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Bandits in Iowa (John Dillinger/ Bonnie and Clyde)

On March 13, 1934, a robbery occurred at the First National Bank of Mason City, Iowa. The robbers consisted of John "Red" Hamilton, Baby Face Nelson, Eugene "Eddie" Green, Tommy Carroll, Homer Van Meter, Joseph Burns and John Dillinger. After parking their car behind the bank building, and positioning themselves at multiple viewpoints (Caroll stood near the entrance of Mulcahy's Prescription Shop, Nelson across the street, and Meter in the car), the gang entered the bank and began shouting orders, each carrying a Thompson submachine gun and .45-caliber handguns. A tear gas cartridge was fired in response by bank guard, Tom Walters. The cartridge hit a robber, who then fired into the protective glass Walters stood behind. The criminals proceeded with the plan by taking bank cashier Harry Fisher and bank teller John Hamilton to the vault. Due to a metal gate closing between Fisher, Hamilton and the robbers, only smaller bills could be handed through the bars. While the money exchange was occurring, switchboard operator Margaret Johnson (Giesen) yelled to a man below her office balcony to alert him to get help. Unknown to Johnson, the man was Nelson, who responded by showing her his gun. As news of the robbery spread, news crews arrived along with onlookers and police officers. Using customers of a nearby shoe store as human shields, the robbers protected themselves from police fire. Although Officer James Buchannan fired towards the gangsters, he missed and was unable to fire again due to the innocent people held by the criminals. Throughout the ordeal, only one injury occurred when townsperson R.L. James, who was walking past the bank, tried to run after realizing the bank was being robbed. While trying to escape, James was shot by Nelson in the leg. Dorothy (Ransom) Crumb and her mother, although not injured, also became involved in the situation when they were taken hostage by the robbers. After Crumb parked her car behind the robbers' vehicle, Nelson ordered them out of their car and into his (Crumb convinced Nelson to let them stay in their own car). Additional hostages were taken by the robbers, with numbers as high as 26, including bank teller Francis DeSart, who was forced to stand on the rear bumper of the car as it drove away from the bank (his coat still has a bullet hole from the gangster firing out the back window towards police). As the car left town, police drove James to the hospital in Crumb's car while Deputy Sheriff John P. Wallace fired towards the getaway car. The car was followed by Chief of Police Patton, Detective Leo Risacher and record superintendent Ray Oulman to a farmhouse on the westside of town. Once at the home, hostages were released slowly in groups over the course of an hour. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were notorious criminals during the early 1900s, travelling countrywide committing crimes (robberies and murder) and leading police on a chase for nearly four years (1931-1935). The two added multiple people to their gang including childhood friend W.D. Jones, Clyde's brother, Buck, and his sister-in-law. The couple were eventually caught and killed by police in Louisiana. The crime spree resulted in a media frenzy and pop culture products such as various films and TV series based on the pair's crimes. While on their criminal spree in 1933, Bonnie and Clyde fled to Iowa after a Platte City, Missouri shootout. Stopping in Dexter, Iowa, the pair realized that Buck (Clyde's brother) had been struck by a bullet, and Blanche (Buck's wife) also had an injury with glass shards in her eye. The gang hid near Dexfield Park to give time for Buck and Blanche to recover. On Sunday July 23, a local farmer, Henry Nye, happened on their campsite and reported finding bloody bandages, burning car mats, and a bullet-ridden car to Dexter's night marshall, John Love. With a group of 50 lawmen, the encampment was surrounded and the gangsters opened fire. Although the group attempted to escape through the South Raccoon River, Buck and Blanche were too injured to continue on and were captured by police. Bonnie, Clyde and W.D. Jones continued on to the Vallie Feller Farm where they stole a car and headed towards Polk City. There, they abandoned the car for another and left the state. Buck Barrow died in a Perry hospital five days after the battle while Blanche Barrow was sentenced to ten years in prison. In 1934, Bonnie and Clyde returned to Iowa and committed a series of robberies, beginning at First State Bank in Rembrandton on January 23, State Savings Bank of Knierim on February 1st, and the local bank in Everly on May 3rd. The pair were on the run for several months after, until they were killed at a police roadblock on May 23, 1934 in Gibsland Louisiana.
U.S. Chronology
Iowa History Eras
People
Relational Notes
Resource is related to the following objects, which can be found by searching the catalog number in the advanced search section: Catalog #: 2018.009.006- Radiator Cap of Stolen Car 2018.009.007- Bonnie and Clyde Historical Marker 2018.009.005- Bonnie and Clyde Wanted Poster 2018.021.048- Claedonia General Store
Early & Late Date
1930 to 1940