The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre is the name given to the murder of seven people during a mafia turf war between rival gangs run by Al Capone and Bugs Moran in Chicago.
Chicago, the Mafia and Prohibition
On the morning of Feb. 14, 1929 six members of the Bugs Moran Gang and one Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer were killed in the garage of the SMS Cartage Company in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighbourhood.
The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was the result of a plan devised by one or several members of Al Capone’s criminal organization. The aim was to eliminate Bugs Moran, the head of Chicago’s North Side Gang. This desire came about after Capone found himself in a turf war with Moran, who had attempted to kill several members of Capone’s organization including Jack McGurn, Pasqualina “Patsy” Lolardo and Antonia “The Scourge” Lombardo. In addition, Bugs Moran also began encroaching on Capone’s territory when he tried to get a cut of the illegal money being generated by a dog track owned by Capone’s gang in a Chicago suburb. Capone and Moran were also at war with each other over who would control the lucrative and illegal bootlegging business. Smuggling and distilling alcohol became a popular way of making fast money for criminals after the Volstead Act made Prohibition the law in the United State at the end of the Wilson Presidency in 1918.
The plan was to lure Moran’s gang to the garage of the SMS Cartage Company with an offer of cut-rate alcohol that had been supplied by Capone’s suppliers in Detroit, the so-called Purple Gang.
At 10:30 in the morning, four men entered the garage of the SMS Cartage Building, where they proceeded to line the seven people inside up against the wall, at which point they were all shot. According to eyewitnesses, two of the gunmen were disguised as police officers and armed with shotguns, while the other two gunmen were dressed in street clothes and were seen carrying Thompson machine guns, the preferred weapon of the Chicago criminal underworld.
When the four Capone gunmen entered the garage, they found five members of Moran’s gang, Dr. Reinhardt and Jack May, a mechanic occasionally employed by Moran, waiting for the shipment from Detroit, but not Moran. There are numerous reasons that could explain why the gunman missed Moran, possibly because he was late in arriving, or perhaps chose to stay clear of the garage upon seeing the two phony police, believing them to be part of a raid. In either case, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre failed to meet its main objective.
The slaughter of the seven men in the garage prompted public outrage and marked the beginning of the end for both Capone and Moran. As public pressure for increased action against organized crime began to mount, the government was forced to respond. Following the Massacre an investigation was mounted. After several months of hard work, the Chicago Police and the FBI were successful in identifying the four gunmen. However, due to the slow pace of police work in the late 1920s, as well the lack of forensic evidence, only one of the four gunmen was ever caught.
In 1931, Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of tax evasion. The turf war that the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was supposed to settle remained a stalemate right to the end of Prohibition in 1933.
- Messick, Hank and Burt Goldblatt.The Mobs and the Mafia. Thomas L Crowell Co. 1972 Pgs/ 72-76