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The Saint Valentine’s Day massacre is the name given to the death of seven people as part of a Prohibition Era conflict between two powerful criminal gangs in Chicago, Illinois, in the winter of 1929: the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone and the North Side Irish gang led by Bugs Moran.  Former members of the Egan’s Rats gang were also suspected to have played a large role in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, assisting Capone.” (Saint Valentine's Day massacre)

“The bloody events of February 14, 1929 began nearly five years before with the murder of Dion O’Banion, the leader of Chicago’s North Side mob.  At that time, control of bootleg liquor in the city raged back and forth between the North Siders, run by O’Banion and the South Side Outfit, which was controlled by Johnny Torrio and his henchman, Al Capone.  In November 1924, Torrio ordered the assassination of O’Banion and started an all-out war in the city.  The North Siders retaliated soon afterward and nearly killed Torrio outside of his home.  This brush with death led to him leaving the city and turning over operations to Capone, who was almost killed himself in September 1926.  The following month, Capone shooters assassinated Hymie Weiss, who had been running the North Side mob after the death of O’Banion.  His murder left the operation in the hands of George “Bugs” Moran, a long-time enemy of Capone.  For the most part, Moran stood alone against the Capone mob, since most of his allies had succumbed in the fighting.  He continued to taunt his powerful enemy and looked for ways to destroy him.” (Taylor, 2006)

“In early 1929,  Al Capone was living in Miami with his family (to escape Chicago’s brutal winter) when his associate Jack “Machine gun” McGurn visited.  McGurn, who had recently survived an assassination attempt ordered by Moran, wanted to discuss the ongoing problem of Moran’s gang.  In an attempt to eliminate the Moran gang entirely, Capone agreed to fund an assassination attempt and McGurn was placed in charge of organizing the hit.”  (Rosenberg)

“McGurn planned carefully.  He located the Moran gang’s headquarters, which was in a large garage behind the offices of S.M.C. Cartage Company at 2122 North Clark Street.  He selected gunmen from outside the Chicago area, to ensure that if there were any survivors, they would not be able to recognize the killers as part of Capone’s Gang.  McGurn hired lookouts and set them up in an apartment near the garage.  Also essential to the plan, McGurn acquired a stolen police car and two police uniforms.” (Rosenberg)

“With the plan organized and the killers hired, it was time to set the trap.  McGurn instructed a local booze hijacker to contact Moran on February 13.  The hijacker was to tell Moran that he had obtained a shipment of Old Log Cabin whiskey (i.e. very good liquor) which he was willing to sell at the very reasonable price of $57 per case.  Moran quickly agreed and told the hijacker to meet him at the garage at 10:30am the following morning.” (Rosenberg)

On the morning of February 14, 1929, a group of Moran’s Men gathered at the S.M.C. Cartage Company.  “The men were: Pete Gusenberg, a front line enforcer for the Moran organization, Frank Gusenberg, the brother of Peter Gusenberg and also an enforcer, Albert Kachellek, alias “James Clark”, Moran’s second-in-command, Adam Heyer, the bookkeeper and business manager of the Moran Gang, Reinhart Schwimmer, an optician who had abandoned his practice to gamble on horse racing (unsuccessfully) a “gang groupie” of the Moran Gang, Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operation for Moran, and John May, a safe cracker and an occasional car mechanic for the Moran gang, though not a gang member himself.” (Saint Valentine's Day massacre)

“George Moran was already late for the morning meeting.  He was due to arrive at 10:30am but didn’t even leave for the rendezvous in the company of Willie Marks and Ted Newberry, until several minutes after that.  As the seven men waited inside of the warehouse, they had no idea that a police car had pulled up outside, or that Moran had spotted the car as he was driving south on Clark Street and rather than deal with what he believed was a shake-down, stopped at the next corner for a cup of coffee.” (Taylor, 2006)

At 10:30am the lookouts (Harry and Phil Keywell) were watching carefully as the Moran gang assembled at the garage.  The lookouts recognized a man heading to the garage as “Bugs” Moran.  (Rosenberg)    “The lookouts allegedly confused one of Moran’s men (most likely Albert Weinshank, who was the same height, build, and even physically resembled Moran) for Moran himself: he then signaled for the gunmen to enter the warehouse.
“When the stolen police car reached the garage, the four gunmen (Fred “Killer” Burke, John Scalise, Albert Anselmi, and Joseph Lolordo) jumped out.  (Some reports say there were five gunmen)” (Rosenberg)   “Two of the gunmen were dressed in police uniforms.  When the gunmen rushed into the garage, the seven men inside saw the uniforms and thought it was a routine police raid.  Continuing to believe the gunmen to be police officers, all seven men peacefully did as they were told.  They lined up, faced the wall, and allowed the gunmen to remove their weapons.  The gunmen then opened fire, using two Tommy guns, a sawed-off shotgun, and a .45.  The killing was fast and bloody.  Each of the seven victims received at least 15 bullets, mostly in the head and torso.” (Rosenberg) 

“To show bystanders that everything was under control, the men in street clothes came out with their hands up, prodded by the two uniformed cops.” (Saint Valentine's Day massacre)  The gunmen then drove away.  “John Mays dog Highball inside the garage began barking and howling.” (Taylor, 2006)

“The landlady in the next building, Mrs. Jeanette Landesman, was bothered by the sound of the dog and she sent one of her boarders, D.L. McAllister to the garage to see what was going on.  He came outside two minutes later, his face a pale white color.  He ran frantically up the stair to beg Mrs. Landesman to call the police.  He cried that the garage was full of dead men!” (Taylor, 2006)

“The police were quickly summoned and on entering the garage, were stunned by the carnage.  Moran’s men had been lined up against the rear wall of the garage and had been sprayed with machine-guns.  Pete Gusenberg had died kneeling, slumped over a chair.  James Clark had fallen on his face with half of his head blown away and Heyer, Schwimmer, Weinshank and May were thrown lifeless onto their backs.  Only one of the men survived the slaughter and he lived for only a few hours.  Frank Gusenberg had crawled from the blood-sprayed wall where he had fallen and dragged himself into the middle of the dirty floor.  He was rushed to the Alexian Brothers Hospital, barely hanging on.  Police sergeant Clarence Sweeney, who had grown up on the same street as Gusenberg, leaned down close to Frank and asked who had shot him,  “No one---nobody shot me, “ he groaned and he died later that night.” (Taylor, 2006)

“The massacre that took seven live that St. Valentine’s Day in 1929 made newspaper headlines across the country. “ (Rosenberg) 

“Though this was one of the first major crimes that the science of ballistics was used, no one was ever tried or convicted for the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.  Though the police never had enough evidence to convict Al Capone, the public knew he was responsible.” (Rosenberg)

“The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre marked the end of any significant gang opposition to Capone but it was also the act that finally began the decline of Capone’s criminal empire.  He had just gone too far and the authorities, and even Capone’s adoring public, were ready to put an end the bootlegging wars.” (Taylor, 2006)

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Rosenberg, J. (n.d.). St. Valentines Day Massacre. Retrieved February 2, 2009, from About.com: http://history1900s.about.com/od/1920s/p/valentines.htm

Saint Valentine's Day massacre. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2009, from wikipedia.org: http://en.widipedia.org/siki/St._Valentine%27s_Day_Massacre

Taylor, T. (2006). Dead Men Do Tell Tales Bloody Chicago. Chicago, IL: Troy Taylor.
See also: www.prairieghosts.com/valentine.html


 

 
 

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