Friday, February 14, 2014

Evolution of a Massacre

While you're munching on your Valentine's Day candy, it's worth remembering a Valentine's Day that wasn't so sweet — at least for some folks.

It was 85 years ago this morning in a garage in Chicago. Here's how John O'Brien of the Chicago Tribune sets the scene:
"On this frigid morning, in an unheated brick garage ... seven men were lined up against a whitewashed wall and pumped with 90 bullets from submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver."

Chicagoland was gangland in those days, and Al Capone's henchmen, disguised as policemen, were on a mission to eliminate Bugs Moran, Capone's last competition for the designation of top gang boss in Chicago.

Ironically, none of the men who died 85 years ago today was Moran. He wasn't there. Nor was Capone among the gunmen who participated in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

My understanding is that the reason Moran wasn't in the garage was because he slept late that day. When he arrived, there was a lot of activity outside the garage, so he left the scene.

Capone had an airtight alibi for his whereabouts during the killings — he was more than 1,000 miles away in south Florida. He insisted that he wasn't involved. I don't think that many people believed him.

The fellow who assembled the hit team, Jack McGurn, had an alibi as well. He was with his mistress (later wife), having devised a plan and turned it over to his hit team.

The hit team lured the victims to the warehouse with the promise of very good whiskey at a low price. Prohibition was still in effect, and Moran's people couldn't resist.

Capone figured to gain from Moran's death, and, even though Moran was not among those who died 85 years ago, he was finished. Capone and his organization ruled the roost for years to come.

As a student of history, I think that garage should have been preserved as an historic site, but it was leveled nearly 50 years ago. Now its memory inspires marketing themes.

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