disaster for as the gang drives slowly away, they are horrified when their escape from town is blocked by a random freight train lumbering slowly past ... back tracking, they use an alternate route and soon vanish, headed towards Chicago to spend some of their loot on that big city's "good life." 


The robbery is the biggest payday of John Dillinger's short and violent career.

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