Thursday, December 6, 2012


12/16/1930 - In a cornfield near Sidell, Illinois the criminal career of forty-year-old Herman "Baron" Lamm comes to a bloody conclusion due to a series of unlucky mischances.

                                                         The Baron

Called by many criminal historians the "father of modern bank robbery," the German born Lamm brings his experiences in the Prussian Army to his criminal endeavors in America, creating a precise military system of robbing banks called "The Lamm Technique" that includes meticulous study of the site of the job and its employees, creation of and practice driving numerous escape routes, each member of his gang being given a specific assignment, keeping the heist to a time schedule using stopwatches, the hiring of shady race car drivers for his getaways using the fastest vehicles available, attacking with superior weaponry like Thompson machine guns, and multiple rehearsals of the crime to come using full-scale mock-ups of the establishment being hit.  For thirteen years Lamm's methods work like a charm and he and his men take over a million dollars out of Midwest banks.  No plans or practice though can overcome the series of events that take place after Lamm and his gang (seventy-one-year-old G.W. "Dad" Landy, getaway driver W.H. Hunter, twenty-six-year-old gunman Walter Dietrich, and James "Oklahoma Jack" Clark, dressed in overalls and a lumber jacket) withdraw $15,567 from the Citizens State Bank of Clinton, Indiana.    

                             Dietrich                                                     Clark

Chaos for the group begins when the local barber, carrying a shotgun to go bird hunting with a friend, is mistaken for an armed vigilante.  Reacting quicker and more wildly than he should, Hunter hops a curb making an escaping U-turn and blows out a tire on the gang's Buick sedan.  Alternate transportation necessary, Lamm and his men then seize the first car that comes along ... a vehicle that can only travel 35 miles-per-hour because a governor has secretly been placed on the motor by the son of the car's owner to prevent his elderly father from driving too fast.  Next up the gang boosts a truck ... a truck which soon dies for lack of water in its radiator.  Another car taken, another car abandoned, the outlaws' last theft is a car that only has one gallon of gas in its soon dry tank.  While all that madness has taken place, the gang has crossed from Indiana into Illinois, machine gunned to death Vermillion County Deputy Sheriff Joe Walker when the lawman tries to stop the men outside the small town of Dana, and finds itself being chased by hundreds of law enforcement officers and heavily armed upset locals as airplanes search the local highways for them from above.  Near the town of Sidell the gang's running finally stops and their bad luck continues when they try to steal the car of Leo Moody, an act of desperation that the belligerent farmer responds to by procuring his rifle and immediately firing on the bandits ... gunfire that like a magnet draws the posse pursuing the outlaws to the farm.  Surrounded by over two hundred men in the cornfield of the property, a massive one-sided gun battle takes place in which Hunter and Lamm are killed, a wounded Landy commits suicide to avoid a return to prison, and Dietrich and Clark eventually surrender.  The Lamm Gang destroyed, the legacy of the Baron however lives on when Dietrich and Clark, serving life terms in the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City, make a deal to teach Lamm's bank robbing techniques to a young fellow convict if he will include them in the escape he is planning ... an inmate named John Herbert Dillinger.

      John Dilinger in an early wanted poster. Did he once sleep in Danville. Image from
                                                 The Baron's protege  

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