4 – The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre
The date was February 14, 1929, and it involved an action that shocked Chicago’s criminal underground to its core. As I mentioned on the previous page, Capone had taken over the Chicago Outfit and was intent on eliminating his enemies. His main rival at the time was George ‘Bugs’ Moran, the leader of the North Side Gang. While Capone controlled the South Side of the city, it wasn’t enough for him, and so the gangs swapped assassination attempts although Capone and Moran survived the initial sorties.
Capone was not one for half measures, and he was determined to send a very clear message to his rival. On February 14, 1929, he did exactly that as four of his men dressed up as police officers and entered a garage in Chicago’s North Side. It was where Moran and his gang ran their bootlegging operations in the city. Capone’s men impersonated cops and ordered seven of Moran’s men to line up against the wall. They proceeded to open fire, and 70 rounds of ammunition were fired as six of the men died instantly.
The only survivor, Frank Gusenberg, refused to reveal who had shot them and he died a few hours later. Had the attack happened a few minutes later, Moran would also have died as he was en-route to the garage. While he survived the gang wars of the era, Moran eventually spent most of the last few years of his life in prison where he died in 1957. At the time, Moran was convinced that Capone carried out the massacre, but it was never proven.
Although he succeeded in getting his message across, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre turned out to be the downfall of Capone. He quickly became the nation’s best-known and notorious gangster and was dubbed ‘Public Enemy No. 1′ by the media. After spending some time in prison for lesser crimes, Capone’s finally got his comeuppance and was sentenced to 11 years in prison for federal tax evasion. The 1920s was very much an era of violence, and it wasn’t confined to organized crime.