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Episode
222

John Dillinger

Dec 24, 2021
History
-
24
minutes
Crime
20th Century
The Great Depression
True crime
USA
Adventure

He was the most famous bank robber in American history and is still thought of as a Robin Hood-type figure in popular culture.

Learn about how John Dillinger went from a quiet life to becoming America's Public Enemy Number One, and how the law finally caught up with him.

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our four-part mini-series on gangsters and robbers, violent criminals who have managed to capture the public’s attention.

[00:00:33] In Part One, we talked about The Real Peaky Blinders and the criminals of the late 19th century and early 20th century Birmingham.

[00:00:43] Then in Part Two we talked about Al Capone, the Italian-American prohibition era gangster and leader of the Chicago Outfit.

[00:00:52] In Part Four we will talk about The Kray Twins, a pair of identical twins who terrorised London’s East End in the 1950s and 1960s.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will be talking about the notorious gangster and bank robber, the man called by the FBI “Public Enemy Number One”, John Dillinger.

[00:01:17] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:22] Our story starts with the arrival of a small boy, John Herbert Dillinger, on June 23rd of 1903, in Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, in the north east of the United States of America.

[00:01:38] His parents were honest, middle class Americans. His father was a hardworking grocer, but a harsh, strict man who would often beat the young Dillinger if he misbehaved.

[00:01:52] Tragically, Dillinger’s mother died when her son was just 3 years old. His father remarried six years later, but the young boy hated his new stepmother.

[00:02:04] Dillinger was, by all reports, very clever and charismatic but a bit of a cheeky boy. 

[00:02:11] He would play tricks on other people, and this soon turned into forming a small gang. The young boys wouldn’t do anything terrible, they would play pranks and tricks on people in the neighbourhood.

[00:02:25] Dillinger thought this was a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom, and he dropped out of school aged 16, getting a job in a metal workshop.

[00:02:35] However, he started to stay out all night, and this worried his father.

[00:02:40] He thought that the big city, and the friends his son was making in the city, were a bad influence on his teenage son, and that this small-time mischief would lead young John’s life down a dangerous path.

[00:02:55] So, he moved the family out of Indianapolis, buying a farm in the countryside outside a small town called Mooresville, hoping that if the boy were removed from temptation he would manage to stay out of trouble.

[00:03:12] Well, he was wrong.

[00:03:14] Dillinger continued to get into trouble, and before long this turned from naughty tricks to literal crime.

[00:03:22] In 1922, when he was 19 years old, he was arrested for car theft. In order to avoid going to prison, and to try to get his life back on track, his father pushed him towards the navy. In 1923 he was assigned to a warship, but within a few months he had run away. 

[00:03:45] His main duties involved shovelling coal into a large furnace deep in the belly of the ship, and Dillinger, well, he had bigger plans than that.

[00:03:57] After being dishonourably discharged from the navy, in effect sacked from the navy, he returned to the small town his father had moved to, Mooresville, where he met a 16-year-old girl, fell in love and married.

[00:04:13] His father must have no doubt been happy because - perhaps this was what the then 20-year-old John Dilliger needed to get his life back on track.

[00:04:23] He did, reportedly, try to live an honest life for several months, but struggled to find a job or anything resembling a normal rhythm to life. 

[00:04:35] He joined a baseball team, but it was there that he met a former convict named Ed Singleton, who was to prove to have been a worse influence than anyone Dillinger had ever met in Indianapolis. 

[00:04:50] They were drinking together one night when Singleton told Dillinger about a grocery store run by an old man. Singleton told Dillinger that the old man would be going home after a trip to the barber’s, and would have all of the money the shop had made on him, he would be carrying it.

[00:05:10] Given that the man was old and would struggle to defend himself, it would be easy money.

[00:05:17] The plan was that Dillinger would go up to the old grocer and rob him, while Singleton would be waiting in a car down the street.

[00:05:26] It sounded like a decent plan to Dillinger. He got ready for the robbery, taking a pistol and a large machine bolt, essentially a large piece of metal machinery, with which he planned to hit the grocer over the head and run off with the money.

[00:05:44] It’s not clear exactly what happened on that day, and there are differing statements about the sequence of events, but it’s thought that when Dillinger approached the man, he turned round and confronted him, Dillinger fired his gun and then ran away, thinking he had shot and killed the elderly grocer.

[00:06:05] In fact, he hadn’t, and the man survived.

[00:06:08] Dillinger ran down the road towards Singleton’s getaway car, but Singleton was nowhere to be seen, he had driven away.

[00:06:17] Both Dillinger and Singleton were seen by eye-witnesses, and they were quickly arrested by the police.

[00:06:24] After his arrest his father asked the local prosecutor what the best approach was to minimise his son’s sentence.

[00:06:33] This local prosecutor advised Dillinger’s father that, given his son didn’t have a criminal record, if he pleaded guilty, if he said he was guilty of the crimes, then he would be given a lenient, a forgiving, a short sentence. 

[00:06:51] Essentially, he would not have to spend a long time in prison.

[00:06:55] Dillinger’s father persuaded his son to plead guilty, and as a result he thought he didn’t need a lawyer.

[00:07:04] The prosecutor had either been incredibly stupid or had tricked Dillinger’s father.

[00:07:10] After he entered his guilty plea he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. The judge had decided to make an example out of the young Dillinger and give him a harsh sentence.

[00:07:25] Singleton, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty, he said he didn’t do anything, but he retained the services of a lawyer.

[00:07:34] Despite the fact that Singleton already had a criminal record, he was given only two to fourteen years, of which he ended up serving only two.

[00:07:45] Aged 21, Dillinger was thrown into Indiana State Prison, and would remain incarcerated, would remain locked up for 9 years.

[00:07:55] From the moment he entered prison, he was angry, reportedly saying "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here".

[00:08:06] While in prison, he was popular with his other inmates

[00:08:10] He was a skilled worker, and would often do the work of his fellow inmates, which understandably made him some friends.

[00:08:18] The friends he made were, for the most part, seasoned criminals, and it was during his time in prison that Dilllinger learned the ropes, he got an apprenticeship in the career of bank robbing.

[00:08:32] Robbing a bank successfully, Dillinger found out, was a lot more complicated than walking into a bank, pointing a gun at someone, and holding out a bag for them to put money into.

[00:08:45] Dillinger and his friends studied bank robbing techniques that had been pioneered by an ex-Prussian army officer called Herman Lamm. 

[00:08:55] Lamm’s techniques involved meticulous, very careful planning. 

[00:09:00] You would study a bank carefully, make maps, make detailed plans, everyone involved in the robbery would have a specific task and have to stick to it

[00:09:13] It really was a military operation, Dillinger soon became an expert in the theory of bank robbing, and he planned to put his theories into practice with his new prison friends as soon as they got out.

[00:09:27] When he was eventually released on parole, in 1933 after eight and a half years locked up, he found America in the middle of the Great Depression.

[00:09:39] Even if Dillinger had wanted a normal job and normal life, it was very difficult to find work for anyone, let alone someone who had spent the best part of the last 10 years in prison.

[00:09:52] So, as you might imagine, Dillinger returned to a life of crime.

[00:09:58] He first robbed a bank in Ohio, but was arrested shortly after and put in jail, where he was to await trial.

[00:10:07] Just on a linguistic note, “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably but there is an important difference. 

[00:10:16] “Jail” is the place where suspected criminals are held before they are sentenced or where people convicted of minor crimes are held, and a “prison” is the place where more serious criminals are held after they have been sentenced.

[00:10:32] So, Dillinger was in jail, awaiting trial. 

[00:10:36] When he had been arrested, police had searched his pockets and found a map that looked like it was a map of a prison, it looked like it was a plan for a prison escape. 

[00:10:49] Dillinger claimed he didn’t know anything about it, but then just four days later his old friends from his previous prison escaped using exactly the same plans that had been found in Dillinger’s pocket.

[00:11:03] A few days later, some men came to the jail where Dillinger was being kept. They told the sheriff that they were prison officers and they had come to return Dillinger to Indiana State Prison, the prison where he had been serving his sentence for the robbery of the grocer.

[00:11:21] When the sheriff asked to see proof that these men were who they said they were, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot the sheriff dead. Of course, they weren’t prison officers, they were Dillinger’s friends from prison who had come to save him, now ready to rob some banks together.

[00:11:40] Let’s just pause for a moment to remind ourselves of John Dillinger’s life so far. 

[00:11:47] His mother had died before he was four, his father was a violent bully, he had fallen in with a bad crowd and then tried his luck at being a sailor. When that didn’t work out he tried his first robbery, and was caught. This was all before his 21st birthday. 

[00:12:06] He then spent almost 9 years in prison where he met some of the most professional bank robbers in America, and was released in the middle of the Great Depression. What’s more, his young wife had divorced him while he was in prison. 

[00:12:23] Then, he was broken out of jail while he was awaiting his sentence. 

[00:12:27] He was now “on the run” from the police, and if he were caught again he might easily spend another 10 or more years in prison, not getting out before his 40th birthday at best.

[00:12:40] Dillinger and his gang got to work robbing banks, first robbing police arsenals, stores of police weapons and armour, where they managed to steal machine guns, bullets, and bulletproof vests - the bank robber’s starter kit, you might say.

[00:12:58] They moved around the country frequently, but as their fame grew they had to be more and more careful - the police knew their identities, their pictures had been printed in the newspapers, and they were far from anonymous.

[00:13:15] They found this out the hard way when they were staying in a hotel in Arizona in January of 1934. A fire broke out in the hotel they were staying in, and the firemen who came to put out the fire recognised the men from their photos. The police were called, and Dillinger and his men were arrested.

[00:13:37] Now facing long jail sentences, and perhaps even the death sentence for the murder of the sheriff, things weren’t looking good for Dillinger and his gang.

[00:13:48] However, Dillinger was not only an intelligent and resourceful man, but he was also very talented with his hands - remember he spent time working in a metal workshop as a teenager. 

[00:14:01] He managed to get a piece of wood and whittle it down, sculpt it down to the shape of a gun. He then painted this fake wooden gun black, and when the time was right he jumped on one of the guards and pointed this fake gun at him.

[00:14:20] The guards believed it was real, then opened up the cell door, and Dillinger and his men managed to escape, taking with them the guards’ weapons.

[00:14:32] Now, up to this point only local police had been involved. Dillinger’s crimes were state-level crimes, not federal crimes, so the FBI, or what was then simply called the Bureau of Investigation, hadn’t been involved.

[00:14:50] Dillinger’s mistake was to steal a car and drive it across the Indiana-Illinois border, the border between the state of Indiana and the state of Illinois. 

[00:15:01] And with that simple act he had committed a federal crime, a national crime. 

[00:15:08] He likely didn’t know this, but it’s a federal offense to transport a stolen motor vehicle across state lines, and this meant that the federal government could now get involved in the chase.

[00:15:22] This was bad news for Dillinger. The last thing you want as a bank robber is the FBI on your tail.

[00:15:29] Several of Dillinger’s fellow gang members were caught by the police. Dillinger, however, was not.

[00:15:36] He teamed up with new criminals, and his crime spree continued, terrorising banks across the American midwest from 1933 to 1934.

[00:15:48] There was a strange public interest in the robberies that his gang were committing. 

[00:15:53] They would make front-page news, and there was a lot of interest in the techniques that the robbers had actually used, including reportedly posing as a salesperson for an alarm company, so they could get access to the vault, through to pretending to be a film crew looking for locations for a movie about bank robbers.

[00:16:15] Dillinger’s reputation grew, and he became a sort of Robin Hood figure in the public eye. Remember, we are right in the middle of the Great Depression here. People blamed the banks for the situation, and a man who was robbing from the banks, especially one as photogenic and reportedly as charismatic as Dillinger, was someone to be admired.

[00:16:39] The FBI, I should add, had refuted this image of Dillinger as a Robin Hood character, writing that he was a violent criminal whose only motive was getting rich.

[00:16:51] Now, returning to our story, by this time Dillinger had a new girlfriend, a lady called Evelyn Frechette. 

[00:16:59] She wasn’t actively involved with the bank robberies, but they travelled everywhere together. 

[00:17:05] On multiple occasions police officers almost caught them, turning up at apartments they had rented with fake names, but they were either too late or Dillinger and Frechette managed to escape in the nick of time, just before being captured.

[00:17:22] By the summer of 1934, after multiple close shaves, multiple close encounters with the police, with his face all over the newspapers and being named “Public Enemy Number One” by the FBI, Dillinger decided it was time for a change.

[00:17:39] It wasn’t time to stop robbing banks, certainly not, it was time to change himself. 

[00:17:45] He had tried to dye his hair a different colour and grow a moustache, but he was still recognisable

[00:17:53] He underwent amateur plastic surgery to change his appearance, and when he re-emerged he went by the name of Jimmy Lawrence, in an attempt to avoid being recognised as John Dillinger.

[00:18:07] On June 30th of 1934, remember this is still only just after a year after he was released from prison on parole, he committed his last bank robbery, in which a police officer was shot and killed.

[00:18:22] By this time Dillinger’s gang had robbed 12 separate banks, stolen $300,000, which is today’s equivalent of around $6 million, and killed 10 people in the process.

[00:18:37] Less than a month after his last robbery, police received a call from a lady called Anna Sage who said she had information about Dillinger’s whereabouts

[00:18:49] She was an immigrant from Romania, whose real name was Ana Cumpănaș, and had been forced to work as a prostitute for a Chicago mob boss.

[00:18:59] She was now a madam, she ran a brothel, but she had got on the wrong side of the US immigration service. 

[00:19:08] Long story short, she was going to be kicked out of the country, and she thought that if she could help the authorities get Dillinger then she would be allowed to stay.

[00:19:19] It’s not completely clear how Dillinger knew Cumpănaș, or Sage, but it’s thought that Dillinger’s girlfriend knew her. 

[00:19:28] Anyway, Dillinger trusted Cumpănaș, and it was this trust that was to be his downfall.

[00:19:35] Cumpănaș struck a deal with the FBI. 

[00:19:38] She told them that she, Dillinger and Dillinger’s girlfriend would be going to see a movie. She would wear an orange dress, so that the police could recognise her. 

[00:19:50] When they saw her, they would find Dillinger, they would be together.

[00:19:54] Sure enough, Cumpănaș, Dillinger and his girlfriend turned up at the movie theatre. 

[00:20:01] As they were leaving, the lead FBI agent, a man named Melvin Purvis looked Dillinger in the eye. He had finally found the most wanted bank robber in America. 

[00:20:15] Purvis lit a cigar, which was the prearranged signal to show his colleagues that Dillinger had been identified.

[00:20:23] Dillinger realised something was going on, he pulled out a gun and started to run, but not before three FBI officers had managed to shoot him three times, killing him almost instantly. 

[00:20:37] As he lay outside on the street, blood streaming from his head, onlookers reportedly pushed forward and put their handkerchiefs in his blood, that was the extent of how famous Dillinger was.

[00:20:51] And that was it, not much more than 13 months after it really started, the bank robbing career and life of America’s most wanted man was over. 

[00:21:03] His successful capture by the FBI is thought to have been the one case that really catapulted the organisation to nationwide fame, to be an organisation that was deeply feared by criminals. 

[00:21:17] Without Dillinger to lead it, the bank robbing gang was no more, and according to the FBI’s official website “The events of that sultry July night in Chicago marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era”.

[00:21:33] When it comes to the legacy of Dillinger himself, if this story was somewhat familiar to you it’s probably because you have seen the 2009 film “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp, where Dillinger is portrayed as a charismatic but troubled man, which doesn't seem to be too far from the truth. 

[00:21:55] Like all of the other characters we’ll encounter in this series, there’s no doubt that Dillinger was a criminal, a danger to society, and probably not a very nice man at all.

[00:22:07] But, if one has to compare him to Al Capone, the Peaky Blinders, or even to the Kray Twins, who we will meet in the next episode, he seems a little bit less dangerous.

[00:22:19] Yes, he was a bankrobber, yes, he was probably also a murderer, but there was a certain element of Robin Hood to him. 

[00:22:28] He might not have given money back to the poor, and there might not have been any noble aim to his robbery, but the fact that so many people in 1930s America felt cheated by the entire financial system meant that to many, Dillinger’s crimes weren’t really crimes at all.

[00:22:49] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on John Dillinger, Part Three of our four-part series on 20th century gangsters and criminals.

[00:23:00] As a reminder, in part one we heard about The Peaky Blinders, part two was Al Capone, and next up, part four will be on The Kray Twins.

[00:23:10] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:16] How do you think John Dillinger compares to The Peaky Blinders, Al Capone and The Kray Twins?

[00:23:23] Better, worse, or just different?

[00:23:26] I would love to know. 

[00:23:27] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:36] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:41] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our four-part mini-series on gangsters and robbers, violent criminals who have managed to capture the public’s attention.

[00:00:33] In Part One, we talked about The Real Peaky Blinders and the criminals of the late 19th century and early 20th century Birmingham.

[00:00:43] Then in Part Two we talked about Al Capone, the Italian-American prohibition era gangster and leader of the Chicago Outfit.

[00:00:52] In Part Four we will talk about The Kray Twins, a pair of identical twins who terrorised London’s East End in the 1950s and 1960s.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will be talking about the notorious gangster and bank robber, the man called by the FBI “Public Enemy Number One”, John Dillinger.

[00:01:17] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:22] Our story starts with the arrival of a small boy, John Herbert Dillinger, on June 23rd of 1903, in Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, in the north east of the United States of America.

[00:01:38] His parents were honest, middle class Americans. His father was a hardworking grocer, but a harsh, strict man who would often beat the young Dillinger if he misbehaved.

[00:01:52] Tragically, Dillinger’s mother died when her son was just 3 years old. His father remarried six years later, but the young boy hated his new stepmother.

[00:02:04] Dillinger was, by all reports, very clever and charismatic but a bit of a cheeky boy. 

[00:02:11] He would play tricks on other people, and this soon turned into forming a small gang. The young boys wouldn’t do anything terrible, they would play pranks and tricks on people in the neighbourhood.

[00:02:25] Dillinger thought this was a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom, and he dropped out of school aged 16, getting a job in a metal workshop.

[00:02:35] However, he started to stay out all night, and this worried his father.

[00:02:40] He thought that the big city, and the friends his son was making in the city, were a bad influence on his teenage son, and that this small-time mischief would lead young John’s life down a dangerous path.

[00:02:55] So, he moved the family out of Indianapolis, buying a farm in the countryside outside a small town called Mooresville, hoping that if the boy were removed from temptation he would manage to stay out of trouble.

[00:03:12] Well, he was wrong.

[00:03:14] Dillinger continued to get into trouble, and before long this turned from naughty tricks to literal crime.

[00:03:22] In 1922, when he was 19 years old, he was arrested for car theft. In order to avoid going to prison, and to try to get his life back on track, his father pushed him towards the navy. In 1923 he was assigned to a warship, but within a few months he had run away. 

[00:03:45] His main duties involved shovelling coal into a large furnace deep in the belly of the ship, and Dillinger, well, he had bigger plans than that.

[00:03:57] After being dishonourably discharged from the navy, in effect sacked from the navy, he returned to the small town his father had moved to, Mooresville, where he met a 16-year-old girl, fell in love and married.

[00:04:13] His father must have no doubt been happy because - perhaps this was what the then 20-year-old John Dilliger needed to get his life back on track.

[00:04:23] He did, reportedly, try to live an honest life for several months, but struggled to find a job or anything resembling a normal rhythm to life. 

[00:04:35] He joined a baseball team, but it was there that he met a former convict named Ed Singleton, who was to prove to have been a worse influence than anyone Dillinger had ever met in Indianapolis. 

[00:04:50] They were drinking together one night when Singleton told Dillinger about a grocery store run by an old man. Singleton told Dillinger that the old man would be going home after a trip to the barber’s, and would have all of the money the shop had made on him, he would be carrying it.

[00:05:10] Given that the man was old and would struggle to defend himself, it would be easy money.

[00:05:17] The plan was that Dillinger would go up to the old grocer and rob him, while Singleton would be waiting in a car down the street.

[00:05:26] It sounded like a decent plan to Dillinger. He got ready for the robbery, taking a pistol and a large machine bolt, essentially a large piece of metal machinery, with which he planned to hit the grocer over the head and run off with the money.

[00:05:44] It’s not clear exactly what happened on that day, and there are differing statements about the sequence of events, but it’s thought that when Dillinger approached the man, he turned round and confronted him, Dillinger fired his gun and then ran away, thinking he had shot and killed the elderly grocer.

[00:06:05] In fact, he hadn’t, and the man survived.

[00:06:08] Dillinger ran down the road towards Singleton’s getaway car, but Singleton was nowhere to be seen, he had driven away.

[00:06:17] Both Dillinger and Singleton were seen by eye-witnesses, and they were quickly arrested by the police.

[00:06:24] After his arrest his father asked the local prosecutor what the best approach was to minimise his son’s sentence.

[00:06:33] This local prosecutor advised Dillinger’s father that, given his son didn’t have a criminal record, if he pleaded guilty, if he said he was guilty of the crimes, then he would be given a lenient, a forgiving, a short sentence. 

[00:06:51] Essentially, he would not have to spend a long time in prison.

[00:06:55] Dillinger’s father persuaded his son to plead guilty, and as a result he thought he didn’t need a lawyer.

[00:07:04] The prosecutor had either been incredibly stupid or had tricked Dillinger’s father.

[00:07:10] After he entered his guilty plea he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. The judge had decided to make an example out of the young Dillinger and give him a harsh sentence.

[00:07:25] Singleton, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty, he said he didn’t do anything, but he retained the services of a lawyer.

[00:07:34] Despite the fact that Singleton already had a criminal record, he was given only two to fourteen years, of which he ended up serving only two.

[00:07:45] Aged 21, Dillinger was thrown into Indiana State Prison, and would remain incarcerated, would remain locked up for 9 years.

[00:07:55] From the moment he entered prison, he was angry, reportedly saying "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here".

[00:08:06] While in prison, he was popular with his other inmates

[00:08:10] He was a skilled worker, and would often do the work of his fellow inmates, which understandably made him some friends.

[00:08:18] The friends he made were, for the most part, seasoned criminals, and it was during his time in prison that Dilllinger learned the ropes, he got an apprenticeship in the career of bank robbing.

[00:08:32] Robbing a bank successfully, Dillinger found out, was a lot more complicated than walking into a bank, pointing a gun at someone, and holding out a bag for them to put money into.

[00:08:45] Dillinger and his friends studied bank robbing techniques that had been pioneered by an ex-Prussian army officer called Herman Lamm. 

[00:08:55] Lamm’s techniques involved meticulous, very careful planning. 

[00:09:00] You would study a bank carefully, make maps, make detailed plans, everyone involved in the robbery would have a specific task and have to stick to it

[00:09:13] It really was a military operation, Dillinger soon became an expert in the theory of bank robbing, and he planned to put his theories into practice with his new prison friends as soon as they got out.

[00:09:27] When he was eventually released on parole, in 1933 after eight and a half years locked up, he found America in the middle of the Great Depression.

[00:09:39] Even if Dillinger had wanted a normal job and normal life, it was very difficult to find work for anyone, let alone someone who had spent the best part of the last 10 years in prison.

[00:09:52] So, as you might imagine, Dillinger returned to a life of crime.

[00:09:58] He first robbed a bank in Ohio, but was arrested shortly after and put in jail, where he was to await trial.

[00:10:07] Just on a linguistic note, “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably but there is an important difference. 

[00:10:16] “Jail” is the place where suspected criminals are held before they are sentenced or where people convicted of minor crimes are held, and a “prison” is the place where more serious criminals are held after they have been sentenced.

[00:10:32] So, Dillinger was in jail, awaiting trial. 

[00:10:36] When he had been arrested, police had searched his pockets and found a map that looked like it was a map of a prison, it looked like it was a plan for a prison escape. 

[00:10:49] Dillinger claimed he didn’t know anything about it, but then just four days later his old friends from his previous prison escaped using exactly the same plans that had been found in Dillinger’s pocket.

[00:11:03] A few days later, some men came to the jail where Dillinger was being kept. They told the sheriff that they were prison officers and they had come to return Dillinger to Indiana State Prison, the prison where he had been serving his sentence for the robbery of the grocer.

[00:11:21] When the sheriff asked to see proof that these men were who they said they were, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot the sheriff dead. Of course, they weren’t prison officers, they were Dillinger’s friends from prison who had come to save him, now ready to rob some banks together.

[00:11:40] Let’s just pause for a moment to remind ourselves of John Dillinger’s life so far. 

[00:11:47] His mother had died before he was four, his father was a violent bully, he had fallen in with a bad crowd and then tried his luck at being a sailor. When that didn’t work out he tried his first robbery, and was caught. This was all before his 21st birthday. 

[00:12:06] He then spent almost 9 years in prison where he met some of the most professional bank robbers in America, and was released in the middle of the Great Depression. What’s more, his young wife had divorced him while he was in prison. 

[00:12:23] Then, he was broken out of jail while he was awaiting his sentence. 

[00:12:27] He was now “on the run” from the police, and if he were caught again he might easily spend another 10 or more years in prison, not getting out before his 40th birthday at best.

[00:12:40] Dillinger and his gang got to work robbing banks, first robbing police arsenals, stores of police weapons and armour, where they managed to steal machine guns, bullets, and bulletproof vests - the bank robber’s starter kit, you might say.

[00:12:58] They moved around the country frequently, but as their fame grew they had to be more and more careful - the police knew their identities, their pictures had been printed in the newspapers, and they were far from anonymous.

[00:13:15] They found this out the hard way when they were staying in a hotel in Arizona in January of 1934. A fire broke out in the hotel they were staying in, and the firemen who came to put out the fire recognised the men from their photos. The police were called, and Dillinger and his men were arrested.

[00:13:37] Now facing long jail sentences, and perhaps even the death sentence for the murder of the sheriff, things weren’t looking good for Dillinger and his gang.

[00:13:48] However, Dillinger was not only an intelligent and resourceful man, but he was also very talented with his hands - remember he spent time working in a metal workshop as a teenager. 

[00:14:01] He managed to get a piece of wood and whittle it down, sculpt it down to the shape of a gun. He then painted this fake wooden gun black, and when the time was right he jumped on one of the guards and pointed this fake gun at him.

[00:14:20] The guards believed it was real, then opened up the cell door, and Dillinger and his men managed to escape, taking with them the guards’ weapons.

[00:14:32] Now, up to this point only local police had been involved. Dillinger’s crimes were state-level crimes, not federal crimes, so the FBI, or what was then simply called the Bureau of Investigation, hadn’t been involved.

[00:14:50] Dillinger’s mistake was to steal a car and drive it across the Indiana-Illinois border, the border between the state of Indiana and the state of Illinois. 

[00:15:01] And with that simple act he had committed a federal crime, a national crime. 

[00:15:08] He likely didn’t know this, but it’s a federal offense to transport a stolen motor vehicle across state lines, and this meant that the federal government could now get involved in the chase.

[00:15:22] This was bad news for Dillinger. The last thing you want as a bank robber is the FBI on your tail.

[00:15:29] Several of Dillinger’s fellow gang members were caught by the police. Dillinger, however, was not.

[00:15:36] He teamed up with new criminals, and his crime spree continued, terrorising banks across the American midwest from 1933 to 1934.

[00:15:48] There was a strange public interest in the robberies that his gang were committing. 

[00:15:53] They would make front-page news, and there was a lot of interest in the techniques that the robbers had actually used, including reportedly posing as a salesperson for an alarm company, so they could get access to the vault, through to pretending to be a film crew looking for locations for a movie about bank robbers.

[00:16:15] Dillinger’s reputation grew, and he became a sort of Robin Hood figure in the public eye. Remember, we are right in the middle of the Great Depression here. People blamed the banks for the situation, and a man who was robbing from the banks, especially one as photogenic and reportedly as charismatic as Dillinger, was someone to be admired.

[00:16:39] The FBI, I should add, had refuted this image of Dillinger as a Robin Hood character, writing that he was a violent criminal whose only motive was getting rich.

[00:16:51] Now, returning to our story, by this time Dillinger had a new girlfriend, a lady called Evelyn Frechette. 

[00:16:59] She wasn’t actively involved with the bank robberies, but they travelled everywhere together. 

[00:17:05] On multiple occasions police officers almost caught them, turning up at apartments they had rented with fake names, but they were either too late or Dillinger and Frechette managed to escape in the nick of time, just before being captured.

[00:17:22] By the summer of 1934, after multiple close shaves, multiple close encounters with the police, with his face all over the newspapers and being named “Public Enemy Number One” by the FBI, Dillinger decided it was time for a change.

[00:17:39] It wasn’t time to stop robbing banks, certainly not, it was time to change himself. 

[00:17:45] He had tried to dye his hair a different colour and grow a moustache, but he was still recognisable

[00:17:53] He underwent amateur plastic surgery to change his appearance, and when he re-emerged he went by the name of Jimmy Lawrence, in an attempt to avoid being recognised as John Dillinger.

[00:18:07] On June 30th of 1934, remember this is still only just after a year after he was released from prison on parole, he committed his last bank robbery, in which a police officer was shot and killed.

[00:18:22] By this time Dillinger’s gang had robbed 12 separate banks, stolen $300,000, which is today’s equivalent of around $6 million, and killed 10 people in the process.

[00:18:37] Less than a month after his last robbery, police received a call from a lady called Anna Sage who said she had information about Dillinger’s whereabouts

[00:18:49] She was an immigrant from Romania, whose real name was Ana Cumpănaș, and had been forced to work as a prostitute for a Chicago mob boss.

[00:18:59] She was now a madam, she ran a brothel, but she had got on the wrong side of the US immigration service. 

[00:19:08] Long story short, she was going to be kicked out of the country, and she thought that if she could help the authorities get Dillinger then she would be allowed to stay.

[00:19:19] It’s not completely clear how Dillinger knew Cumpănaș, or Sage, but it’s thought that Dillinger’s girlfriend knew her. 

[00:19:28] Anyway, Dillinger trusted Cumpănaș, and it was this trust that was to be his downfall.

[00:19:35] Cumpănaș struck a deal with the FBI. 

[00:19:38] She told them that she, Dillinger and Dillinger’s girlfriend would be going to see a movie. She would wear an orange dress, so that the police could recognise her. 

[00:19:50] When they saw her, they would find Dillinger, they would be together.

[00:19:54] Sure enough, Cumpănaș, Dillinger and his girlfriend turned up at the movie theatre. 

[00:20:01] As they were leaving, the lead FBI agent, a man named Melvin Purvis looked Dillinger in the eye. He had finally found the most wanted bank robber in America. 

[00:20:15] Purvis lit a cigar, which was the prearranged signal to show his colleagues that Dillinger had been identified.

[00:20:23] Dillinger realised something was going on, he pulled out a gun and started to run, but not before three FBI officers had managed to shoot him three times, killing him almost instantly. 

[00:20:37] As he lay outside on the street, blood streaming from his head, onlookers reportedly pushed forward and put their handkerchiefs in his blood, that was the extent of how famous Dillinger was.

[00:20:51] And that was it, not much more than 13 months after it really started, the bank robbing career and life of America’s most wanted man was over. 

[00:21:03] His successful capture by the FBI is thought to have been the one case that really catapulted the organisation to nationwide fame, to be an organisation that was deeply feared by criminals. 

[00:21:17] Without Dillinger to lead it, the bank robbing gang was no more, and according to the FBI’s official website “The events of that sultry July night in Chicago marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era”.

[00:21:33] When it comes to the legacy of Dillinger himself, if this story was somewhat familiar to you it’s probably because you have seen the 2009 film “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp, where Dillinger is portrayed as a charismatic but troubled man, which doesn't seem to be too far from the truth. 

[00:21:55] Like all of the other characters we’ll encounter in this series, there’s no doubt that Dillinger was a criminal, a danger to society, and probably not a very nice man at all.

[00:22:07] But, if one has to compare him to Al Capone, the Peaky Blinders, or even to the Kray Twins, who we will meet in the next episode, he seems a little bit less dangerous.

[00:22:19] Yes, he was a bankrobber, yes, he was probably also a murderer, but there was a certain element of Robin Hood to him. 

[00:22:28] He might not have given money back to the poor, and there might not have been any noble aim to his robbery, but the fact that so many people in 1930s America felt cheated by the entire financial system meant that to many, Dillinger’s crimes weren’t really crimes at all.

[00:22:49] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on John Dillinger, Part Three of our four-part series on 20th century gangsters and criminals.

[00:23:00] As a reminder, in part one we heard about The Peaky Blinders, part two was Al Capone, and next up, part four will be on The Kray Twins.

[00:23:10] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:16] How do you think John Dillinger compares to The Peaky Blinders, Al Capone and The Kray Twins?

[00:23:23] Better, worse, or just different?

[00:23:26] I would love to know. 

[00:23:27] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:36] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:41] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our four-part mini-series on gangsters and robbers, violent criminals who have managed to capture the public’s attention.

[00:00:33] In Part One, we talked about The Real Peaky Blinders and the criminals of the late 19th century and early 20th century Birmingham.

[00:00:43] Then in Part Two we talked about Al Capone, the Italian-American prohibition era gangster and leader of the Chicago Outfit.

[00:00:52] In Part Four we will talk about The Kray Twins, a pair of identical twins who terrorised London’s East End in the 1950s and 1960s.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will be talking about the notorious gangster and bank robber, the man called by the FBI “Public Enemy Number One”, John Dillinger.

[00:01:17] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:22] Our story starts with the arrival of a small boy, John Herbert Dillinger, on June 23rd of 1903, in Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, in the north east of the United States of America.

[00:01:38] His parents were honest, middle class Americans. His father was a hardworking grocer, but a harsh, strict man who would often beat the young Dillinger if he misbehaved.

[00:01:52] Tragically, Dillinger’s mother died when her son was just 3 years old. His father remarried six years later, but the young boy hated his new stepmother.

[00:02:04] Dillinger was, by all reports, very clever and charismatic but a bit of a cheeky boy. 

[00:02:11] He would play tricks on other people, and this soon turned into forming a small gang. The young boys wouldn’t do anything terrible, they would play pranks and tricks on people in the neighbourhood.

[00:02:25] Dillinger thought this was a lot more fun than sitting in a classroom, and he dropped out of school aged 16, getting a job in a metal workshop.

[00:02:35] However, he started to stay out all night, and this worried his father.

[00:02:40] He thought that the big city, and the friends his son was making in the city, were a bad influence on his teenage son, and that this small-time mischief would lead young John’s life down a dangerous path.

[00:02:55] So, he moved the family out of Indianapolis, buying a farm in the countryside outside a small town called Mooresville, hoping that if the boy were removed from temptation he would manage to stay out of trouble.

[00:03:12] Well, he was wrong.

[00:03:14] Dillinger continued to get into trouble, and before long this turned from naughty tricks to literal crime.

[00:03:22] In 1922, when he was 19 years old, he was arrested for car theft. In order to avoid going to prison, and to try to get his life back on track, his father pushed him towards the navy. In 1923 he was assigned to a warship, but within a few months he had run away. 

[00:03:45] His main duties involved shovelling coal into a large furnace deep in the belly of the ship, and Dillinger, well, he had bigger plans than that.

[00:03:57] After being dishonourably discharged from the navy, in effect sacked from the navy, he returned to the small town his father had moved to, Mooresville, where he met a 16-year-old girl, fell in love and married.

[00:04:13] His father must have no doubt been happy because - perhaps this was what the then 20-year-old John Dilliger needed to get his life back on track.

[00:04:23] He did, reportedly, try to live an honest life for several months, but struggled to find a job or anything resembling a normal rhythm to life. 

[00:04:35] He joined a baseball team, but it was there that he met a former convict named Ed Singleton, who was to prove to have been a worse influence than anyone Dillinger had ever met in Indianapolis. 

[00:04:50] They were drinking together one night when Singleton told Dillinger about a grocery store run by an old man. Singleton told Dillinger that the old man would be going home after a trip to the barber’s, and would have all of the money the shop had made on him, he would be carrying it.

[00:05:10] Given that the man was old and would struggle to defend himself, it would be easy money.

[00:05:17] The plan was that Dillinger would go up to the old grocer and rob him, while Singleton would be waiting in a car down the street.

[00:05:26] It sounded like a decent plan to Dillinger. He got ready for the robbery, taking a pistol and a large machine bolt, essentially a large piece of metal machinery, with which he planned to hit the grocer over the head and run off with the money.

[00:05:44] It’s not clear exactly what happened on that day, and there are differing statements about the sequence of events, but it’s thought that when Dillinger approached the man, he turned round and confronted him, Dillinger fired his gun and then ran away, thinking he had shot and killed the elderly grocer.

[00:06:05] In fact, he hadn’t, and the man survived.

[00:06:08] Dillinger ran down the road towards Singleton’s getaway car, but Singleton was nowhere to be seen, he had driven away.

[00:06:17] Both Dillinger and Singleton were seen by eye-witnesses, and they were quickly arrested by the police.

[00:06:24] After his arrest his father asked the local prosecutor what the best approach was to minimise his son’s sentence.

[00:06:33] This local prosecutor advised Dillinger’s father that, given his son didn’t have a criminal record, if he pleaded guilty, if he said he was guilty of the crimes, then he would be given a lenient, a forgiving, a short sentence. 

[00:06:51] Essentially, he would not have to spend a long time in prison.

[00:06:55] Dillinger’s father persuaded his son to plead guilty, and as a result he thought he didn’t need a lawyer.

[00:07:04] The prosecutor had either been incredibly stupid or had tricked Dillinger’s father.

[00:07:10] After he entered his guilty plea he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. The judge had decided to make an example out of the young Dillinger and give him a harsh sentence.

[00:07:25] Singleton, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty, he said he didn’t do anything, but he retained the services of a lawyer.

[00:07:34] Despite the fact that Singleton already had a criminal record, he was given only two to fourteen years, of which he ended up serving only two.

[00:07:45] Aged 21, Dillinger was thrown into Indiana State Prison, and would remain incarcerated, would remain locked up for 9 years.

[00:07:55] From the moment he entered prison, he was angry, reportedly saying "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here".

[00:08:06] While in prison, he was popular with his other inmates

[00:08:10] He was a skilled worker, and would often do the work of his fellow inmates, which understandably made him some friends.

[00:08:18] The friends he made were, for the most part, seasoned criminals, and it was during his time in prison that Dilllinger learned the ropes, he got an apprenticeship in the career of bank robbing.

[00:08:32] Robbing a bank successfully, Dillinger found out, was a lot more complicated than walking into a bank, pointing a gun at someone, and holding out a bag for them to put money into.

[00:08:45] Dillinger and his friends studied bank robbing techniques that had been pioneered by an ex-Prussian army officer called Herman Lamm. 

[00:08:55] Lamm’s techniques involved meticulous, very careful planning. 

[00:09:00] You would study a bank carefully, make maps, make detailed plans, everyone involved in the robbery would have a specific task and have to stick to it

[00:09:13] It really was a military operation, Dillinger soon became an expert in the theory of bank robbing, and he planned to put his theories into practice with his new prison friends as soon as they got out.

[00:09:27] When he was eventually released on parole, in 1933 after eight and a half years locked up, he found America in the middle of the Great Depression.

[00:09:39] Even if Dillinger had wanted a normal job and normal life, it was very difficult to find work for anyone, let alone someone who had spent the best part of the last 10 years in prison.

[00:09:52] So, as you might imagine, Dillinger returned to a life of crime.

[00:09:58] He first robbed a bank in Ohio, but was arrested shortly after and put in jail, where he was to await trial.

[00:10:07] Just on a linguistic note, “jail” and “prison” are often used interchangeably but there is an important difference. 

[00:10:16] “Jail” is the place where suspected criminals are held before they are sentenced or where people convicted of minor crimes are held, and a “prison” is the place where more serious criminals are held after they have been sentenced.

[00:10:32] So, Dillinger was in jail, awaiting trial. 

[00:10:36] When he had been arrested, police had searched his pockets and found a map that looked like it was a map of a prison, it looked like it was a plan for a prison escape. 

[00:10:49] Dillinger claimed he didn’t know anything about it, but then just four days later his old friends from his previous prison escaped using exactly the same plans that had been found in Dillinger’s pocket.

[00:11:03] A few days later, some men came to the jail where Dillinger was being kept. They told the sheriff that they were prison officers and they had come to return Dillinger to Indiana State Prison, the prison where he had been serving his sentence for the robbery of the grocer.

[00:11:21] When the sheriff asked to see proof that these men were who they said they were, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot the sheriff dead. Of course, they weren’t prison officers, they were Dillinger’s friends from prison who had come to save him, now ready to rob some banks together.

[00:11:40] Let’s just pause for a moment to remind ourselves of John Dillinger’s life so far. 

[00:11:47] His mother had died before he was four, his father was a violent bully, he had fallen in with a bad crowd and then tried his luck at being a sailor. When that didn’t work out he tried his first robbery, and was caught. This was all before his 21st birthday. 

[00:12:06] He then spent almost 9 years in prison where he met some of the most professional bank robbers in America, and was released in the middle of the Great Depression. What’s more, his young wife had divorced him while he was in prison. 

[00:12:23] Then, he was broken out of jail while he was awaiting his sentence. 

[00:12:27] He was now “on the run” from the police, and if he were caught again he might easily spend another 10 or more years in prison, not getting out before his 40th birthday at best.

[00:12:40] Dillinger and his gang got to work robbing banks, first robbing police arsenals, stores of police weapons and armour, where they managed to steal machine guns, bullets, and bulletproof vests - the bank robber’s starter kit, you might say.

[00:12:58] They moved around the country frequently, but as their fame grew they had to be more and more careful - the police knew their identities, their pictures had been printed in the newspapers, and they were far from anonymous.

[00:13:15] They found this out the hard way when they were staying in a hotel in Arizona in January of 1934. A fire broke out in the hotel they were staying in, and the firemen who came to put out the fire recognised the men from their photos. The police were called, and Dillinger and his men were arrested.

[00:13:37] Now facing long jail sentences, and perhaps even the death sentence for the murder of the sheriff, things weren’t looking good for Dillinger and his gang.

[00:13:48] However, Dillinger was not only an intelligent and resourceful man, but he was also very talented with his hands - remember he spent time working in a metal workshop as a teenager. 

[00:14:01] He managed to get a piece of wood and whittle it down, sculpt it down to the shape of a gun. He then painted this fake wooden gun black, and when the time was right he jumped on one of the guards and pointed this fake gun at him.

[00:14:20] The guards believed it was real, then opened up the cell door, and Dillinger and his men managed to escape, taking with them the guards’ weapons.

[00:14:32] Now, up to this point only local police had been involved. Dillinger’s crimes were state-level crimes, not federal crimes, so the FBI, or what was then simply called the Bureau of Investigation, hadn’t been involved.

[00:14:50] Dillinger’s mistake was to steal a car and drive it across the Indiana-Illinois border, the border between the state of Indiana and the state of Illinois. 

[00:15:01] And with that simple act he had committed a federal crime, a national crime. 

[00:15:08] He likely didn’t know this, but it’s a federal offense to transport a stolen motor vehicle across state lines, and this meant that the federal government could now get involved in the chase.

[00:15:22] This was bad news for Dillinger. The last thing you want as a bank robber is the FBI on your tail.

[00:15:29] Several of Dillinger’s fellow gang members were caught by the police. Dillinger, however, was not.

[00:15:36] He teamed up with new criminals, and his crime spree continued, terrorising banks across the American midwest from 1933 to 1934.

[00:15:48] There was a strange public interest in the robberies that his gang were committing. 

[00:15:53] They would make front-page news, and there was a lot of interest in the techniques that the robbers had actually used, including reportedly posing as a salesperson for an alarm company, so they could get access to the vault, through to pretending to be a film crew looking for locations for a movie about bank robbers.

[00:16:15] Dillinger’s reputation grew, and he became a sort of Robin Hood figure in the public eye. Remember, we are right in the middle of the Great Depression here. People blamed the banks for the situation, and a man who was robbing from the banks, especially one as photogenic and reportedly as charismatic as Dillinger, was someone to be admired.

[00:16:39] The FBI, I should add, had refuted this image of Dillinger as a Robin Hood character, writing that he was a violent criminal whose only motive was getting rich.

[00:16:51] Now, returning to our story, by this time Dillinger had a new girlfriend, a lady called Evelyn Frechette. 

[00:16:59] She wasn’t actively involved with the bank robberies, but they travelled everywhere together. 

[00:17:05] On multiple occasions police officers almost caught them, turning up at apartments they had rented with fake names, but they were either too late or Dillinger and Frechette managed to escape in the nick of time, just before being captured.

[00:17:22] By the summer of 1934, after multiple close shaves, multiple close encounters with the police, with his face all over the newspapers and being named “Public Enemy Number One” by the FBI, Dillinger decided it was time for a change.

[00:17:39] It wasn’t time to stop robbing banks, certainly not, it was time to change himself. 

[00:17:45] He had tried to dye his hair a different colour and grow a moustache, but he was still recognisable

[00:17:53] He underwent amateur plastic surgery to change his appearance, and when he re-emerged he went by the name of Jimmy Lawrence, in an attempt to avoid being recognised as John Dillinger.

[00:18:07] On June 30th of 1934, remember this is still only just after a year after he was released from prison on parole, he committed his last bank robbery, in which a police officer was shot and killed.

[00:18:22] By this time Dillinger’s gang had robbed 12 separate banks, stolen $300,000, which is today’s equivalent of around $6 million, and killed 10 people in the process.

[00:18:37] Less than a month after his last robbery, police received a call from a lady called Anna Sage who said she had information about Dillinger’s whereabouts

[00:18:49] She was an immigrant from Romania, whose real name was Ana Cumpănaș, and had been forced to work as a prostitute for a Chicago mob boss.

[00:18:59] She was now a madam, she ran a brothel, but she had got on the wrong side of the US immigration service. 

[00:19:08] Long story short, she was going to be kicked out of the country, and she thought that if she could help the authorities get Dillinger then she would be allowed to stay.

[00:19:19] It’s not completely clear how Dillinger knew Cumpănaș, or Sage, but it’s thought that Dillinger’s girlfriend knew her. 

[00:19:28] Anyway, Dillinger trusted Cumpănaș, and it was this trust that was to be his downfall.

[00:19:35] Cumpănaș struck a deal with the FBI. 

[00:19:38] She told them that she, Dillinger and Dillinger’s girlfriend would be going to see a movie. She would wear an orange dress, so that the police could recognise her. 

[00:19:50] When they saw her, they would find Dillinger, they would be together.

[00:19:54] Sure enough, Cumpănaș, Dillinger and his girlfriend turned up at the movie theatre. 

[00:20:01] As they were leaving, the lead FBI agent, a man named Melvin Purvis looked Dillinger in the eye. He had finally found the most wanted bank robber in America. 

[00:20:15] Purvis lit a cigar, which was the prearranged signal to show his colleagues that Dillinger had been identified.

[00:20:23] Dillinger realised something was going on, he pulled out a gun and started to run, but not before three FBI officers had managed to shoot him three times, killing him almost instantly. 

[00:20:37] As he lay outside on the street, blood streaming from his head, onlookers reportedly pushed forward and put their handkerchiefs in his blood, that was the extent of how famous Dillinger was.

[00:20:51] And that was it, not much more than 13 months after it really started, the bank robbing career and life of America’s most wanted man was over. 

[00:21:03] His successful capture by the FBI is thought to have been the one case that really catapulted the organisation to nationwide fame, to be an organisation that was deeply feared by criminals. 

[00:21:17] Without Dillinger to lead it, the bank robbing gang was no more, and according to the FBI’s official website “The events of that sultry July night in Chicago marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era”.

[00:21:33] When it comes to the legacy of Dillinger himself, if this story was somewhat familiar to you it’s probably because you have seen the 2009 film “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp, where Dillinger is portrayed as a charismatic but troubled man, which doesn't seem to be too far from the truth. 

[00:21:55] Like all of the other characters we’ll encounter in this series, there’s no doubt that Dillinger was a criminal, a danger to society, and probably not a very nice man at all.

[00:22:07] But, if one has to compare him to Al Capone, the Peaky Blinders, or even to the Kray Twins, who we will meet in the next episode, he seems a little bit less dangerous.

[00:22:19] Yes, he was a bankrobber, yes, he was probably also a murderer, but there was a certain element of Robin Hood to him. 

[00:22:28] He might not have given money back to the poor, and there might not have been any noble aim to his robbery, but the fact that so many people in 1930s America felt cheated by the entire financial system meant that to many, Dillinger’s crimes weren’t really crimes at all.

[00:22:49] OK then, that is it for today’s episode on John Dillinger, Part Three of our four-part series on 20th century gangsters and criminals.

[00:23:00] As a reminder, in part one we heard about The Peaky Blinders, part two was Al Capone, and next up, part four will be on The Kray Twins.

[00:23:10] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:16] How do you think John Dillinger compares to The Peaky Blinders, Al Capone and The Kray Twins?

[00:23:23] Better, worse, or just different?

[00:23:26] I would love to know. 

[00:23:27] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:36] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:41] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]