- NAME: John Dillinger
- OCCUPATION: Thief, Organized Crime Boss
- BIRTH DATE: June 22, 1903
- DEATH DATE: July 22, 1934
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Indianapolis, Indiana
- PLACE OF DEATH: Chicago, Illinois
- Full Name: John Herbert Dillinger
- Nickname: "Public Enemy No. 1"
- AKA: John Dillinger
- AKA: Johnnie Dillinger
- Nickname: "Jackrabbit"
- AKA: Jimmy Lawrence
Best Known For
John Dillinger was an infamous gangster and bank robber during the Great Depression, and was know as "Jackrabbit" and "Public Enemy No. 1."
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In this one, its members were not as carefully chosen as the previous gang, being composed of several misfits and a few psychopaths, including Lester Gillis, also known as "Baby Face Nelson." Dillinger also teamed up with his friend from the Reformatory, Homer Van Meter. The new gang located to the St. Paul, Minnesota, area. During the month of March, the Dillinger Gang went on a crime spree in four states,
robbing a half dozen banks. Some of the robberies went off without a hitch while others proved to be more problematic. After Dillinger and another gang member were wounded during a bank robbery in Iowa, they were forced to hole up in a Wisconsin hideout called "Little Bohemia."
Soon after their arrival, the lodge owner, Emil Wanatka, recognized his new guest as the famous John Dillinger. Dillinger assured Wanatka that there wouldn't be any trouble, but to be sure, he monitored the lodge owner and his family closely. However, because the gang's other members made Wanatka fear for his family's safety, he wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney George Fisher revealing the identity of his guests. Wanatka's wife, Nan, convinced Dillinger to let her go to her nephew's birthday party. She was able to elude their guard, Baby Face Nelson, and mailed the letter. Soon after, Melvin Purvis, the local FBI agent, was contacted.
In the early morning of April 23, 1934, FBI agents drove to the Little Bohemia lodge. About two miles from the resort, they turned off their car lights and trekked on foot into the woods. The agents spotted three men walking out of the lodge and into a car in the parking lot. Thinking that the men they were gang members trying to escape, the agents opened fire on the car, killing one of the men and wounding the other two. The lodge exploded with gunfire as the real gang members were alerted to the intrusion. Following a carefully planned escape route, all gang members slipped out the back of the lodge and ran in different routes into the woods.
By the summer of 1934, John Dillinger had dropped out of sight. Because of his notoriety, life had become increasingly difficult. The FBI had labeled Dillinger "Public Enemy No. 1" and placed a $10,000 reward on his head. To avoid detection, Dillinger underwent a crude form of plastic surgery in May of that year at the home of Jimmy Probasco, a Chicago bar owner with mob connections. He spent the following month at Probasco's home, healing from his surgery and going under the alias Jimmy Lawrence—the real name of a petty thief who had once dated Dillinger's former girlfriend, Billie Frechette.
On June 30, 1934, John Dillinger robbed his last bank. He was accompanied by Van Meter, "Baby Face" Nelson, and one other unidentified individual. Shortly before noon, the gang arrived at the Merchant's National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. As they entered, Nelson fired his machine gun to get everyone's attention inside the bank, which in turn got everyone's attention outside the bank. The next few minutes unfolded like a scene from a Hollywood gangster movie.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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