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FN/3c JOHN HERBERT DILLINGER, USN
John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice; he was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger's only homicide charge.
Dillinger grew up in Mooreville, Indiana. As a teenager he was a troublemaker. When two police officers who wanted to question him about the pistol he was carrying, he gave a false name, slipped out of the overcoat one officer had grabbed, and ran. To get out of town quick, he went to the Federal Building and signed up for the Navy.
The Navy was use to taking in wayward youth, and knew time was often of the essence in getting kids out of town. They accommodated him by shipping him to Great Lakes Training Station a mere four days later, July 24, 1923.
Dillinger completed basic training Oct. 4, 1923, and was assigned to the battleship USS Utah as a fireman, third class, where he spent most of his time shoveling coal into the ship’s huge boilers. After 22 days of hot, backbreaking labor, he had enough, he jumped ship in Boston and went AWOL for a day, to cool off. Upon his return, a deck court martial stamped on Nov. 7, 1923, was added to my growing rap sheet along with an $18 fine, — nearly a month’s pay – and a ten-day “bread and water” stint in the brig.
A delay in carrying out the sentence gave him the opportunity to get into even more trouble. On Nov. 9, instead of laying low, he left my duty post “without authority” and “in disobedience of orders.” Five days of solitary confinement were tacked onto this previous sentence. If anything, this made him more rebellious. Weeks after his release, he was in hot water again, failing to return from a 24-hour leave as scheduled on Dec. 3.
The Navy, noting that he “left with no effects — intentions not known,” waited two weeks, then listed him as a deserter. They also slapped the first ever bounty on his head, fifty dollars. John Dillinger ended up getting a Dishonorable Discharge from the Navy in early 1924.
He died at age 31. Nearly one third of his life was spent in prison. Most people would never have known he was in the Navy, because he is much more famous for being a bank robber.