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Little Bohemia Lodge Takes a Hard Hit
Isidor Tuchalski Saves the Day!
Before all the gear was unloaded from the planes, Voss ran across the airfield. He just met with his wife on the road, and Dillinger was leaving after dinner.
Under normal circumstances, it would be impossible to get to Little Bohemia in time to capture Dillinger, but Purvis found a hope. A young man named Isidor Tuchalski said that he’d drive Purvis into the Rhinelander business district, but it would take too long to rent enough cars. They borrowed Tuchalski’s Ford coupe, which he claimed would reach speeds of 103 mph. They also got four other cars on loan. Clegg mapped out an attack plan from a diagram of Little Bohemia drawn by Voss. Three agents wearing vests would take the main door of the lodge. Five would flank the left side as far as the lake to prevent penetration, and more men would do the same on the left. The lake was ignored, as it was impassable, and there were no boats.
The FBI Heads For Wanatka's Lodge
The only problem was that Voss didn’t mention a ditch on the left of the lodge, the steep bank at the lake, and the barbed wire fence on the right side. Voss didn’t think about the two watchdogs, either.
The five cars left Rhinelander at about 7:15 p.m. Two cars broke down after thirty miles, and the roads were muddy and pocked with holes. The eight people in those vehicles rode on the running boards of the other cars.
Nan Wanatka finally left the lodge to go to her sister’s place, Birchwood Lodge, where she would be safe. Emil, Sr. was still at Little Bohemia.
The FBI stopped at Birchwood Lodge, and learned that Dillinger was still at Little Bohemia. Clegg had his men slowly drive to Wanatka’s without lights. Pat Reilly and Patricia Cherrington were also heading there from the other direction.
The FBI Walks Into the Unexpected
Clegg and his men made it to the driveway of Little Bohemia in about a half hour in the dark. Two of their cars blocked the entrance. They moved toward the lodge in the trees—five went to the left, five to the right, and Clegg, Purvis, and the others stormed the entrance straight ahead.
They saw the lights from the lodge, then the dogs began to bark, and the men ran to their positions due to the dogs. The agents didn’t realize that the dogs had been carrying on over nothing for two nights. Nobody inside even noticed the noise, but right at that time, some other customers from the bar picked that time to leave. When the agents saw them, they thought that the dogs had alerted Dillinger to them. The two bartenders went out to the kitchen porch. The agents called out and ID’d themselves, but the customers were already in their cars and didn’t hear them. The cars began to leave, so Purvis and Clegg told their men to shoot the tires. Bullets hit the glass and riddled the car. Two of the three others were wounded, and one was dead.
The gang heard all that, and each man knew his position. Van Meter fired his machine gun from a second floor window, then from the roof, came Tommy Carroll’s fire. Baby Face Nelson fired much faster bursts from the cabin. Then Dillinger, Hamilton, and van Meter climbed out a second floor rear window, jumped into the snow, and slid down the bank by the edge of the lake. They escaped along the shoreline. Then Tommy Carroll went out the same window a short time later. Baby Face was the last to leave, because he enjoyed a good gun battle, and instead of going in the same direction as the others, he did just the opposite.
Blinded by the Night
The agents on the left side found the deep drainage ditch, but couldn’t see it. The ones on the right walked into the barbed wire. The gang was long gone before the agents got to the lake. Purvis was still firing into the front of the lodge, not knowing that the gang was gone. This was when Pat Reilly finally drove into the driveway. Several agents ordered him out of the vehicle, but he backed up full speed. Patricia Cherrington’s window shattered, a tire exploded, but somehow, Reilly kept the car out of the ditches. Once he reached the highway, he floored it, with the flat tire thumping.
In the cellar of the lodge were Wanatka, the two bartenders, and the three females. The wounded cook picked up the phone and told the operator that everybody was knocked out. Wanatka ran upstairs to grab the receiver, and the operator connected him with the FBI office. An agent told him to turn on the lights and go outside with his hands in the air. Wanatka, the wounded CCC cook, and the bartenders went out, but the girls stayed in the basement.
Wanatka told Clegg about the girls in the basement, and he told his men to cease fire. They would give the girls time to get out, then send in tear gas, as Clegg thought that Dillinger and the gang were still inside.
The Gang Reappears
George LaPorte, Nan Wanatka’s brother, heard the first shots a mile away, where he had taken Emil, Jr. to a neighbor’s. He drove to the CCC camp for medical help, as he thought there must be casualties. He was worried about his family. While he was en route to the lodge with the medical help, a thin, tall man tried to flag him down, but George didn’t stop. It was Homer van Meter. After LaPorte went by, Dillinger and Hamilton emerged from the wooded area. They stopped at an area residence, and Hamilton tore out the phone. Then Dillinger walked in, telling the terrified family that he wouldn’t hurt them, he just wanted their vehicle. They eventually went to a carpenter’s house, woke him up, and made him drive them over a seldom used country road toward St. Paul.
Tommy Carroll came out of the woods in the same vicinity, but missed Dillinger and Red Hamilton. He stole someone’s Packard, was nearly caught, and it would take him several hours to discover that he was driving on a dead-end lumber trail.
Baby Face Nelson headed south, and ended up walking in circles, as he had no sense of direction, a city dweller. He found an elderly couple, forcing them into their car, and he drove down Highway 51, heading straight for the temporary FBI station at the Voss’ lodge. The lights died on the car, but there was a well-lit house nearby. It belonged to the telephone operator, Alvin Koerner, and he had a car.
The Koerner's are Up Late
Koerner was so nervous about the Little Bohemia incident that he kept looking out the window, and he saw the car without headlights. He went to his switchboard and contacted the FBI at the Voss residence. After he hung up, Nelson and the elderly couple came to his door. LaPorte was also on the way to the Koerner’s, as Wanatka and the bartenders had no coats. They all went inside Koerner’s, to see Nelson holding an automatic on everyone inside. Nelson took Wanatka and Koerner for hostages, and got in LaPorte’s car. Just then, two FBI agents and a local constable arrived.
Purvis had actually sent these agents to the Voss lodge to contact the agent still in Rhinelander. They were supposed to advise him what happened and find out about the agents coming from St. Paul and Chicago. They got to Birchwood Lodge when Nelson got to the older folks’ house. Once at Voss’ place, they found out about the stolen Packard, assuming that it was a getaway car for the Dillinger gang. The two agents raced back north in the fast Tuchalski car, speaking to the local constable, Carl Christensen, who said he’d help look for the Packard. Then they learned that Koerner had called about a suspicious car.
The Head Nut in a Fast Car? What Next?
Baby Face Nelson jumped out of the car, covering the agents and constable with his automatic pistol. He shot Agent Jay Newman in the forehead, and he began to crawl. Constable Christensen was shot and fell in a ditch. Agent Carter Baum was shot before he could even reach for his gun. Nelson fired at Wanatka, who had dived into a snowbank, shot in the direction of Christensen, then hopped in the FBI Ford. Now Nelson was in a car that could travel at 103 miles an hour.
Dillinger Left Last Night!
Wanatka ran back to Little Bohemia for help, and was ordered to put up his hands by an agent. He told Purvis that all his men were dead at the Koerner home. It was a circus at Little Bohemia with tear gas coming from the windows, the girls were still in the basement, and a crowd of self-appointed deputies had weapons, giving an occasional shot to the building.
Wanatka took a bartender and returned to Koerner’s to try to aid the injured. He placed the deceased Agent Baum in the truck, picked up his .45, and drove the body to the CCC camp. When he returned to Little Bohemia, it was dawn, but the shooting was still happening. He pulled out Baum’s .45 and told the agents that Dillinger had left the night before. Tear gas was affecting people that were even outside, and the girls in the basement said that they would come out if people would stop shooting. Marie Conforti also came out with the puppy that she came with.
Six agents went through the front door, and checked the entire building for the gang, and found nobody. The battle was over, too late.