John Dillinger

john dillinger


Also Knows As: John Herbert Dillinger

Born: Wednesday June 22nd 1903

Died: Friday July 22nd 1934

Age: 31

Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds

Crime Family Association:  N/A



Public Enemy Number 1

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, states on their website that gangster John Dillinger was one of the most dangerous criminals of all time. Even through Dillinger has been dead since 1934, he still tops the list because of the era he lived in, which was a new era of crime fighting for law enforcement, when the Bureau was fighting a major gangster problem and implementing new authorities.

Dillinger was a Chicago gangster whose Prohibition era crime spree came to an end when he was shot down by FBI agents in front of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago. FBI agents had staked out the Biograph, which is still standing, while Dillinger was watching a Clark Gable movie with two female companions on a steamy summer night on July 22, 1934.

According to information on the Official FBI website, Dillinger was named one of the biggest criminals of all time because of the importance of the Prohibition era in crime fighting and the impact the notorious gangster had on FBI growth.

Depression era Celebrity

In Depression era American, Dillinger was a type of media celebrity. He was seen as an ant-hero by man people and came to symbolize the criminal of the day. In an era that included recognizable names like Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly; Dillinger stood out as one of the most colorful.

Public Enemy Number One, Dillinger was a gangster that ran with a gang of vicious criminals whose crime sprees included bank robberies and jailbreaks. At least one law enforcement officer was killed during their crime spree.

Dillinger was a vicious thief who ran a notorious gang of violent criminals. Public Enemy Number Once and his band of gangsters terrorized the Midwest, counting among their crimes the killing of 10 men, wounding 7 other men, bank robbing, robbing police arsenals and staging 3 jail breaks.

John Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis. His father was a hardworking grocer who was a harsh disciplinarian at times. Dillinger’s mother died when the tot as three and he resented his stepmother.

Early Life

As a teenager, Dillinger got into trouble frequently. His father worried that he was being led astray by the temptations of the city and moved the family to a farm new Mooresville, Indiana. In spite of the move to the country, John soon began to run wild.

Dillinger broke with his father and enlisted in the Navy, but deserted ship when he got into trouble. He returned to Mooresville and married 16 year old Beryl Hovius in 1924. The newlyweds moved to Indianapolis but Dillinger had no luck finding work. He and the town pool shark, Ed Singleton, joined together to rob a grocery store, but they were caught. Dillinger confessed and got a stiff sentence, while Singleton stood trial and was sentenced to only two years. In prison Dillinger became a bitter man.

Dillinger was released from prison on May 10, 1933, after 8.5 years.

Dillinger robbed a bank almost immediately and was put into jail again. Four days later, eight of his friends escaped from prison. Three of these men returned for Dillinger and broke him out of prison, shooting and killing the sheriff in the process.

Once out of prison, Dillinger and his gang went on a crime spree that included murder, robbery and mayhem across the Midwest.

Biograph Theater

Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago FBI Office, Melvin Purvis, was able to find out where Dillinger would be on that fateful night at the Biograph when a woman named Anna Sage betrayed his whereabouts.

Anna Sage was a friend of Dillinger’s girlfriend, Polly Hamilton. Reportedly Sage was motivated to betray Dillinger in the hope that cooperation with authorities would earn reward money and prevent a threatened deportation to Romania.

Sage reported to Melvin Purvis that Dillinger had invited Hamilton and Sage to a movie, either at the Biograph or Marbro.

Based on the intelligence from Sage, FBI agents staked out both theaters. On that night, Sage called Purvis to tell him that they threesome as going to the Biograph to see a Clark Gable movie.

FBI Agents waited outside the Biograph. When the gangster walked out with the two women two hours later, Purvis lit a cigar, signaling his men to move in. As the agents moved in Dillinger realized that was happening and reached for his pistol to shoot the agents. FBI agents opened fire and Dillinger was hit. He staggered and fell. The famous criminal died 20 minutes later at nearby Alexian Brothers Hospital.

John Dillinger, Public Enemy Number One, has continued to fascinate people, even though it has been over 70 years since he was shot down.

 John Dillinger In July’s WWD Video