The Kansas City Massacre

The Kansas City Massacre

This is a discussion on The Kansas City Massacre within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; For your reading enjoyment. I didn't know about The Kansas City Massacre until reading about it in Joe Urschel's book, The Year of Fear . ...

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    The Kansas City Massacre

    For your reading enjoyment.

    I didn't know about The Kansas City Massacre until reading about it in Joe Urschel's book, The Year of Fear.
    Frank "Jelly" Nash was captured by two federal agents in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The agents took Nash by train to Kansas City, Missouri, with the intent of taking Nash to Leavenworth. Before departing from Hot Springs, a reporter found out who the agents had in custody, and soon after, the story was hitting the wire. The story also raced along the phone lines of the criminal underworld, and plans were being made by Vern Miller to get Nash back. Miller intended to rescue his friend Nash from the agents at Union Station, in Kansas City. What followed became known as The Kansas City Massacre.

    Union Station - Kansas City, Missouri
    June 17, 1933

    Shooters
    Vern Miller
    Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd*
    Adam Richetti*
    *(Floyd and Richetti were originally supposed to help Miller, but it's not clear whether those two were actually involved because Miller didn't really trust either of them, and was trying to recruit substitutes the night before the shooting.)

    Federal agents
    Reed Vetterli
    Ray Caffrey
    Joe Lackey
    Frank Smith

    K.C. police
    W. J. "Red" Grooms
    Frank Hermonson
    McAlester, Oklahoma Police Chief - Otto Reed (The veteran cop who'd gone along with the federal agents to assist in snatching Nash and make the arrest, since the federal agents lacked the legal authority to do that on their own.)


    Excerpt from the book - The Year of Fear: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt That Changed the Nation - by Joe Urschel

    Union Station was crowded that Saturday morning. Nearly a dozen trains were arriving between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., and the parking lot was filling up with people and cars.

    The bright prairie sun was climbing in the eastern sky and the temperature was rising right along with it. The lawmen flanked their captive as the hustled him through the station. The curious crowd parted as the group moved towards Caffrey's car like a "flying wedge" down a football field.

    Miller and his two backups had taken their places in the parking lot, strategically aligned to close in on the agents when they got to the Chevrolet that was parked facing south in front of the station.

    As Miller edged along a row of cars, shielding himself and getting a better angle, he saw the large group of men hustling out of the station and he did not like what he was seeing. Not only were the men armed, but they had their weapons drawn.

    Grooms and Hermonson, stripped of their automatic weapons, had their .38-caliber handguns in plain view. One federal agent carried a .45. Lackey and Reed carried shotguns. Miller watched as Lackey and Reed climbed into the back seat and Nash climbed in behind them. But then Lackey told Nash to get up front, where he could watch him. Smith then climbed in the back with Lackey and Reed. Nash got int the front seat and Caffrey closed the door and began walking toward the front of the car to get into the driver's seat.

    It was time for Miller to move. With most of the agents' firepower now bottled up in the car, Miller and a second machine gunner began closing in from two angles. With the clear advantage of firepower and surprise, it should have been easy enough to grab Nash and go without ever having to fire a shot.

    Miller set his machine gun across the hood of the car he was using for cover and aimed directly at the lawmen while his partner inched closer, setting up the crossing fire line. "Put'em up! Up! Up!" he screamed.

    Lackey pulled up the riot gun that had been nestled between his seat and the car door and furiously began trying to cock the unfamiliar weapon without releasing its triggering mechanism. When he finally stumbled on the release, the gun discharged unexpectedly, blowing off half of Nash's head, killing him instantly. The blast shattered the car's windshield and hit Caffrey in the back of the head as he stood near the front of the car.

    The panicked Lackey jerked the gun to the left as it discharged again, hitting Hermanson in the head before tearing into the Plymouth parked in the adjacent space.

    Reactively, the machine gunners unleashed a fusillade of return fire. Two bullets hit Grooms in the chest as he attempted to return fire, killing him. Vetterli , who had ducked to the ground for cover after taking a bullet in the arm, sprang to his feet and ran toward the station with a spray of machine-gun fire following him and slamming into the station's granite walls.

    Miller trained his sights on Lackey, hitting him three times. Chief Reed, hit by multiple rounds, crumbled to the floor. The furious firefight was over in less than ninety seconds.

    With his gun trained on the car, Miller approached cautiously. Hermanson and Grooms lay in an expanding pool of blood on the passenger side of the car. Caffrey was sprawled next to the drivers door with half his head blown away.

    Miller peered in at the blood-soaked front seat and the body of his longtime friend. "He's dead," he said to his partners. "they're all dead."

    With that he reached into the backseat, pulled Lackey's gun from his hands and threw it to the ground. The unharmed Smith lay on the floor next to Lackey, playing possum. Miller and company ran back to the getaway car and sped off as the early morning crowds at Union Station looked on in horror.

    Patrolmen in the station raced to the parking lot, guns drawn. Flashbulbs popped as news photographers, who were at the station in force, having been tipped off by the wire story, went to work. In no time, they were rearranging the scene, moving people and evidence to get more graphic shots, as their polished leather shoes soaked up blood from the pavement and splashed it onto the cuffs of their trousers.

    Bedlam had broken out among the bystanders, some of whom fled screaming, while others ghoulishly picked up spent shells and casings from the ground for souvenirs.

    The Kansas City police began rounding up witnesses to the shooting. There were nearly sixty in all. All, it seemed, had wildly different stories about what they had just seen.


    Vern Miller
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    Frank "Jelly" Nash
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    Photographs from the Union Station parking lot.
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  2. #2
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    Don't know how I missed this, thanks for posting it, @Tstone .
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    I always wondered what the attraction of KC to the mob was.
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    Love these gun fight stories. Depression and Prohibition era had talent and skill on both sides of the law, they also had an interesting mix of weaponry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by matthew03 View Post
    Love these gun fight stories. Depression and Prohibition era had talent and skill on both sides of the law, they also had an interesting mix of weaponry.
    And also its share of ineptitude on both sides, as demonstrated in this particular account.
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    Quote Originally Posted by matthew03 View Post
    Love these gun fight stories. Depression and Prohibition era had talent and skill on both sides of the law, they also had an interesting mix of weaponry.
    The Kansas City Massacre is also credited with being the start of the "Crime Wave: 18 months of Mayhem."
    Pete63, Struckat, airslot and 4 others like this.
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    VIP Member Array LimaCharlie's Avatar
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    Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was a cousin of my father.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LimaCharlie View Post
    Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was a cousin of my father.
    That would make him your cousin, as well, just a bit further out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LimaCharlie View Post
    Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was a cousin of my father.
    That explains mucho!
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    I just learned about "The Battle of Athens" last week. In 1946, the citizens of Athens, Tennessee, led primarily by soldiers recently home from WWII, were involved in an armed rebellion against a corrupt Police and (Democratic - go figure) Public officials involved in predatory policing, police brutality, political corruption and voter intimidation. Please to the DOJ had fallen on deaf ears. In that year's election the veterans had put up several candidates to run against the corrupt officials. During the election the corrupt police started physically assaulting people at the poling places (and shooting one person in the back) and stole one of the ballot boxes (presumably to tamper with the votes). The citizens had a gunfight with the police that were holed up in the jail.

    Ultimately, the citizens prevailed and most of their candidates won their elections. The part I found surprising is that even though there was an all-out gun battle between citizens and police, the only person that was charged was the cop that shot the man in the back (yet he was only sentenced to 1-3 years!).

    And that, my friends, is exactly why we have the 2nd Amendment.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_(1946)

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    Quote Originally Posted by OD* View Post
    Don't know how I missed this, thanks for posting it, @Tstone .
    Your welcome, and glad you enjoyed it. The Year of Fear is a book worth adding to one's book queue. Joe Urschel did very much the same kind of in-depth research that Guinn does. The kidnapping of Charles Urschel - no relation to the author - is a fascinating story on a number of levels.

    At the time the book was published, 2015, Joe Urschel was the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Museum in D.C. I don't know if he still is. I found him on Messenger, and told him how much I enjoyed the book. And dang if he didn't reply within a few hours, with his thanks.
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    The coal companies and .gov went to battle with strikers in WV, even calling in the army air corps to bomb them. Scary piece of history.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tstone View Post
    At the time the book was published, 2015, Joe Urschel was the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Museum in D.C.
    Really? I'm impressed he told the truth about how the fight actually started, it's normally the sanitized FBI version you read. I recently watched a program that had the current FBI historian on, they are still making excuses for J Edger's lies. Thanks for the heads-up, @Tstone , Mr. Urschel book will go on the list.

    BTW, I just read it last night, Guinn's mention of "Ambush" in his book, kinda cool.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Terrorists: They hated you yesterday, they hate you today, and they will hate you tomorrow.
    End the cycle of hatred, donít give them a tomorrow."




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    Quote Originally Posted by OD* View Post
    Really? I'm impressed he told the truth about how the fight actually started, it's normally the sanitized FBI version you read. I recently watched a program that had the current FBI historian on, they still are making excuses for J Edger's lies. Thanks for the heads-up, @Tstone , Mr. Urschel book will go on the list.

    BTW, I just read it last night, Guinn's mention of "Ambush" in his book, kinda cool.
    Urschel is fairly candid about mistakes the lawmen made during the Charles Urschel kidnapping, and subsequent manhunt for George Kelly.

    Interestingly, in the notes at the back of Texas Ranger, John Boessenecker cites Guinn's book several times. But in the notes he tends to disagree with Guinn's perspective a bit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tstone View Post
    Interestingly, in the notes at the back of Texas Ranger, John Boessenecker cites Guinn's book several times. But in the notes he tends to disagree with Guinn's perspective a bit.
    I don't doubt it, it's one of the reasons I never ordered his Tombstone book, (until you and @Mike1956 recommended it) many of the known Tombstone historians disagree with some of his ideas. Personally, I like his B&C book, but that may change, depending on how he treats Frank Hamer. (don't tell me! )

    Have you read Bryan Burrough's book, "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34".

    It's quite good too. (the more we are on this subject, the more books I remember having! )
    Last edited by OD*; March 12th, 2019 at 04:57 PM. Reason: Spellin'
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Terrorists: They hated you yesterday, they hate you today, and they will hate you tomorrow.
    End the cycle of hatred, donít give them a tomorrow."




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