By David Ward, Gene Kassebaum
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Extra info for Alcatraz: The Gangster Years
These gangsters and outlaws—driving fast cars, armed with machine guns, and often able to elude capture for long periods of time—were branded “public enemies” because their exploits terrorized the citizenry and greatly eroded confidence in local and state law enforcement agencies. By 1933, with the arrest and successful prosecution of many of the most notorious lawbreakers, federal officials had achieved major victories in their campaign to show that they could deal with “the gangster element,” but they faced a serious obstacle in winning back the public’s confidence.
And by Alcatraz wardens never satisfied the interest of the outside world in what was happening to Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, to Ma Barker’s son Dock, to Alvin Karpis, Public Enemy no. 1, to kidnapper Thomas Robinson, to Floyd Hamilton, confederate of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, to the Fleisch brothers of Detroit’s “Purple Gang,” and to other prominent gangsters of the 1930s and 1940s, including Basil “The Owl” Banghart, John Paul Chase, partner of Baby Face Nelson, and confederates of John Dillinger, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and the Barker-Karpis mob.
He noted in a July 26, 1974, letter to me the loss of one important set of records, “the monthly reports of the Warden and other information about operating problems I suspect have been destroyed. ” Mr. Bennett wrote to me again on September 7, 1976, that he was working on case histories of “prisoners I have known in my personal files”; two years later, October 3, 1978, he informed me, “I found Fred Wilkinson’s detailed report on the escape (June, 1962 Anglin-Morris). ” After his death the remaining Alcatraz materials were lost.
Alcatraz: The Gangster Years by David Ward, Gene Kassebaum
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