Was Dillinger Killed by the FBI Part 1

About the debate over whether the FBI killed infamous gangster John Dillinger or the wrong man, James Lawrence.

Was Dillinger Really Killed by the FBI?

In the following article from his book Blood-letters and Badmen (New York: M. Evans & Co., Inc., 1973), Jay Robert Nash presents the official FBI version of John Dillinger's death, then relates what he believes to be the true story of what happened on the fateful summer evening in 1934.


Melvin Purvis, head of the FBI office in Chicago, got a tip from a resort owner in Rhinelander, Wis., that John Dillinger [bank robber deemed "Public Enemy No. 1" by J. Edgar Hoover] was staying at Little Bohemia. Within hours he moved dozens of his agents from Chicago and St. Paul to the Wisconsin woodlands. The group converged upon the lodge on the night of Apr. 22, 1934.

When Purvis led his men against the front of the lodge, three customers emerged and climbed into a parked car. As the car's engine started, Purvis called out for the men to stop, but they failed to hear the warning. A shower of bullets followed and Eugene Boiseneau, a CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] worker, was killed on the spot, his two companions wounded.

Hearing the gunfire, Dillinger and gang members Van Meter, Carroll, and Hamilton raced out the back, running along the shore in the moonlight. Baby Face Nelson, in a cabin nearby with his wife, Helen, emerged and fired some random shots at Purvis and then disappeared into the woods.

The FBI pounded the lodge all night thinking the gangsters were still inside. By morning, their only captives were the gang's girls, who had been hiding in the basement.

Dillinger, Hamilton, and Van Meter stole a car and drove out of the trap to St. Paul. Nelson, after killing an FBI agent at another resort, stole a car and headed for Chicago. Tommy Carroll stole yet another car and drove to Michigan.

The FBI fiasco put Purvis and J. Edgar Hoover on the spot. The raid did nothing but cause the death of an innocent man and an FBI agent and the destruction of a fishing lodge.

Hoover placed a shoot-to-kill order out on Dillinger and a $10,000 reward. Another $10,000 was offered by five states where Dillinger had robbed banks.

In the next two months, half a dozen men who looked like Dillinger were arrested or almost shot. The bandit, however, was nowhere to be found. He appeared briefly at his father's farm for a Sunday chicken dinner in May. At that time, the outlaw told the elderly Dillinger that he was going on a long trip and that he wouldn't have "to worry" about him anymore.

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