Tuesday, November 20, 2012


11/20/1933 - Bank's insides mapped and studied, escape routes practiced, the Dillinger Gang, consisting of Harry Pierpont (the actual leader of the group), Russell Clark, John Dillinger, Charles Makley, and Leslie Homer (a just paroled Michigan City con), visits the American Bank and Trust Company of Racine, Wisconsin.

                    The Bank, located at Main & Fifth Street

Driving a black Buick Auburn with jump seats and bright yellow wire wheels, on a mild afternoon of 52 degrees (it is around 2:30) Homer sets the robbery in motion by circling the bank and twice dropping off two of his confederates before parking behind the bank with the motor left running.  All wearing dapper suits, hats, and topcoats (just right for concealing the men's Thompson sub-machine guns), in pairs, Makley and Dillinger, and then Pierpont and Clark, enter the bank.  To obscure the robbery about to take place, Pierpont unveils two large Red Cross posters and pastes them to the plate-glass window that looks out on the street.  Shielded from sight, the bandits then identify themselves with Makley's classic criminal order for everyone to "STICK 'EM UP!"


Unfortunately, thirty-four-year-old head teller Harold Graham thinks the order is a joke, and when he tells Makley to go to another window because he's busy and fails to raise his hands, the outlaw fires a single shot from his Thompson that wounds the bank employee in the elbow and right hip.  Floored, a bleeding Graham falls right next to the alarm button that rings three blocks away at the police station ... activating it, Makley rewards the teller with a firm kick to go with his wounds but does not shoot him again.  At the same time as Graham is triggering the silent alarm, assistant cashier L.C. Rowan sets off the loud clanging one on the side of the building which immediately draws a crowd.  Employees and customers covered or in hiding (there are more than a dozen inside the bank), the .45 Dillinger places in the ribs of bank president Grover Weyland convinces the executive to open the vault at the back of the establishment and the looting begins in earnest.  Assigned duties as usual, access gained, Pierpont and Dillinger continue gathering money, while Clark and Makley deal with the police who now arrive on the scene.

          Makley                                           Pierpont                                         Clark

Officer Cyril Boyard and Sgt. Wilbur Hansen (carrying a recently acquired Thompson to give the American Bank & Trust Company's customers a show) arrive at the bank with sirens blaring, but thinking it is just another false alarm, enter the building casually with weapons not at the ready while Patrol Franklin Worsley stays with their car.  Busy controlling Boyard with his gun placed in the officer's back, Clark yells for Makley to "Get the cop with the machine gun!" when Hansen blithely follows his friend into the bank; instructions the trigger happy gunman instantly complies with, knocking the policeman down with two wounding bullets.  Then, switching to automatic fire, Makley shatters a window firing at two nosy locals peering into the bank, and unleashes another burst of slugs at two detectives lurking across the street that have joined the festivities from a nearby poolroom ... wild shooting that keeps heads down but provides no new hospital cases.  One other act of violence takes place before the bandits vacate the bank, but this time Makley is not involved and the last blood letting is entirely the work of Pierpont.  Tired of listening to a nonstop stream of whining and complaints, when the bank president angrily tells Pierpont that he wouldn't be so brave if he wasn't armed, the outlaw leader finally has heard one comment too many and reacts to the opinion by smashing Weyland in the face with the barrel of his Thompson ... the man offers no further opinions on courage the rest of the day.  Heist now complete with the bank's coffers being lightened by almost $30,000, each bandit takes a hostage as a shield and leave the building as a group, forcing their way through a crowd, now numbering about a hundred people, to the waiting getaway car.


Hostages draped over the vehicle, the gang escapes from town and free of pursuit, eventually tie their last two captives (the others have been freed or have fled when the outlaws attention is elsewhere), the bank president and bookkeeper Ursula Patzke, to a tree with shoelaces (they are loose in twenty minutes).  Unhappy with the experience, Patzke asks why she was selected as a hostage and is told by Pierpont it was because her red dress stood out ... and horrified at the information provided, to her dying day she never wears the color again. 


It has been another successful day for the gang and they soon are back in Chicago spending the fruits of their labors on clothes, food, booze, and their girlfriends, but not as fruitful as it might have been, stalking about in a rage with his machine gun, Makley has failed to find a stack of special bills that the teller he shot had just finished counting ... fifty one thousand dollar bills!  

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