Friday, 22 February 2013

How A Kiss Started A War

It seems inconceivable that a mere kiss could lead to bodies piling up, but that is exactly what happened in the great mid-west of the United States in the 1930`s.  The crime in that huge area  was of that of Bonnie & Clyde, Dillinger, Floyd, Karpis, The Barkers, etc, not the big city organised crime like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities with Mafia Families.    So much of it was like hillbilly gangs, but they controlled huge areas without the sharp expensive suits of the big cities.

     One such gangster was Charlie Birger.  A carefree villain who never bothered about the consequences, and one day he proved it.  He gave a kiss to the moll of a gang rival.  It upset the other gangster so much that it resulted in tit-for-tat killings that erupted into a bloody gang war that left fifty men dead.  Birger did get his come-uppance when he was convicted of a murder.  His punishment was to be hanged.  They still had public hangings in a number of states right up to the end of the 30`s, though I am not sure if the proposed hanging of killer Frank Dryman in 1951, in Montana, was to be a public one.  Dryman was twice convicted, sentenced to death, but granted a new trial, out of the area he was incarcerated, days before he was due to hang.  He was jailed for life but released in 1969.

    It would seem strange that most of the men condemned to hang, specifically requested that a certain man be brought in to conduct their execution.  This man was Phillip Hanna, A man regarded as the American equivalent to Albert Pierrepoint.  Hanna believed in doing his job with the utmost efficiency and making the exit of the condemned instantaneous. He did have a mishap on one execution but all the rest were conducted to his satisfaction.  He oversaw the execution of Birger, who was allowed to address the crowd, shook hands with Hanna, then calmly went to his death.  The one part of the execution Hanna did not participate in was pulling the lever.  This was carried out by the local Sheriff.  Hanna sorted the noose to the correct length, pinioned the condemned, put the hood over them, put the noose around their neck then stepped back.  Hanna conducted sixty five hangings.