Please Read: We're Moving Soon!

For those seeking to contact me, please be advised that I will be moving from New York to Kentucky during May, 2017 and expect to pull out of New York on May 2nd.  Although Verizon doesn't service the Danville, KY area I'm moving to, they have assured me that my regular email, which is now run by AOL as many are aware, will still be functional. 

My immediate problem in Kentucky will be finding another Internet provider after my Verizon account closes April 30th. 

If you find it necessary during this "downtime"  to contact me, you can call my cell phone which will remain active. The number is:  716-628-2526.  If no answer, leave a message and I'll call back within a reasonable amount of time. Bear with me since this is an extremely busy time in preparing for the move and all the things that need to be done, as you're aware.

I probably don't have to tell anyone that not much, if anything, is going to get done at this site addition/revision wise until after we get settled in beautiful Kentucky.   Thanks!

Larry Wack

To Whom Do You Owe What You Hold?

I have to admit ......I was a bit disappointed with some recent findings I pulled up from my emails with FBI families. Specifically, those who had fathers and grandfathers serve during the early Bureau of the 20s and 30s. All of them originally contacted me after finding this site. Mostly all of them commented that they were happy to see that those who pioneered the early Bureau were not going to be forgotten. 

My decision to review these emails was a result of one thing. A simple 8 x 11 photo I received from one family which answered a slew of questions. The sender, who obtained the photo on Ebay, then commented, "...makes you wonder how much of this 'stuff' is out there?"  Indeed it does....the answer is "a lot." 

What I counted in those emails that are now over a year old caused some sad reflection. Thirteen families mentioned they had photos and various documents of their relative's service with the Bureau during those very early days; very germane to this website and our viewers. In each one of them, there was a pledge to furnish some relevant material for inclusion here. Those pledges lost steam as the weeks and months went on. 

I knew the material ....if nothing but a mere photo.....would provide needed accuracy to the history of the Bureau's beginning and turbulent years. I knew there was a chance some of it would dispel the myths and the rumors.  Importantly, I knew what they had would assist other families searching for info on their relatives. I knew all of this because I've seen it here a hundred times over. I've lost count of the number of comments I've had from authors to movie producers who have raved about the Bureau history supplied by the families and how the information has assisted them with some much needed evidence of the era. 

Well, it didn't take long for the reality to set in.  That's when I realized that of the thirteen who have history sitting in boxes in their basements, only two....yes, just two.....came through and supplied some very interesting items that now appear here.  A couple of letters supplied by one donor, written by J. Edgar Hoover to his father, actually solved a decades old debate on one aspect of the arrest of gangster, Alvin Karpis. Case closed!

In one unfortunate scenario, one individual presented proof he had a manuscript written by a Southwestern FBI, SAC during his retirement years. The donor was willing to provide a copy of the manuscript for history sake and inclusion at this site. When I discussed with the owner how important that document was, and the SAC's role in the 1930s gang war, he contacted a lawyer and the smell of money was no doubt in the air. All of a sudden, he no longer could provide it. I had bad news for him; any thoughts of money, publishing rights and the rest was a pipe dream!  This incident by the way is now over four years old and he's still holding the manuscript where it supposedly sits somewhere in a barn according to family.   

In general, re-contact with those who pledged to furnish copies of family photos and papers germane to this site revealed a common denominator of which we're all familiar. It was always along the lines of "I'm sorry, I've been busy with (fill in everything you can think of)."  Ok. I get it.  But leaving the items wasting away in the basement sure isn't helping to maintain FBI history and the organization your relatives served.  And if you're proud of your heritage and your relative's service to their country, letting their photos and personal papers sit in a box is not the way to do it! If you don't want to supply copies to us here, at least contact the local library, the Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, the FBI's current Historian, or whomever.....but get that information into the hands of someone who can share the history you are holding with others.

Share it so some other family in the dark might learn from something you hold.  Share it so historians, movie moguls, authors and more will tell the story accurately.  Share it so others will learn...

  

 

 

 

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year! Plus FBI's National Academy...

First known as the FBI "Police Training School" this is the first class of graduates of what was renamed the FBI's National Academy.  There was 1 class in 1935 and 2 classes in 1936.

First known as the FBI "Police Training School" this is the first class of graduates of what was renamed the FBI's National Academy.  There was 1 class in 1935 and 2 classes in 1936.

Well, we're drawing to the close of another year and I wanted to wish our readers, visitors, family members and others the best of the Holiday Season!  We enjoyed working with many over the months to get your photos published here, your stories told or simply help you with your research about the agents and the FBI of the 1930s.  

We recently enjoyed helping our historical friends at the Dayton, Ohio Police Department. They were looking for a class photo and roster of names for either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd National Academy class of 1935 or '36.  Reason was, their former Chief was a graduate of one of those classes and they wanted the document, and photo, to add to their historical items at the Department.  Problem was, they were not sure which class he was in....

Through some record searching and assistance too from the FBI's current Historian, Dr. John Fox, we were able to come through for them! We discovered their Chief was in the 3rd Graduating class of the National Academy in 1936. With the assistance from Dr. Fox, we located the class photo and the class roster of who was present. Both were forwarded on to the Dayton folks who were most appreciative.  

If you're looking for early National Academy photos and records, get ahold of me to see if we can help you out.  

On that note, I'm running out to do some last minute shopping so, again, have a Happy Holiday and "see you next year!"  

FBI's Pistol Team

In a June 6, 1934 "Memorandum for Mr. Tolson,” Director Hoover mentioned that he was told that a trainee in the present training school at that time, “by the name of Walsh” is the national champion in pistol fire. Hoover mentions he understands Walsh has extensive use of firearms and has been for a number of years giving instruction to police organizations. The Director wants particular attention given to this trainee to possibly use him and his services to go to each field office and see that proper instruction is being given to all personnel. 

Hoover also mentions he is very desirous of having a team formed of our best shots which can be entered in several national tournaments. "I think Mr. Walsh might, upon his visit to the field offices, ascertain the best shots in the respective field offices, and from this group, he could select a team to represent the Division in these tournaments." 

In October 1934 the real father of Bureau firearms training, SA "Frank" Baughman suggested the purchase of "six officers model .38 caliber Colt Special revolvers with six-inch barrels " for issuance only to agents participating in shooting matches as representatives of the Division.

"Mr. Walsh” turned out to be the legendary SA Walter Walsh with whom most are familiar and who passed away a couple of years back at the age of 106. 

And thus began the birth of the FBI’s Pistol Team……Rolling into 1935, the Bureau’s Pistol Team would be composed of some of the best of the best which included Walsh, Baughman, SAC and former Texas Ranger, “Gus Jones (national machine gun champion); the legendary “Jelly” Bryce, Bill Nitschke, Vernon Criss, Dick Glavin, Ralph Winton, Harry Stewart and Bob Reed. Some early matches were at Camp Perry, Ohio.

"Short Bursts" Of FBI History

According to a 1938 FBI document examined, at the time J. Edgar Hoover was designated Acting Director of the Bureau in May 1924, there were 441 Special Agents nationwide including Inspectors, Assistant Directors and the Director. There were 195 stenos and clerical employees along with 21 informants on the roles throughout HQ and the field.  

In February 1925, fifty percent of agents have legal training and “the investigation of mental, moral and physical qualifications of applicants is instituted.” 

In July 1925, regular inspections of field offices began and 5 offices were discontinued. All offices were reorganized and the “policy of promotion in the Bureau was begun with emphasis solely upon efficiency." 

Herman Lamm - "Pioneer" Of Bank Robberies

According to author Bryan Burrough in "Public Enemies," the criminal credited with introducing a new level of professionalism to bank robbery was Herman K. Lamm, a German émigré known as “The Baron.” Born in 1880, Lamm is a quasimythic figure; some claim he began his career with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. What is known is that around 1917, while in a Utah prison, he developed a rigorous system for robbing banks. Lamm pioneered the “casing” of banks, the observation of bank guards, alarms, and tellers; a bank was known as a “jug,” and an expert caser of banks was known as a “jug marker.” Each member of Lamm’s gang was assigned a role in the robbery: the lookout, the getaway driver, the lobby man, the vault man. Most important, Lamm is credited with devising the first detailed getaway maps, or “gits.” Once he targeted a bank, Lamm mapped the nearby back roads, known as “cat roads,” to a tenth of a mile, listing each landmark and using a stopwatch to time distances. Any teenager with a birdgun could rob a bank; it was getting away that posed a challenge. 

Lamm’s detailed gits, clipped to the dashboard of a car, took the guesswork out of the getaway. His gang was credited with dozens of robberies during the 1920s, until Lamm was shot and killed near Clinton, Indiana, in 1930. By then his system had been widely imitated.

The FBI & The Miranda Decision

A long forgotten fact by many is this: The FBI was advising suspects of their constitutional rights long before Miranda. Documented evidence of this is seen in statements I’ve examined from the 1930s. No doubt this practice continued long into the era of the Miranda decision of the 1960s and was commented upon by the Supreme Court.  

As one of the many examples which exist in recovered FBI files is this preamble to the 1934 interview of suspect, Hyman S. Lebman, by FBI, SAC Gus Jones in Texas.  Lebman was altering pistols into machine gun type weapons and selling them to "Baby Face" Nelson (known to Lebman as Jimmy Williams) and others when nabbed.  One of his weapons showed up at the battle at Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin and was subsequently traced back to him.  The story with Lebman is a long one….Several of his weapons seized have been at the Bureau, on display at times. 

Anyhow, here’s the gist of the beginning of the signed statement, witnessed by SA C. R. Davis. Statements I’ve examined begin with this wording, obviously with the Lebman name replaced with whomever was the catch of the day. 

“I, H. S. Lebman, after being duly warned of my constitutional rights that I do not have to make a statement and that any statement I may make concerning this matter may be used against me, make the free and voluntary statement to SAC Gus Jones….”  (Signed statement of April, 1934)

It doesn’t get any more clear than that……

A writer for the Washington Post pointed out last week that, "During oral argument in the Miranda case, Justice Abe Fortas asked the federal government’s lawyer for more detail on FBI interrogation practices. Hoover’s written answer to the court was prompt and specific. “Both suspects and persons under arrest” were given warnings “at the very outset of the interview,” he wrote. They could consult with counsel of their choice “or anyone else with whom [they] wish to speak,” could have “free counsel” if they were “unable to pay” and could consult with counsel by telephone, if more convenient. Interviews were terminated promptly if counsel was requested. If an interview subject was “indecisive” about requesting counsel, or when there was a question as to whether he had waived counsel, Hoover wrote, the decision to proceed was “left to the judgment of the interviewing Agent.”

 

There Were No Minority Special Agents During The Hoover Years...

I've been addressing some myths elsewhere on this site about the FBI's history. I wanted to drop this in along the way, courtesy of the FBI's current historian, Dr. John Fox.

"The FBI was hardly way ahead of its time in providing equal career opportunities to all Americans, but it is not true that the FBI was unwilling to hire minorities during Hoover’s tenure…or (as one variation of the myth goes) was reluctant to hire minority agents until ordered to do so by President Kennedy in the early 1960s. The fact is, many minority special agents worked in the FBI from the early 1920s forward. An African-American agent named James Amos, for example, investigated major cases in New York from 1921 to 1953, while the Striders—an African-American father/son agent team in Los Angeles—served with distinction from the 1940s through the early 1970s. Hispanic Agent Manuel Sorola served in a number of our western offices from the 1920s through the 1940s, and Filipino-born Agent Flaviano Guerrerro served ably in the 1940s. All told, there were dozens of minority special agents on our rolls before Hoover died in 1972."

No Sense Mincing Words...

SA Fred T. McIntyre 1934 Courtesy FBI

SA Fred T. McIntyre 1934

Courtesy FBI

SA Fred T. McIntyre reported to his first office of Birmingham in 1934. Circa the 1950s, he put together a manuscript covering portions of his career that was never published.  In one section of McIntyre's writing, he reveals the realities of the era and of the men sans the "political correctness."  He wrote: 

“The SAC, John H. Hanson cussed like a trooper and the new agents were scared to death of him. During the second day there came a message over the dictograph from SAC Hanson instructing me to come into his office pronto and bring that “God damned Willie off the Pickle Boat hat.” He meant my Homburg [hat]. When I arrived at his office he instructed that I put on the hat, which I did. "

"He looked me over very carefully, noted the Homburg cocked on the side of my head, gray coat and vest, with the pearl studded fraternity pin of Sigma Delta Kappa flashing.  He saw the black trousers of an Oxford gray suit and pearl gray spats. This was the attire of the day and certainly for one who had been working night clubs [before the Bureau].”

He finally commented, “What are you made up for?”  The SAC continued, “We have a business outfit here and all of our representatives must be attired as young business and professional men and not dressed up like a God damned pimp. ….[Go home] and come back here with an outfit that makes sense. Be dressed in all black or all in gray. And leave off that ‘Willie off the Pickle Boat' hat, those spats and that fraternity pin. Now get going.”

Readers will have to research the origin of the cliche, "Willie Off The Pickle Boat". . . 
 

FBI's First Use Of Airplanes & The Original Pilot

Retired FBI Agent, Murry C. Falkner was actually the only FBI Agent during the ‘30s who was an "authorized pilot." Falkner became an FBI Agent in 1925. He obtained his pilot's license in 1936 at the Albuquerque Airport while assigned to the El Paso FBI office. Most of his official flying duties were in the West Texas and New Mexico areas. Falkner recounted some of his career in a 1967 interview for the FBI’s internal magazine, “The Grapevine.”

Among other high profile cases, Falkner was involved in the Dillinger and Bremer kidnapping investigations, among others, and received a raise in salary along with others for their work. He used his raise to learn how to fly. In 1939, he was on special assignment in Seattle and bought his first plane. Before delivery, he was transferred to San Francisco, FBI and then had to travel to Detroit to arrange delivery. After a short sprint in San Francisco, FBI he was transferred to Alaska but found problems financially in taking the plane with him.

Falkner retired from the FBI in the '60s and maintained a residence in Mobile, Alabama. At the time of his retirement, he had a new career in mind – writing. In a recently found July, 1965 news interview with Falkner, it’s revealed “Writing is not new in the Falkner family. He (Murry) is a brother of the late William Faulkner and John Faulkner, also a novelist. William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer prizes for fiction in 1955 and 1963.”

Said Falkner in the same interview, “I’m going to try to do some writing. I have no illusions that I have the talent my brothers had but I am going to try my hand at it.” At the time, Falkner was 66 years old.

Falkner retained the revised spelling of the family name when his brothers, on the other hand, restored the “u” dropped by their great-grandfather. 

Another Day At The Ranch Of Special Agent Clarence Hurt...

Special Agent Clarence O. Hurt arrived at the FBI in early 1934 from the Oklahoma City Police Department. Two others were recruited with him, namely "Jelly" Bryce and "Jerry" Campbell. Their recruitment was no doubt due to the efforts of SA George Franklin, assigned to the OKC FBI office and later in life, a close friend of Bryce. 

Playing a pivotal role in many of the high profile gangster cases with Winstead and others, Hurt retired back to his McAlester, OK ranch after the Bureau. Hurt was known in the area to hire parolees to work on his ranch. We did find some support for that and in these cases, he proved to many that - in fact - you CAN pick your friends, and you CAN pick your relatives.

The 1966 issue of the "Lawton Constitution" of OKC revealed that Hurt's brother, Robert Hurt, a former OKC constable was sent to prison in 1957 for the "torture robbery" of an elderly couple. He, along with two others, was sentenced to 45 years. Under the terms of his parole, "Hurt will work on a ranch owned by his brother, former FBI man Clarence Hurt." 

In another case the same year, the State Pardon & Parole Board was considering the favorable recommendations for "model prisoner," Julius Bohannon. A "three time killer," the prisoner said he had been promised a job on the ranch of former FBI agent Clarence Hurt."Bohannon was serving a life term and a 99 year sentence for killing two McCurtin County deputy sheriffs. He later was given another 99 year sentence for killing a prison employee during a prison break in 1936. Prison officials said Bohannon had participated in three other prison breaks. 

I'd venture a guess that the new arrivals would make some interesting talk around the dinner table. . .

SA Walter Walsh & Killing Russell Gibson

Special Agent Walter Walsh passed away in 2014 at the age of 106. The last remaining survivor of the Dillinger era in Bureau history, he had many a story to tell.  His distinguished career in the FBI, a decades long pistol shooting champion and a U. S. Marine Corps veteran who saw action in Okinawa, it would take me pages to cover all of his accomplishments. In 1937, Walsh was wounded in the Bangor, Maine shootout with the Brady gang during a stakeout at a gun store. In the shooting melee on the street, he fired a fatal round at gang member, Clarence Lee Shaffer, Jr., granting him a place in the promised land. Gang leader, Alfred Brady was also killed in the shootout.

A career and a lifetime deserving of a book or movie, there is one thing in Walsh's notable career that is mistaken and deserves mention.

It's unclear when or where it occurred but suffice it to say that with all the story telling, formal and informal interviews, small talk among friends, magazine articles or simply a glitch in transcribing notes, there was - well - confusion at best regarding something that happened back in 1935... 

I noticed all this recently during an examination of some random accounts of the 1935 killing of gangster, Russell Gibson, aka "Slim Gray." Sporadic narratives on the Internet whether it be a forum of sorts, an article about the gangster days, or an interview of Walsh himself attributed the killing of gangster, Russell Gibson to SA Walsh. 

My review of the above came simultaneously with my review of released FBI files on the actual shooting of Gibson that night on January 8, 1935.

It's well documented that along with others, SA Walsh was present at the Chicago hideout of gangster "Doc" Barker and participated in his arrest. That was sometime around 6:30pm, Chicago time. 

Two to three hours later on the same night, at a different Chicago hideout, arrest attempts with Gibson and others caused Gibson to exit the rear of an apartment building firing at FBI agents.  One particular agent returned fire, killing Gibson.

But it wasn't SA Walter Walsh...

Whatever happened during the stories over the years, Walsh was accurately placed at the Barker arrest at about 6:30pm, but a couple of hours later, was somehow moved over to the Gibson arrest where SAC E. J. Connelley and sixteen other FBI agents were executing that arrest (and shooting.) This would not have been unusal, due to Walsh's proficency with a handgun, had it actually occurred. The problem is, this is exactly where a couple of "wheels came off the wagon" in memorializing this incident. Simply put, there's nothing indicative in the official record that SA Walsh was at the Gibson shooting. 

Exiting the apartment during the FBI raid, Gibson was met at the rear by a cadre of FBI agents and namely one legendary figure named SA James "Doc" White of Texas Ranger fame. The files are clear that it was White - not Walsh - who fired on Gibson with a 30.06 rifle, killing him. I noticed off the top that author Bryan Burrough in his book, "Public Enemies" also identified SA White as Gibson's killer - not SA Walsh. Burrough's research was very thorough with regard to his book.  SA White's shooting of Gibson is also noted in a recent copy of SA Tom McDade's diary obtained by the FBI from his son and in some personal papers sent us by White's great nephew.  

We all have an obligation of keeping history as accurate as we can, regardless of how big or how small the issue. Forgetting any "credit" due in the killing of a bad man, the sporadic accounts of the Gibson shooting need correction.  But having said that, none of it removes anything from SA Walter Walsh's esteemed FBI and U. S. Marine Corps career.  May he rest in peace...

 

 

 

 

    

1932 - '39 - Nearly Twenty Kidnappings Per Year!

By 1945, the Mattson Kidnapping remains active and during the depression era years before, kidnapping was "big business."

Here's part of a paragraph shown in a 1939 letter to the Attorney General from J. Edgar Hoover covering a seven year period:

"Since the passage of the Federal Kidnapping Statute on June 22, 1932, the Bureau has performed investigative work in 144 actual kidnappings.  All but two have been solved.  The two unsolved cases are those involving the abduction and murder of Charles Fletcher Mattson, Jr. at Tacoma, Washington, [Dec. 1936] and Peter Levine at New Rochelle, NY [Feb. 1938]. "  

"In the kidnapping cases handled by the Bureau, there have been 290 convictions, sentences imposed have totaled 11 deaths, 42 life, 3,493 years, 2 kidnappers have been lynched, 8 committed suicide, 8 were killed by law enforcement officers, and 7 were murdered by their own gang members."

"At the present time, 93 special agents and 10 Technical Experts of the Bureau are exclusively assigned to the Mattson and Levine cases...."

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Another part of the letter reveals agents on the average were assigned an average of 18 cases each (many of them major investigations) and that the Federal laws passed of 1934 had placed undue strain on the Bureau due to lack of agent personnel.  It was generally agreed at FBIHQ that an assignment of 10 cases per agent was "manageable." At the time of this 1939 memo, there were 647 special agents. 

Kidnapping cases during the early days, as is still the policy today, require the responding field office to drop all other investigative matters, and reassign manpower as needed. Quite a few of these kidnappings involved children and more than most are aware of; some have been long forgotten.  Many, as in any major crime, contained long lists of those who confessed; had nothing to do with the kidnapping, and sent agents and police on fruitless pursuits of leads which ate up time and money.

To my knowledge, as of today, the Mattson and Levine kidnappings remain unsolved.

 

Inspector Sam Cowley - "Hell Of A Poker Player"

FBI Inspector, Samuel Cowley (courtesy - FBI)For many today….both inside and outside the FBI… the name Inspector Sam Cowley usually reflects a recollection of maybe some limited role he played in the 1930s “War On Crime.”  Eclipsed in the media over the decades by Purvis, most only recall Cowley being sent to Chicago to oversee Purvis and being killed at the Barrington, Il shootout months later.  

However, appreciation of Cowley’s place in Bureau history can’t be done without examining the files.  Cowley’s role at HQ during those early 30s was a total emersion into the headline cases of the period, supervising multiple simultaneous major cases from his FBIHQ position and having a unique ability to handle “nine irons in the fire.”   He was clearly Hoover's “point man” in the high-profile gangster-related crimes and kidnapping arena which was eating up the manpower and the budget.  His administrative qualities are very admirable as evidenced by an exam of his reporting to Hoover and others as to what was going on in the field in a variety of areas.  He was in contact with Purvis and issuing instructions to Chicago long before he even arrived there. And the Dillinger case was just one instance of the many major cases being worked; every major case had sometimes up to ten or twenty accomplices and co-conspirators.  

Bureau files reveal that Cowley arrived in Chicago at Hoover's insistence sometime during the June 1934 period, working side by side with Purvis.  By then, Purvis was probably over his head, perhaps through no fault of his own, and the administration of many cases at hand was suffering.  As far as Hoover was concerned, investigative progress was waning in far too many instances.   

Cowley stayed in Chicago and those who served in the Bureau would appreciate it more, but the responsibilities that Hoover laid on Cowley in the fall of '34 are unimaginable.  And with no cell phones, no computers, no analysts and no "Emergency Response Teams" for evidence collection, etc. 

The ink on that letter to Cowley would hardly be dry when he and SA Herman Hollis were killed by Nelson/Chase about a month and a half later. 

I had the honor to speak to Cowley’s surviving son some years back.  He had only wished his father had received the credit due for his role during those violent years.  His son had mentioned that Cowley was not publicity prone and really shunned the media during those years. He left no photos, diaries or papers behind of his FBI career.  We talked about Cowley's devotion to the Mormon religion.  That's when his son chuckled and said, “yes....but he was one hell of a poker player too!”

Readers can view Hoover's instructions to Cowley in September, 1934 at this link. 

 

"Where's All The Female FBI Agents Of The 30s?"

Special Agent, Alaska Davidson, circa 1923 - FBI photo. She and Jessie Duckstein would be the Bureau's first female special agents. . .

Special Agent, Alaska Davidson, circa 1923 - FBI photo. She and Jessie Duckstein would be the Bureau's first female special agents. . .

One of our astute readers asked me this question recently noting that our site didn't contain anything about female FBI agents during the depression era. It was being passed down by family members that one of her relatives, a female, was an FBI agent during this period. Her question was a good one not only for historical reasons, but to settle the family story too.  

Simply put, there were none. In fact, since the 1920s, there were no female FBI agents in the Bureau until the summer after Director Hoover's death in 1972.  Rather than recount the history, here's some script from a recent speech given by one of the Bureau's female Assistant Directors that explains it best:

Let's take the history of the FBI, for example. The Bureau was created in 1908 as the Special Agent force. In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover became the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and what eventually became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. But, did you know prior to Director Hoover's appointment there were two women pioneers in 1923 who were Special Agents? Jessie Duckstein and Alaska Davidson were dreamers and the first female trailblazers in the Bureau. They resigned in 1924. But, their dreams to see females among the ranks of agents in the FBI were not deferred. Shortly after they resigned, Lenore Houston became a Special Agent in the Philadelphia Field Office and served for four years.

And, although it was not until July 17, 1972, nearly 44 years later, when women began to truly enter the ranks of the FBI Special Agent, the obstacles of the previous years served as the catalysts which forced the dreams of women in federal law enforcement to explode. And today, women in the FBI are supervisors, program managers, Unit Chiefs, Section Chiefs, Special Agents in Charge, Assistant Directors, and Executive Assistant Directors. Women in the FBI are vocal, powerful, and invaluable contributors.

For the assistance of our readers, I've linked a 1971 letter from FBI Headquarters to the then president of Colorado State University regarding his allegation that not hiring female special agents was a discriminatory practice in violation of the law.  The letter explains the law, the Civil Service regulations and the Bureau's reasoning behind the practice.  All of it would change about a year and a half later...

Dillinger: Keeping His Violence In Perspective

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Above: Local Indictment Against Dillinger: "..with the intent, then and there, ...to murder [Detective.] Henry Cummings."

Many times conveniently overlooked by those who find some romantic appeal in his escapades, is another shooting incident at St. Paul involving Dillinger and law enforcement. In the company of his girl, "Billie" Frechette, Dillinger's intent that day is extremely clear. So may we add, was that of Homer Van Meter, who was initially thought to be the bank robber, Eddie Green. We do place some emphasis on the words another shooting incident.

Intent....that is the key word and as the facts are reviewed in this St. Paul, Lexington Ave. apartment shooting, most will find or should find that it's very difficult to argue Dillinger's intent. When you purposely fire a Thompson SMG through a doorway at persons you know to be law enforcement officers, (in this case, Detective Homer Cummings) regardless if you miss or not, there is very little room to believe you had something else in mind other than killing or maiming.  Of course we have left out Dillinger's total disregard for other tenants who may have been in the hallway and any others inside their nearby apartment. Cummings did manage to wound Dillinger in the leg. 

Homer Van Meter's intent was no different when he fired nearly point blank at FBI agent, Rufus Coulter in the stairwell.  

When cornered at the Lexington apartments in St. Paul, Minn. Dillinger clearly exhibited his propensity for violence and his intent on killing Cummings and continued that intent on firing on agent Coulter from the window.

While we show readers the content of the state indictment, above, no one needs to see a legal document in order to know what the investigative facts reveal in this incident.    

Check the navigation area for the actual FBI reports on the St. Paul shootout and a host of facts long conveniently forgotten by those who insist on looking at them as "Robin Hoods" of the era... see the "navigation" section title:  "Intent To Kill: Dillinger & The Soap Salesman." 

Readers may desire to search the Net separately relative to Detective Henry Cummings.

When Did The FBI Begin Carrying Firearms?

If you do some preliminary searches you're going to see many authors, journalists, and arm chair historians giving the date of 1934 as a result of federal legislation with the May/June crime bills.  For many, that's been where the story stops.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth because many simply didn't look far enough...

Stop over at the navigation area and grab a copy of our newest article for 2014 titled,  "1934 & The Myth Of FBI Firearms."  We'll give you the answers and the evidence you need to know the full story! 

Can I Get My Father's/Grandfather's FBI Records?

The short answer is yes!  Grandfather, grandmother, brother, whomever! In fact anyone can get your relative's FBI personnel file as long as they are either deceased or sign a waiver if living.   The long answer is it may take quite a few months to process.  But I strongly suggest you do it, especially if you're seeking records going back to the 1920s, 30s, etc.  We don't know how long these records are going to be around and you don't want to miss out on some true documented history! 

The personnel files of these men are rich in family history in addition to the agent's career.  The application alone filed for employment with the FBI will provide a much needed background for many who are seeking detailed facts about the agent's early family life, immediate members, relatives, education and much more. The background investigation done will reveal friends, associates and even high ranking members of the government who may have known the applicant.    

For those of you interested, I've prepared a short "how to" document giving you the necessary info to make application for the information with the FBI and what to expect.  Want a copy?  All you have to do is ask.  Just send me an email via this site and I'll forward you the document.  

Watch Out! "Family Lore" & Distorted Stories

Some months back I was contacted by the granddaughter of one of the members of the Dillinger Squad.  It's only one of many that I've had with families of the depression era's FBI.  Her story about "grand dad" came from her own father who of course was the brother of this agent. One would think that his story was generally accurate, getting it first hand from his FBI brother who was there.  That would be anyone's immediate reaction. The problem was apparent to me upon further questioning:  fact is, "dad" didn't really get the story from his agent brother.  It was actually related to her father through a third party family member.  Now things would start to unravel....  

The story as relayed to me by her about grand dad shooting and killing Dillinger would be exciting, but the downside was the fact that while listening to it, I knew it wasn't accurate and I surely hated to be the one to tell her it defied the historical record.  Her grandfather was present at the Biograph that night as an agent assigned to the Chicago FBI office, I knew that.  However, statements by others present, coupled with the original sketch of where everyone was, and much more revealed her grandfather was not only not involved in the actual shooting, but wasn't in a position to shoot anyhow.  If this story was supposedly accurate, then it would alter the accounts of nearly ten other agents at the scene that night.  

One of two things happened to this story as it was passed to the family.  Either the agent himself exaggerated his role in the Dillinger shooting or the third party and/or "dad" misinterpreted what was told to them and/or exaggerated it.  In most cases, I'll think you'll find the latter the real culprit.  Witnesses to history can be great sometimes, but one must take their accounts into consideration with other existing evidence.  

Distorted family stories are common.  People are people, and it happens; usually not done purposely.  The passage of father Time starts playing tricks on many and memory loss rolls in. Family stories, photos and documents are no doubt treasured pieces in a long ago puzzle that sometimes is pretty sketchy to say the least. Many times, they provide the missing clues that historians never knew about!  But be careful of these stories and check them with other relatives, family friends and others before you embark on a time consuming, and sometimes embarrassing, crusade to nowhere.  Most importantly, see if there are family photos or personal documents to back up the original claims, such as letters written, diaries, etc.   
 
The last thing you want to hear months [or years] after researching is that "Aunt Helen" had been known to exaggerate profusely or "she's told that story in ten variations!"  Remember, the further you get from the original source, the more the story is likely to change, no matter how sincere the teller.  Usually a tell tale sign that "something is amok" are variations of the story as you ask questions of others who are supposed to know!  Bottom line?  Always consider the source in conjunction with other evidence!   

 

"Public Enemies" Observations/Comments

Author Bryan Burrough's book, "Public Enemies," is a well researched and a close historical account of names, incidents and more.   I cannot say the same about the movie, "Public Enemies."  I walked out wondering, as usual, why is it necessary for these movie moguls to purposely destroy historical accounts of our past?  Especially in this case when the documented facts are right in front of them. 

After I saw the opening of the movie with the killing of "Pretty Boy" Floyd,  I already knew the historical accuracy of the movie was headed for disaster.   The rest of the movie followed suit.

The credits at the end of the movie have the standard "some of this is fictionalized" and that was an understatement!  The movie is fraught with Melvin Purvis being in places he never was;  shooting people he never shot; FBI Agents being in locales they never were; gangsters and FBI Agents dying in battles that aren't even close to documented facts and a host of incidents so out of historical sequence, it "killed off" characters at periods when they were still alive. 

If you went to the movie to glean some historical fact about the war on crime during the Depression, don't go talking about it at parties, based on the movie,  because you'll look rediculous in front of anyone who knows a tidbit of FBI or gangster history.   On the other hand, if you went merely to listen to the spurts of Tommy guns; to look at vintage cars, and to listen to banjo music, then you got your money's worth.

I guess the people I feel for the most are the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of those FBI Agents who, once again, are presented distorted views of what their fathers and grandfathers did, and didn't do, during those turbulent years in the FBI.  I find it especially shameful that Inspector Samuel Cowley's role in the Chicago, FBI and the Dillinger case was shown as non-existent.  (His two sons are alive today and reside in the Salt Lake area.)  While I hold a certain respect for Melvin Purvis, Purvis did not "do it all."

Here's a few observations to save you some time and make you sound like you know what you're talking about at upcoming gatherings when the movie comes up as topic:

  • What you'll find in some instances is that the inacurracies of characters and events in the movie are "viral."  One distortion of historical fact leads to another; either immediately or later in the movie.  I should add that this type of distortion is not just unique to "Public Enemies."
  • The actual killing of "Pretty Boy Floyd" was not even close to the movie's portrayal; Purvis did NOT have a rifle at the scene nor did he kill Floyd.  By his own documented admission, Purvis shot at Floyd with his .38 caliber service revolver.    At the time of Floyd's shooting, he was found in possession of two automatic handguns,  not a Thompson sub machine gun. (More on the Floyd killing is in the navigation area).  The killing of Floyd in the beginning of the movie (October, 1934) is way out of sequence historically with Dillinger's killing at the end of the movie. (July, 1934).   
  • The shooting done by Nelson at the apartment building where he kills an Agent named "Vaughn" is perplexing and I'm not sure what purpose it served.   Maybe an intro to the sociopath Nelson? Nelson never killed any FBI Agent named "Vaughn" who Purvis is standing over in the hallway.  FBI documents on the personnel of the time reveal that "Vaughn" in the movie is probably a fictitious name.    
  • Purvis' offer to resign, which Hoover turned down, was AFTER LITTLE BOHEMIA, not before and surely not after the "fictitious" killing of "Vaughn."
  • The extradition scene of Dillinger arriving in Indiana and placed into the custody of female Sheriff, Lillian Holley, was odd.  When Dillinger, during the press conference, goes "arm in arm" with the prosecutor (a famous photo later), the movie shows Holley walking away as if to say, "I want no part of this relationship."  Fact is, the actual newsreel clips and photos of that meeting clearly reveal Holley standing there with Dillinger,  the prosecutor and others, during the laughing and joking with the press.
  • SAC Melvin Purvis was NOT in charge of the raid at Little Bohemia.  Assistant Director, Hugh Clegg was placed in charge by Hoover and this is clear in a Bureau document in file from April 25, 1934. 
  • The "tip" that Dillinger and others were at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin came from Henry Voss, an inside relative of the Wanakas, owners of the lodge who recognized some of the Dillinger gang upon their arrival there.  Voss was acting as a messenger from the Wanakas. It was the result of a note smuggled to Voss from the inside AFTER the gang had already arrived.  The "tip" did not come as a result of FBI Agents squeezing the head wound of some injured Dillinger bank robber at a hospital and threatening to arrest the tending physician.   (The report of what happened is in the navigation area)       
  • The shootout scene at Little Bohemia (April, 1934) is a debacle all by itself with regard to what is known to have happened there.   First of all, the movie shows "Baby Face" Nelson escaping Bohemia, killing Agent Carter Baum and wounding SA Jay Newman, (which he did) but then being chased by Purvis (on the running boards) and others and eventually killed at the end of the chase in the field with his pal, Homer Van Meter. 
  • Fact is, Nelson wasn't killed until months after "Little Bohemia" in November, 1934 in a shootout at Barrington, IL. with friend, John Chase, Nelson's wife, and Agents Samuel Cowley and Herman Hollis.  Purvis was NOT present at the killing of "Baby Face Nelson."  Homer Van Meter wasn't there either.  During that shootout, Nelson killed Agents Cowley and Hollis, and was also killed himself.  Movie makers have "crunched" the Bohemia shootout in April, 1934 with the Nelson/FBI shootout of November, 1934 and the shooting of John Hamilton and as a result, ended up with a totally chaotic distortion of what really happened in these separate incidents.    
  • But there's a bit more to the Bohemia incident as shown in the movie with the presence of three main characters who, by all accounts, weren't even there.   Bohemia happened on April 22, 1934.   The Agents who traveled to the location came from two contingents.  One group arrived with Purvis from Chicago; one group arrived with AD Clegg and SAC Hanni from St. Paul.  Agent Winstead's own memoirs reveal he arrived in Chicago on the Dillinger Squad in May, 1934 which I note is AFTER Bohemia was over.  The books by Burrough and Alston Purvis ("The Vendetta") show the date as May 12, 1934 and so does his expense diary.  

By all official file accounts, SA Charles Winstead was working in the Dallas, Texas area during the month of April, 1934 chasing down leads relative to Bonnie and Clyde.  Simply put, Winstead was not at Bohemia.  And neither were SA's Clarence Hurt or "Jerry" Campbell. 

  • SA's Clarence Hurt and Jerry Campbell did not join the FBI until May. ("Little Bohemia" occurred in April.)   FBI records clearly show that Hurt entered on duty with the FBI on 5/23/34 and went directly to training.  He did not appear at the Chicago Office until 6/25/34, one month later.  Records show Campbell in the same training class with Hurt on 5/23/34.   (Campbell's FBI application and acceptance dates are in the navigation area.)
  • Additionally, reports after the Bohemia shootout in file clearly reveal that it was Purvis,  and other named Agents, including SA Carter Baum,  who fired upon the vehicle containing the innocent CCC workers.  Purvis' Thompson machine gun jammed at one point.  The scene of Winstead and Hurt standing with Purvis doing the shooting at the car is not accurate because Winstead and Hurt simply were not there.  
  • Gangster, "Red" Hamilton was NOT shot by either Winstead or Hurt while being chased through the woods from Bohemia with Dillinger.  The shooting of Hamilton (and his eventual mortal wounding) came at a bridge crossing near Hastings, MN.  A policeman named Fred McArdle and several deputies ended up in a running gun battle with Dillinger, Hamilton and Homer Van Meter, all of whom had escaped from Bohemia.  That battle occurred on the Monday after the Bohemia shootout.  This is well documented.   
  • It was interesting to see the approach of Purvis and the Agents to the Bohemia lodge conveniently done without the barking dogs, contrary to documented reports,  and which barking dogs alerted the gang inside to the coming Agents. 
  • The movie probably catapulted the name of Agent Charles Winstead into the forefront of the American public.  Agents Clarence Hurt and Herman Hollis also fired at Dillinger at the same time Winstead fired.  Granted however, that in all probability it was actually a shot from a .45 that Winstead carried that made the fatal head/cheek wound.  In 1970, SA Winstead told the Society of Retired FBI Agents' magazine, "The Grapevine,"  that although he tried to hear, he DID NOT understand what Dillinger said as he lay dying.  There was never any report from Winstead revealing Dillinger telling him to tell Billie "bye, bye blackbird."   Winstead's report of what he did that night, along with the other Agent's reports, are at this site.  He makes no mention of hearing anything Dillinger said. 

I had heard from quite a few that Mann's attention to historical facts was paramount.   Now I can sit back and tell myself that my "gut feeling" was right all along.  It was never going to happen.  They must have been talking about the vintage cars, the Tommy guns and the banjo music.........

So what did you and the American Public get?   You can tell us here.

Feel free to post your observations................

Larry Wack, Retired SA, FBI - 1968-2003