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
Frank ‘Pistol Pete’ Eaton. Alchetron

34. Frank Eaton won favor as detective after gunning down cattle thieves.

When Frank Eaton rode into the clearing where Shannon Campsey had his cabin, Campsey grabbed a rifle. Frank called out “Hello, Shan – don’t you know me?” Campsey began to take aim, but before he could draw a bead, Frank whipped out a pistol and shot him dead. He found his other target, Doc Ferber, tending cattle nearby, and killed him as well. Pistol Pete had just earned the first two notches on his pistol.

Doc Ferber and Shannon Campsey had been known cattle thieves, and gunning them down favorably impressed the local Cattleman’s Association. So they hired Frank as a detective. That gave him the perfect cover to go after the rest of his father’s killers and continue exacting payback. Within three months, he would put paid to three more of them.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Frank ‘Pistol Pete’ Eaton in later years. Wikimedia

33. Systemically Exacting Payback

Frank Eaton’s next target was Doc Ferber’s brother, John. However, the night before Frank caught up with him, John Ferber was caught cheating at a poker game and killed. Frank attended the funeral, to make sure he was dead, before heading out after the next targets on his payback list. They were brother Jim and Jonce Campsey, who had a ranch in the Ozarks. Frank found them at home, challenged them to a duel, and shot both siblings.

The last survivor of his father’s killers was now Wyley Campsey, and Frank made it his life’s mission to find him. In the meantime, in 1885, Frank served as a scout in a campaign against Geronimo, and almost got scalped for his troubles. Afterwards, he reportedly got a job as a deputy US Marshall under “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory, and shot dead six more men in the line of duty. Then in 1887, he learned that Wyley Campsey was running a saloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So he headed west to visit payback upon him.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Frank ‘Pistol Pete’ Eaton. Perkins, Oklahoma

32. “Fill Your Hand, You Son of a Bitch!

Soon as Frank Eaton entered Wyley Campsey’s saloon, he shouted at him: “fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” As his payback target reached for a gun under the bar, Frank shot him twice in the heart. Simultaneously, two of Campsey’s employees opened fire on Frank, hitting him in the leg and arm. He would survive his wounds, settle down in Perkins, Oklahoma, marry, raise a family, and live to the ripe old of 98, dying in 1958.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Pistol Pete, mascot of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. Long Beach Press Telegram

As he aged, youngsters loved to visit the Old West legend’s home, listen to his yarns, and watch his lightning-quick draw. In 1923, students at Oklahoma A&M College, now Oklahoma State, asked Pistol Pete to pose as the school’s mascot. New Mexico State University and the University of Wyoming followed suit, also adopting Pistol Pete’s likeness as a mascot.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Nineteenth-century New Orleans Mafiosi. Pintrest

31. The Mafia’s Southern Roots

Most think that the American mafia had its roots in New York City, melting pot extraordinaire, home of the Five Great Crime Families, and The Godfather. NYC was the destination of millions of Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who disembarked and were processed at nearby Ellis Island. However, what would become the American mafia first emerged not in NYC, or even Chicago, but much further south, deep in the heart of Dixie, in New Orleans.

In 1869, the New Orleans Times reported that the city’s Second District was overrun with: “well-known and notorious Sicilian murderers, counterfeiters and burglars, who, in the last month, have formed a sort of general co-partnership or stock company for the plunder and disturbance of the city.” Resentment over that would set the stage for one of the most extraordinary mob justice payback episodes visited upon organized crime.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
New Orleans waterfront in the nineteenth century. The Historic New Orleans Collection

30. The Early Mob Opens Shop in New Orleans

In the nineteenth century, the favored destination of southern Italian immigrants was not America, but Argentina and Brazil. Their Latin culture, Romance languages, Catholic religion, and warmer climes were easier to adapt to than America. New Orleans became a secondary destination because of its extensive traffic with those southern locales. By the 1870s, Sicilian immigrants Carlo and Alberto Matranga had established the Matranga crime family in New Orleans, operating out of a saloon and brothel.

They expanded their activities from prostitution to labor racketeering and a lucrative extortion racket known as the Black Hand. They collected “tribute” from Italian laborers, as well as from a rival Italian crime family, the Prozenzanos, who monopolized South American fruit shipments. In the 1880s, the Matrangas warred with the Prozenzanos over control of the New Orleans waterfront, with each family bringing in reinforcements from the old country. Payback begat payback, and the violence spilled over, putting pressure on the authorities to act. New Orleans’ police chief launched an investigation into the Mafiosi activities, only to be assassinated for his troubles in 1890. Unable to identify his killers, he stated “the Dagoes shot me“, before expiring.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Rioters breaking into New Orleans’ Parish Prison on March 14th, 1891. Wikimedia

29. Violent Mob Visits Payback Upon the Mob

The assassination of New Orleans’ police chief created a backlash, and 19 mafiosi were arrested and prosecuted. In the first trial of 9 of them, the defendants successfully tampered with the jury. Despite overwhelming evidence, 6 were acquitted while the other 3 had hung juries. The following day, March 14th, 1891, a mob numbering in the thousands, including some of New Orleans’ most prominent citizens, broke into the prison housing the defendants. They lynched 11 of them – the biggest single mass lynching in US history.

That had a salutary effect on the mafia. Unlike Sicily and southern Italy, where criminals could act in brazen defiance of the authorities and society, with little to fear from either, America was different, with limits to what criminals could get away with. Thereafter, the American mafia adopted strict rules against targeting law enforcement, even preemptively killing mobsters seeking to go after cops or prosecutors.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Frank Stillwell. The American Cowboy Chronicles

28. The Outlaw Who Took on the Wild West’s Most Famous Lawman

Born in Iowa, Frank Stillwell (1856 – 1882) ended up in Arizona in 1877, where he had his first recorded run-in with the law: he shot a cook dead for serving him tea instead of coffee. In 1879, he staked a claim and worked a mine in Mojave, Arizona, when he got into a dispute with a fellow miner over claim-jumping. Stillwell settled the dispute by grabbing a rock and smashing in his rival’s face until he was dead. He was arrested for murder, but charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

Stillwell was hired as a Cochise County sheriff’s deputy in 1881, but was fired soon thereafter for “accounting irregularities”. A few months later, he robbed a stagecoach near Tombstone, Arizona, and was tracked down and arrested by lawmen Wyatt and Virgil Earp. That began a feud that ended in one of the Wild West’s most dramatic ambushes and payback episodes.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Wyatt Earp. Wikimedia

27. Payback Begets Payback

Although brothers Wyatt and Virgil Earp had nabbed Frank Stillwell, the charges against him were eventually dropped. In addition to insufficient evidence, Stillwell had managed to rustle up alibi witnesses. The Earps, in their capacity as US Marshalls, then charged Stillwell with the federal crime of tampering with a mail carrier. That created a perception that Stillwell was being persecuted. As payback, Wyatt’s brother, Morgan Earp, was assassinated.

Witnesses reported seeing Stillwell fleeing from the scene, and a Coroner’s jury listed Stillwell among the suspects in the assassination. Out for payback, Wyatt Earp formed a posse and went after the suspects in the murder of his brother Morgan, and an earlier shooting of his other brother, Virgil. Two days after Morgan’s assassination, Wyatt Earp heard that Stillwell planned to murder his brother Virgil in Tucson when the train carrying him and Morgan’s coffin to California stopped there. The stage was set for Wyatt Earp to get his payback.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Statue on grounds of the Tucson Depot, at the spot where Wyatt Earp dished payback to Frank Stillwell. Wikimedia

26. “He Stood There Helpless and Trembling for His Life

Wyatt Earp formed an escort to accompany his brother Virgil, and on March 20th, 1882, he potted Frank Stillwell and two associates waiting in ambush near Tucson’s train station. The miscreants ran for their lives when they spotted Wyatt, but Stillwell stumbled. By the time he got back on his feet, Wyatt Earp was upon him. The famous lawman did not waste the opportunity to get payback.

I ran straight for Stilwell,” he later recounted. “It was he who killed my brother. What a coward he was. He couldn’t shoot when I came near him. He stood there helpless and trembling for his life. As I rushed upon him he put out his hands and clutched at my shotgun. I let go both barrels, and he tumbled down dead and mangled at my feet.


Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Hymie Weiss. Facet

25. The Gangster Who Scared Al Capone

Polish-born Hymie Weiss (1898 – 1926) is known as the only man who scared Al Capone. Weiss grew up in Chicago’s North Side, where he took to a life of crime in his early teens. He eventually teamed up with George “Bugs” Moran and Dean O’Banion to form the North Side Gang, which came to dominate crime in North Chicago during Prohibition.

There was fierce competition with the Chicago Outfit and its rising star, Al Capone, over the illegal alcohol market. The competition turned violent, and the spiraling cycle of payback and counter payback eventually led to the killing of the North Side Gang’s boss, O’Banion, in 1924. Weiss succeeded him, and vowed revenge.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Hymie Weiss. Pintrest

24. Payback Finds Capone’s Tormentor

As payback for the killing of Dean O’Banion, Hymie Weiss went after the Chicago Outfit’s then-boss, Johnny Torrio. Torrio, who miraculously escaped death when a hitman shot him but failed to finish him because his firearm jammed, was badly shaken. He resigned, handed the reins to his protégé, Al Capone, and left for Italy.

Capone, who reportedly feared Weiss, tried to make peace, but his offers were rejected. After repeated failed efforts by the rival bosses to kill each other, Weiss led a team of gunmen in 1926, that fired over 1000 bullets into Capone’s headquarters. Capone survived, and was determined to end it with a final payback. A few weeks later, on October 11th, 1926, Weiss was about to enter his headquarters, when a squad of hitmen opened fire from the windows of a nearby second-floor building. Weiss was fatally injured and died in an ambulance en route to the hospital.


Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Dinar from the reign of Caliph Al Musta’sim. Numis Bid

23. Payback Finds the Caliph Who Trolled the Wrong Mongol

Al Musta’sim Billah (1213 -1258) was the last ruler of the Abbasid Caliphate, and Islam’s last Caliph. He was a weak ruler, ruling a weak rump of what had once been a mighty empire. Al Musta’sim was surrounded by ineffectual advisors, who offered conflicting advice when the Mongols demanded his submission. He trolled the Mongols by ignoring some demands, while answering others with bluster and empty threats. However, he failed to prepare adequate defenses against what was sure to follow such rejection. The payback exacted by the Mongols was epic.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Charging Mongols. Pintrest

The Mongols had first erupted into the Islamic world in the 1220s, when Genghis Khan destroyed the Khwarezmian Empire and conquered as far west as western Persia up to the edges of Mesopotamia. That was followed by a decades-long lull, as far as the Middle East and the Islamic world were concerned. In the meantime, the Mongols directed their energies elsewhere, against China, Kievan Rus, Eastern Europe, and in internal squabbles amongst themselves. The lull ended in the 1250s, when a new Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan’s grandson Mongke, turned his attention to the Middle East and sent his brother, Hulagu, to assert Mongol power over the region.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
A Mongol army on the march. Imgur

22. The Mongol Eruption Reaches the Middle East

Hulagu began his Middle East campaign by first destroying the Assassins, a murderous cult led by a shadowy mystic known as The Old Man of the Mountain. The Assassins had operated from a string of mountain holdfasts, and terrorized the Middle East for over a century and a half. After eradicating the Assassins in 1256, Hulagu turned his attention to the Abbassid Caliphate, based in Baghdad. He ordered its Caliph, Al Musta’sim, to submit to Mongol suzerainty and pay tribute.

The Abbassids, once a powerful dynasty that ruled the world’s largest, strongest, and most prosperous empire, were centuries removed from their heyday by then. By the 1250s, the Abbasid Caliphate’s sway did not stretch far beyond Baghdad. The Caliphs had been reduced to mostly ceremonial figureheads, puppets of Turkish or Persian sultans wielding real power and acting in their name. What the Caliph did have left was a remnant of spiritual and moral authority, and enough pride to refuse Hulagu’s summons to submit.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Hulagu at the Siege of Baghdad. Pintrest

21. Payback for Defiance

The Abbasids were not prepared to face the Mongols, who had conquered bigger and tougher opponents than the small rump which still remained in their Caliphate. However, Caliph Al Musta’sim believed that the Mongols would not be able to seize Baghdad, and that if the city was endangered, the Islamic world would rush to its aid.

Hulagu marched on Baghdad, the Islamic world did not rush to its aid, and after a twelve-day siege, the city fell. The Mongols sacked Baghdad, massacred its inhabitants, burned its vast libraries, and put the city to the torch. Al Musta’sim was captured and was ordered executed as payback for his defiance. However, the Mongols had a taboo against spilling royal blood. So they rolled him in a carpet, and their army rode over him when it marched off to further conquests, their horses trampling the last Caliph to death.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Reenactment of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre for jurors. Click Americana

20. The Mob’s Most Notorious Payback Massacre

Prohibition fueled organized crime by pouring unimaginable riches into its coffers. It also fueled a cycle of escalating violence and payback between gangsters competing for a slice of the increasingly lucrative illegal alcohol. In Chicago, that competition reached a crescendo on February 14th, 1929. Seven members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang were stood up against a wall, then cut down by automatic weapons gunfire, in what came to be known as the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
George ‘Bugs’ Moran. Flickr

Capone had hatched a plan to lure Moran to a warehouse, with the promise of delivery of cut-rate stolen whiskey, then kill him along with his chief lieutenants. However, just before reaching the warehouse, Moran spotted a police car nearing the warehouse, and turned around. Four men in police uniforms exited the vehicle, entered the warehouse, and ordered its occupants to line up against a wall for a pat-down. The cops were fake, and soon as the men turned around to face the wall, the “policemen” opened fire with shotguns and Thompson submachine guns. Six died on the scene. A seventh, despite taking 14 bullets, refused to ID the shooters, telling investigators “nobody shot me”, before expiring.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Machine Gun McGurn and a mob molly. Mob Museum

19. Machine Gun McGurn

Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn (1902 – 1936) got his nickname because of his love of Thompson submachine guns. He was a Sicilian-born small-time boxer, who changed his birth name from Vincenzo Gibaldi to the Irish-sounding Jack McGurn, because boxers with Irish names got better bookings back then.

Boxing did not work out for McGurn, so he put more time and effort into his criminal sideline as mob muscle. By the mid-1920s, he had become one of Al Capone’s chief bodyguards and hitmen. He was a suspect in Capone’s most notorious payback hit, the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre. However, authorities were unable to charge McGurn because of a lack of evidence.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Jack ‘Machine Gun’ McGurn. Medium

18. Payback for the Valentine’s Day Massacre

Because mob loyalty is largely a myth, Capone and the Chicago Outfit distanced themselves from McGurn, to avoid the heat he drew as a suspect. Cast off, McGurn tried his hand at professional golfing. The results were as dismal as his boxing career, and McGurn fell into poverty.

His misery came to an end on February 15th, 1936. One day after the seventh anniversary of the massacre, three hitmen shot him dead in a Chicago bowling alley. They reportedly left Valentine’s card near McGurn’s corpse, which read: “You’ve lost your job, you’ve lost your dough, Your jewels and cars and handsome houses, But things could still be worse you know… At least you haven’t lost your trousers!

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Hitler and Quisling. Telemarksaiva

17. A Man Whose Name Became Synonymous With Treason

In America, the name most associated with treason is Benedict Arnold. In the rest of the world, that dishonor goes to Vidkun Quisling (1887 – 1945). A Norwegian army officer and right-wing politician, Quisling led a fascist party in the 1930s that met with little success at the polls. He betrayed his country to the Nazis during WWII and collaborated with its German conquerors.

After initially rejecting him early in their occupation as too seedy even for them, the Nazis finally relented to Quisling’s pleas, and placed him in charge of a puppet government on their behalf. Payback would catch up with him after the war, when he was served a traitor’s just deserts.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Quisling with his second wife, Maria. National Archives of Norway

16. From Goody Goody Two Shoes to Norwegian Fuhrer

Quisling was born to a pastor, and his life had a promising start that give little hint of coming treason, and its consequent payback. He did well in school, and graduated from the Norwegian Military College with the highest ever score since its inception. He was sent to the USSR as military attache in 1918, and became Norway’s military expert on Russia. In 1922, he worked on League of Nations humanitarian relief efforts in the Ukraine, and demonstrated considerable administrative talent and skill. While there, he also met and married two Russian women in quick succession, the second marriage, which lasted until his death, either bigamous or unofficial.

Discharged from the army during a period of cutbacks, Quisling traveled throughout Europe for much of the 1920s. He returned to Norway in 1929, and launched a political career marked by anti-Semitic, anticommunist, and anti-liberal positions. Joining a movement called “Rise of the Nordic People“, he became Norway’s defense minister from 1931-1933. In 1933, inspired by the Nazis’ victory in Germany, he launched a fascist party, appointing himself its Fuhrer.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Quisling as party fuhrer at his desk. Oslo Photo Tour

15. Norway’s Minister-President

Quisling’s Norwegian fascist party never won more than 2% of the vote. That made him increasingly bitter and frustrated with his countrymen, and he was determined to exact payback for the Norwegians’ failure to recognize his merits. In late 1939, Quisling flew to Berlin, met with Hitler, and offered to assist the Germans if they tried to seize Norway. The Nazis, aware of his lack of support in Norway, were noncommittal.

When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, the Norwegian government fled into exile. Quisling opportunistically tried to set up a collaborationist government. However, everybody ignored him, even the German occupiers. It took two years of wheedling before the Nazis finally recognized Quisling in 1942 as Norway’s “Minister-President” of a puppet regime. In that capacity, Quisling did all he could to please his masters, including eager cooperation in their deportation of Norway’s Jews to death camps.

Pistol Pete’s Payback and Other Historic Vengeances
Quisling with SS chief Heinrich Himmler. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

14. Payback for a Collaborator

Quisling had bet on the wrong horse, and the Nazis whose boots he had spent years licking, lost. Captured after the war, he was tried by the Norwegians and was convicted of treason, murder, and embezzlement. Payback for his misdeeds was exacted in October of 1945, when he met his end before a firing squad.

Quisling’s name became synonymous with collaboration and treason. To this day, a “Quisling” is routinely used as an epithet to denote not a run-of-the-mill traitor, such as calling somebody a “Benedict Arnold”. Instead, a Quisling is a traitor of the lowest, grubbiest, and most despicable kind. The type of traitor who lords it over and represses his own people on behalf of a conquering enemy, and is ever eager to please the foreign occupier with shameless displays of obsequiousness.

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 him 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 traveled 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, 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