The John Dillinger Gang PAGE 2
John Dillinger robbed banks to help finance enough money to break his pals out of Michigan City State Penitentiary. In his first attempt he threw three guns in a bag over the wall into the prison yard, but a convict found the guns and gave them to the guards. Prison officials suspected Danny McGeoghegan, a Chicago bootlegger and gangster serving a life sentence for an unsuccessful robbery, which left one robber dead and five captured. McGeoghegan was considered the fourth worst gangster in Chicago with a long criminal record, but he had no connections with Dillinger.
Next Dillinger drove to Chicago and picked up three more guns from an unknown source, and headed for Indianapolis. He turned the guns over to another accomplice, who took them to a nearby factory and bribed an employee to open up a thread box addressed to Michigan City Prison. Three guns were placed inside the box and sealed shut. On the outside of the box was marked with an "X" as a signal to inmate Walter Dietrich, who would then notify Pierpont. Dietrichs role was crucial to the plan; he would be the key to the success of the break.
Prison guards never rushed to inspect supplies delivered to Michigan City because they trusted Walter Dietrich, which would prove to be a great mistake. After everything was set for the break, Dillinger headed back to Ohio visit Mary Longnaker. He hadn't seen Mary in sometime, and was looking forward to the visit. In Dillinger's absence Mary had been seeing another man who asked her to marry him. To add to the dilemma, Detectives were waiting on a phone call from the landlady of the boarding house where Mary was staying. The landlady, Mrs. Stricker had identified Dillinger from photographs and agreed to call Detectives as soon as he showed his face. On September 22, Mrs. Stricker spotted Dillinger entering Mary's room.
She made a call around 1:30 a.m., and Detectives soon had the building surrounded. Two Detectives entered the building, one armed with a machinegun and the other with a shotgun. Mrs. Stricker led the Detectives to the apartment, she knocked at the door and Mary answered. As she opened the door the two Detectives spotted the well-dressed Dillinger in the room looking at pictures. The Detectives ordered him to raise her hands, and Dillinger reluctantly obeyed. He was arrested and taken to the Dayton, Ohio jail, where the he was placed under heavy guard. Just four days after his arrest, on September 26, at 1:30 p.m., ten men came crashing out of Michigan City. This was the biggest jailbreak ever in the State of Indiana to this day.
The ten escapees were Harry Pierpont, Charlie Makley, Russell Clark, John Hamilton, Walter Dietrich, Edward Shouse, John Burns, Joseph Fox, Jim Jenkins, and James Clark. The break began when Walter Dietrich located the box of thread with the "X" on it.. Dietrich removed the three guns with three extra clips and hid them in a box of buttons. On the day of the break the guns were then given to Pierpont, Makley, and Hamilton. Mr. G.H. Stevens was the first guard to be taken at gunpoint by John Hamilton. Hamilton informed Stevens, "Were going home and you've been elected to lead us out." The next guard to fall into the trap was Captain Albert Evans. Dietrich summoned Evans to the prison storeroom and as he entered Pierpont stuck a gun in his stomach.
Pierpont told the guard, "Your going to do what ever we tell you, if you try anything your dead where you stand." Another guard approached the storeroom and was quickly tied up. The outlaws told Stevens and Evans to hold out their arms and shirts were placed across them. The outlaws also placed shirts over their own arms, hiding guns beneath them. Ten convicts and two guards walked across the prison yard to the guardhouse. This was a normal sight to see guards and prisoners carrying shirts across the yard so there was no reason for guards to become suspicious. As they arrived at the guardhouse Frank Swanson unlocked the door and opened it.
Swanson later recalled that one of the outlaws pointed a gun at him. The outlaws made their way through several locked doors to the main gate, and walked to the Administration building. Pierpont seized the Warden and several other hostages as shields in case of trouble and headed the front door. Sheriff Charles Neal was one of the hostages taken by the outlaws. Outside in the rain, the ten convicts found Sheriff Neal's car and several piled in. Another car was stolen from the gas station on the corner. Three guards were reported injured during the escape. F.B. Carson was shot in the leg, Fred Wellmitz was hit over the head with a crow bar, and Guy Berthlow suffered from cuts on his face and head. Sheriff Neal was presumed dead by prison officials, but he would later released.
Authorities of two states sent out an alert to be on the lookout for the ten convicts, who escaped the Indiana State Penitentiary. Roadblocks were set up on Indiana and Chicago borders as well as surrounding communities. Reports came pouring in with several sightings of the outlaws in different locations. After everything was set for the break, Dillinger headed back to Ohio visit Mary Longnaker. He hadn't seen Mary in sometime and was looking forward to the visit. In Dillinger's absence, Mary had been seeing another man who asked her to marry him. To add to the dilemma, Detectives were waiting on a phone call from the landlady of Marys apartment to put Dillinger on the spot.
The landlady, Mrs. Stricker had identified Dillinger from photographs and agreed to call Detectives as soon as he showed his face. On September 22, Mrs. Stricker spotted Dillinger entering Mary's room. She made a call around 1:30 a.m., and Detectives soon had the building surrounded. Two Detectives entered the building, one armed with a machinegun and the other with a shotgun. Mrs. Stricker led the Detectives to the apartment, she knocked at the door and Mary answered. As she opened the door the two Detectives spotted the well-dressed Dillinger in the room looking at pictures. The Detectives ordered him to raise her hands, and Dillinger reluctantly obeyed. He was arrested and taken to the Dayton, Ohio jail, where the he was placed under heavy guard. Just four days after his arrest, on September 26, at 1:30 p.m., ten men came crashing out of Michigan City. This was the biggest jailbreak ever in the State of Indiana to this day. The ten escapees were Harry Pierpont, Charlie Makley, Russell Clark, John Hamilton, Walter Dietrich, Edward Shouse, John Burns, Joseph Fox, Jim Jenkins, and James Clark.
Several of the convicts headed for Indianapolis where Pierpont's girlfriend, Mary Kinder had rented a three-bedroom apartment. Pierpont didn't know that Dillinger had been arrested until Mary Kinder told him. Pierpont, Makley, Hamilton, Copeland and Russell Clark all agreed to break Dillinger out of the Lima jail as soon as they had a chance. Harry Copeland rented a house in Hamilton, Ohio, which was close to Lima, Ohio. Preparations of the plan was beginning to take form, but was still in the early stages. A Super Gang of bank robbers was near birth, and Pierpont looked the part as the noble leader. Actually the title of leader never existed in the gang, but things would change after they busted Dillinger out of the Lima jail.
From that day on newspapers would call the outlaws the Dillinger gang. Meanwhile, on September 28, just two days after the Michigan City break, James Clark was recaptured in Hammond, Indiana. The fleeing band of outlaws dropped James Clark off along with Sheriff Neal near McCook, Indiana. Clark was feeling really ill, but the two continued on foot into the town of Gary, Indiana where Clark released Neal. A short later Clark appeared in Hammond, Indiana. He decided to take a taxi, but the driver recognized him from newspaper photographs and called the police.
Clark was so ill that he put up no resistance; he was arrested and returned to Michigan City. As the outlaws drove towards Hamilton, Ohio they soon encountered a roadblock by the Indiana State Police. Shots were fired, and the outlaws barely escaped the incident. During the escape, Jenkins fell out the car and was left behind. Jenkins soon hijacked a car and took the owner hostage. The hostage was a young man from Indianapolis named Mr. Lyle. After driving several miles, Lyle tricked Jenkins by telling him the car was out of gas. Jenkins went to the back of the car to check the gas, and Lyle quickly started the car and drove off leaving the outlaw stranded in Brown County, Indiana.
Just before sundown he made his way to Georgetown, also known as Richland Bean Blossom, Indiana. Along the way Jenkins stopped at the home of Alva Shrock and asked her if he could get a drink of water. Shrock obliged the outlaw with a cool drink; he thanked her, and continued on his way. He spotted three men armed with shotguns and revolvers standing around suspiciously looking in his direction. These men were vigilantes and they immediately took noticed of the stranger in town.
The three men, Ivan Bond, William Alltop, and Herbert McDonald were well aware of the Michigan City break, it had been broadcasted all over the radio. They curiously approached Jenkins to question him; he told the men that he just wanted to get a drink and some auto parts for his car. The three men told Jenkins that they would be glad to help, but first wanted to know who he was and what was his business. Alltop confronted Jenkins and said, "Listen, Buddy, wed better have an investigation about what you're doing here." At the same moment a car drove up with more armed men. As one of the men began to open the car door, he said, "We'd better feel him down, boys."
Jenkins then drew a snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver from his belt and cried out, "Stay in there, you." Following his remark, the trapped outlaw fired the weapon hitting Herbert McDonald in the right arm near his shoulder and began to run down an alley. Benjamin Kanter, a local farmer had stepped out of his house onto his porch, where he had been observing the commotion. Kanter was carrying a 20-gauge double-barrel shotgun; he took aim and opened fire on Jenkins as he ran. The blast ripped part of the outlaws scalp off his head, and he fell to the ground mortally wounded. Sheriff Fremont Weddle of Brown County took him to Dr. D.R.Crabtre of Nashville.
The outlaw died shortly afterwards from his wounds. This was big news in the small Hoosier town of Richland Bean Blossom. Jenkins, the twenty-five-year-old outlaw attracted an astonishing amount of tourists. Thousands of curious people began showing up to catch a glimpse of the outlaw. Jenkins had been serving a life sentence in Michigan City for murder. Jenkins father, George Jenkins, a rural minister had his son's body moved to his home near Bedford, Indiana. The crowds of the curious had grown to over five thousand, arriving from the surrounding counties. Jenkins was more popular dead than he ever was alive. Meanwhile the search for the other escaped convicts continued.
On October 4, he wrote a letter to his Niece Mary, and seemed to be in high spirits. In this letter he joked a bit and mentioned his trial would be the following week. He told Mary that he was only allowed visitors Wednesday, but Sheriff Sarber might allow a visit on Sunday. Dillinger wanted his niece to visit him before he was transferred to the Columbus, Ohio jail. Dillinger also talked about his plans prior to his arrest; he intended on traveling around to see all the World Series games. He told his niece not to worry about him, because he would be fine. In Dillingers letter, he sounded confident he would be found not guilty of the charges against him. This was Dillinger's way of relieving the pressures at home, so his family wouldn't worry, but he knew what the outcome would be.
He had already confessed to the robbery of the Bluffton bank, while in the Dayton jail. Deep inside Dillinger knew he was going back to prison, unless his pal Harry Pierpont intervened, which he felt very strongly would be the case. Dillinger was also identified as one of the men involved in the Massachusetts Avenue Bank robbery in Indiana. He appeared to be getting along really well with Sheriff Sarber at the Lima, Ohio jail. He felt certain that the Sheriff would allow a visit from his niece on the following Sunday, even though regular visiting hours was on Wednesday. Sheriff Sarber seemed to be a fair man, and treated his prisoners well. Dillinger played the role of a model prisoner at the Allen County jail in Lima, and didn't cause any problems.
Throughout his career Dillinger often showed affection towards those who treated him with kindness. He made no indication or attempts of escaping the jail. Dillinger felt confident that Pierpont would attempt to free him from Lima, but time was of the essence. Dillinger was going to be transferred to the Columbus Ohio jail in a couple of weeks. The Pinkerton's Detective Agency had also been secretly following Dillinger's trail for Captain Matt Leach of the Indiana State police. This is the very same Pinkerton Agency that followed the trail of Jesse James and the Younger Brothers in the eighteen hundreds. The James and Younger brothers made the Pinkertons famous, as Dillinger would the FBI.
Just after the Michigan City break, the Pinkertons put two and two together, and came to the conclusion that the escaped convicts may attempt to free Dillinger out of the Lima jail. Both the Pinkerton's, and Matt Leach quickly contacted Sheriff Sarber, who had been previously warned by Dayton Police. Again, Sheriff Sarber conveyed disbelief that a small time criminal could transpire a rescue attempt of such magnetism. The fact that Sarber did not believe Dillinger could devise a big jailbreak, and may be liberated from the Lima jail would be a fatal error, which would cost him his life.
On September 27, the day after the Michigan City break, Leach publicly attacked Ohio officials in the newspapers. He blamed Ohio officers for not reacting, after learning that two important letters were found in Mary Longnakers procession. One letter was from Dillinger assuring Longnaker that he would help to free her brother James Jenkins from Michigan City. Another letter was believed by officials to have been written by James Jenkins. It contained a coded unsigned message outlining an escape plan. Leach was a man who had many contacts, and had lots of informants working for him. During his days, Leach would become obsessed with getting Dillinger. John Dillinger would later repay Leach by constantly tormenting him.
There were reports that Dillinger called Leach on the telephone and told him, "You'd better watch your ass!" Leach reacted by dropping the phone and began shuttering severely. Leach had gathered new clues from a convict in Michigan City, who demanded his name be kept quiet. The convict conferred with Leach and Sheriff Neil Fry of Porter County. He told the officers of a hideout where the escaped convicts may be hiding. Acting upon this tip, the State Police located a shack, just north of Chesterton. They surrounded the shack armed with tear gas bombs and machineguns, but the men had already fled. Another report spotted two men near Walkerton, Indiana hitching a ride on a freight train.
While the report was being checked out, another report claimed that convicts were spotted in Chicago. A general alarm was issued; over five hundred National Guardsmen joined the search under command of Colonel Frank Gray of Gary, Indiana. An airplane flew over the last area where the outlaws had believed to be hiding. The airman reported that there was no sign of the outlaws. Sheriff J. Lester Bender of Martinsville, Indiana received a report that John Hamilton had been seen in the city in a sedan with four other men and a woman. The call was made from a man who had testified at Hamiltons trial in St. Joseph County, and helped to sentence him to twenty-five years for auto banditry and robbery. Bender and his deputies searched roads to the North of the city, but were unsuccessful in securing any trace of the fugitives.
Meanwhile Pierpont, Makley, and the rest of the gang were busy making plans to break Dillinger out the Allen County jail. Before they could spring Dillinger, they would need funds to provide a new hideout, transportation, food, clothes, guns, and other expenses. The gang decided to rob the First National Bank of St. Mary's, Ohio. Makley had chosen the bank because it was located in his hometown, and he knew the layout.
Makley also knew a man named W.O. Smith, who was familiar with the banks day-to-day activities. On October 3, a big sedan rolled to a stop and parked in front of the St. Marys bank. Inside the bank the clock was ticking just minutes before 3 p.m., near closing time. Inside the sedan were five men, Pierpont, Makley, John Hamilton, Russell Clark, and Ed Shouse. Makley hadnt been home in years; but he had prior inside information that the bank was about to re-open their doors in just a matter of weeks. The Federal government had just transferred a large amount of money to St. Mary's the day the gang would hit the bank. The facts clearly state that four men proceeded to the bank, leaving one man to watch the car.
One man stood by the bank entrance as a lookout, while the other three men entered the bank. Bank tellers were just finishing up with the last few customers. Pierpont walked up to one of the teller windows acting as though he was reading a road map. Teller, Roland Clausing thought perhaps Pierpont was lost, and needed some directions. As Clausing approached Pierpont, the outlaw lowered the map revealing a .45 automatic. Pierpont told Clausing to just stand still and not to move an inch. Makley soon appeared with a gun in his hand and held Clausing at bay, while Pierpont went behind the teller cages.
At this precise moment, Assistant Treasurer W. Clarence Young of the Union Building and Loan Company, and W.L. Noggle, a local hotel owner was approaching the bank. While in route to the bank they walked past a policeman standing close to the bandit's car, and gave him a friendly hello. Pierpont and Makley had spotted the two men approaching the bank and were ready. Makley quickly took position next to the front door, where he wouldn't be seen, while Pierpont ducked down behind Clausing and waited. The men walked past the outlaw lookout at the front door and strolled into the bank. Once inside, they saw nothing that looked out of the ordinary. Clausing was sitting at the teller window as though he was waiting to help them. As they moved towards the tellers window, Makley stepped up behind them, and Pierpont suddenly appeared from behind Clausing with his gun in his hand.
The third bandit presumably Hamilton, herded Noggle, Young, three other employees and another customer to the director's room for same keeping. Makley began emptying the cashier drawers, while Pierpont ordered employees to open the vault. There was one problem; the employees told Pierpont that the only person who could open the vault was Mr. Smith, who wasn't present. Smith was hired as a conservator, to protect the bank against outlaws. Pierpont became angry and impatience. Just as he was about to blow his top, Smith came walking through the front doors to get some last minute paper work.
Smith claimed the vault was on a time lock and couldn't be opened, but as he was talking the time lock happened to click off. Pierpont quickly unloaded the vault, then ordered everyone into the vault. The outlaws left the vault door open, but warned everyone not to move until the gang was gone or they would blast the building with machinegun fire. The group of people agreed to the terms fearing that they would be shot. The outlaws walked quietly to their awaiting car without arousing any suspicion and drove off. Moments later the banks alarm rang out. Directly across the street, several baseball fans were busy listening to the World Series on the radio, and never even noticed the robbers. Newspapers stated that the bandit's were professional's and escaped with $14,000 in cash, but the real amount was closer to $11,000.
The difference of $3,000 was probably used to cover bank errors, and simply blamed on the robbers. The robbery only lasted a matter of minutes, and everything went smoothly, no one was hurt and no shots were fired. The gang now had plenty of money to spring Dillinger from Lima. $11,000 in 1933, is closely equal to sum of $125,000 now days. The bank loot was divided by the five men, which came to $2,200 apiece. Not bad for a few minutes work without firing a shot, but bank robbery was a hazardous occupation. Everything could be going smooth one minute and the next minute all hell could break loose. Not long after the St. Mary's robbery, the gang traveled to Lima to case the jailhouse where Dillinger was being housed. Next they picked up Mary Kinder who was waiting in a car just outside of town.
They proceeded to the nearby home of Fred Pierpont (Harry Pierpont's brother), to spend the night. Fred lived on a farm near Leipsic, Ohio. The plan was to get Mary Kinder a visit with Dillinger by posing as his sister. Once inside, she would let Dillinger know that the boys were coming, and take notes of the jail's layout. The problem was that Dillinger wasn't allowed any more visitors. He had received one visit from Pearl Elliot, who was a trusted friend by the gang at the time. Dillinger told her to inform the gang to try to locate a woman named Billie Frechette. Frechette would soon become Dillingers most loyal girlfriend of his career. On the afternoon of October 12, Pierpont and Russell Clark paid a visit to a local attorney named Chester M. Cable to make arrangements for Mary Kinder to visit Dillinger.
Cable was suspicious of the men, the minute they entered his office. The men explained that Dillinger's sister had some very urgent news to discuss with her brother, and had to see him as soon as possible. Cable offered to do what he could, but he explained that Dillinger's fingerprints were found at the Bluffton bank robbery and it didn't look good.
He said it was too late to contact the jail tonight, but he would call in the morning. The outlaws politely thanked Cable for his time, and agreed to meet with him the following day. After they departed, Cable called Sheriff Sarber to warn him of the suspicious visitors, but Sarber wrote it off believing that Dillinger's sister just wanted to visit. Besides, Sarber knew that Dillinger had just written home requesting a visit from his family. Sarber's biggest mistake was his error of judgment, which would later cost him his life. After the visit with Cable, Pierpont became worried that the lawyer would tip off the jail, and he was right. Pierpont decided not to delay Dillinger's liberation, it was now or never.
Pierpont was a clever man, his instincts told him that something wasn't right and they needed to act now. Pierpont was also lucky because Sheriff Sarber's years of experience was working against him. Sarber had been repeatedly warned about Dillinger, but relied more on his gut feeling about the outlaw. The facts were right in front of the Sheriff's face, but he just couldn't see it. On October 12, Columbus Day the town seemed quiet and peaceful. Sheriff Sarber sat at his desk, and answered a few telephone calls in the morning.
He took one prisoner to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, and fed the prisoners when he returned. Around 6:25 p.m., the outlaws drove up and parked in front of the jailhouse. Mrs. Sarber had just finished washing the dinner dishes, and was working on a jigsaw puzzle. Sarber was sitting at his desk reading the newspaper. Deputy Sheriff Wilbur Sharp was sitting on the sofa playing with Brownie, the Sheriff's dog. Dillinger was playing a game of pinochle with other cellmates. Suddenly three men came walking through the front door, and Harry Pierpont was leading the way. Sarber looked up at the men and asked what the gentlemen wanted?
Pierpont responded by saying they were officials from Michigan City Prison, and needed to speak to a prisoner John Dillinger. Sarber told them that he would have to see some credentials. Pierpont reached in his coat, pulled out a .38 revolver, and said, "These are our credentials." Sarber reacted by reaching for his gun in the desk drawer, and saying, "Oh, you can't do that!" As he reached for the gun, Pierpont shot at him twice. Sarber fell backwards in his chair and hit the floor. One of the bullets missed Sarber, but the other lodged in his abdomen, tearing an artery. Pierpont then demanded the keys, and when he got no response, he hit Sarber in the head with the butt of his gun. Makley hit the Sheriff a second time, and Mrs. Sarber screamed out for them to stop. She volunteered to get the keys. Pierpont followed Mrs. Sarber and retrieved the keys, while Makley and the third outlaw watched Deputy Sharp.
There were two sets of steel bar doors leading to the cellblock where the prisoners were kept. Pierpont successfully unlocked the first door, but had troubles opening the second door. He ordered Deputy Sharp to open the door. Dillinger was playing pinochle with prisoner Art Miller, when he heard the shots fired. Pierpont entered the cellblock, and handed Dillinger Sheriff Sarber's gun. Pierpont then fired a shot into the cellblocks and yelled, "You other bastards get back, and we came for John. Before leaving, Dillinger asked Miller if he wanted to go, but Miller, who was facing second-degree murder charges, declined. The two shook hands and Dillinger said, Goodbye and good luck. The outlaw walked from his cell to see Sarber lying on the floor bleeding. It was reported that Dillinger kneeled down next the Sheriff, and then asked Pierpont, Did you like to do this?
Sarber turned to his side and said, "Mother, I believe I am going to have to go." Pierpont locked deputy Sharp and Mrs. Sarber behind the double barred doors, regardless of her plea's to stay with her husband. The gang headed out the door, jumped into a nearby automobile and disappeared. An off duty policeman named William Houtz, had seen Pierpont leaving the jailhouse, but thought he was just a visitor. A teenager named Lowell Cheney heard shots fired and ran towards the jailhouse. In route to the jail, he ran right past Dillinger and the other gang members.
When he reached the jailhouse he asked, "What's going on?" Sharp replied, the Sheriff has been shot. Cheney had to run to a nearby telephone to call for an ambulance, because the bandits had disabled the telephone lines before they fled. Sarber was rushed to the Lima Memorial hospital, where he died 90 after the shooting incident occurred. Before Sarber died, he told his son, Deputy Don Sarber, that the outlaws were all big men. A welding torch had to be used to free Mrs. Sarber and Deputy Sharp, since Pierpont had taken the only set of keys. The killing outraged the peaceful town of Lima, and several poses set out to find the killers with little success.
The gang had headed southward to Cincinnati, about 140 miles away from Lima, where they picked up Mary Kinder. Around midnight, police raided the nearby Pierpont farm, finding a new car parked in the barn with a full tank of gasoline. Upon further investigation, officers discovered that Harry Copeland had purchased the car in Detroit, Michigan, and it may have been used in the St. Mary's robbery. Police questioned Pierpont's parents and his brother Fred, and learned that Harry Pierpont had given the car to his brother as a present. The officers arrested Fred Pierpont, after he admitted that his brother and some friends had stayed the night. He also admitted that some these men were escapees of the Michigan City prison.
The following day police officers questioned Mrs. Sarber and Deputy Sharp. The two were shown several pictures of the ten men who escaped from Michigan City. Both Mrs. Sarber and Deputy Sharp picked out Pierponts picture, identifying him as the man who shot and killed Sheriff Sarber. Charley Makley was also identified as the man who slugged Sheriff Sarber. Harry Copeland was also involved, but was not identified, because he had been outside keeping a lookout, and went unnoticed. It is not clear if Russell Clark was actually involved in the liberation of Dillinger, but it is clear that he had taken part in the meeting with attorney Chester M. Cable, prior to the break at Lima. Pierpont was now a cop killer, a bank robber, and an escapee of the Michigan City prison. Dillinger had been captured four days before the Michigan City break, when officers found the detailed map of the prison in his procession. If they would have investigated this matter more thoroughly, and notified Michigan City of their findings, perhaps the escape might have been prevented.
Also, if this information had presented to prison officials, most likely the Dillinger gang would have never existed. Dayton officials were suspicious of the map, but Dillinger was no longer their concern once he was in Sarbers custody. This error of judgment by Ohio officials would change history forever, and help create the most wanted man of the nineteen thirties. Captain Matt Leach knew Pierponts reputation, and profiled him to be the leader of the gang.
Leach would later take the credit for naming the Dillinger gang to cause problems between Harry Pierpont and John Dillinger. But the plan didnt work because there was no leader in the gang. If there had been a leader, it would have most likely been Harry Pierpont, and this would have undoubtedly crowned the outlaws, as the Pierpont gang. The fact is that Leach did not actually name the gang, but did deserve credit for keeping the Dillinger gang name alive to the public. Since these outlaws came to Lima to liberate Dillinger and their identities were not yet known, newspapers branded the outlaws the Dillinger Gang, not Matt Leach.
Harry Pierpont would later say, if it hadnt been for Matt Leach, no one had ever heard of them. This was true, and Leach did deserve some credit for pursuing the gangs livelihood and reputation. Newspaper headlines would help to keep the gang on the run, displaying daily photographs of the bandits. These news reports would also supply the gang with valuable information. But John Dillinger didnt have to read the headlines in daily papers to know that there was no turning back. When he walked out of the Allen County Jail, he stepped into this super-gang of criminals; his life would never be the same.
On October 14, the same day thousands gathered to attend Sheriff Sarber's funeral, the gang would make newspaper headlines again. Two men identified as Pierpont and Dillinger, walked into the Auburn Police Department in Indiana, and approached the desk of Henry West. Officer Fred Krueger was eating a bag of popcorn, when the Well-dressed men walked in. The Chief and Sheriff John P. Hoff had just left the station a few moments earlier. The two men produced revolvers, as one of them said, "You might as well sit still, we don't want to kill anyone unless we have too. Have you got any guns?" Krueger replied yes, and motioned to the gun on his hip.
Pierpont said, "Oh no, I'll get it" and removed Krueger's gun from his holster. West was also disarmed and ordered to open the gun cabinet. The officers gave to resistance, especially after Pierpont mentioned that he hadn't killed anybody in a week. The officers were then locked in a cell, while the outlaws carried out armfuls of guns. There were so many guns that they had to make two trips. The guns that were taken included one Thompson Sub-machinegun, a Colt .45, a Smith and Wesson .44, a .25 German Luger, two .38 revolvers, A Winchester automatic rifle, a Shotgun, a .30 caliber Springfield rifle, a large supply of ammunition, and three bulletproof vests.
The officers were smart for co-operating because when Pierpont told them that he would only kill if he had too, he meant it. Pierpont had already proved that he wasn't a man to be taken lightly. Several daring robberies continued to explode across the Midwest in the months that followed. The police were aware of the recent crimes, but had no idea the magnitude of the situation. Police officers in Ohio and Indiana searched desperately for the ten escapees from Michigan City Prison. They were also searching for the killers of Sheriff Sarber.
Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police believed that Dillinger and Harry Pierpont were involved in both incidents. He knew that these men were very dangerous, and had to be stopped. Police believed that Harry Pierpont was responsible for the robbery at St. Mary's, and that if trapped or cornered, he would not hesitate to fight back with a deadly response. Police didnt realize the St. Marys robbery was actually Makleys idea. Actually there were several other gangs raping the banks across the country around the same time, such as Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Alvin Karpis and the Barker gang, Harvey Bailey, Machinegun Kelly and many more. In fact, from 1929 to 1934, there were close to 3,500 robberies. Working in a bank was a very dangerous occupation during the Great Depression era. People were desperate, and robbers seemed to appear out of the woodwork.
Oddly enough, many of America's most deadliest and dangerous criminals never even made it to the FBI's most wanted list. Yet Dillinger, who was accused of one murder (which was never proved), would go straight to the top of the FBI's most wanted. Why? Because Hoover needed criminals who could make big headlines on front-pages of newspapers. He needed Dillinger to help build the FBIs reputation. Hoover was a very stubborn and arrogant man, he repeatedly denied the Mafia existed. This denial of organized crime would allow the mob to continue their daily activities of crime and corruption, and would claim the lives of hundreds in the process.
There were several crimes committed in 1934, which were blamed on the Dillinger gang. Although many of these crimes carried the Dillinger trademark, he wasn't even involved. There were several copycat gangs, who thought they were tough and wanted to be like the Dillinger. They would try to copy Dillingers style, which would lay the blame on Americas number one criminal. J. Edgar Hoover used his own a quick fix method for solving Americas crimes, which worked very effectively. He would simply put the blame on some unfortunate individual, whether he or she was guilty or not a particular crime, and the case was solved. Hoover ruined the lives of many people who may have been innocent, but he didnt care as long as he received the credit for solving the crime. It was the Government who helped create the Depression, which greatly contributed to the birth of crime. Police officials did not know the identities of the men who raided the Auburn police department, but they were concerned about the nature of the crime. These outlaws escaped with an arsenal of weapons that was large enough to rage a war. Never before had police seen men so daring that would actually raid a police department.
Even notorious outlaws like Jesse James would have never attempted such a crime. Never in history had any criminal gang been so daring. The Dillinger gang was out to teach law officials a lesson of a lifetime. This would be a lesson that would not be forgotten for years to come. Harry Pierpont would later die in the chair for the murder of Sheriff Jesse Sarber. When Deputy Sharp heard the shots, he immediately looked up seeing both men with guns drawn. He would later pick out Pierpont as the killer, because he was the man giving all the orders. Harry Copeland, who was also involved in the Lima incident, would turn states evidence against Pierpont and Makley to save his own skin.
This guaranteed the death penalty and sealed their certain doom. In prison, Pierpont was known for a man who would take the rap for friends. He would never snitch on a friend. For these strong willed acts, Pierpont gained a lot of respect and confidence from fellow inmates in the pen. Whether it was Makley or Pierpont who fired the fatal shots that killed Sheriff Sarber doesnt really matter. Both men were involved and both would die for their participation in the crime. Makley would escape the fate of the chair, and go down with lead during one final attempt for freedom.
Pierpont and Makleys time was limited; they had close to a year left to live after the murder of Sheriff Sarber. On October 20, the Dillinger gang struck again and raided a police department in Peru, Indiana. The police report stated that three men entered the police department, with automatic weapons and demanded to see the police arsenal. One man carried a machinegun, while another held a shotgun. All three police officers on duty were locked in the basement, while the outlaws fled with the weapons. The bandits made off with the entire police arsenal, leaving the cupboards bare.
They made off with two submachine guns, four shotguns, four automatic revolvers, one tear gas gun, several hundred rounds of ammunition and nine bulletproof vests. Two of the men were identified as escapees from the State Penitentiary at Michigan City. One of the bandits was identified as Merritt Longbrake, an Indiana bank robber who escaped from Bellefontaine, Ohio. The officers were correct when they stated two escaped prisoners from Michigan City were involved, but Longbrake had nothing to do with the Dillinger gang. The three robbers were probably Dillinger, Makley, and Pierpont. One thing was for certain; this was the beginning of the most daring group of criminals in history. This was the making of the Dillinger gang, and they were armed and ready. These criminals were unique in comparison to other gangs. Not many gangs would dare raid a police station, and then use the very same weapons to rob banks. This gave policemen a bad taste in their mouths. The act of using these weapons to rob banks made the police look weak and foolish. This would become Dillingers trademark. He would make fools out of the police and the FBI, and did so with a smile.
John Dillingers name was now headlining newspapers across the country and he was hotter than ever. Police Departments everywhere were put on heavy guard. But the Dillinger gang had plenty of weapons and was now on the scout for a big bank to hit. The gang headed for Greencastle, Indiana where they planned to rob the First National bank. It was Monday, October 23, 1933; another fall day in Greencastle, located in Putnam County, Indiana. The temperature was mildly warm and overcast with a gentle early winter breeze. The time was 2:45 p.m.; bank tellers were busy working at the Central National bank with last minute customers, as closing time grew nearer.
This day wasn't any different than any other except this day would soon be marked in history crime journals around of the world. Charley Makley had recently cased the bank on the previous Friday afternoon; he learned that DePauw University was about to make a huge deposit. This was very interesting news to Charley Makley who looked and dressed the part of a friendly businessman.
Makley met with his fellow business associates and a carefully planned operation was put into action. Every detail of a successful robbery was discussed until everyone was knew exactly what their role, like actors in a well-researched hit Broadway movie. The Greencastle job would be the biggest robbery of Dillingers career as well as his first job with his mentor, Harry Pierpont. In prison, Dillinger admired Pierponts many stories about professional bank jobs, and now he would finally see him in action. In Michigan City, Dillinger listened carefully to every detail while Harry Pierpont explained the expert skills of using scientific techniques to succeed in robberies with timed precision.
Dillinger was now on his way to the big time with the all-star gang. Just outside the bank a black Studebaker with Ohio plates circled the building a couple of times before coming to a stop on Jackson Street. They double-parked the car on the West Side of the building, next to the bank. The occupants inside the car were John Dillinger, 31, Harry Pierpont, 31, Charles Makley, 44, and Harry Copeland, 38. The outlaw gang got out of the car, and approached the front door of the bank. Pierpont, Makley, and Dillinger walked inside, while Copeland stood guard just outside the front entrance on Washington Street.
Directly above the front entrance, inside the bank was a steel cage where an armed guard was stationed, so he could survey the bank lobby in case of trouble. But for some strange coincidence the bank guard Len Ratcliffe had just left the steel cage, and went to the basement to stoke the furnace just moments before the gang entered. One-question remains; why would the bank guard leave his station fifteen minutes before closing time to stroke the furnace? This just doesnt make any since unless he knew the outlaws were coming and was in on the take. Employees would later state that if the guard had been present in the cage, there would have surely been bloodshed.
The men all wore long overcoats with their weapons concealed beneath them. Witnesses reported that the outlaws had their collars up above the neck to hide their faces. Pierpont walked up to the fourth tellers cage window and asked Ward Mayhal if he could give him change for a twenty-dollar bill. Ward Mayhal was busy sorting paperwork, and without lifting his nose from his work, he told Pierpont to take it to Harry Wells at the next teller window. Pierpont didnt except the reply, he took a step a back and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun from his overcoat. He aimed it at the Mayhal who finally looked up to find him self-staring down the barrel of Pierponts gun. At this exact moment, Dillinger pulled out his .38 automatic and leaped over the banks marvel counters.
CLICK ABOVE TO RETURN TO PAGE ONE