When most people think of Valentine’s Day they think of love, however, in 1929, Valentine’s Day was the date of a mob-related killing now referred to as The Saint Valentine’s Day massacre.
This shooting killed seven people. It came as a result of a Prohibition Era conflict between two powerful criminal gangs in Chicago, Illinois. The two gangs were the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone and the North Side Irish/German gang led by Bugs Moran. And there is some speculation that former members of the Egan’s Rats gang also played a large role in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, assisting Capone.
So what exactly happened?
Well, to put it simply seven people were killed execution style. On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, on St. Valentine’s Day, six members of George ‘Bugs’ Moran’s gang and a mechanic who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, were lined up against the wall of a garage. They were then shot by four members of Capone’s gang.
The garage they were in was the SMC Cartage Company in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side.
One of the reasons this shooting was so big was that when one of the dying men, Frank Gusenberg, was asked who shot him, he replied, “Nobody shot me.”
“Bugs” Moran was Capone’s main rival, and so this massacre was a plan to eliminate that rivalry. However, there were other motivations behind it as well. It was planned to be retaliation for an unsuccessful attempt by Frank and his brother Peter Gusenberg to murder Jack McGurn earlier in the year. It was also sort of a payback because the North Side Gang’s complicity in the murder of Pasqualino Lolordo as well as Antonio Lombardo, and because Bugs Moran was muscling in on a Capone-run dog track in the Chicago suburbs. Not to mention the big rivalry between Moran and Capone for control of the lucrative Chicago bootlegging business.
Capone was on vacation in Florida at the time of the massacre, but he had a hand in planning it. The St. Valentine’s Massacre was planned by Al Capone and various members of his gang.
The plan was to have Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, Fred “Killer” Burke and Fred Goetz, to eliminate Bugs Moran. They had planned to lure Moran and his men to the SMC Cartage warehouse on North Clark Street. To this day no one is really sure of how they were able to get them there, some think booze, but the attire of the entire gang leads investigators to think otherwise. In the plan, a four-man team led by Fred Burke would then enter the building disguised as police officers, and kill Moran and his men.
Capone covered his bases and placed lookouts in the apartment building across the street. These hired men were from the Purple Gang. Hence the reason many think the Purple Gang played a part in the massacre.
So, at about 10:30 on the morning of St. Valentine’s day, four members of the Burke gang drove to the warehouse in two cars; the cars were made to look like detective sedans. They were a Cadillac sedan and a Peerless. Moran was not even in the warehouse, and so, while the main target of this killing was him, he did not get shot. One of the lookouts confused one of Moran’s men as him, and signaled Burke’s team. Two of the members of Burke’s team were dressed as cops, and they entered first. They told the seven men to line up facing the back wall; there was apparently no resistance, as the Moran men thought their captors were real cops. Then the two dressed as cops let the other two in, and they started firing with Thompson sub-machine guns. All seven, Moran’s six and the mechanic, men were killed. According to the coroner’s report there were seventy machine gun bullets and two shot gun blasts.
The elaborate plan continued, as the two uniformed cops led the two in civilian clothes out of the warehouse with their hands up, in order to show bystanders things were under control. When the real police arrived, only a dog was alive.
The victims were identified as James Clark (AKA Albert Kachellek), Frank Gusenberg, Peter Gusenberg, Adam Heyer, John May, Reinhart Schwimmer, and Al Weinshank.