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1934 Bank Robbery with the Iowa Almanac

Here's a story of the most famous crime gangs of the 20th century

We are joined by Professor Jeff Stein to talk about one of the most famous crime gangs of the 20th century that made it's way through Iowa.

On March 13, 1934, a dark blue Buick sedan pulled up outside the First National Bank in Mason City. There were seven people in the sedan, including John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and five others. Two remained in the car, while the others either entered the bank or stood watch outside.

The gang entered the bank and started shooting their guns into the ceiling and walls. Bank guard Tom Walters watched from an elevated bulletproof observation booth, and fired a tear gas cartridge, hitting one of the robbers in the back. Bullets then shattered the glass of the observation booth, but Walters was not hit.

By sheer coincidence, earlier in the day, a newsreel camera operator started shooting film of the bank, which led to a crowd gathering to watch. They were still there as the robbery unfolded, and some people in the crowd and in the neighboring Nichols and Green shoe store were used by the robbers as shields from police. Waving their guns, the robbers then ordered people on the street to cling to the getaway car, either by holding on to the sides or standing on the rear bumper. Numbers vary, but it's generally thought two dozen people were taken hostage in that way. 

Dillinger himself would not celebrate many more escapes. Only four months later, he was killed by Chicago police as he left a movie theater there. But it was a clean getaway for John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and the rest when they robbed a bank in Mason City in broad daylight on this date in 1934.

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