Pistol Pete's Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances

Khalid Elhassan - October 15, 2020

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Sam Giancana in 1965. Corbis

13. Greed Does in Dangerous Mobster

Chicago mobster Sam Giancana (1908 – 1975) got his start as Al Capone’s driver, and worked his way up the Chicago Outfit to become one of its highest ranking leaders. He was pals with Frank Sinatra, and had many political ties, including to the Kennedys, whom he reportedly helped by getting JFK into the White House in 1960 with ballot stuffing shenanigans. Conspiracy theorists have long fingered him as a potential culprit in JFK’s assassination, as payback for what he viewed as ingratitude. Rather than cut the mob some slack, Kennedy’s DOJ, headed by his brother Robert, had ramped up its investigations of mafia activities.

Giancana was viewed as a loose cannon by his mafia colleagues, for his tendency to attract attention. They also saw him as a greedy pig, for his refusal to share in the gambling profits of operations he had set up in Mexico and Iran. That invited payback. After repeated attempts at persuasion failed, a hitman entered his house, evading a police protection detail, and shot him in the back of the head as he was frying sausages. The hitman then turned him over, and shot him six more times in the head and neck.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Andrey Vlasov. Executed Today

12. The USSR’s Most Notorious Traitor

Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov (1900 – 1946) was once one of Joseph Stalin’s favorite Red Army generals. He repaid his tyrannical master by turning on him and the Soviet Union during WWII, and switching sides to join the Germans. Throwing in his lot with the Nazis, Vlasov turned coat and fought against the Soviet Union at the head of the so-called Russian Liberation Army. Stalin did not forget, and made it a high priority to visit payback upon his traitorous general.

Vlasov was drafted into the Red Army in 1919, and fought in its ranks during the Russian Civil War. He distinguished himself, rose steadily through the officer ranks, and earned a reputation for his ability to whip poor units into shape. In 1930, Vlasov gave his career a boost by joining the Communist Party, and in 1938, he was sent to China as a Soviet military advisor to its generalissimo, Chiang Kai-Shek.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Soviet prisoners captured at the Volkhov Front. Pintrest

11. Rise of a Traitor

When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941, Andrey Vlasov was in charge of a mechanized corps in the Ukraine. He was one of the few Red Army commanders who managed to get his unit to safety, and successfully fought his corps out of multiple encirclements. His skill and aggressiveness brought him to Stalin’s attention, who summoned him in November of 1941, and promoted him to command an army in Moscow’s defenses.

Vlasov and his army played a key role in keeping the Germans out of Moscow. In January, 1942, he spearheaded the counteroffensive that pushed the Germans 100 miles from the Soviet capital. He earned decorations and acclaim, plus Stalin’s admiration. The Soviet dictator promoted Vlasov to deputy commander of the Volkhov Front, 300 miles northwest of Moscow.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Vlasov with Soviet traitor soldiers in German service. Bundesarchiv Bild

10. Marked Down for Payback

Andrey Vlasov was eventually put in charge of the 2nd Shock Army after its commander fell ill. However, his new command was cut off and encircled as it advanced towards Leningrad, and was destroyed in June, 1942. Vlasov managed to escape temporarily, but he was captured 10 days later. In captivity, he agreed to switch sides. Taken to Berlin, he and other Soviet traitors began drafting plans for a Russian provisional government, and for recruiting a Soviet turncoat army. That sealed his and their fates should Germany lose the war. The Soviets marked them down for vicious payback.

In 1943, Vlasov wrote an anticommunist leaflet, millions of copies of which were dropped on Soviet positions. Using Vlasov’s name, the Nazis recruited hundreds of thousands of Soviet defectors, forming them in a so-called Russian Liberation Army. However, although they were nominally under Vlasov’s command, they were kept strictly under direct German control, with Vlasov exercising little or no authority.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Vlasov with SS chief Heinrich Himmler. Signal

9. Payback Catches Up With a Traitor

Andrey Vlasov’s first combat against the Red Army took place during the war’s closing stages, in February, 1945, while he was in charge of a turncoat division near the Oder River. He was then forced to retreat to German-controlled Czechoslovakia. There, in May of 1945, a few days before war’s end, Vlasov’s division turned coat once again, this time against the Germans and in support of a Czech uprising.

At war’s end, Vlasov tried to escape to the Western Allies’ lines, but was captured by Soviet forces, who discovered him hiding under blankets in a car. He was flown to Moscow, and Stalin’s henchmen began extracting payback by torturing Vlasov for months in the dreaded Lubyanka Prison. He was tried for treason in the summer of 1946, along with 11 of his leading subordinates. All were found guilty and sentenced to death. Vlasov and his fellow turncoats were hanged on August 1st, 1945.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Charles ‘Cherry Nose’ Gioe. Breakshot

8. “Cherry Nose” Stuck His Nose Where It Didn’t Belong

Charles “Cherry Nose” Gioe was a high ranking Chicago mobster. A specialist in extortion and blackmail, he was sent to Des Moines in 1936, to expand the mafia’s activities there. From his base in Iowa, Gioe bankrolled a Hollywood extortion scheme, which shook down studio executives, by threatening them with costly labor strikes and disruptions by a mob-controlled union. The racket was eventually busted, and Gioe was convicted of extortion and locked up for four years, before getting paroled in 1947.

In 1954, a fellow Chicago mobster, Joseph “Joey” Glimco, dynamited a Chicago Howard Johnson restaurant then under construction, in a bid to shake down the building contractor. When Gioe was asked to intercede on the contractor’s behalf, he foolishly agreed. Totally misreading the situation and the dynamics involved, he asked Glimco to “lay off”. That invited payback. On the evening of August 18th, 1954, Gioe left a business meeting and got into his car. Soon as he sat down, another vehicle pulled up, and its occupants opened fire. A bullet to Gioe’s temple killed him instantly.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Victims of the Armenian Genocide. BBC

7. Payback for (Some) of the Armenian Genocide’s Perpetrators

In 1915, during the First World War, the Ottoman Turk authorities decided to end to the restiveness of their oppressed Armenian citizens by putting an end to the Armenians via genocide. Under the guise of “relocating” them from border regions to the interior of their empire, the Ottomans subjected the Armenians to massacres and death marches, interrupted by widespread and horrendous abuses. Somewhere between 1 million to 1.5 million were killed.

After Turkey’s defeat and surrender at war’s end, desultory efforts were made to bring those responsible to account. However, no international tribunal existed to try the criminals, and their prosecution in Turkish courts eventually petered out due to domestic political pressures. As a result, those who had orchestrated the genocide escaped formal justice, and were able to travel relatively freely throughout much of Europe and Central Asia. That is, until the Armenians decided to take matters into their own hands, and visit payback upon some of the genocide’s architects, vigilante style.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Turkish soldiers marching Armenians out of a town and to their doom. NZ Herald

6. Payback via Nemesis

Once WWI had ended, an Ottoman military tribunal sentenced the principal leaders responsible for planning the Armenian Genocide to death. However, the condemned were freed at the end of the trial, and fled to Europe, where they lived under assumed names. Disgusted at such a miscarriage of justice, some members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a nationalist party, sought payback, and set out to bring the guilty to account.

The ARF passed a secret resolution known as “The Special Mission” to punish the main perpetrators of the genocide. The result was Operation Nemesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of divine retribution. Between 1920 – 1922, Armenian avengers stalked those responsible for the genocide throughout Europe and Asia, to deal them lethal justice.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Fatali Khan Khoyski. Pintrest

5. Nemesis Visits Payback on its First Target

The first target for payback claimed by the avengers of Operation Nemesis was the first prime minister of independent Azerbaijan, Fatali Khan Khoyski. He was accused of having played a prominent role in the massacre of tens of thousands of Armenians in Baku in 1918.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Aram Yerganian. Wikimedia

Azerbaijan’s independence did not last for long, and the Bolsheviks overran and incorporated it into the Soviet Union in 1920. That April, Khoyski fled to Tiflis, Georgia, to escape the advancing Red Army. On June 19th, Armenian revolutionary Aram Yerganian opened fire on Khoyski in Tiflis’ Yerevan Square, killing him on the spot.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Talaat Pasha. Imgur

4. Payback Visited Upon the Genocide’s Initiator

The next payback target to fall to Operation Nemesis was Mehmed Talaat Pasha. One of a triumvirate known as the Three Pashas who had ruled the Ottoman Empire during WWI, Talaat had initiated the Armenian Genocide in 1915 while serving as Minister of Interior Affairs. He fled the Ottoman Empire in a German submarine in early November of 1918, and settled in Berlin.

Talaat Pasha was tried in absentia by a Turkish court martial, and sentenced to death. However, the Turks were not that eager to have him extradited, and the Germans denied knowledge of his whereabouts. In reality, Talaat’s presence in Germany was an open secret, and he travelled throughout much of Central Europe and Scandinavia without hindrance. That state of affairs lasted until 1921, when Operation Nemesis caught up with him.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Soghomon Tehlirian in 1921. Wikimedia

3. Payback on a Berlin Street

The impunity enjoyed by Talaat Pasha ended in 1921. An Armenian revolutionary named Soghomon Tehlirian had discovered Talaat’s Berlin address, and rented an apartment nearby to study his every move. On March 15th, 1921, Tehlirian shadowed Talaat when he left his house, and waited for the right moment to dish out payback. Upon confirming his target’s identity, Tehlirian pulled out a Luger pistol, shot Talaat dead in broad daylight, then waited over the corpse for the police to arrive and arrest him.

Tehlirian’s subsequent trial for murder was a sensation, which he used as a platform to draw attention to the Armenian Genocide. His lawyers focused on the impact the genocide had on Tehlirian’s mental state. He testified that he had acted after his mother – killed during the atrocity – had appeared to him in a dream, berating him for not having avenged her. It took a Berlin jury one hour to acquit him, returning a verdict of not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Cemal Azmi. Pintrest

2. The Butcher of Trebizond

The most vile and abhorrent of Operation Nemesis’ targets was probably Cemal Azmi, known as “The Butcher of Trebizond”. A founder of the Teskilat-i-Mahsusa (Special Organization), a unit created to suppress dissent and separatism in the Ottoman Empire, Azmi was serving as governor of Trebizond province when the Armenian Genocide began in 1915. An enthusiastic participant, he massacred Armenians by the tens of thousands.

Azmi was particularly vicious towards Armenian children and women, and had thousands of them drowned in the Black Sea. Witnesses testified that he had turned a local hospital into a “pleasure dome”, where he indulged in sexual orgies with young Armenian girls, before murdering them. Reminiscing about it, Azmi told an acquaintance: “Among the most pretty Armenian girls, 10 – 13 years old, I selected a number of them and handed them to my son as a gift; the others I had drowned in the sea“. That made him a prime target for payback.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Arshavir Shirakian. Flickr

1. A Butcher Unable to Escape Payback

Following Turkey’s defeat and surrender, Cemal Azmi fled to Germany. The organizers of Operation Nemesis eventually tracked him down in Berlin. Aram Yerganian, who had already killed one of the retribution campaign’s targets, was tasked with visiting payback upon Azmi, plus another genocide accomplice, a Dr. Behaeddin Shakir. Another Armenian revolutionary, Arshavir Shirakian, partnered with Yerganian.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Cemal Azmi and Behadden Shakir after Operation Nemesis caught up with them.

On April 17th, 1922, Yerganian and Shirakian came upon Cemal Azmi and Behaddin Shakir as the two murderers were strolling with their families on Berlin’s Uhlandstrasse. Shirakian opened fire, killing Azmi, but only wounding Behaddin, who took off running. Yerganian took off after the fleeing genocidier, caught up with him, and finished him with a bullet to the head. Neither shooter was apprehended.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Mafia History – “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn

Am-Pole Eagle – The Man That Al Capone Feared

Biography – Sam Giancana

Bogosian, Eric – Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide (2015)

Cowboys & Indians Magazine – Pistol Pete

Crime Magazine, October 14th, 2009 – The Guileless Gangster

Dahl, Hans Fredrik – Quisling: A Study in Treachery (1999)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Al Musta’sim, Abbasid Caliph

Encyclopedia Britannica – Andrey Vlasov

Frank Eaton Historic Home – The Legend of Pistol Pete

Gambino, Richard – The True Story of the Largest Lynching in US History (2000)

History – St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: Victims, Evidence, & Suspects

History Net – Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse

Legends of America – Frank B. “Pistol Pete” Eaton: Fastest Draw in Indian Territory

New York Times, Times Topics – Armenian Genocide of 1915: An Overview

Strik-Strikfeldt, Wilfried – Against Stalin and Hitler: Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement, 1941-1945 (1970)

Wikipedia – March 14, 1891 New Orleans Lynchings

Wikipedia – Operation Nemesis

Wikipedia – Vidkun Quisling