Thursday, February 14, 2013

Special Holiday Edition Post! St. Valentine's Day Massacre

"Only Capone kills like that," Bugs Moran 1929

The Saint Valentines Day Massacre
This is the name given to the murder of seven men from Chicago’s North Side Irish gang.


Throughout the 1920's, The Irish Gang - headed by leader Dion O’Bannion and Bugs Moran, battled with Al Capone for control of Chicago’s illegal businesses.  Dion was killed in his flower shop by Capone’s men on  November 10, 1924. Bugs assumed control of the gang after his murder.  Bugs continued to hijack Capone’s liquor shipments and shoot his men.

One of the most spectacular attempts on Al Capone came when Moran and his associates drove six cars past a hotel in Cicero, Illinois, where Capone and his associates were having lunch, and showered the building with more than 1,000 bullets.  Al Capone had enough, so he had one of his top killers "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn aka Vincenzo Antonio Gibaldi devise a plan.  Vincenzo took the name Jack Mcgurn when he was younger because he was a boxer, and an Irish boxer was given better fights than an Italian boxer.


Capone and his family left for their home in Florida weeks before the planned hit so that he would have a rock solid alibi.  Jack McGurn had two brothers, Harry and Phil Keywell (from Detroit's Purple Gang), rent a room at a boarding house conveniently located across the street from Bugs Moran’s gang's headquarters.  The headquarters were in a large garage behind the offices of S.M.C. Cartage Company at 2122 North Clark Street. The two brothers would keep watch, and get word to the hit team when they saw Bugs Moran enter the building.  They had a bootlegger that was known to Bugs offer a shipment of good whiskey to him on Valentine’s day. The plan worked well.  Five men from Bugs’ gang were waiting for the shipment and their boss to arrive.  There was a mechanic and an optician who considered himself a doctor.  Also there along with the men was a German Shepherd named Highball.   The brothers called the hit team and sent the message: Bugs had arrived.


This is what is known.  A car parked in the rear.  Two men wearing trench coats came out of the car.  A police car pulled in front of the garage, and two “officers” (who were actually hoods dressed up like officers)  made their way inside the garage.  The two “policemen” lined up the seven men inside the headquarters.  They were all forced to stand facing a brick wall. The other two men from the car parked in the rear now joined the two “policemen”.  They each drew a Thompson Sub Machine Gun from under their coats.  One had a twenty round "stick" magazine and the other a fifty round "drum" magazine.  They used the stick because the drums were prone to jamming.  The police hoods -one armed with a shotgun and the other with a colt 45 automatic pistol - began to fire at the same time as the machine guns.  Seventy shots were fired in seconds.  At least two shotgun shells were found at the scene and the rest were 45 caliber cases.  When the shooting stopped, the seven men were down in a huge pool of blood.  Highball was howling in a high pitched cry.  The men in the trench coats hid the Tommy Guns under their coats and held up their hands.  They were marched out by the “police” to the waiting police car, and the four men drove away never to be seen again.


Six men died on the spot.  One man, Frank Gusenberg, was still alive and was found crawling toward the door. He had been shot fourteen times.  He was taken to a hospital where he died without naming the men who shot him.  The dead were Frank Gusenberg, Pete Gusenberg, John May, Albert Weinshank, James Clark, Adam Heyer, and “Dr.” Reinhart Schwimmer (a gangster groupie) .  The problem was that Bugs Moran was not there!  He had pulled up just as the Police were getting out of their car.  Bugs figured that it was just another raid, so he left with two men. This was the end of Bugs Moran as an effective gang leader because he had lost his best men.  He would go on to live out the rest of his life as a petty criminal.  He would die with less than a hundred dollars to his name, and be buried in a potter’s field, beside other men who died penniless.

Al Capone would suffer greatly from the bad press. The public outcry was so great against Capone, that he was under too much heat to do business as usual.  He would be sent away for tax evasion and died later in Florida giving up his position as Boss to Frank Nitti.

Jack McGurn had an alibi, known as the Blonde Alibi because he was with his blonde girlfriend in a hotel all day.  He would be killed years later at a bowling alley by three men with machine guns.  It took place February 15th, 1936.

There has been much speculation about the shooters.  Two of them were almost certainly John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, two of Capones top killers.  They would be killed by him with a baseball bat three months
after the massacre.

Tony Arccado, the long time boss of The Chicago Outfit, was caught on an FBI wiretap talking about being part of the hit.  He did have  a role in the disposal of the car used in the hit.

Fred "Killer" Burke would later kill a policeman in St. Joseph, Michigan. When they went to the house Burke was using as a hideout he was gone but they found his girlfriend and an arsenal of weapons including two Thompson sub machine guns. They were used to kill Frankie Yale and were the same machine guns used in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

A friend of mine was able to fire these two Thompson's recently for a TV show.  He gave me a 45 caliber  casing shot from the gun.  The guns are still in a police evidence lockers today because the crimes are still open.

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