Facts about John Dillinger

John Dillinger died at 31 years old
Born: June 22, 1903
Best known as: The gangster given up by the "Lady in Red"


John Dillinger Biography

Name at birth: John Herbert Dillinger, Jr.

When John Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents in 1934 he was “public enemy number one,” so named by the U.S. Justice Department for his string of violent bank robberies and prison breaks. Dillinger was an Indiana boy gone bad: he went AWOL from the U.S. Navy in 1923 and was caught robbing banks in 1924. He served nearly nine years in Indiana State Prison and was paroled in May of 1933. By June he was back robbing banks, by September he was in jail again, awaiting trial, and on 12 October 1933 Dillinger’s pals from the state penitentiary broke him out of jail. Dillinger and his gang robbed banks in Indiana before heading to Florida and then Arizona. He was arrested in Arizona and extradited to Indiana, where he once again escaped jail on 3 March 1934. Dillinger then headed for Chicago, driving across state lines in a stolen car, an act which put his case in the hands of federal investigators (in the division that later became the FBI). Over the next four months Dillinger’s escapades — daring robberies and narrow escapes from the law — were popular newsreel features. Dillinger was charismatic as well as ruthless, and he became something of a folk hero to poor Americans suffering through the Great Depression. After a tip from informant Ana Cumpanas (a.k.a. Anna Sage), federal agents ambushed Dillinger on 22 July 1934 outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago, where he had just seen Clark Gable playing a gangster in the movie Manhattan Melodrama. In the ensuing gunfight, Dillinger was killed.

Extra credit

John Dillinger was played by Johnny Depp in the 2009 film Public Enemies. Dillinger has also been played by Martin Sheen (Dillinger and Capone, 1995) and Robert Conrad (The Lady in Red, 1979) among many others… Common folklore has it that Dillinger was betrayed by “the Lady in Red” — a description of Anna Sage repeated by newspapers even though Sage was actually dressed in an orange dress and white blouse.


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