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The Aftermath of the Little Bohemia Incident

Updated on March 27, 2013
"You won't see me shaking Dillinger's hand!"
"You won't see me shaking Dillinger's hand!" | Source

The Media and the Government

Newspapers in the area big cities in surrounding states dispatched photographers and reporters to Little Bohemia by any means possible. Naturally, Milwaukee journalists were the first to get there, due to close proximity. Area residents referred to the entire affair as a fiasco. The FBI was criticized far and wide, but Senator Royal Copeland had sound rationale: it was a sad failure of co-operation between state, federal, and local authorities that led to the most notorious escape during the Depression era.

Dillinger was actually a big help to crime fighting of the future. President Roosevelt spoke to Hatton Summers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and he assured the President that he would attend to the twelve anti-crime bills that had been held up for so long in Congress.

Spiral Bridge over Mississippi
Spiral Bridge over Mississippi | Source

The Ride to St. Paul

Tommy Carroll abandoned the stolen Packard on the dead end road and continued on foot for miles due north. Baby Face was south, and also on foot. The fast car was mired in mud. Dillinger, Red Hamilton, and Homer van Meter turned their hostage loose and continued on to St. Paul. Deputy Sheriff Norman Dieter and his men were stationed at the infamous spiral bridge over the Mississippi, which was below St. Paul. Dieter figured that Dillinger would be southbound.

However, he did notice a northbound Ford with Wisconsin plates, occupied by three men, one with a handkerchief tied around his head. That was Hamilton, van Meter was driving, and Dillinger was beside him.

By the time Dieter got on the bridge, a slow cattle truck was between them and the gangsters. By the time they got to the other side of the river, Dillinger was gone, but they caught up to him about ten miles later. The car was displaying the stolen Packard’s plates. Dieter fired at the rear tire. van Meter sped up as Dillinger broke out the rear window and started shooting. The lawmen fired back, and a bullet struck Hamilton in the back.

van Meter got a good lead, rounded a sharp curve, and then turned off on a dirt road. The lawmen passed by them on the main road.

Volney Davis
Volney Davis | Source

Better to Go to Chicago

Hamilton was seriously hurt, and they knew that St. Paul was being watched. Maybe it would be best to lie low in Chicago. It was time to change cars, as the Packard looked like Swiss cheese. It didn’t take long to cut off a family minding their own business just south of South St. Paul.

Dillinger apologized for the intrusion, and he took the driver’s seat with Hamilton beside him. van Meter got in the rear with Mr. and Mrs. Roy Francis and their infant son. The family was dropped off a short distance away, and off the gang went for Chicago.

By Tuesday, the Little Bohemia story went international, and here at home, Dillinger reports had him all over the nation.

It took Dillinger nearly two days to get to Chicago, and the hunt was on for an underworld doctor. It was April 27, five days now after the shooting. Dr. Moran’s office was now a money laundering clearinghouse, and he was petrified that Dillinger would blow the operation wide open. They went to Bensonville to another doctor, but he was just as nervous. Volney Davis in Aurora agreed to help as best he could, and the gangrenous wound was cleaned. Red Hamilton passed two days later, and was buried in a gravel pit.

Dillinger and van Meter returned to Chicago, but they neglected to get rid of the bloody Ford that had been stolen in St. Paul. It was abandoned on the north side. Everyone then knew that Dillinger was back in town, and Chicago Police were on the alert. Stege’s Dillinger Squad teamed up with the FBI to raid a number of underworld hideouts.

Anti-Crime Bills Introduced

On May 5, 1934, ten of the twelve anti-crime bills were approved by the House. They were expected to pass the Senate’s approval just as quickly. Then it would be a Federal crime to rob a bank, go out of state to avoid prosecution, or assault or kill a Federal officer. The FBI was also given more powers of arrest and to carry weapons at any time. Now it was getting a little more equitable between offender and law enforcement.

As you recall, this was the same time that Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were about to be taken down. The FBI had a lot going at this stage, and to be honest, they actually did a very good job. Now there were laws to help them serve justice.

Wilhelm Loeser
Wilhelm Loeser | Source

Rumors and Disguises

Dillinger and van Meter found a new hideout in Calumet City, and rumors that circulated was that Dillinger was now out of the country. More rumors had him in England. On May 4, Scotland Yard was asked to check all inbound ships from the U.S. and Canada. Canadian officials were also asked to search their vessels. Then another rumor spread that Dillinger was on his way to London from Glasgow, where the steamer Duchess of York had just landed.

The FBI, Stege, Reynolds, and Leach had their own ideas that Dillinger was still in the Midwest. It was also stated that the $25 fugitive from justice bounty on Dillinger was too ridiculous to get the public to talk. Governors of five states—Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois—now raised the ante to $5,000 combined.

It was at this point that Dillinger now got the idea that plastic surgery was in order to change his face and fingerprints. He spoke to Piquett, his attorney, and he happened to know such a man, Dr. Wilhelm Loeser, but it would take a few weeks to make the necessary arrangements. He also said that Billie Frechette would be free soon.

James Probasco
James Probasco | Source

Dillinger Goes Under the Knife

A week later, both Billie and the physician that treated Dillinger’s leg wound were sentenced to two years for harboring him in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Piquett said that he was filing an appeal for that, and everything was nearly ready for his plastic surgery. Piquett would collect $5,000, which would pay two doctors, and the assistant, Arthur O’Leary. His fee was a third.

On May 27, Dillinger arrived at a residence on Chicago’s north side. A short while later, Piquett and O’Leary showed up. The residence belonged to James Probasco. The operation would be in a bedroom, he’d recuperate in a back room, and Probasco expected $35 per day, which was not part of the original agreement.

The next day, Drs. Loeser and Harold Cassidy arrived. Dillinger wanted a general anesthetic, and wanted the moles between his eyes and the depression on the bridge of his nose filled in. The dimple was also to leave, and a scar removed on the left side of his upper lip. Loeser went to wash up, and Cassidy gave Dillinger the ether, but he gave too much. Dillinger stopped breathing and Loeser had to resuscitate him. Dillinger got everything done that he wanted, except the fingerprints. That was done five days later, and they also had another patient, Homer van Meter.

Loeser applied a caustic to Dillinger’s fingers and made a few facial corrections suggested by Piquett.

van Meter's Surgery

van Meter had a bump removed from the bridge of his nose, shortened his nose, and decreased the thickness of his lower lip. They also attempted to remove the red and blue anchor tattoo on his right arm. The following night, he had a few minor facial corrections and worked on his fingerprints.

Baby Face Nelson also dropped in, as he was also thinking about surgery.

Piquett didn’t live up to the deal that he made with the doctors for the two surgeries. He took half for his own fee, as he had to pacify his clients, who were originally not happy with the doctors’ handiwork.

Period Photo of Waterloo Iowa Police
Period Photo of Waterloo Iowa Police | Source

Tommy Carroll Sees the End

The only gang members left now were van Meter and Nelson. Red Hamilton was dead and Tommy Carroll wanted to be back in his own area of the country. His wife, Jean, and the two girls that were employed at Little Bohemia had just been released from the Madison jail and placed on eighteen months’ probation. Judge Patrick Stone said that even though they were technically guilty, they didn’t do anything to aid in Dillinger’s concealment. Hoover complained about the release, but Judge Stone said that he thought that the women would lead them right to the gangsters. Nobody bothered to trail them, though.

Carroll and Jean headed for Iowa the next day. A gas station attendant called the Waterloo police, as he lifted up the floorboard on the Hudson to put water in the battery and found a number of license plates.

Detectives Emil Steffen and P.E. Walker searched the area, and finally found the Hudson parked across from the police garage. A while later, a man and a woman came out the rear door of a restaurant in the alley. Walker identified himself and said that he wanted to talk to Carroll, who drew a gun. Walker swung, Carroll slipped and fell, losing his gun under the car, but he grabbed it, running down the alley. Steffen had pushed Jean to the sidewalk to keep her from getting in the Hudson. Carroll ran down the alley, and Steffen fired three times. Carroll died at a hospital a few hours later.

J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover | Source

And Now the End Is Near, I Face the Final Curtain

Dillinger was still recuperating at Probasco’s when he read about the death of Tommy Carroll. He also learned that Billie Frechette had left St. Paul for an undisclosed prison. He told van Meter that he was nothing but a jinx to his friends.

A week later, his face was healed, and he headed for home to visit. He also stopped at Mary Kinder’s. He asked if Makley and Pierpont had any luck with a new trial, but she said that they were going to the chair. He also told her that out of all the gang, she was the only one that was lucky. He also said that he knew that his time was coming.

All right, you rats, I don't know how much longer I'm going to be around. This next plan is going to be a big one, so you just sit tight and watch me do my stuff. You won't be disappointed.


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    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Alicia. This was filed under spam, and let me tell you, I found a LOT of comments in this category. I had no idea that it existed.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Read more, Theresa. I literally have done an entire book on this material. Read each chapter, and you'll know more about Dillinger. Then you can read my material on Bonnie and Clyde.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I love history of course, but know very little about American history and virtually nothing about the thirties. This was fascinating. Such great detail. Now I want to know more, which is what should happen when we read good material. Hope things are well with you. :) Theresa Sharing.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Imkarn! Writing like this, I tend to make several errors, then try to go back and correct them at a later date, but I know I have forgotten some. Thanks for stopping by to read, and I will look at your material as well.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 

      5 years ago

      my friend - i devoured every single word! The REAL 'Gangsta'' era interests me greatly - and your account was well-written, clear - and mezmerizing!

      I'll be back and am voting up and hub-sharing!

      From the 'I'd Want To Know' Department: I noticed a couple very minor spelling errors...

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This continues to be a very interesting story, Deb. I'm looking forward to the climax!

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, novel Treasure. The 30's fascinate me, as there is just something about the hard working folk of the time period, and how they managed to make it through the Depression.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Eddy! It was an interesting tale as his life unfolded.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Dillinger had a lot of luck on his side, no question about that. He should have been caught several times over, but he was slippery as the proverbial eel.

    • Novel Treasure profile image

      Novel Treasure 

      5 years ago from US

      What an interesting hub. I hadn't actually heard about this until I read your hub. Well written, organized, and entertaining. Voted up.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting ;well told and voted up.

      Enjoy your day.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's about time this guy pays his dues. I want him captured or shot or both. :) Nobody should be this lucky! LOL

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Several criminals did to hiude their appearances from the law. They always did their best to stay ahead of the police, which is part of the reason why the various agencies were forced to work together.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The gang was slippery, that's for sure. They planned better than the FBI, but the FBI wasn't told what they should have been. They should have checked out the terrain first, but they were in a big hurry to get their men.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Interesting stuff! I never knew Dillinger had plastic surgery. He was quite a character!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is amazing! Obviously I wasn't expecting this, which is probably part on mu awe. Thank you


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