The Valentine’s Day massacre is one of the most publicized incidents of gang war killings in history. The horrific incident was a fall of the rivalry between two famous criminal bands of Chicago.
The Italian band of the south side led by Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and the Irish band of the north side headed by George ‘Bugs’ Moran. Seven of Moran’s men lost their lives in the well-planned massacre that took place on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1929. The shooting was widely publicized by the media and there was much public talk, but no one was signed by the incident.
The cold-blooded plan
Al Capone and his dreaded gang member Jack ‘Machine Gun’ McGurn came up with the dreadful plan for the Valentine’s Day massacre, mainly to eliminate archrival Moran. The idea was to trick Moran and his gang into visiting a warehouse on North Clark Street on the pretext of buying a pirated whiskey hijacked at a cheap price. A team of six men led by Fred ‘Killer’ Burke would enter the place disguised as police officers and charge the shooting. Capone and McGurn would be far from the scene to establish their alibi.
The massacre on the morning of Valentine’s Day
According to the plan, around 10:30 a.m. On Thursday, February 14, 1929, Burke’s men drove to the garage of the S-M-C Cartage Company in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, Illinois, in a stolen police vehicle. Of the five shooters, two wore the uniform of the police and three dressed as street. Capone’s men saw seven of Moran’s gang members but not Moran himself. The shooters in police uniform ask the members of the Moran gang to line up facing the wall. Thinking that their captors were relatively harmless policemen who have come to attack the place, the gangsters followed the instructions. Burke shooters fired instantly and killed the men with Thompson submachine guns. Of the seven men killed in the massacre, six belonged to the Moran gang: James Clark, Frank and Pete Gusenberg, Adam Meyer, Johnny May and Al Weinshank. The seventh man was an optician: Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer, who enjoyed the company of gangsters.
To leave without raising suspicion in the eyes of potential witnesses, men dressed in the street came out of the garage with their hands up. Those in police uniform walked behind them, giving the appearance that the police caught the smugglers and everything was fine.
Although the massacre was carried out as planned, it was lost to the main target, Moran, who happened to be late for the meeting. When Moran was about to reach, he saw the police car stop near the garage. Moran stepped back to avoid being caught in the attack.
Consequences of the massacre
Only Frank ‘Tight Lips’ Gusenberg was found alive by the royal police when he reached the scene of the crime. He also succumbed after arriving at the Alexian Brothers Hospital. Gusenberg refused to name his attackers making the case more challenging for the investigation team, which had to work hard looking for clues to establish the criminal’s plan. First suspect of the massacre, Al Capone and McGurn proved that their alibi and shooters were never identified. Therefore, in the absence of concrete evidence, no one was punished for the gruesome massacre of Valentine’s Day.
The massacre was widely reported by the media that called it “the massacre of Valentine’s Day.” Ironically, instead of tightening the rope against him, the media’s eyes helped Al Capone. The continued coverage of the main page gave him a celebrity status, establishing him as a supreme and terrible gangster. On the other hand, the massacre resulted in the end of Moran’s leadership on the north side and his gang disappeared in the dark.
The incident, however, brought Capone’s activities to the eyes of the Federal Government and began to monitor it strictly. Capone was finally convicted and imprisoned for seven years on charges of tax evasion in 1931. Capone died in Florida for syphilis in 1947.
A year after the massacre, the police assaulted the house of Fred Burke. In Burke’s possession the machine guns used in the massacre were found. Although Burke was never taken to Illinois to be tried for the massacre, he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a policeman in Michigan.
The infamous massacre became the subject of the 1959 film Some Like it Hot and the famous 1967 film by Roger Corman The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.