Eat My Dust

The Story Of John Dillinger

by an unknown author

If Dillinger actually did link up with Floyd to pull the South Bend job, as witnesses claim, it was against his better judgement. For John is on record as having said of the Oklahoma bandit: 'That bird's too fast with the fireworks.' But then that was Dillinger's opinion of practically every major figure of the Public Enemy Era. John was the slowest gun in the Midwest by choice.

The following text is taken from a book published in 1969 called Pretty Boy, Baby Face I Love You by Lew Louderback. The boo covers the fives and careers of America s most notorious Depression gangsters. Chapter five of the book is titled John Dillinger the Fastest Mind and the Slowest Gun in the Midwest. This was by far the most outstanding tale for several reasons the legendary coolness, the heroic exploits, the sex and violence. Above all we chose Dillinger because he was the complete outlaw. The title that we ve used Eat My Dust refers to a comment that Dillinger once made in praise of the Ford Motor Company, their vehicles enabling him to get away from the law so easily and so often.

Dillinger was what many people at the time must have dreamt of being. Many more must have cheered him on. with America in the middle of the Depression, poverty had ground down countless ordinary folk, During these very poor times, Dillinger represented real life glamour, and for this reason he was supported and cheered on by the people as he and his gang ran rings around the cops and the Feds.

Sixty years on from the end of Dillinger s career, and 1994 still sees us living in the shite. This time round, though, we haven t got colourful characters like him to cheer on (Gazza just isn t the same is he?) While there are many accounts of the life and crimes of John Dillinger, this particular tale is more than sympathetic, emphasizing the lack of bloodshed on Dillinger s part (at least of real people!) and his role as anchor within a volatile group of villains.

Eat My Dust is a riotous adventure which gave us a good laugh. It is also a statement as to the desperate and by any means necessary lengths that the state will go to nail it s most intelligent and persistent enemies.

At the end of the day Dillinger was a hero, and heroes are remembered for their stunts, bravery, glamour, sex appeal, and for the entertainment that they provide. He was the complete antihero, larger than life, possibly staging his own death. 1 The stuff that legends are made of! We hope that you enjoy reading this as much as we did.
Thanks Jack 0.

John Dillinger
The Fastest Mind and the Slowest Gun in the Midwest
If Dillinger actually did link up with Floyd to pull the South Bend job, as witnesses claim, it was against his better judgement. For John is on record as having said of the Oklahoma bandit That bird s too fast with the fireworks. But then that was Dillinger s opinion of practically every major figure of the Public Enemy Era. John was the slowest gun in the Midwest by choice.

He carried a heater and he pointed it at people during holdups. But he used it as a persuader rather than a weapon. Shooting was a last resort with him. If there was any other way out of a pickle, he went for it. His driving skill got him out of plenty of situations that Clyde Barrow would have solved with lead. He also used his gun butt and his fists. And sometimes talked his way out of tight spots. And when everything else failed, he ran. He used his gun only when cornered. And even then he didn t shoot to kill. Of the eleven killings that are usually linked with his name, only one can personally be laid at his doorstep-and then there are some who claim that he wasn t responsible for that one either. All this is pretty hard to square with the mythical picture of Dillinger, submachine-gun in hand, mowing down scores of cops as he rasps, Come an get me, you dumb flatfoots.

That was a picture created by the lawmen who chased Dillinger. An Indiana policeman named Matt Leach started it, the press took it up, and the FBI completed it. Dillinger wasn t any Prince of Desperadoes, and he certainly wasn t what the FBI said he was the most brazen killer this nation has ever known.

What Dillinger was was a tough, competent heist man of the old school. He robbed with imagination and flair. His hairbreadth escapes were daring and colorful. So was he, personally. He was a cocky man, sure of himself, an admirer of Douglas Fairbanks and Clark Gable. He thought of himself as a kind of latter day Jesse James and enjoyed living up to the role that law men had created for him. He had an innate sense of theater and a tough, rather sardonic view of things. Humphrey Bogart played him later under many different names Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest, Roy Earle in High Sierra. The two men even resembled each other physically. It would be interesting to know how much of Bogart s character was really Dillinger. Dillinger was out of step with most of his lead spewing contemporaries. He would of been more at home with the Harvey Bailey-Eddie Bentz crowd-those cool, calm artisans of bank robbery who rarely spilled blood. The Denver Mint caper, the $1 million Lincoln National Bank and Trust Company kick-in, those were jobs that would have tickled him. It was Dillinger s misfortune to come along late in the game, however after Bailey and Bentz had been locked up, and after banks had equipped themselves with alarms and safety devices, and after the big city police forces had been beefed up to meet the Depression crime wave. It was his misfortune, too, to work with some of the most violent men of the whole Public Enemy Era, The Dillinger manhunt was the biggest, the most famous this country has ever experienced. Dillinger himself was the most publicized criminal in the nations history, bar none. Even today he remains the FBI s most famous single case. A white plaster facsimile of his death mask hangs outside J. Edgar Hoover s office in Washington, staring empty eyed at all who enter, the prize scalp, as one critic has put it, in the Director s collection. Because Dillinger is so central to the FBI s myth of infallibility, he has himself been a target of the Bureau s critics. Some of them have pictured him as a small

time gunsel inflated out of all proportion by FBI publicity flacks, a mere hanger on of gangs actually lead by other men. This is as false a picture of him as the mad dog concept of the 30s.

The actual facts are these There was no single Dillinger gang. What there was was a constantly shifting coalition of forces as men were killed or arrested, or drifted away. It s true that Dillinger was not the leader of these forces. He was an equal partner in the sharing of loot and the making of decisions. There was no leader. Everyone had his say. What Dillinger was, however, was a unifying force. Many bandits who otherwise would not have worked together did so because they liked Dillinger and trusted him. In this sense there could have been no gang without him.

He was a lot like Butch Cassidy- that calm center of the stormy group known as the Wild Bunch. They too were a coalition of forces rather than a single gang. And it was Cassidy s judgment and calm good nature that held them together. Vicious gunmen like Kid Curry and the Sundance Kid would have been at each other s throats in a second if it hadn t been for Cassidy s presence.

That s how it was with Dillinger. He kept Homer Van Meter and Harry Pierpont from drilling each other on a number of occasions, and he even managed to get Homer and Baby Face Nelson to work together with some degree of efficiency.

In the end, however, Dillinger will be remembered because of something else. His own life. It s a classic of its kind-the dearest, best documented, step-by-step example that we have of how a society goes about creating its own worst enemies.

He was born in Indianapolis in 1903, the son of a grocery store owner. His mother died when he was three. The father remarried shortly after that, and in 1920 the family moved to a farm outside Mooresville, Indiana.

Young Dillinger (the family pronounced it with a hard g) was really an admirable sort of boy, normal in every way. As typically Hooder as Penrod or Sam. He hunted and Wed and was mighty with a rifle, as were all boys in the American heartland in this period. He was strong, popular, and interested in mechanical things and he was a first-rate baseball player.

His first brush with the law, at age seventeen, was a typical Andy Hardy scrape. He was arrested for speeding and paid an eleven-dollar fine. His second brush, in 1923, was a little more serious. He was refused permission to marry his uncle s pretty stepdaughter (the uncle favored a well-to-do Greencastle boy). Young Dillinger brooded about it. He got drunk, stole a car, and went for a joyride. The owner refused to press charges, but Dillinger was embarrassed about the whole thing and ran away to join the Navy.

He hated Navy life, went AWOL, and was thrown in the brig. It was his first taste of prison ten days solitary on bread and water with full ration every third day. Dillinger jumped ship and came home. He got married. At the same time he fell in with Ed Singleton, an older man with a criminal record. Needing money, he agreed to join Singleton in the stickup of a neighborhood grocer.

The two men were caught. Dillinger s father advised his son to plead guilty. He did-and received a sentence of 1020 years on charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and assault with intent to rob. Singleton, whose idea the robbery had been, got off with only a two-year sentence. As Indiana Governor Paul V McNutt wrote years later There is no question whatever that this obvious injustice had much to do with the bitterness which Dillinger developed... A mistake by a court probably made Dillinger what he was.

He was an obstreperous prisoner at the Pendleton Reformatory and tried repeatedly to escape. Caught each time, he had additional months added to his sentence. In 1929 his wife was granted a divorce. This increased his bitterness. He requested a transfer to the state penitentiary at Michigan City, an odd sort of request. The reason he gave was that he wanted to play on their baseball team.

The request was granted. But Dillinger played no ball at the Big House. He was too busy getting an education-in crime.

His job at the pen was working a tomcat in the prison shirt factory. The men who worked alongside him were a type penologists have since labeled Elders of the Tribe hardened repeaters who form the aristocracy of a prison s population. They are the custodians of underworld culture, heroes to the young apprentices, the teachers who shape their minds.

Two of the most powerful influences on Dillinger at Michigan City were John ( Three-Finger Jack ) Hamilton, a stocky, muscular con with an irregular scar running down his forehead, and Charles Makley, a veteran Ohio bank bandit serving a 1020 set for armed robbery.

Fat Charlie shared the same cell with Dillinger for some time. His influence on the younger man was incalculable. A prison library intellectual, he resembled Major Hoople of the comic strips, and he strengthened that impression with his gadzooks, kaf, kaf style of delivery. But his easygoing exterior masked a cold, ruthless personality. The prison classification director described him as dangerous, with strong antisocial tendencies.

The course he taught was the standard prison one. First lesson If you re not a bull, then you d better be a fox. Wise up, Johnnie. This world is a joint where the bulls and the foxes live well and the lambs wind up head-down from the hook. And Lesson No. 2 Take any official, any policeman, anybody else that s doing everything in the book and getting by with it, then

take your square john working his heart and soul out, and if he misses three days at work, he s three months behind-it s so foolish.

John Hamilton s course was a postgraduate one. He was convinced that there was still time to organize one last unbeatable gang before the two-way radio and the airplane ended the old style of bank kick-in once and for all. J. Edgar Hoover would later credit him with originating the idea of an interstate network of parolees and hideouts, and would call him Dillinger s tutor, the most cunning crook in the gang.

There was only one hitch to Hamilton s ambitious plans, He was serving twenty-five years for automobile banditry and wouldn t be up for parole until 1950. Dillinger s case, on the other hand, would be reviewed in 1933. Now if Johnnie kept his nose dean, he would be released on schedule and could get things organized on the outside . . . Dillinger had already decided to pursue a criminal life. As he told a reporter later They took away nine years of my life, and I decided to do some taking of my own when I got out. The idea of working with Hamilton and Makley in a super gang impressed him. So he took the older man s advice and started doing his own time.

He stayed away from two former Pendleton buddies in particular Harry Pierpont and Homer Van Meter. Prison officials had labeled the two confirmed criminals of the most dangerous type. Their records were filled with disobedience, insolence, refusal to work. Most of their stay, both at the Reformatory and Michigan City, had been spent in the hole. Their ability to endure hunger and to absorb beatings was so exceptional that they had won the awed respect of every con at the State Pen.

Pierpont was the more openly defiant of the two. He was a slender, good-looking man in his late twenties. His dear blue eyes, wavy chestnut hair, and fair complexion gave him the handsome collegiate look of an F. Scott Fitzgerald hero. He was a highly dangerous man, however, with an almost pathological hatred for authority of any kind. If he could get his hands on a prison guard, Pierpont would try to kill him. So most of the time he was kept in the segregation block on Red Card, the maximum security classification.

Van Meter, almost six feet tall but weighing only 125 pounds, had a sleepy-lidded down s face. He was the prison comedian. His specialty was mimicking the guards. He spent months at a time in the hole, where he received nightly beatings with a blackjack. He would come back with half his teeth missing and his body covered with bruises-but still joking. Pendleton s Director of Research examined him and reported Moral sense is perverted and he has no intention of following anything but a life of crime.... He is a murderer at heart and if society is to be safeguarded, his type must be confined throughout their natural lives.

Pierpont and Van Meter hated each other. Rivalry had something to do with it, of course. They were the two leading contenders for the toughest-con-in-stir award. But their personalities dashed, too. They were opposite types. Pierpont believed in open, naked aggression Van Meter preferred the sly dig, the innuendo. Each man thought the other a fool. The only friend they had in common was Dillinger, who thought Homer was very funny and who respected Pierpont s criminal record-an extensive one that already included several bank robberies.

Sometime around 1931 Van Meter decided to get a parole. He had a sharp mind. He knew how to make the system work for himself, and he knew the poses he would have to adopt in order to exploit that system. He spent every available hour in the prison library. He volunteered for extra duties. He stopped ridiculing the guards. And he wrote letters to the parole board, each one a masterpiece. The one that finally got him sprung concluded My plea is-be big enough to cast aside the musty archives dealing with the follies of an unthinking boy before the needs of a dean matured man.... This is the age of the new deal. I place my destiny in your hands. You can restore a sterling citizen and a sound matured man to freedom.

The parole board rose to the occasion. Van Meter was restored to freedom on May 19, 1933. Dillinger followed him out three days later. The two men had talked frequently in the past few months. Homer had promised to show Dillinger how to make the big money on the outside. Pierpont had talked to Dillinger, too, and had given him a list of banks to rob plus the names and addresses of some reliable accomplices. The understanding was that Dillinger would put some of the money to work on a crash-out by buying guns, arranging hideouts, and bribing guards.

Dillinger went home to Mooresville first to see his family. They barely recognized him. Prison had changed everything about him, even his face. It was a stranger s face, smooth and hard, trained to indicate nothing to a prison guard, neither resistance nor slavishness. He said little to them and when he joked at all, he had a twisted smile.

A few days later he left for Indianapolis, where he looked up some of Pierpont s contacts. The first jobs he worked with them were minor-supermarkets, sandwich shops, gas stations. There were lots of things he still had to get used to, The new cars, for instance. And the feel of a gun in his hand.

Finally he felt ready for Pierpont s list. But when he checked it out, he found half the targets boarded up, gone out of business. It was 1933, and the Depression had hit bottom. There were bread-lines everywhere, Hoovervilles, untenanted shops, and dosed-down banks.

He hit the targets that were still open, then swung over to Ohio and raided a bank fingered by Homer Van Meter-the New Carlisle National. The bookkeeper was so unnerved by the sight of the three men, their faces

masked by handkerchiefs, that he couldn t get the safe open. Let me drill him, growled one of Dillinger s companions. He s stalling.

Dillinger ignored him. Take your time, Pop, he said soothingly.

While the bookkeeper was struggling with the safe, a woman bank clerk entered. Dillinger spread a banker s smock on the floor for her and apologized as he trussed up her hands and feet with wire. I hope this doesn t hurt you, he said.

When the bookkeeper finally got the safe open, the trio removed $10, 600 from it and fled, leaving a trail of roofing nails along the highway to discourage pursuit.

During the next three weeks the gang looted some ten banks in five states. Then, in mid-July, the police trapped them in Muncie. Dillinger, who was driving, reversed gears and shot backward out of the trap-faster, according to one of the gang members, than some people drive forward. He had apparently got the hang of the new 33 cars.

On July 17 Dillinger and another man strolled into the Daleville, Indiana, bank. Honey, this is a holdup, Dillinger told teller Margaret Good. And using the ledge of her cage as a step, he vaulted smoothly over the six-foot barrier while his companion covered the customers in the lobby.

The take was small$3,500-but that Douglas Fairbanks-like leap over the barrier was to put Dillinger into the big time. It marked him as a bandit with a certain distinctive flair-and that was exactly the kind of bandit that Captain Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police was looking for at that moment.

Leach was a remarkable man-shrewd, self-educated, desperately ambitious. He had a carnival advance man s instinct for publicity. The press loved him. He could always be depended on for colorful angles, exciting copy. Fellow lawmen detested him. To disclose confidential information to (Leach), wrote one disillusioned detective, is to jeopardize the success of any important investigation.

Leach s discovery of Dillinger was almost as great a moment in the history of press agentry as of crime. Dr. Charles R. Bird, the Indiana State Police Surgeon who was present when it happened, remembered Leach s saying John Dillinger s methods are unique and something new in the criminal world. He stands out as a unique character. I am going to publicize him-watch him go Then he added I ll wager you police stations themselves won t be safe in the future.

Which proved to be true, Dr. Bird added, as a prophecy.

The beginnings were small-limited to the Munde area, where Dillinger appeared in the local headlines as Desperate Dan, the Bandit Man. But bigger things were on the way.

One was a press agent s dream. Dillinger and Van Meter cooked it up between them that summer. It was based on an original idea by John Hamilton and it featured three gangs operating separately in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky under a centralized command based in East Chicago.

A tristate network of parolees were ready to shield them, act as fences, use their homes as drops, refueling stations, and hideouts. The three gangs operated along this network like trains shuttling between hideouts, robbing banks along the way, working in small, separate bands, converging only when a job needed a large force or when an expected dash with police called for more strength. It was John Hamilton s dream of a super gang come to life, and, if all went well, he, Pierpont, and Makley would soon be joining it.

Between bank jobs Dillinger and Van Meter drove the back-country roads of northern Indiana, mapping out an isolated route from the pen to a hideout in Indianapolis. They made a 14 page crawl of the route, noting down every curve, bump, and landmark along its 155-mile length. It was timed to the second and so detailed that it even included such night-driving details as reminders to douse the car s headlights 800 yards before coming to main highways.

Before the crash-out itself could be rigged, however, money would be needed for guns, bribes, and additional hideouts. Lots of money, So Dillinger looked around, searching for a nice, fat target.

On the morning of September 6 the assistant manager of the State Bank of Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis was talking on the telephone when he heard someone say quietly, This is a stickup. He glanced up to see John Dillinger sitting cross-legged on the seven-foot high barrier. A straw hat was tilted cockily on his head. An automatic was pointed at him. Hang up, said the outlaw, and raise your hands.

The assistant manager did just that, Dillinger leaped down and went swiftly from cage to cage, sweeping money-including $500 in half dollars into a white sack while the second man, a handkerchief over his face, covered the staff and the customers with a machine gun in the lobby.

When Dillinger was finished, the two men backed out and got into a waiting car. It roared away. The story about Dillinger pausing in the doorway to shout, Tell the home folks little Johnnie Dillinger staged this, is just that-a story. It was a Matt Leach invention. Another brick added to the growing Dillinger legend,

The bandits had struck the bank on the Real Silk Hosiery payroll day, so the take was lush $24,800-the second largest holdup in Indianapolis history,

Dillinger took his share of the loot and got down to work on the crash-out.

He was in communication with the boys on the inside through a former cellmate, James Jenkins. Jenkins, a Floyd County hillbilly serving life for murder, had a sister named Mary who lived in Dayton, Ohio, and Mary was Dillinger s present girlfriend. She visited her brother frequently and interspersed a lot of harmless chitchat about their Pentecostal Preacher Dad and the family dog with such terse instructions as Give Blue Eye a C, and Ray is in crock, and Sit tight.

Dillinger wanted Jenkins included in the crash-out party. Pierpont, now in command on the inside, vetoed the idea. Jenkins was a smalltimer. There were also rumors that he had been Dillinger s old lady.

To Pierpont, this indicated a weakness of character. It was like Homer Van Meter s propensity for kidding around. There was no room for sex or levity in Pierpont s list of priorities. He was all business-and the business at hand was busting out, then hitting every bank in sight. The fun and games could come later. Maybe.

Pierpont was an ascetic at heart. He mistrusted anyone who suffered from weaknesses of the flesh. And that included Dillinger, as infirm a vessel of day as one could find. Dillinger was not homosexual, just over-sexed. When he had to go a day without it, he once confided to a fellow prisoner, he felt as if there were an iron band around his head, squeezing his brains out. When he couldn t get women, Dillinger sought relief with men. When he could get women, that s all he went for-and no risk was too great if it ended in satisfaction. Pierpont had often prophesied that his strong sex drive would be his undoing. And he was right, of course. It would be.

Dillinger s demand that Jenkins be included in the escape party had nothing to do with sex, however. He had given his former cellmate his word and he intended to abide by it. As he told reporters later I stick to my friends, and they stick to me. He refused to rig the crash-out unless Jenkins was in on the play. So Pierpont was finally forced to give in.

The crash-out party continued to grow. Another friend of Pierpont s was now added to it-Russell Lee Clark, a big, powerful, sleepy-lidded Detroit bank bandit. Clark s prison record was a bad one. It included participation in the strike of 29, refusal to work, trying to foment a revolt, trying to escape, trying to kill his guards en route to prison.

Ed Shouse, a former dirt track racer with twenty-two years left of a robbery term, was also included. There was always room for a good wheelman, and Shouse could make a car do everything but sit up and beg.
On September 11 Dillinger visited Mary Kinder in Indianapolis. Mary, a tiny, twenty-two-year-old redhead, was an old friend of Pierpont s. She agreed to help with the crash-out if her brother, Earl Northern, was added to the list of escapees. Dillinger said he would arrange it, and Mary agreed to find a hideout for the boys.

A week later Dillinger visited her again and gave her $150 saying that the group would arrive on September 26. Then he drove to Chicago, bought four guns, and turned them over to another conspirator. This man went to a factory in Indianapolis where he bribed an employee to open a box of thread addressed to the prison shirt shop. The two men hid the guns under the thread, resealed the box, and marked a big X on it in stencil ink.

The trusty in charge of incoming goods at the prison had agreed to get the weapons to the gang if he and three of his buddies were included in the crash-out group. This added four lifers to the party Walter Detrich, serving it for bank robbery Joe Fox for the same, James Clark for automobile banditry, and Joe Burns for murder.

Dillinger s part was finished. He headed to Dayton for a little relaxation with his sweetie pie, Mary Jenkins Longnaker. Ohio authorities had learned of his frequent visits from a stole, however, and had placed Mary s West First Street rooming house under 24-hour observation, Within minutes of Dillinger s arrival on the morning of September 22, a force of thirty cops had the place surrounded.

Four detectives, carrying rifles and submachine guns and wearing bulletproof vests, moved cautiously up the stairs and kicked in the door. Dillinger was in bed. He just shrugged as the oops came pouring into the room. I d have been pretty stupid to go for my gun, he told reporters later.

On the afternoon of September 26 the escape party gathered in the basement of the shirt factory at Michigan City. There were ten cons in the group altogether. (Earl Northern wasn t among them. He was in the prison hospital, dying of tuberculosis.)

They subdued and gagged the shop foreman, then turned their guns on Superintendent G. H. Steven s and Day Captain Albert Evans. We re going home, Pierpont snarled at Evans, and you re leading us out. Try anything and you re dead. Get it, you big, brave man?

Quickly they moved out, each con carrying a bundle of shirts to make the troop look like a routine work detail led by two officers. No one tumbled until the crash-out brigade readied the front gate-twin barred doors ten yards apart. There the shirt bundles dropped. Open up, rasped Jack Hamilton. Guard Guy Burklow gaped at the automatics pointed at him and obeyed. The cons swarmed through, slugged Fred Wellnitz, the outer gate turnkey, and grabbed his keys.

Four of the cons-Detrich, Fox, James Clark, and Burns-seized a sheriff who had just delivered a prisoner and fled in his car. These four never joined the Dillinger gang. All were subsequently recaptured.

The others-Hamilton, Makley, Pierpont, Russell Clark, Ed Shouse, and James Jenkins raced across the prison grounds and flagged down a passing car. Two elderly women were hustled out of it. The driver, also elderly, was kept at the wheel. But minutes later, with the needle still under fifty and the car weaving erratically, he was forced out, too, and Shouse, the expert wheelman, took over.

Motorist Glenn Green, who sighted the car a few minutes later, told police that it was doing at least ninety and taking curves on two wheels.

At 6 45 that night millions of Americans heard H. V. Kaltenborn open his news broadcast with a tense, Ladies and gentlemen, Indiana is in a virtual state of siege tonight.

In dipped, measured tones, he quickly filled in the picture State and local police, sheriffs, deputized citizens, and National Guard units are manning every highway, bridge, and crossroads in the northern part of the state after ten dangerous, long-term convicts shot and dubbed their way out of the Indiana State Penitentiary at Michigan City this afternoon.

In Indianapolis Matt Leach was busy linking Dillinger to the crash-out. He told reporters that Ohio authorities had refused to let him examine the documents found in Dillinger s possession when he was arrested, and that these documents contained information connected with the break. It s true, the documents did-but Ohio authorities claimed that Leach had seen them and had refused to act on the information.

Leach s office, meanwhile, sprayed reporters with an unceasing rat-tat-tat-tat of items about Dillinger. The press used them all. His Ohio mug shot-a classic of its kind-was reproduced over and over in newspapers throughout the nation. Dillinger was wearing a double-breasted pinstripe suit and a pearl-gray fedora in it, and the smile on his puss was the smug, sardonic one of a man who knew he was going to be sprung.

Between September 26 and 29 the escaped cons dodged around Indiana and Ohio, engaging in numerous shootouts with lawmen.

James Jenkins split from the main group on September 29 and made his way south toward his native hills. At Bean-blossom, in Brown County, a posse braced him, then blew his head off when he tried to draw.

On September 29 Dillinger pleaded guilty to a Bluffton, Ohio, bank robbery, and was transferred to the Allen County Jail in Lima, a very flimsy institution.

Dayton authorities warned Sheriff Jess Sarber that Dillinger s friends would probably try and spring him and that he had better take some precautions. Sarber laughed, calling his new prisoner just another punk.

At 6 20 P.M., October 12, Pierpont, Makley, and Clark entered the jail. We re officers from Michigan City, Pierpont told the sheriff. We want to see John Dillinger.
Let me see your credentials, said Sarber.

Here are our credentials, said Pierpont, pulling a gun. Sarber lunged at it, and Pierpont shot him twice. The sheriff tried to rise, and Makley slugged him with the butt of his pistol. The sheriff died.

Dillinger, who had been playing cards with another prisoner, got up when he heard the shots and put on his hat and coat. Pierpont entered, tossed the keys to a deputy, who unlocked the cell, and Dillinger walked out.

The nation s most famous crime wave had begun.

Two days later the gang descended on the Auburn, Indiana, police station. They got a submachine gun, two steel vests, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

On October 20 the gang hit the City Hall in Peru, Indiana. This time the take was two machine guns, six bulletproof vests, two sawed-off shotguns, four .38-caliber police specials, two .30 .30 Winchester rifles, three police badges, and another 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Officials got hysterical. Several prominent ones stated that the escapees had declared open warfare on the state. The Marion County sheriff predicted that the gang would try to break into the state pen to enlist an army of desperadoes. The Indianapolis Times sent a telegram to U.S. Attorney General Homer S. Cummings, asking for help, saying that the situation was too much for state authorities to handle.

Leach, meanwhile, continued to grind out Dillinger. His avowed purpose was to make Pierpont jealous, to stir up a battle for leadership that would destroy the gang.

In Chicago, where they were hiding out, the men laughed at his efforts. Pierpont was grateful to Dillinger for springing him and vice versa. There was no struggle for leadership. Decisions were reached democratically, with every man putting in his two bits and being listened to in respectful silence.

The gang s first order of business was money. They needed some. Pierpont and the others had hit a bank in Makley s home town, St. Mary s, Ohio, on October 6. They had withdrawn $14,000, but they were heavy spenders and that money was already gone.

So, on October 23, they raided the Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana.

Pierpont had sketched its interior, laid out the escape route. Makley had fingered it, knew it would be plump that Monday because merchants had done brisk business over the weekend with homecoming alumni of DePauw University. Hamilton stayed outside the door as the tiger-the lookout. Dillinger and Pierpont took the cages Makley held down center field with a submachine gun. The take was lovely$74,782.09 in cash and negotiable bonds. And not a shot fired. It was heady stuff.

Back in Chicago the gang relaxed. Dillinger had a new girl friend now-Evelyn (Billie) Frechette, a French-Indian beauty born on the Chippewa Reservation at Neopit, Wisconsin. Billie had raven-black hair and a trim figure. She had a husband, too, but he was in Leavenworth on a mail robbery rap. Dillinger asked her to move in with him. She did, quitting her job as a hatcheck girl in a Chicago nightclub.

The others had acquired girl friends, too. Mary Kinder was now keeping house for Harry Pierpont. Makley was living with Pat Cherrington. Her sister, Opal Long, was paired off with Russell Clark. John Hamilton had a girl with a name that sounded like a tin can rolling down a flight of stairs-Elaine Sullivan Dent Burton DeKant. And Homer Van Meter was on the scene too, with his girl, pretty Marie Conforti.

The men didn t hide in their apartments but moved freely around Chicago, looking like prosperous businessmen out on the town. They went to nightclubs and to movies (Dillinger s favorite was The Three Little Pigs), and they ate at the best restaurants.

They had to keep on the move, though, for Chicago was full of cops looking for them. Matt Leach was there with a group of Indiana State Police detectives, and Forrest Huntington, a former Pinkerton agent now
working for the American Surety Company, had come to town with his extensive army of stool pigeons. The Chicago police had also formed a special Dillinger Squad. It was made up of forty handpicked men, the toughest on the force, armed with machine guns, bulletproof vests and tear gas bombs. They were on round-the-clock duty and divided into two watches one led by Captain John Stege, the other by Lieutenant Frank Reynolds.

Those were exciting times, Dillinger reminisced later to reporters. We moved from house to house, rented one, stayed a few days, and moved on when the neighborhood got too hot. Stege and Reynolds and the rest of the police were sure hot on our trail. Just about a day behind, I guess. They almost got me once, out on Irving Park Boulevard. That was because a stool pigeon turned me up to the police. His name is Art McGinnis. I fed him and clothed him when he was broke, but he squealed on me. The police found me in a doctor s office where Art had sent them. They shot at me and I shot at them, but my car was too fast and I got away.

It was a rather modest description of what was actually a classic auto chase across half of Chicago, with Dillinger gunning his Terraplane between two converging trolley cars at one point, and vanishing down a nearly invisible alleyway on a dead end street at another. That bird can sure drive, said the man who did the chasing-age police driver, John Artery.

A few days later the gang hit the American Bank and Trust Company in Racine, Wisconsin. Things didn t go as well as at Greencastle. A teller kicked an alarm. Cops came, and a crowd gathered outside. The money gatherers Dillinger, Pierpont, and a Lebanon, Indiana, gunman named Leslie Homer-neither bolted nor panicked. They kept right on stuffing the loot into bags.

When they had it all, they started out. Makley, the center fielder, and Russell Clark, holding down the door, herded the bank president and two women employees ahead of the group as shields.

There was some shooting anyway, and a policeman named Wilbur Hansen was wounded. The group headed around the corner to where John Hamilton sat waiting in the getaway car. They got in and drove slowly out of town with the hostages on the running boards. The take was disappointing $27,789 plus securities. Dillinger was philosophical about it, though. You can t strike twelve every time he observed.

It was around this time that Ed Shouse left the gang-by invitation. Shouse had made a couple of serious mistakes. He had made a play for Billie Frechette and he had tried to talk Hamilton into pulling some private jobs on the side. There s your money, Dillinger told him, throwing down a roll of bills. Now get your ass out.

Shouse left, taking Russell Clark s car with him.

Now it was Hamilton s turn to pull a boner. On December 14 he took his car to a North Side repair shop to have a fender straightened. The repairmen recognized him and called the police. Sergeant William T. Shanley and two patrolmen staked the place out. Hamilton returned that night. Elaine Sullivan Dent Burton DeKant was with him. Shanley braced them. Hamilton didn t fool around. He drew fast, shot Shanley dead and bolted. Mrs. Dent Sullivan, etc., was caught. She was all outraged innocence.

He certainly deceived me, she told police. I thought he was a rich man s son. Why I never heard him say damn. And dean! He d take two baths a day.

Shanley s killing caused a big flare-up. The Dillinger Squad s new instructions were shoot to kill shoot first. Captain Stege said We ll either drive the Dillinger mob out of town or bury them. We d prefer the latter.

The gang got the message and left Chicago, heading to Florida for an extended vacation.

The day they left, Ed Shouse was bagged at Paris, Illinois. There was a gun battle and a cop was killed not by Shouse, but accidentally by another policeman.

Shouse was eager to talk, and Matt Leach brought the reporters in to listen. The tale Shouse told was worthy of the old maestro himself. The Dillinger gang was constantly on the alert, he said. They slept in their bulletproof vests. They held nightly drills in preparation for a police attack. They re a kill-crazy mob, he warned solemnly. Every man knows just what to do when the police come to the door. They ll shoot it out to the last bullet.

In Florida the gang relaxed in the sun. Dillinger had rented a two-story house at Daytona Beach from a Chicago agency. He and Billie shared it with Russell Clark and his girl, Opal Mack Truck Long. Pierpont and Mary Kinder stayed at a nearby hotel, and on December 21 Homer Van Meter and Charlie Makley arrived to join the fun.

The eight of them swam a lot, and went down to Miami to view the air races, and on Christmas Day gifts were exchanged. Johnnie gave Billie a diamond ring.

On New Year s Eve, as they sat listening to the radio in the living room, they heard a newscaster announce that John Dillinger and his gang had struck again. They had raided the Beverly Gardens, a roadhouse near Chicago, slugged the doorman, and ruthlessly shot two policemen in a gun baffle.

That goddamn Leach, seethed Pierpont.

Dillinger merely shrugged. Now they ll blame everything on me, he said.

Leach s incessant hammering had already done its work. The name Dillinger was on everybody s lips. Every crime in the U.S., and even a couple in Europe, were being blamed on the gang. Any criminal who had ever served time at Michigan City was labeled a Dillinger mobster.

On January 15 the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana, was held up by two bandits wearing bulletproof vests under their bulky overcoats. The bank s customers and staff later identified the men as Hamilton and Dillinger. Hamilton took the cages, they said, while Dillinger covered everyone from the lobby with a submachine gun. As Harnilton was scooping $20,376 into a Federal Reserve sack, the bank s vice-president sounded the alarm. Dillinger looked casually out the window and saw policemen hurrying down the street with drawn guns.

There s some cops outside, he called to Hamilton. But don t hurry. Get all that dough.

When the two were ready to leave, they took a couple of bank officials along as hostages. As they emerged from the bank, one of the hostages leaped aside, giving Patrolman William Patrick O Malley a dear shot at the man later identified as Dillinger. He fired. The bullets rattled off Dillinger s bulletproof vest. Dillinger pushed the other hostage aside and fired a short burst at O Malley s legs, O Malley fell-into the line of fire. A bullet tore through his heart, killing him instantly.

With the hostages out of the way, the other officers opened fire. One slug ripped through a weak spot in Hamilton s vest. He fell. Dillinger turned around and came back for him. He helped him to his feet, picked up the money bag with his other hand, and the two men ran toward a car parked in the middle of Chicago Avenue. They climbed into it and managed to get it started despite bullets slamming into them from three directions. The car roared away.

Dillinger had killed his first man.

If he actually was the second bandit.

Dillinger always maintained that he wasn t. They can t hold me for that, he told reporters later. When that job was pulled, I was in Florida. I never had anything to do with that East Chicago stickup.

He told his family the same thing. Today, thirty-five years later, Mary Kinder still swears that Dillinger heard the news of the holdup over the radio in Daytona Beach. And Mrs. Emmett Hancock, Dillinger s sister, maintains just as firmly that she was once told by an FBI man that her brother had never killed anyone.

Against this, we have the sworn statements of police officers and bank officials in East Chicago, plus the fact that some cash from the robbery was later found in Dillinger s possession.

On January 17 Dillinger and Billie Frechette showed up at his father s Mooresville farm. John said that he had just returned from Florida and that they were headed west. They visited with friends and neighbors, and Dillinger openly walked the streets of Moores~ille, as was his custom, greeting the townspeople.

A few days later they left for Tucson, Arizona, where they were to rendezvous with the rest of the gang.

Makley and Clark had gone on ahead of the others. Without Pierpont or Dillinger to keep an eye on them, the two began to spend freely and drink too much.

On the night of January 22 the Congress Hotel in Tucson caught fire. Clark and Makley, who were registered there with Opal Long, tipped a couple of firemen fifty dollars to rescue their luggage. If the saps had made it only a couple of bucks, Dillinger groused later, we d still be safe-and happy.

The firemen took a good long look at the generous strangers. The next day, while leafing through a copy of True Detective Magazine, they came across pictures of the two. They rushed to Police Chief C. A. Gus Wollard. He told them to keep the information to themselves for the time being. Maybe we can get the whole gang, he said, one at a time.

That s exactly what the Tucson police did, too-smoothly, quietly, without firing a shot. After a couple of days of discreet checking, they plucked Makley out-of a downtown radio shop, curbed Pierpont in his car, and took Clark in his North Second Avenue bungalow.

Dillinger hadn t yet been spotted, but Chief Wollard had Clark s bungalow staked out as a precaution. Just after dark a car pulled up in front. Dillinger was at the wheel. Billie Frechette sat beside him, holding a Boston bull puppy on her lap. Dillinger got out and started up the walk-into leveled riot guns.

As he was being searched, his hands, only shoulder high, began to drop slowly. One of the policemen, Swede Walker, pulled the hammer back on his gun. Reach for the moon, he said, or I ll cut you in two. Dillinger grinned-and readied.

News of the gang s capture spread like wildfire. Lawmen from every state in the Midwest rushed to Tucson to share the spotlight. Matt Leach arrived, but the crush of reporters, photographers, and newsreel cameramen kept him from reaching the side of the celebrity that he had himself created.

He tried again the following morning and got through, but all he had time for was a quick handshake and a How are you, John? before he was pushed aside by jostling news photographers.

This was the first dose-up look the press had had of America s Number One gangster. They were frankly puzzled by the amiable, easygoing man who sat in his cell signing autographs and urging gawkers to vote for Pima County Sheriff John Belton. Dillinger has none of the look of the conventional killer, wrote one reporter. Given a little more time and a wider circle of acquaintances one can see that he might presently become the central figure in a nationwide campaign, largely female, to prevent his frying in the electric chair,

Every state, county, and city wanted Dillinger for itself, but it was Lake County, Indiana, that finally got him. And they did it by practically kidnapping him out from under the other lawmen s noses.

Dillinger braced his feet against the bars of his cell and struggled against the combined efforts of five East Chicago policemen.

Where s my mouthpiece? he shouted. He told me this was illegal! They can t take me East without a hearing!

They did, though. They flew him by charter plane to Douglas, Arizona, and from there by American Airways. The plane touched down at Fort Worth, Dallas, Little Rock, and Memphis, and at each airfield there were large crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of the country s most famous outlaw.

Pandemonium reigned at Chicago s Midway Airport as he stepped from the plane, Sixty policemen tried to hold back the surging crowds. Dillinger blinked as a host of photographers set off flash powder. Thirty-two Chicago cops wearing bulletproof vests and carrying rifles and machine guns dosed around him and rushed him through the crowd toward an unmarked sedan.

It was part of a thirteen-car cavalcade that would take him to Crown Point, Indiana, where he was to be held for the murder of Patrolman O Malley. In addition to the Chicago police, there were twenty-nine heavily armed Indiana troopers in the escort party

The motorcade pulled away. Lieutenant Frank Reynolds sat beside Dillinger, a submachine gun pointed at his heart throughout the trip. His orders were to kill the outlaw at the first sign of a rescue attempt.

There wasn t any, though. The small army readied the Lake County Jail in Crown Point without incident,

It was the airport scene all over again, with crowds pressing against the police barriers and reporters running alongside Dillinger as he was rushed past them. One of them pointed at the gangster s bare head and asked him if he was going collegiate.

Hell, no, said Dillinger, grinning. Somebody swiped my hat in Tucson, just as they did my money.

Dillinger was taken into the sheriffs office. It was packed solid with reporters and photographers, all vying for his attention. Someone asked him what he thought of President Roosevelt. Dillinger said, You can say that I m for him all the way, and for the NRA-particularly the banks.

There was a roar of laughter. Then, as powerful lights flashed on, the newsreel cameramen began to film the impromptu press conference. Dillinger denied taking part in the East Chicago job. He said that John Hamilton was dead. I wasn t with him when he got shot, he said, but one of the boys told me about it. Hamilton s got some kids. Before he died, he sent me some money to take to them. It was in one of the sacks that the Tucson police took away from me. I guess it was about sixty-eight hundred dollars.

Reporters were skeptical but had to admit that it was a neat explanation of how the East Chicago loot happened to be in his possession.

On Dillinger s right stood Robert Estill, the prosecuting attorney. On Estill s right was the Lake County Sheriff, Mrs. Lillian Holley, filling out the term of her late husband. A reporter asked Dillinger what he thought of them. I like Mr. Estill, he said, and Mrs. Holley seems like a fine lady.

One of the photographers shouted to Estill. Bob, put your arm around him. Estill didn t hear him, but Dillinger did. He rested his right elbow on the prosecutor s shoulder. Estill automatically put his arm behind the gangster s back. Photographers snapped away as Dillinger grinned sardonically at the man who was going to prosecute him for murder.

It was the end of Estill s political ambitions- and the beginning of an even more audacious Dillinger legend.

The man who had started it all was still on the outside, however, looking in. Matt Leach had been effectively blocked from the main action by his political enemies. The best he could manage was the journey back to Indiana by train with the rest of the captured gangsters. There were fair to middling crowds along the route, and press conferences were held at each of the larger whistle stops. At one a U.S. Senator came aboard to meet the captives, and Harry Pierpont got off a widely quoted line. He said, My conscience doesn t hurt me. I stole from the bankers. They stole from the people. All we did was help raise the insurance rates. But, all in all, it was small potatoes compared to what was going on at Crown Point.

Whole armies seemed to be deployed there.

Sheriff Holley had buttressed her defenses with armed members of the local Farmers Protective Association. A squad of National Guardsmen had been called in. At night floodlights illuminated the area around the large, three-story brick jail. A patrol plane circled the Crown Point area by day, on the watch for motorcades of gangsters bent on releasing Dillinger.

There will be no jail delivery, announced the Lake County Star there will be no repetition of the Lima, Ohio, jail delivery in which Dillinger was liberated . . .

A hundred men couldn t get him out of that jail, added Judge William Murray, who was scheduled to try his case.

Dillinger said nothing. He just sat whittling on a piece of wood in his cell in the jail s new second-floor escape-proof section.

Between him and the street were a half-dozen barred doors, more than fifty armed guards.

He was arraigned for trial on February 6, 1934. Prosecutor Estill said that five men had positively identified Dillinger as Officer O Malley s killer. Dillinger s lawyer, Louis Piquett, announced that he had six Florida
residents who would testify that his client had been living in Daytona Beach as late as January 14.

Dillinger told the press, I m innocent, but it looks like I ll get the works, though. They got me charged with everything from strangling gold fish to stealing the socks off a blind man.

A woman identified only as Mrs. Dillinger was allowed to visit him for a few minutes on February 26. The jailer who monitored their conversation could make little sense of it-it was mostly numbers. Later, the mystery woman was identified as Billie Frechette.

Around 9 15 A.M. on March 3 Dillinger suddenly jammed something that felt mighty like a gun into the back of cellblock turnkey Sam Cahoon. Open up, he ordered. Cahoon opened. Call Blunk, he said. Cahoon called. As Deputy Sheriff Ernest Blunk approached, Dillinger leaped out from behind Cahoon and leveled what looked like a real gun at him. Call Baker, he ordered. Blunk called. As Warden Lou Baker entered, Dillinger braced him.

And so it went-with the outlaw methodically working his way through the half-dozen barred doors and fifty armed guards.

Only one other inmate chose to accompany him to freedom-Herbert Youngblood, a Negro from Gary awaiting trial for murder. Youngblood was armed with one of the submachine guns that they had taken from a couple of National Guardsmen. Dillinger had the other. Driving Ernest Blunk ahead of them, the two men strolled out of the jail and into the back door of the Main Street Garage.

Which is the fastest car here? Dillinger asked mechanic Ed Saager. The mechanic, thinking that they were members of a posse, pointed to Sheriff Holley s V8. Okay, get inside, Dillinger told him. Saager said he was busy.

Better do as he asks, said Blunk. Saager climbed into the back seat resentfully, thinking that he had been deputized.

Dillinger told Blunk to drive. Youngblood got in the back seat with Saager. Gradually the truth of the situation began to dawn on the mechanic. My God, you re John Dillinger he said.

Right, snapped Dillinger. So do as I tell you.

The car pulled out of the garage and headed north on Main Street. As they passed the First National and Commercial Banks,

Dillinger chuckled and said that he was tempted to stop and hold them up. Then he began asking about highways, Blunk recalled later. He wanted to turn west on State Route 8, but I was past it, so we turned on the macadam road just north of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks on the edge of town. Dillinger was as cool as could be. He hummed and whistled The Last Roundup. As we were driving away from Crown Point he showed me a dummy gun and said, You wouldn t think a guy could make a break with a peashooter like this, would you? Then he laughed. I looked at it, but I couldn t see much but the machine gun. Every time we hit a bump the barrel of the machine gun bumped me in the side.

Controversy still surrounds the wooden gun escape-as it does every other event in Dillinger s career.

A Lake County grand jury decided that the outlaw s only gun, at least when the break started, was a wooden one that he had fashioned from a washboard during his endless whittling sessions. Dillinger brought such a gun home to Mooresville in April, and was photographed holding it. It remained in his sister s possession until 1959, when a souvenir hunter walked off with it. Johnnie wouldn t have been apt to go to all the trouble of making a wooden gun for our benefit, she told reporters later.

The Justice Department thought otherwise. After an independent investigation they announced that Dillinger s lawyer, Louis Piquett, paid $3,900 to a small town Indiana police official and a Crown Point man and that a real gun was sneaked to Dillinger by Evelyn Frechette, who also made the final arrangements for the delivery and a hideout.

A third investigation, made by the Hargrave Secret Service of Chicago, differed on the amount of money and to whom it was paid, but agreed that the gun was real.

Real or not, Dillinger was out and heading west in what must have been the most leisurely getaway of the whole Public Enemy Era. Take your time, he kept telling Blunk. Thirty miles an hour is enough. There s no hurry. What s time to me?

We went on the Peotone road about two miles, Ed Saager later remembered, and Dillinger said, There ain t no telephone along here. It s a good place to let you guys out. So we got out and he shook hands with us and he handed me four dollars for carfare. I d give you more, he said but I only got fifteen dollars. But I ll remember you at Christmas. Then Dillinger slipped behind the wheel and told Youngblood to lie down in the back, and they took off south ... I never saw him again. They got him before Christmas. I was hoping they wouldn t. I thought he d come through. He seemed like an honest fellow,

The national reaction to the Crown Point escape was strangely divided. Politicians, law enforcement officials, church leaders, and prominent newspapers all thundered their outrage. An object lesson of scandalous futility or corruption or the two in combination, The Literary Digest editorialized, and J. Edgar Hoover Galled it a damnable outrage. The head of the Chicago Crime Commission said, I m speechless! The idea of a man with a record like his getting away! I can t understand it!

But the voice of the people-or at least that portion of it that made itself known in the letters-to-the-editor columns-reacted differently

Why not give Dillinger a gold medal and a pardon? a typical letter said, He deserves both. Hurray for you, John. May you never be caught!

These politicians can sit in a nice little office every day, said another, and make comments about a fellow who does get caught doing something in the open when they sit around plotting to keep the people from finding out what they really are.

Dillinger drove Sheriff Holley s car across the Indiana line into Illinois, abandoning it on the outskirts of Chicago, There he parted company with Youngblood. (Thirteen days later Youngblood would be slain in a gun duel in Port Huron, Michigan, taking a local sheriff along with him.)

Dillinger went straight to his lawyer s office, where he met Billie Frechette. I told him it was my duty to advise him to surrender, Piquett said afterward, and to let me take him to Town Hall station. He said he would do it later.

He and Bille left the same night for St. Paul, where John Hamilton and Homer Van Meter were waiting for him.

In crossing a state line in a stolen car, Dillinger had committed a Federal offense. The FBI now swung into action. Typewriters blazed, and the headlines were suddenly filled with the Glamor of a great all-out federal war on the new national menace Dillinger. Act first, talk afterward, Hoover told his men, ordering them to shoot straight and get the right man. Attorney General Cummings rubber-stamped the execution order Shoot to kill-then count ten, he advised.

A few thoughtful people objected to this kind of talk. Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, was one. He said he didn t believe that Dillinger should even receive a life sentence if caught, and criticized the government s shoot to kill policy.

Hoover immediately spoke out against sob sisters and sentimental yammerheads. Dillinger was a craven beast, a public rat, and those who aided him vermin, vultures, and scum from the boiling pot of the underworld.

Although Hoover s bestiary didn t really fit Dillinger, it did the man with whom he was about to join forces.

Baby Face Nelson was something out of a bad dream, Compared to him, Clyde Barrow was a snowbank. Barrow killed to avoid capture, but Baby Face killed for the sheer hell of it.

He was the most blood-smeared figure-of the Public Enemy Era, the only one about whom nothing decent can really be said. The underworld itself spoke of him in Hoover-like terms he was a bedbug, a crazy cockroach, a poisonous toad. The consensus was Don t prod that squirt-he s poison.

Nelson s real name was Lester Gillis, and Chicago made him. He was the only major Depression bandit who was city born and bred, and for that matter, the underworld never considered him a professional thief, anyway. He was a gangland torpedo who had fallen on hard times, a refugee from organized crime.

Gillis was a stocky five foot five, a strutting little tough with a face shadowed by a cap, a lit cigarette usually dangling from his lip. He had a squeaky voice and, beneath the cap, a peach-smooth angelic face-hence the famous nickname.

It was worth a man s life to call him it, though. Typically enough, Gillis wanted to be known as Big George Nelson. He would answer to plain George, though, and even to Jimmy.

He was born near the Chicago Stockyards in 1908, the son of a tanner. He didn t have to go to jail to learn the facts of life. They were right there, openly on display in the seamy South Side neighborhood where he was raised. He got his start heisting bookie joints and brothels, then selling protection to the places he had knocked off. Later he became a Capone gunman.

A spark of decency, of human emotion, entered his life with Helen Wawzynak. She worked in the neighborhood Woolworth s. He called her his Million Dollar Beauty in the Five and Ten Cent Store. In 1928 he married her. She bore him a son, He didn t really deserve her, but in his own queer way he actually cared for his sickly, sad-faced child bride. There were other women, of course, but Helen always forgave him. She knew that sex, and plenty of it, was the only foolproof prescription for his vicious temper.

In 1931 the cops nabbed Nelson for a jewelry heist, and the mob, who had warned him about his extracurricular activities, refused to spring him. He did some time at Joilet, then escaped and went to California, where he became a hired gun for the Joe Parente mob.

It was there that he picked up his faithful sidekick, John Paul Chase-later described by J. Edgar Hoover as a bit of human vermin with a poetically patriotic name, Chase, a former speakeasy operator, became Nelson s general handyman. He chauffeured him places, delivered messages, arranged hideouts, and even cleaned up after him.

When Repeal came along, Parente went out of business, and Nelson decided that if hicks like the Barrows and Pretty Boy Floyd could stick up banks, so could he.

He went back east and set up headquarters at Long Beach, Indiana, a haven for Chicago hoodlums along the shores of Lake Michigan There he recruited a gang. Tommy Carroll, a happy-go-lucky ex-boxer, became the center fielder, and Eddie Green, a former Holden-Keating gangster, became the jug-marker-the man who fingered the banks that they were to rob.

The gang was fairly successful. They hit some good-sized banks in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska during the fall and winter of 1933. Nelson was beside himself, though-each job that he pulled was credited to the Dillinger gang.

He finally decided that if he couldn t beat them he would join them. He approached Homer Van Meter with the idea of a merger in December. He was turned down flat-the Dillinger boys didn t know him, didn t trust him.

But by February 1934 the picture had changed. Hamilton and Van Meter were the only Dillinger gangsters still at large. So this time it was Van Meter who approached Nelson with the idea of a merger. He told Baby Face that Dillinger would be busting out of Al any day and that he would want action fast.

Nelson said that he had the action-a Sioux Falls job and a Mason City one, both fingered by Eddie Green. But, he added Can Dillinger take orders?

The implication was dear. Van Meter was furious. So was Hamilton. But there wasn t much they could do about it. Nelson s was the only big-time game in town. Johnnie will go along with it, Van Meter said quietly.

The five of them met at Eddie Green s apartment in St. Paul the morning after Dillinger s Crown Point escape. It was an edgy gathering, Nelson, obviously in awe of Dillinger but doing his best to hide it, blustered and ranted as he explained his theories of bank robbing. They were pretty simple come in the door shooting, kill everybody in sight, and grab the

dough. Van Meter laughed sarcastically, and Nelson leaped toward his submachine gun. Dillinger quickly stepped between the two men, and they simmered down.

The next day Dillinger got still another taste of what he was in for. Nelson was driving him over to Van Meter s place when he ploughed into another car. Eddie Green, who was with them, told what happened. The driver of the other car, Theodore Kidder, a young salesman, climbed out of his machine and came over. Are you blind? he said angrily. You had a stop sign

Nelson whipped out his .45 and shot Kidder between the eyes. As they roared away, Dillinger said, Did you have to do that?

Hell, yes! squeaked Nelson. He recognized you.

Well, a citizen got your number back there, said Dillinger, looking out the rear window.

Nelson cursed wildly and almost lost control of the car a second time.

That night he sent John Paul Chase to dean out his old apartment, had the plates switched on the car and sent Helen to Bremerton, Washington, to stay with relatives. I m going to be busy as hell for the next few weeks, he told her.

The following day, March 6, the gang hit the Security National Bank and Trust Company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Jack Hamilton was the wheelman. Tommy Carroll held down the front of the bank. Dillinger led the other three inside. Nelson triggered the job by shouting shrilly, This is a holdup. Lay on the floor.

A clerk pushed a button and the burglar alarm on the side of the building began clanging. Dillinger, Van Meter, and Eddie Green ignored it as they scooped up bills from the cages. They worked quietly, methodically, Dillinger pausing occasionally to ask a teller, is this all of it?

Baby Face, meanwhile, was hopping around the lobby like Yosemite Sam. I m going to kill the man who hit the alarm! he screamed over and over.

Dillinger and Van Meter finished off the cages and went to work on the vaults.

Suddenly Nelson spotted an off-duty policeman in the crowd outside. He hurdled a railing, jumped atop a desk, and began firing through the plate glass window. The policeman fell, four bullets in him. Nelson leaped up and down excitedly. I got one of them! he shouted gleef