5/3/1934 - In need of cash to pay for hiding places, equipment and support silence after their narrow escape from the Little Bohemia Lodge raid and car shootout that kills John "Red" Hamilton, John Dillinger, Homer Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll (Baby Face Nelson has yet to reunite with the outlaws after hiding out after Little Bohemia with a backwoods family on the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation in Wisconsin) display some of the "devil-may-care" recklessness that will have them all gunned down before the coming summer ends, without practicing the job or setting up escape routes ala the Baron Lamm bank robbing formula, by hitting the First National Bank of Fostoria, Ohio.
Leaving behind the escape car bearing Hamilton's blood in Chicago to throw off pursuers, the trio of bandits steal another car, and sipping coffee from Thermos jugs, with Carroll at the wheel, drive east towards a score Homer Van Meter has pitched ... the bank in Fostoria, Ohio (passing through Toledo, the men switch to yet another stolen vehicle). Thought to be bandit-proof due to all the slow moving trains that pass through the railroad junction on a daily basis (a 140 on a typical day), the gang has a wild card that they believe will give them a winning hand in taking down the financial establishment ... Homer Van Meter knows the town like the back of his hand from having spent summer vacation there as a boy.
With Carroll remaining in their escape vehicle (a black Ford V-8 with yellow wire wheels), at roughly 2:50 on a Thursday afternoon, only minutes before the bank's 3:00 closing, holding bulky overcoats to conceal the machine guns they are carrying, Dillinger and Van Meter enter the First National and are confronted with an immediate problem ... above the lobby of the bank is a second floor mezzanine, and the lobby has two side entrances that give access in one direction to the O.C Harding Jewelry Store, and the other way, to a neighborhood drugstore. Laying his overcoat across a railing and brandishing his machine gun at the teller cages, Van Meter yells, "Stick 'em up!" and the robbery is on ... with Dillinger piling cash from the teller stations into sacks brought along for the job, while Van Meter covers the employees and customers present with his weapon (one female pleads, "Don't kill me" ... to which Van Meter replies, "You be quiet and I won't."). No grins, quips, or athletic jumps over teller windows as displayed only a year before, the public enemy has had the fun of robbery kicked out of his system from being on the run for months and is all grim business trimming the bank of its assets. A five-man job if planned correctly, neither Dillinger nor Van Meter notice when teller Frances Hillyard slips out of the bank and runs to find 67-year-old Chief of Police, Frank Culp.
The First National Bank - Fostoria, Ohio
Running to the bank, accompanied by Patrolman Louis Stagger, Culp remembers hunting lessons and decides to try for the high ground of the mezzanine where he believes he can harry the outlaws out of the place. Ooooops ... bursting into the lobby, Culp finds the elevator up out of reach, already stationed on the upper floor and before he can decide what his next move should be, takes a single bullet to the chest that pierces his lung from a burst of machine gun slugs Van Meter sends his way. Gravely wounded, the lawman staggers out the side door into the jewelry store where he collapses as his hollers for help. Also thinking of help, outside, Carroll hears the gunfire coming from inside the bank, steps out of the car, and begins firing wildly up and down the street, shattering windows, holing cars and tires, and sending citizens diving for cover. Six people experience narrow escapes in which bullets pass within inches of hitting them, and a handful of citizens suffer injuries from the gunfire ... Robert Sheilds is hit in the foot, cashier R. W. Powley takes a slug in the back, but misses suffering a serious would when the bullet is deflected by the buckle of his suspenders, a bullet grazes S. J. Henerson in the neck, leaving a burn mark, Ernie Duffield is also grazed by a slug to his arm and is scratched up by flying brick chips of near misses, and Kenneth Gamertsfelder is also scratched ... it is a miracle that no one is killed.
It is also a miracle that none of the outlaws are killed or wounded as citizens take up positions outside the bank and begin firing on the robbers ... a miracle made possible by Van Meter and Dillinger taking tellers Bill Daub and Ruth Harris hostage and exiting the building by way of the drugstore ... barriers to bullets, the two outlaws join Carroll in the escape car, holding on to the employees as they stand on the running boards of the car as it screams down Tifflin Street doing 70 to 80 miles-per-hour with Van Meter calling out directions to avoid the railroad tracks (holding a sawed-off shotgun, local sign painter, Bud Boyher, is perfectly positioned at the front entrance to take out the outlaws, but doesn't fire for fear of hitting the hostages), while Dillinger randomly scatters roofing nails in their wake to thwart any pursuit (outside of town the hostages are released ... once the outlaws drive away, the 22-year-old Harris faints ... the pair are eventually returned home compliments of a passing cattle truck which picks them up walking back to Fostoria). One more job left before the Dillinger Gang is no more (they will hit the Merchants Bank of South Bend, Indiana in June ... another job in which bullets fly, with Baby Face Nelson killing 29-year-old police officer Howard Wagner) ... for their hot visit to Fostoria, the men split a $17,299 payday (despite its nationwide manhunt, it will take the bubbling FBI two months before they decide the Fostoria robbery was the work of Dillinger and his friends).
The Next Day
Breaking up after the robbery, Carroll decides to take a road vacation with his girlfriend, Jean Delaney (the sister of Alvin Karpis squeeze, Dolores Delaney) ... an ill fated trip that ends with the outlaw on a slab after he engages in a gunfight with authorities in the town of Waterloo, Iowa in June. Dillinger and Van Meter however return to their Chicago haunts, where with the help of Baby Face Nelson (finally out of the Wisconsin woods), the pair buy their latest hideout, a red, Ford Model A truck that looks like a grocery delivery vehicle (parking and sleeping on two mattresses in the back of the vehicle, washing off at tourist camps, the pair spend several weeks in the truck ... until two curious cops, Detectives Martin O'Brien and Lloyd Mulvihill, come calling one evening and are machine gunned to death by Van Meter). Dillinger also uses some of his Fostoria cash to arrange for secret plastic surgery on his face ... a decision that almost costs the outlaw his life when he chokes on his tongue during the procedure, lightens his wallet considerably, cause him lots of pains as his chopped up face heals, and does little to really alter his looks. And as always, the men begin thinking about their next score.
Van Meter Come August