On September 26, 1933, even while "Machine-Gun" Kelly was being captured, ten convicts broke out of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City, using guns smuggled to them by a recent parolee, and began a Midwestern crime spree that soon had the entire country's attention.
The weapons for the Michigan City breakout were supplied by a thirty-year-old Hoosier named John Herbert Dillinger, who had been released from Michigan City four months previously, after having served nine years for a bungled holdup in 1924. It was this stiff sentence for a first offense, many believed, that turned Johnnie Dillinger from a restless but likable farm boy into a hardened professional criminal.
True or not, over the next fourteen months, Dillinger and the FBI would make one another famous--or maybe infamous. Dillinger humiliated his pursuers all the way to the Biograph, jeopardized Hoover's job and cost Melvin Purvis his. Dillinger's spectacular robberies, jailbreaks, gun battles, elusiveness, and impudence provided Americans with an exhilarating game of cops 'n' robbers and made J. Edgar Hoover a household name, creating a legend of the FBI. The Justice Department did the same for Dillinger, who demonstrated that if Crime Does Not Pay, it can still be a shortcut to immortality.
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