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I do not romanticize criminals in any way. However, I believe I can learn from some of them. While reading one of Massad Ayoob's book on CCW, I stumbled across some information about John Dillinger and his gun-carrying habits, which peaked my interest and led to further reading. Following are some tidbits from that reading which I found interesting.

John Dillinger: Bank Robber or Robin Hood? - Crime Library on truTV.com

On April 20, Dillinger and his gang, along with wives and girlfriends showed up at the lodge. It was off season and rooms were available. After dinner, Wanatka sat down with his guests to play cards. It was then that he noticed the guns and the shoulder holsters. He and his wife Nan figured out who the guest really were and they were terrified.
I believe this was the incident Mas Ayoob referenced on pages 134 and 135 of his book The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry (2008), when he said
Massad Ayoob said:
...John Dillinger, who had been observed wearing a twin shoulder rig with a pair of Colt 45 automatics by the nervous folks who dropped a dime on him at the Little Bohemia Lodge and set the state for what was then the FBI's most humiliating debacle.
How was it that Dillinger's guns were noticed only when he sat down to play cards and not earlier when he was presumably standing? Did he take his jacket off before sitting? Or did his unbuttoned jacket open and fall outside his pant legs when he sat down? Did he get sloppy, or just too comfortable? Either way, the revealing of his guns was almost a fatal occurrence for him. This incident did soon lead to fatalities, but not John Dillinger himself.

The next occurrence which could relate to some of us happened when federal agents tried to surprise the Dillinger gang after being tipped off by those who noticed Dillinger's guns.
As the agents quietly approached the brightly lit lodge, they got a real surprise. The two watchdogs barked furiously. The agents ran to their positions, believing that the element of surprise was gone. But as it turned out, the dogs had barked so frequently that the gang members were used to the noise.
The gang members ignored the barking dogs because the dogs had a habit of frequent barking. This reminds me of accounts where criminals trip an alarm and then retreat to hide and observe. After several such "false" alarms, sometimes a homeowner will turn the alarm off, believing the alarm is faulty. Then when the criminal breaks the alarm circuit and no alarms sounds, the coast is clear for whatever the criminal has in mind.

The barking dogs did not alert the gang, but when federal agents mistakenly fired upon three innocent citizens who happened to be leaving at just the wrong time,
Return fire from the lodge was instantaneous
These guys were ready at a moment's notice to respond to an attack.

What occurred next is similar to what I've read on this board: planning ahead for a worst-case situation.
The gang had laid out a careful escape plan the day they arrived.
The agents were rushing due to information the gang was departing soon. The agents had just arrived on the scene and were basing their plan on a map of the area which left out some crucial details. When the gang executed their escape plan out the back door, the agents' plan to flank them failed because of unforseen obstacles (a huge ditch on one side, a barbed-wire fence on the other, and a steep bank in the rear behind which the gang made their getaway).

As "Baby Face" Nelson was making his getaway after departing the immediate area, he met two other agents and a local constable who were arriving by car after being summoned to help. One agent said he was looking for a Mr. Koerner, the local exchange operator who had summoned help. This was Nelson's response:
Nelson aimed his automatic at the men and ordered them out of the car. "I know you b****** are wearing bulletproof vests so I'll give it to you high and low."

With that he shot Newman in the forehead. Miraculously, the agent lived. Baum wasn't as fortunate. He was killed instantly and Christensen was wounded eight times, but would survive.
If it ever comes to the point where I feel it prudent to be wearing body armor, I don't think I'll be telling very many people, if any at all.

Another point I had reinforced from this episode is something I've heard before: if you shoot a man in the gut, he'll drop what he's holding in his hands. Now I don't know if the constable had anything in his hands to drop. Nor do I know if the constable was shot below his vest, although that is my guess (I don't know of anyone who has ever survived being shot 8 times in the head, so I'll assume he took some shots in other places). Judging from Nelson's comment just prior to the shooting, I believe it reasonable he may have shot the constable "low". I've read some recommendations to consider an attacker's pelvic region to be a good target since a shot to the groin will get one's attention, and a shot to the hip area may drop a man immediately due to purely structural damage.

Eventually, some of Dillinger's cohorts were arrested and put in prison. The following is from an account of a prison break which Dillinger assisted in by supplying weapons:
There in the yard, they took a guard hostage, the huge mountain of a man they called "Big Bertha." Pierpont told him, "If you try anything, you're dead where you stand. Get it, you big, brave man?" "Bertha" got it.
Although I would hate to put my life in the hands of a criminal, I will admit sometimes the best decision may be to comply rather than attack immediately. A few moments later, another guard would make the same decision:
Just as they were approaching the main gate, the convicts mugged the turnkey. Warden Kunkel heard the commotion from the business office. Someone yelled, "It's a break!" With Pierpont's gun aimed at his stomach, Kunkel decided just to be a spectator and not a dead hero that day.
The following is another account where some of Dillinger's cohorts returned the favor by breaking him out of jail:
Toland tells how at 6:20 P.M., Pierpont, Makley and Clark armed with pistols approached the jail. Sheriff Sarber and his wife had just finished dinner and were sitting in the office with their deputy. Pierpont told them, "'We're officers from Michigan City and we want to see Dillinger.'

"'Let me see your credentials,' Sarber responded."

"Pierpont calmly pulled out a gun. 'Here's our credentials.'

"'Oh, you can't do that,' said Sarber, reaching for the gun in the desk drawer.

"Pierpont panicked and impulsively fired twice. One bullet went into Sarber's left side, through the abdomen and into his thigh. He fell to the floor.

"'Give us the keys to the cell,' said Pierpont, but Sarber's answer was to try to rise. Makley stepped forward and hit him over the head with the butt of his gun, accidentally discharging a wild shot. Sarber collapsed, moaning."

Mrs. Sarber grabbed the keys and gave them to Pierpont. He opened up the cell, gave Dillinger one of his guns, and they ran out to the car.

Sarber, in great pain, looked at his wife, "Mother, I believe I'm going to have to leave you." He died an hour and a half later.
I've read of instances where one has outdrawn an already drawn gun, so I know it's possible. However, I think the odds of success are relatively low unless other factors are in one's favor. Hindsight allows me to suggest the sheriff might have been better off complying, but that opinion is certainly not verifiable in this instance.

I have rarely heard of armed action directed toward a police station, except a few misguided youths who mistakenly tried to rob a police station, until I read the following:
Once Dillinger had been freed, they all headed back to Chicago to put together the most organized and professional bank robbing scheme ever devised in the county. One thing they needed was the very best in guns,ammunition and bullet-proof vests.

What better place to get such equipment than from the police themselves. A week after Dillinger's escape from the Lima, Ohio, jail, he and Pierpont decided to hit the enormous police arsenal in Peru, Indiana. A month earlier, Dillinger and Homer Van Meter posed as tourists there and asked what the local policemen had in the way of fire power if the Dillinger Gang ever showed up in those parts. The officers proudly showed the two "tourists" the kinds of weapons they would use against the Terror Gang.

Late on the evening of October 20, 1933, Pierpont and Dillinger entered the arsenal, subdued three lawmen and made off with several loads of machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. When this loot was added to the guns and ammunition they had stolen earlier from an Auburn, Indiana, police station, they were ready for business.
I believe this falls under the category of "Keep my :censored: mouth shut about what guns, etc. I own."

One lawman tried to instill division in the gang by trying to play another member's and Dillinger's egos against each other. This was Dillinger's response:
Dillinger, however, read and reread every story and even saved the clippings; but instead of becoming boastful, his manner and dress became more conservative.
There is a lesson in there for me, especially when encountering some of these stupid St. Louis drivers--forget about my ego when in potentially life-altering situations.

I found the next few sentences in the article interesting:
The gang lived quietly in expensive Chicago apartments, the men drinking only beer and little of that. According to Pierpont's code, a crime not only had to be committed without the benefit of drink or drugs but prepared in sobriety
I am not glorifying these men at all, but the mandate to prepare their crimes in all sobriety tells me they knew full well the seriousness and danger of their upcoming actions. I need to realize the seriousness of what may be ahead every time I put on my gear to go out. I believe I do, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

During one bank robbery, I found an elderly woman's response to a gang-member's command to be particularly funny:
Hamilton, standing by the door with a stopwatch so that they didn't overstay their five-minute time limit, looked up to see an elderly, foreign-born woman walk out of the bank. He told her to get back inside.

Completely disregarding the gun had in his hands, she walked calmly by him, saying "I go to Penney's and you go to hell!"
The article does not mention anything else about her or the altercation, so I reckon she went to Penney's. :rofl:

We've all heard the advice that if we don't think something is right, trust our instincts. The following immediately preceded a bank robbery, or rather was part of the robbery:
The gang moved to Milwaukee where they planned the robbery of the American Bank and Trust in Racine, Wisconsin. On November 20, 1933, the good-looking, well-dressed Henry Pierpont confidently walked into the bank with a roll of paper under his arm. Then he pasted up a big Red Cross poster in the picture window of the bank, which happened to block the tellers' cages from being seen from the street. Mrs. Henry Patzke, the bookkeeper noticed, but didn't think anything of it.
With the robbery in full progress with the gang inside, patrons on the floor, Dillinger standing by while the bank president opened the safe, the following occurred:
Shortly afterwards, two policemen walked to the bank, expecting that this was just another false alarm, like many other ones before it. When they walked into the bank, Pierpont relieved one of them of his gun and told Makley to "get that punk with his machine gun!"

Makley fired at Sergeant Hansen and wounded him twice
I need to forgo complacency no matter how many times I set my home alarm, check the doors and windows, ready my weapon for the night, position a gun for ready access while leaving or entering my garage, and any other situation that at one time demanded my vigilance.

I'm not a pro when it comes to approaching criminals who are expected to be armed, but the results of the following indicate this officer didn't get it right:
After laying low in Chicago for one month, the gang headed to Daytona Beach, Florida, to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve. Shortly before they left, the police received a tip that one of the gang's cars was being repaired at a local garage. Staking it out, the tip paid off when Red Hamilton and his girlfriend showed up to retrieve the auto. Unfortunately, when a Chicago police sergeant confronted Hamilton, the bank robber drew first and fatally wounded the officer.
Descriptions of another robbery include the use of cover, at least until the cover moved:
Police officer Howard Wagner came on the run. Using a stalled car with occupants as a shield, the officer took several pot shots at Van Meter as the lookout was battling other defenders. When the automobile took off leaving Wagner exposed Van Meter cut the officer down, killing him.
During the same robbery, some local citizens took action, although their actions did not appreciably impact the bank robbers:
A jewelry shop owner ran out of his store with a pistol and fired at Nelson. Saved by his bulletproof vest, Nelson spun around and fired wildly wounding two pedestrians. As he did so, a 16-year-old tried to stop him by jumping on his back. Nelson was wondering what the hell was going on with the citizens of South Bend. One had taken a shot at him and another jumped on his back and was trying to choke him. Nelson twisted violently and flung the young attacker through a plate glass window. Stepping back, he fired hitting the youth in the hand.
Apparently there was a reward for some of the gang members:
Dillinger and the others were now exiting the bank with hostages as police and citizens with weapons fired away trying to hit the bandits, but instead were wounding hostages — their greed for the reward money spurring them on. As the gun battle raged, Van Meter was hit in the head and was dragged into the getaway car by Dillinger. Lucky to get out of town alive, the gang headed for a hideout. The last ride of the Dillinger Gang had netted the robbers only $4,800 a piece.

The wound to Van Meter was caused by a .22-caliber revolver. The bullet entered his forehead near the hairline, burrowed under his scalp creasing his skull and coming out six inches away. Probasco, a one-time veterinarian treated him, before Dr. Cassidy arrived.
An immigrant acquaintance of Dillinger's girlfriend knew his identity, and she arranged for his capture because she was facing possible deportation and was hoping to receive special treatment. "The lady in red", called thus because her orange dress--which looked red in the theater lights--would be the signal that the man she was with was Dillinger.

Here is an account of an agent staking out the theater who observed Dillinger buy tickets and go inside, which indicate some thoughts of the day concerning concealed carry:
As Dillinger purchased the tickets, one of Purvis's first thoughts was that he was glad to see the man was not wearing a jacket, "because it meant that he could not have many weapons concealed on his person."
Chicago was in the middle of a 100-degree heat wave with extreme humidity (it was still 90+ degrees once the movie was finished that evening) so Dillinger had opted for no jacket.

As Dillinger, his girlfriend, and the "lady in red" exited the theater, some of the 26 agents on hand approached Dillinger and began firing. According to Ayoob (page 135), Dillinger was carrying a pocket .380 that night with an extra mag in another pocket. Accounts indicate his hand went to his pocket but he was shot and killed before he could produce a weapon.

Here is an account of one agent who was 3 feet from Dillinger when it was all concluded. Note how his draw was slowed by his attire and/or nervousness:
He states, "I was about three feet to the left and a little to the rear of him. I was very nervous; it must have been a squeaky voice that called out, 'Stick 'em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded.'" Purvis recalls that he ripped every button off his jacket drawing his own weapon, which he didn't get a chance to fire.
Dillinger was grazed twice in the face near his left eye, shot once from the front in the left clavicle, and fatally shot from the rear in the neck with the bullet exiting the face. His reign of violence was over.

The "lady in red" was eventually deported and died in 1947 in her native Romania, bitter to the end that she had not received help with her immigration issues as recompense for her role in Dillinger's death.

CONCLUSION
I realize all this is old news by more than 70 years, but if any of the yutes (or not so yutes) of today are like I was (didn't read much) maybe some of this is new to some of them.

I don't glorify the criminals in any way. If this happened today, I'd be the first to hope they were captured and brought to justice. But I do believe there are things I can learn from their actions. Even though their lifestyles were very different from mine, they were still using guns and their wits to try and stay alive.

I'll try to learn from anyone if it will help me or my family survive and thrive.
 

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Great informative post!
 

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Good read, and interesting points to consider..... both for us, and in terms of things the BG might do, and reactions to both.
 

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Good read much to think about!!!
 

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I hate to say it about a bad guy but it does prove:

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

There are a lot of good lessons to be had here for both sides of this fence.
 

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I hate to say it about a bad guy but it does prove:

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

There are a lot of good lessons to be had here for both sides of this fence.
I agree, and your alliteration is impressive...:yup::congrats:
 

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I'd read all this before, but it was an interesting analysis by you, Grady. Thanks.

Years ago I used to vacation one week each summer in northern WI. Once, on the way back we stopped for a little tour of Little Bohemia...my kids were young and were quite fascinated by the history. Later, after all three had served in the Army we were talking and we all had a bit of a laugh about what a lousy operataion Purvis had mounted there....:rofl:
 

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Excellent post...
 

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I don't glorify the criminals in any way. If this happened today, I'd be the first to hope they were captured and brought to justice. But I do believe there are things I can learn from their actions. Even though their lifestyles were very different from mine, they were still using guns and their wits to try and stay alive.

I'll try to learn from anyone if it will help me or my family survive and thrive.
I agree, without glorifying BG's we can still learn something about their behavior/mannerism etc to help us survive an encounter with a BG. The information your've presented is a tool we can add to our tool box......thanks

As usual, good post Grady; you know I think you might have a book in you..........."Grady and Guns".
 

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Thanks for the post, and it was a good read.

The information while dated, is still good information, about the thinking of a master criminal, and gunman.

You also made a good observation about his shoulder holstered weapons showing, which lead to a world of trouble. I don’t know what it is but criminals seem to flaunt that they are carrying. Possibility because they have never had training of how to conceal property, or is it because they think it gives them power. I don’t know, but the criminals I’ve been around when working undercover, where terrible at keeping a weapon concealed.

While agents today have more intel gathering equipment, most arrest still rely upon Joe Citizen reporting criminals, and hard work on the agents part, to gather enough evidence to make the arrest stick in court.
 

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Very interesting stuff. Thanks for the post.
 

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Grady, great commentary!!!

A+

You must have made good grades on your "book reports" while in school.
 

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Very interesting post.I'm a history buff and really enjoyed your comments and observations.Thanks much
 

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Thanks Grady for all the time and effort you put into this post. Well worth it!!
 

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One of several tragedies surrounding this event is the death of Eugene Boisenau by a Federal agent who mistook him for one of the gang members trying to escape. Some have posted here before at the startled reaction they get from some LEOs when they disclose they are carrying that leads to interesting verbal exchanges. I can't imagine what might happen if they were looking for a suspect who had just committed a felony with a firearm and you're in the wrong place at the wrong time CCing.
 

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Found this awhile back that either Mas Ayoob or Clint Smith had written reference Baby Face Nelson alluding to how these individuals were able to escape capture for so long.

Situation: Struggling to be the "alpha" in a gang of cop-killers, this one particularly enjoys it.
Lesson: The gunman who killed more FBI agents than any single criminal in history did so with six "S-es": Stealth, Surprise, Sophisticated weapons, Splitting when overmatched, Spotting his opponents sooner, and a degree of Skill uncommon among criminals.
In the many years of research from which this continuing feature is drawn, I've been able to learn a few things. One is the dynamics of human violence are timeless. Another is those who understand their enemies have a much better chance of defeating them. With that in mind, let's go back to what historian John Toland called the "Dillinger Days."
Perhaps the second most infamous criminal of that period, next to John Dillinger himself, was his associate Lester Gillis, a.k.a. "Baby Face Nelson." Of the various fake identities the wanted killer used, "George Nelson" was the one that stuck with the newspapers then, and the history books later. Standing a quarter inch under five feet five and weighing 133 pounds, the young criminal preferred to be called "Big George" and none who knew him dared utter the words "Baby Face" in his presence.
A classic example of "little man syndrome," he was a different breed of killer in a nest of infamous killers. Other members of the gang, such as Harry Pierpont and John Hamilton, murdered cops; the one man John Dillinger himself ever killed was a police sergeant. Dillinger's sociopathic lieutenant, Homer Van Meter, killed at least as many police officers as Nelson, but all seem to have done it out of expedience to avoid capture, and Dillinger even lived long enough to express regret over it. Nelson, however, was seen as an unstable psychopath even by fellow gang members, a man who seemed to snuff out human life for pleasure because it made him feel bigger and more powerful, and he considered a dead cop the ultimate trophy.
Nelson had no qualms about killing innocent citizens, either. On November 23, 1930, Nelson and a handful of punks were robbing a roadhouse in Summit, Illinois when an off-duty cop drew a revolver and fired two shots at the criminals. A Nelson henchman turned out the lights, and Nelson and his cohorts fired sawed-off shotguns wildly into the crowd. They missed the officer, but killed three innocent women and wounded two innocent, unarmed men.
Nelson biographers Steven Nickel and William J. Helmer note that during a Mason City, Iowa bank robbery by the Dillinger gang, Nelson machine-gunned a man carrying a portfolio: "Nelson strode over to the fallen man and tore the portfolio from his grasp. He looked inside, probably searching for a gun, but found only papers. 'Stupid son of a *****,' he scolded the bleeding man, 'I thought you were a cop.'"
Nelson used a Thompson submachine gun to shoot multiple unarmed citizens, one of whom had bravely but perhaps foolishly grabbed him, during a bank robbery in South Bend, Indiana, written up in this space in 2006. He was shot by an armed citizen who also put Van Meter out of action with a bullet that literally creased his skull, but the .22 slug stopped on Nelson's concealed steel vest.
That was the only gunfight in which Nelson shot it out with an armed citizen. His ability to murder armed police officers is more instructive to those learning to survive gunfights. "Baby Face" killed more FBI agents than any other single criminal in history, and dissecting how he fought armed and capable opponents is a useful thing for any of the good guys and gals who might one day face the next incarnation of such a monster.
Hardware And Tactics
All the famous bandits of the Depression years used high-tech weaponry. Nelson was no exception. The resident "gun nut" of the gang, he often acquired full auto weapons and customized rifles and pistols for other members as well as himself. He even had his own pet custom gunsmith, Hyman Lebman of San Antonio, Texas. Speaking freely to police after his arrest, Lebman said Nelson was extremely knowledgeable about firearms, and though he bought pocket pistols in caliber .25 and up, presumably as hideout guns, he didn't have much use for anything but a Colt .45 automatic for serious business.
Late in his career, "Baby Face" became enamored of the Colt .38 Super Auto. Introduced circa 1929 to give police a round that could shoot through auto bodies and primitive bulletproof vests, the Colt Super was surprisingly popular among federal agents of the period. Ironically, a larger proportion of .38 Supers seem to have been used by the more infamous bad guys than by the good. Homer Van Meter would die attempting to shoot police with one.
Though he and the gang used a wide variety of weapons, Nelson's favorites seem to have been the Thompson submachine gun (often with buttstock removed, for better concealment under a coat) and custom Lebman machine pistols made up of Colt Government Models in the two calibers of the time. Converted to full auto, these were fitted with Cutts compensators like a Thompson, and a Thompson vertical foregrip attached to the dust cover of the frame and abutting the trigger guard. Lebman also provided extended single stack magazines, which offered 18 rounds of .45 ACP or 22 rounds of .38 Super. (Girardin/Helmer, P.302) Nelson gave a Lebman/Colt machine pistol in .38 Super to Dillinger to celebrate a jailbreak.
Nelson's strategy might be written in shorthand as "S X 6." We've already explored the first "S"--Sophisticated weaponry. He was also smart enough to Split when overmatched. He appears to have practiced to hone his Skill at every opportunity, usually in the form of plinking but also, on at least one occasion, hunting small game with a Thompson SMG. His key strategies, however, seem to have been Surprise and Stealth, and the ability to Spot his opponents before they recognized him as a threat.
Unlucky Off-Duty Cop
On March 6, 1934, Nelson, Dillinger, Van Meter and others were holding up a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota when Nelson "made" a plain-clothes cop outside. Writes historian Jeffery King, "Everything was going smoothly until Nelson spotted off-duty policeman Hale Keith getting out of a car and hitching up his pants. Jumping on a desk, Nelson fired several shots through the bank's front window, four of which struck Keith. He would later recover. 'I got one of them!' shouted a jubilant Nelson. 'I got one of them!'" (King, P. 157) Other witnesses would report that Nelson "chirped with joy" (Nickel/Helmer, P. 167) and danced atop the bank counter after shooting the unsuspecting officer.
Little Bohemia, Part I
Exhausted from eluding a nationwide manhunt, the gang and their women met for a vacation at a rustic lodge complex called Little Bohemia near Rhinelander, Wisconsin in April of 1934. It did not take long for owner Emil Wanatka to "make" the gang members as such. Their pictures were all over the newspapers, and John Dillinger was casual about letting the Colt .45 automatics in his twin shoulder holsters peek out from under his jacket when playing cards. Promising to keep their identities secret, Wanatka made friends with Dillinger, Nelson and the rest. He and others would later describe plinking on the property with the gang members, using pistols and heavier weapons. "(Bartender Frank) Traube found a tin can and set it on a snowbank. (Gang member Tommy) Carroll took a few shots at it with his .38, nicking the target only once. Nelson drew a .45 and dazzled the young bartender by firing an entire clip into the can as it flopped across the ground." (Nickel/Helmer, P. 208) The shooting session developed into an informal match, won by Van Meter with his favorite rifle, a customized Winchester .351 autoloader.
However, a panicky Wanatka smuggled out a message to the Feds. J. Edgar Hoover then led the US Justice Department's Division of Investigation (DOI), whose name would change to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later, on July 1, 1935. Hoover authorized his star field commander in Chicago, the legendary Melvin Purvis, to use airplanes or whatever it took, to get a task force up to Rhinelander and capture the gang.
Purvis did his best, but the operation was necessarily put together hastily, and was complicated by poor budget, short notice, unseasonably frigid weather and finally, the Wanatka family's watchdogs, which set up a howl as the agents approached, tipping off the gang members.
A firefight erupted in the dark between gang members trying to get out of the lodge complex, and DOI agents trying to get in. All were well armed and amply supplied with fully automatic weapons. Team leader Purvis came under fire from a shadowy figure with a submachine gun, the bullets hitting near him in the snow. He attempted to return fire, but when he pulled the trigger his own Thompson SMG was silent. He threw it aside, pulled a handgun from his coat pocket, and fired at his antagonist, but saw him slip away in the shadows.
It was later determined Melvin Purvis had just shot it out with Baby Face Nelson, and neither had hit the other.
Meanwhile, other agents at the main part of the lodge saw three men get into an automobile and approached them, shotguns and Thompson up, shouting for them to surrender. However, the men had just left the bar after a few drinks, and the heater and radio in the car reportedly obscured their hearing, causing hesitancy that was mistaken for resistance. The agents opened fire. "It was just like a big windstorm," said one survivor of the hail of buckshot and .45 ACP bullets that tore into the vehicle. Two of the innocent bystanders had been severely and mistakenly wounded, and a third, Eugene Boiseneau, mistakenly killed. DOI men present described Agent Carter Baum, whose Thompson bullets were believed to have slain Boiseneau, as numb with horror when he realized he had shot the wrong people and killed one. However, the fight was still on, and those agents continued on their mission.
Little Bohemia, Part II
Their game plan completely blown, the agents tried to adapt as the gang members abandoned their women (some of whom would be captured) and fled in almost every open direction. It was easy for the lawmen to become disorganized, and it was a time before individual radio communication. Agent Jay Newman, armed with a .45 auto and a backup .38 revolver, piled into the front seat of a coupe with the emotionally shattered Agent Baum, who was still carrying the Thompson with which he had made his deadly mistake, and local constable Carl Christensen, armed only with his Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver in a shoulder holster under a sheepskin jacket. Searching the area, they stopped when they came upon an automobile in the brightly lit yard of a home near the Little Bohemia lodge. They stopped, and Newman told Baum to write down the license plate number of the vehicle.
They did not know they were in proximity to a vehicle containing Alvyn Koerner, a local man, lodge owner Emil Wanatka, and Baby Face Nelson, who had commandeered the car and kidnapped the men to escape. Wanatka would say later that Nelson, seeing the FBI vehicle pull up, tucked his drawn Colt .45 auto back into his shoulder holster, and then produced his Lebman/Colt machine pistol from under his coat.
Suddenly, swiftly, Nelson was at the door of the FBI vehicle, the machine pistol up. Newman was at the wheel, the huge Baum in the middle with notepad in hand and Thompson on-safe in his lap, and Christensen on the right, pressed tightly against the driver's door by the bulk of the big agent. Nelson growled at them, "I know who you are! A bunch of ******* government cops with vests on! I can give it to you ******** high and low!"
Christensen slipped his hand under his coat to the shoulder holster, normally a tactically excellent draw location for a seated man in a car, but he was wedged so tightly between Baum and the car door that he could not move the gun. He sat still, biding his time. Nelson ordered them to get out.
As Newman stepped onto the running board, the front seat became less crowded. There was range of movement again. Christensen was at last able to pull his .38 from the shoulder holster, and Baum brought his Thompson up on Nelson.
But Baum did not fire.
Nelson did.
He held the trigger back on the machine pistol. Newman grabbed at it, but a bullet hit his skull, glancing off but knocking him to the ground, stunned. Christensen took a hit in his right elbow and felt the revolver leave his hand, and he tried to duck behind Baum before more bullets tore into him, and then he was out of the car, trying to run, shot to pieces. Carter Baum was shot in the throat. He managed to get his feet on the ground, staggered past Christensen a few steps, then collapsed across a nearby fence, dying. Nelson poured another burst into the helpless Christensen for good measure and felled him, snatched up the constable's fallen service revolver, then leapt back into his car and sped off into the night.
Newman, regaining his senses after his stunning but superficial head wound, emptied his .45 auto at the fleeing vehicle and managed only to hit Christensen again in the foot with a stray shot. Christensen found himself lying next to Baum's dropped Thompson, tried to shoot at the escaping Nelson with it, but couldn't get it off-safe. Wounded in both lungs and the liver, hit by nine .45 slugs, the constable would survive, as would Agent Newman. But Carter Baum was dead, the first Federal Agent notch on Baby Face Nelson's gun.
Bad Car Stop
April 30, 1934, Bellwood, Indiana. Three officers recognized Nelson, Van Meter and two other gang members, and pulled their car over, stopping their cruiser in front. Nelson leapt from his vehicle with SMG in hand and took them at gunpoint. Says chronicler Jeffery King, "After beating the driver to the ground when he emerged, Nelson told the other two officers to start running. As the men, with their hands still raised, started up the highway, Nelson calmly aimed a machine gun at their backs. The other outlaws begged Nelson not to shoot, telling him it would only make things worse for them. Disappointed, the diminutive gangster lowered his weapon, but then suddenly whirled and peppered the police car with machine-gun fire, completely destroying it and shooting out most of the glass." (King, P.189)
Deadly Rest Stop
July 15, 1934, was a Sunday night as hot in Illinois as the night at Little Bohemia had been bitterly cold. Illinois State Police troopers Gilbert Cross and Fred McAllister were coming off duty when McAllister spotted a trio of sedans parked on the side of a secondary road, surrounded by men on foot and at least one woman. Thinking they could help with car problems, the troopers stopped and began to step out. McAllister asked, "What's the trouble there?"
"No trouble at all," said Baby Face Nelson in a mockingly "purring" voice (King, P.206), as he stepped out of cover with his already raised Lebman/Colt machine pistol and opened fire. Seeing the police car approach, he had slipped the weapon out of his Hudson sedan and carefully hidden himself behind the hard cover of a big Hudson sedan.
Before either of the troopers could reach the .38s in their cross-draw uniform holsters, they were swept with .45 slugs. Hit in the shoulder, McAllister fell into a roadside ditch out of the line of fire. Cross was hit six times, two bullets passing perilously close to his heart. The trio of gang members sped away. Both troopers survived, amazingly so in the case of Trooper Cross.
The Penultimate Gunfight
On November 27, 1934, the net was closing on Nelson. FBI agents were converging on a part of Illinois where he had been spotted. By now, cohorts John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter had been killed by police in Chicago and St. Paul respectively, shot in the back as they tried to run. Nelson had become fatalistic, and had told friends he knew his time was coming, and when it came he was going to go out in a blaze of glory and "take a few of them with me." He had recently spent time with a large quantity of .45 ACP practice ammunition obtained through "a friend with a friend in the Navy," shooting up some rural woods and killing a few small game animals with his Thompson, bringing them home for supper.
At approximately 3:30 PM, near Barrington, Illinois, DOI agents William Ryan and Thomas McDade passed a black Ford driven by Nelson with his stooge, John Paul Chase, in the right front seat and Nelson's petite wife Helen in the right rear. Lawmen and crooks "made" each other simultaneously. Nelson spun into a U-turn, coming up behind the FBI car. The left rear seat area of the fugitive's Ford was filled with ammunition and loaded magazines, including a Thompson SMG, a Winchester .351 carbine with extended magazine and a Colt Monitor, the commercial version of the selective fire Browning Automatic Rifle. Nelson told Chase to unlimber the BAR. Chase opened fire through the front windshield, not with the gun's muzzle outside the car, and the reverberation and muzzle blast must have been shatteringly disorienting inside Nelson's Ford. This may be why the full-auto .30/06 fire did little damage to the FBI car.
McDade, at the wheel, was armed only with a .38 Special, but Ryan was carrying a brace of Colt .38 Super Automatics. Agent Ryan fired to his rear, as Nelson drove with his right hand and shot at the agents southpaw out the window with his own .38 Super while Chase hosed them with the BAR. Ryan must have felt totally undergunned, but suddenly he saw Nelson's Ford start to slow down and the gap increase between the two vehicles.
Moments later, with the Nelson vehicle out of sight behind them, McDade took a turn too fast and went off the road and crashed. The car was lodged in place, and the two special agents jumped out, McDade with his revolver and Ryan with his second .38 Super, taking cover behind the wrecked vehicle and awaiting the gangsters. But they never came. One Special Agent turned sheepishly to the other and said, "Aren't we supposed to be chasing them?"
They did not know that Ryan's .38 Super had performed as advertised: its bullets had pierced the radiator of Nelson's Ford, and the cop-killer's car was dying. He never would catch up to them. Meanwhile, the pursuit had been passed by another G-car containing Special Agents Sam Cowley and Herman Hollis. They had banged their own U-turn and were now chasing Nelson, whose saga was approaching finis.
The Final Battle
Just as he'd "made" the first pair of agents, Baby Face Nelson had "made" the second when they turned to pursue him pursuing the first pair. As they crossed the town line from Fox River Grove into Barrington, Illinois, Nelson ordered Chase to fire the BAR out the back window, at this new threat.
But his car was dying. Observing the entryway to a cemetery, Nelson spun the car into it suddenly, causing the agents' car to overshoot past them. Nelson ordered his wife to run and take cover in a nearby field as he grabbed a Thompson from the back seat and bailed out with Chase, who still had the BAR. The FBI car slewed to a stop and the agents jumped out, seeking cover. Cowley with a Thompson holding a 50-round drum of .45 ACP, and Hollis with a Remington Model 11 short-barrel 12 gauge auto, ducked behind the front and rear respectively of their unmarked Hudson sedan.
Evidence showed the vehicles were 40 to 50 yards apart when the gunfight began. Some 30 witnesses at distances from 100 to 300 yards away (at a construction site, and at two service stations) saw what happened next.
The two sides shot at each other for what seemed like a long time. Suddenly, the small man near the Ford (Nelson) clutched his side and ducked behind the car. He exchanged a short automatic weapon for a long one with his tall accomplice. Chase was now hosing with the Thompson as Nelson--shot side-to-side with a .45 ball round that perforated his liver and stomach before exiting--sat on the running board and reloaded Chase's Colt Monitor/BAR, as if catching his breath. Then they swapped guns again. Nelson tried to fire the Thompson briefly, then said to Chase that it was jammed, and threw it away and grabbed a Winchester .351 with a long magazine out of the back seat.
And then, incredibly, Nelson left his cover and walked forward toward the agents, firing. Eyewitness Robert Hayford would say later, "It was just like Jimmy Cagney. I never seen nothing like it. That fellow just kept a-coming right at them two lawmen, and they must have hit him plenty, but nothing was going to stop that fellow."
Hollis leaned out and triggered the shotgun, and witnesses saw Nelson fall as if his feet had been swept out from under him, but he got back up and marched forward, still firing the .351. The witnesses saw Cowley run from the car and go into a ditch, attempt to shoot his SMG with no result, and then fall, motionless. They saw Hollis attempt to fire with his shotgun, also with no result, then draw an automatic pistol from under his coat and stagger toward a telephone pole before he fell and lay motionless, his Colt .38 Super unfired in his hand.
They saw Nelson stand over the two still forms, holding his gun menacingly, then stagger toward their car, as his wife ran toward him from the field where she had been hiding. He, she, and Chase jumped into the FBI Hudson and fled.
Hollis was dead, his brain exploded. Cowley lived until the wee hours of the next morning. Nelson died at 7:35 PM, in his wife's arms. She and Chase dumped his riddled body at a graveyard.
Nelson died a few days short of his 26th birthday.
Lessons
As we review the above gunfights, let's pay attention to each "S" of the six. Sophisticated weaponry? Full auto .45 ACP firepower in-close became a force multiplier that let Nelson "sweep" a car with three Federal agents and another with two state troopers. Stealth and Surprise? Nelson used both in each of those incidents, and Surprise when he made "the hunter the hunted" against Ryan and McDade, and when he unexpectedly swerved to a stop and made his deadly stand against Hollis and Cowley.
Surprise was also what let him shoot Officer Keith from ambush. His ability to Spot his antagonists in time to attack them was pivotal in his ability to shoot the lawmen at Little Bohemia, at the Illinois roadside and in Barrington. It was Skill at arms that let him wipe out a carload of cops in Wisconsin and again in Illinois, and to let him live long enough to walk into the guns of his opponents and murder two agents in his "last stand." Baby Face Nelson Split the scene and survived to flee Little Bohemia, but died when he chose the opposite strategy in Barrington.
More important, however, are the lessons we learn from his victims. Don't let yourself be Spotted. Officer Keith did, hitching up his gunbelt under his plain clothes, and he took four .45 slugs. You be ready for as yet unspotted danger. If the two young troopers had pulled up a distance away, and had their hands on their primary or backup handguns, the incident in Illinois might have had a more satisfactory outcome. Don't let yourself he crowded into positions where you can't access your weapons or where you can be approached unseen. Three lawmen at Little Bohemia were shot to ribbons because they did so--and while in the midst of a hot manhunt for dangerous criminals, no less.
Have Sophisticated firepower on your side. Today's FBI agents and cops with patrol rifles and proper training might have found Nelson and Chase to be easy meat that last terrible day in Barrington, in a firefight across half a football field. Always keep a 360 degree danger scan, especially in known danger situations. Remember Little Bohemia and that "peaceful" Midwestern roadside yet again.
Don't send traumatized men into danger zones. Nelson told one of his cohorts that the big agent (Baum) had him cold but didn't shoot. Baum's "Tommy" was still on-safe when Christensen grabbed it, tried to shoot, and couldn't off-safe it. Did Baum forget to hit the safety, or is it more likely that, literally minutes after killing the wrong man with the same gun, the psychologically devastated agent couldn't shoot a man he now needed to shoot?
Know thy weapons! Witnesses saw Hollis try to fire his shotgun and fail before he was cut down by Nelson--the Remington 12 gauge was found empty. There were failures to fire with Baum, Purvis, Christensen, Cowley and Nelson himself in the above documented incidents, all with the Thompson. A splendid weapon, the Thompson SMG has a complicated fire control system, with its manual safety separate from its selector switch and not especially ergonomic to operate.
Cowley's gun was empty and he did not recognize it in time and transition to his handgun. Baum's situation has been discussed. Christensen was wounded in the gun arm, and we don't know what the hell happened with Purvis, who was a "gun guy" and considered a weapons expert by his peers; which Cowley apparently was not. We do know that Purvis, being a gun guy, instantly transitioned to his handgun when his Thompson wouldn't fire, and drove the deadly Nelson away with it. Chase, when he spilled his guts after his capture, said the wounded Nelson blurted that the reloaded Thompson had jammed before he threw it aside to grab the .351 he used to murder his last two victims.
The lessons are there. They've been there for a very long time. If we ignore them, we do so at our peril, and to the detriment of those who trust us to keep them safe.
Bibliography: Baby Face Nelson: Portrait of a Public Enemy by Steven Nickel & William J. Helmet, Cumberland House, 2002. Dillinger: the Untold Story by G. Russell Girardin with William J. Helmet, Indiana University Press, 1994. John Dillinger by Dary Matera, Carroll & Graft 2004. The Rise and Fall of the Dillinger Gang by Jeffery S. King, Cumberland House, 2005.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning
 

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Thanks Grady and Gogriz and all the posters.

Some of the six Ss reworked for me: Skill - become a quicker, better shot. Spotting - improve situational awareness. Stealth - blend in and don't let people know I carry. Surprise - when finally trapped and forced to use deadly force, get the first shot.

Even in Baby Face Nelson's day, people in society reached the point of 'taking as many with me as possible' when I go. More common today than ever.
 

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Good reads guys; thanks!
 
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