14 Feb, Valentine’s Day, known as a day of romance. However in 1929 it will forever be remembered for perhaps one of the most violent moments in history.
The lead up to February 14th 1929 very possibly started 5 years before then with the assignation of Chicago’s North Side mob leader Dion O’Banion by the South side outfit led by Johnny Torrio and Al Capone. This started a war between the two outfits ending in Johnny Torrio just escaping an attempt on his life outside his home. After this he decided to hand over the leadership to Al Capone. It was all out war, and after an attempt on Capone’s life in 1926 he retaliated by assassinating the then North side leader Hymie Weiss, this led to George “Bugs” Moran taking over.
The two gangster leaders had been enemies for a long time and early in 1929 “Bugs” Moran was thought to be responsible for the shooting of one of Capone’s leading men, Pasquillano Lolordo.
2122 North Clark Street – The Massacre
To exact his revenge, it is said that Capone used a contact to inform Moran that a shipment of hijacked whisky was due to be delivered on February 14th at a 2122 North Clark Street a warehouse that belonged to Moran.
Seven of Moran’s men were at the warehouse early that morning waiting for “Bugs” Moran who was due to arrive at North Clark Street at 10:30. For whatever reason, Moran was running late that morning and had not even left for the warehouse by that time. So the seven men, Johnny May, Frank and Peter Gusenberg, Adam Heyer, Al Weinshank, Reinhardt Schwimmer and Moran’s brother in law James Clark were waiting inside the warehouse, when unknown to them a police car pulled up outside. “Bugs” Moran was just arriving when he saw the police car and when seeing two policemen in uniforms and three men in civilian clothing get out he decided to drive away and have a cup of coffee.
Within minutes of the men entering the building, there was the sound of machine gun fire and soon after five men left the building and drove away in the police car. It wasn’t long before police arrived and they were stunned by the carnage, six men were dead and one just barely alive. Frank Gusenberg had crawled away from the wall and had ended in the middle of the floor and unbelievably when asked who had shot him and with several bullets in him, replied “No one, Nobody shot me”. He died later that night.
When the police told “Bugs” Moran he proclaimed “only Capone kills guys like that”, but the police were puzzled as Capone was in Florida at the time of the massacre. When Capone was questioned on the massacre he was quoted as saying “the only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran”.
It is generally thought that Capone was responsible for the St Valentine’s Day Massacre as it significantly ended the gang war and any serious opposition to Capone’s authority in Chicago. The one reaction that Capone could not have seen coming was the way the public and authorities of Chicago were sickened by this slaughter, in their eyes he had just gone too far and they became united in ending the bootlegging wars.