John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis, Ind. His mother passed away in 1907, and John grew up with a chronic resentment for authority and a distinct lack of interest in working for an honest living.
During a stint in the Indiana State Prison, Dillinger associated with several career criminals. Then, as now, prisons tend to be the finishing schools for those inclined to live a criminal life, and Dillinger was no exception. Even before his release, John Dillinger hooked up with a group of bank robbers, including Harry Pierpont, Harry Copeland, Walter Dietrich, and a young fellow named Lester Gillis. Gillis would come to be known as “Baby Face” Nelson.
Beginning in 1933, Dillinger and his newfound associates undertook a series of bank robberies in the Midwest. From 1933 to 1934, Dillinger and his gang robbed approximately a dozen banks, taking away loot totaling about $300,000. That’s a lot of money today, so one can imagine how much it was in those early Depression days.
Dillinger put numerous finishing touches on bank robberies. He and his gang meticulously cased the banks before pulling a heist, paying special attention to the number of entrances and the number of guards employed. In addition, they drove every possible escape route that could be used to make their getaway. Just prior to the robbery, they would steal a getaway car and then ditch it as soon as possible, making the rest of their escape in legally purchased vehicles.
Finally, John Dillinger seemed to realize that the gang should avoid unnecessary shooting. Robbing a bank was one thing, but killing innocent people would really bring the heat down on them. It was to be avoided if at all possible. Legend has it that this caused friction between Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, because Nelson really seemed to enjoy shooting people. John Dillinger would rather awe the crowd by vaulting over a bank counter and playing the Robin Hood character to the hilt.