22 Jun: Public Enemy Number One, Number One

John Dillinger, infamous 1930s gangster, jail breaker, bank robber and brawler, earned himself a new title on 22nd June, 1934 – when he became the FBI’s first ever ‘Public Enemy Number One’.

The authorities were intent on disabusing Americans of their love affair with the ‘Robin Hood’-style gangsters as portrayed in the movies. But the new title didn’t dissuade Dillinger’s admirers from continuing to idolise his illegal pursuits.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace Dillinger’s career from teenage tearaway to the world’s most-hunted fugitive; explain how he used his preposterous ‘wooden gun’ to escape from one of the USA’s most ‘inescapable’ prisons; and reveal how, decades after his death, his relatives are still trying to claim his honour… 

Further Reading:

• John Dillinger – Public Enemy No. 1 (ThoughtCo, 2020): https://www.thoughtco.com/john-dillinger-public-enemy-no-1-104610

• ‘Retouching Dillinger’s Reputation’ (The New York Times, 2009): https://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/03/19/arts/20090319-dlillinger-slideshow_index/s/20090319-dlillinger-slideshow_slide6.html

• ‘How John Dillinger Went from Pesky Thief to Public Enemy No. 1’ (Smithsonian Channel, 2015):

But wait – there’s more! How did the FBI manage to find Dillinger, and gun him down? How did his adoring public react to seeing his corpse in the street? And has the successor to the ‘Public Enemy’ list, the ’10 Most Wanted’, helped the U.S. authorities capture more fugitives? Find out in our weekly bonus bit – only available to supporters of the show.

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