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ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4717-4 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4713-6 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7103-2

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CONTENTS Introduction ............................................................. 7 Chapter 1: Prison: Crime School .............................. 15 Chapter 2: Known Associates: The Dillinger Gang ...... 25 Chapter 3: Prison Break Number One ....................... 37 Chapter 4: Prison Break Number Two ....................... 41 Chapter 5: Evading Police Again ............................... 51 Chapter 6: Death of America’s Gangster .................... 57 Further Reading/Educational Videos ........................ 60 Bibliography/Citations ............................................ 61 Index ..................................................................... 62 Author’s Biography/Photo Credits ............................ 64

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John Dillinger


One minute, forty seconds … flat J ohn Herbert Dillinger told reporters that robbing a bank took only one minute and forty seconds. By the time he’d reached the age of 30, the Midwestern boy who played high-school baseball had perfected the art of armed bank robbery. Like many career criminals though, he didn’t begin life as a gentleman bandit. He came from a large family of loving parents, and although his father believed in a strict upbringing, he didn’t undergo the abuse that some criminals survived as children. The legendary criminal was born on June 22, 1903, to John Wilson Dillinger, a grocer, who later turned farmer, and a homemaker, Mary Ellen “Mollie” Lancaster. Dillinger joined his older sister, Audrey born March 6, 1889, in playing at the family residence in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana. He lived a typical boyhood in a middle-class residential neighborhood in a disciplined environment. His mother, Mollie, died in 1907 not long before he turned four. Some reports say she died from complications experienced during his birth. Others say she died from an extended illness. According to

John Herbert Dillinger was an American gangster of the Great Depression. He led a group known as the “Dillinger Gang.”



Dillinger and his violent gang terrorized the Midwest, robbing banks and killing or wounding their victims.

History.com, she died from a stroke. His older sister, Audrey, who was 17 years old at the time of her mother’s death, took over caring for John while her father worked. She also married in 1907. She and her husband, Emmett “Fred” Hancock, lived in the Dillinger home. Eager to start their own family, they made a family of seven children. John had plenty of playmates and more to come. In 1912, his father remarried, making Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fields his wife. Young Dillinger both resented his stepmother and eventually came to like her. Lizzie and John’s father also wanted to add more children to their family. The following year, John became a big brother when Lizzie gave birth to Hubert M. Dillinger. Before the marriage, John had behaved like the typical boisterous child, attending Sunday school and church, and developing a love for baseball. Perhaps affected by his older sister and her family moving into their own home, young Dillinger started acting out. At first, he and his playmates played small pranks, such as stealing a watermelon here and there.


John Dillinger

He continued to exhibit the good manners he’d been taught at home. His Sunday school teacher would later recall that he always tipped his hat to her when they passed on the street. And at home, his family grew, as his father and stepmother welcomed John’s younger sister, Doris M. Dillinger Hockman, in 1918. Some of his behavior concerned his parents, especially in light of their growing brood. His gallant, middle-class manners seemed incongruous with one of the pranks he and his friends pulled. Bullying another child, they pretended that they planned to cut him with a saw. Unwilling to hurt him, Dillinger stopped the blade a few inches from the child’s face. It is unknown the thoughts of the other children who participated, but John later stated that he only did it to scare the young man. Many people noticed this odd dichotomy, referred to later in Federal Bureau of Investigation documents as “the flaws in his bewildering personality.”

Dillinger didn’t like school although he evidenced a high IQ. Intellectually curious, he enjoyed working with his hands and creating intricate plans. During his school years, he played baseball, but love of the sport wasn’t enough to keep him in school. He quit high school at 16 to take a job at an Indianapolis machine shop. The job didn’t last long, and the teen Dillinger began to move toward what his father considered too wild of behavior. He gave up his grocery shop in 1920 and purchased a farm in Mooresville, Indiana, his second wife’s hometown. The elder Despite his dislike of school, Dillinger had a high IQ.



Dillinger believed that the influences of urban life had corrupted his child and felt that a move to the country could fix it. While his father immediately took to the life of the gentleman farmer, Dillinger abhorred life in the country. He kept his machine shop job, commuting the 18 miles from the farm to the city. He lived the wild, rebellious teenager life, staying out late, drinking, fighting, and embroiling himself in romance. The ladies always loved John Dillinger. A handsome man with piercing eyes and straightforward manner, he romanced many women. Occasionally, he hired prostitutes. In 1922, his parents added their last child to their family when Lizzie delivered his youngest sister, Frances Dillinger Thompson. The youngsters added to his parents’ household did nothing to temper his behavior, which continued to escalate, culminating with him stealing a car on July 21, 1923. Described as handsome and enigmatic, Dillinger was famous for his flamboyant and bold manner.


John Dillinger

The story behind the car theft has also lost its specificity since it occurred. One version goes that his motive was to impress a girl he liked. Another version said he had just broken up with a girl he really liked and had gone wild on the night of the breakup. Either way, he stole the vehicle, then abandoned it in the city. Police found Dillinger wandering the streets of Indianapolis disoriented and unable to adequately explain what he was doing. He admitted that he’d driven a car to the city and parked it a few blocks away. Police suspected something awry and arrested him after checking the vehicle. By some accounts, his father interceded, and police released him the following day. The theft hurt his relationship with his father and contributed to his momentous decision to join the military. John somehow made it to a U.S. Navy enlisting office and joined. He completed his basic training and found that his machine shop experience came in handy. He received an assignment as a petty officer third-class machinery repairman to the battleship USS Utah. Unfortunately, in practice, his job amounted to shoveling coal. Dillinger joined the U.S. Navy. He worked as machinery repair man on the battleship USS Utah.



Life on the ship didn’t suit John. He skipped his duty assignment one day, and as punishment, the Navy docked him nearly a month’s pay and placed him in the brig ( jail). He skipped duty a second time, landing himself in trouble again, but he absconded when the ship docked in Boston. That let him avoid punishment, but it resulted in the first time he had a bounty placed on his head. The U.S. Navy offered $50 for his capture. The military put little effort into finding him, though, and after a few months, the Navy simply issued him a dishonorable discharge. Dillinger returned to Mooresville, where he romanced Beryl Ethel Hovius. The two dated briefly before John proposed marriage. The pair married in 1924 after Beryl turned 16. They lived with his parents briefly. Neither could find work, and John got caught stealing chickens. His father smoothed things over with the farmer from whom Dillinger’s time in the Navy did not suit him. Failing to arrive at work one day, he was placed in the brig (jail) and was denied a month’s pay.


John Dillinger

he had stolen, but John decided that he and his bride needed to move somewhere with work available. They tried living with her parents briefly in Martinsville where John found work at an upholstery shop. They wanted to live on their own but needed to work and save money. Dillinger also found an outlet for one of his talents in Martinsville. He landed a spot on the baseball team, the AC Athletics, as its shortstop. Before he was public enemy number one, John Dillinger spent the summer of 1924 playing semi-pro baseball. One of the umpires, Edgar Singleton, held a second “job” as the town pool shark. Ed was a distant relation of Dillinger’s stepmother, Lizzie, and it was this friendship with his distant family member that led to his first major arrest and conviction. Looking for a way to earn easy money, Singleton and Dillinger robbed a Mooresville grocer, assaulting him in the process. The grocer knew Dillinger and his family. Police quickly found the pair and pressed charges, but the sentences allocated to the two differed vastly. Singleton received only a two-year sentence after pleading not guilty and standing trial. On the advice of his father, Dillinger told the truth. He pled guilty to conspiracy to commit a felony and assault and battery with intent to rob. For his confession, he received a conviction, and the judge meted out one of the harshest sentences possible, joint sentences of 10 to 20 years and two to 14 years. At 21, and having committed his first robbery, John Dillinger entered the Indiana State Prison. He would serve nine and a half years of his sentence before his father successfully petitioned for his early release. After gathering a petition with 188 signatures, Dillinger left prison in 1933. He returned to the family farm, only to learn that his stepmother had just died. With the Great Depression in full swing, he could not find work. That was okay, though, because in those nine and a half years in the Indiana Reformatory and Indiana State Prison, John studied bank robbery. He learned from the best.




John Dillinger

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