Monday, June 11, 2012

Escape from Alcatraz (1962) and John Wayne dies (1979)

On this date in 1962, John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Lee Morris attempt to escape from Alcatraz federal prison.

The three men were never seen again, and although some believe that theirs was the only successful getaway from what was known as "The Rock," it is far more likely that they drowned in the chilly water. Four days after their escape, a bag containing photos, which belonged to Clarence Anglin, was found in San Francisco Bay. Escape From Alcatraz, both a J. Campbell Bruce book and a Clint Eastwood movie, later dramatized the incident. The three prisoners began their daring escape by using stolen tools to chip away at the cement near ventilation holes in their cells. Creatively, they then made fake grills out of cardboard and painted them to match the originals, which were located in a small area where they could get outside without being seen. In a classic maneuver, the inmates made dummy heads and placed them in their beds so that the guards would not notice them missing. They even used scraps of hair from the barbershop to make them look more realistic. Once outside, the three climbed over a 15-foot fence and made their way out to the choppy waters surrounding the island prison with life preservers made out of raincoats. Over the years in which Alcatraz was used as a prison, 36 inmates (in 14 separate attempts) tried to escape. One drowned; six were shot to death; and five were never found, but were assumed to have drowned, including the Anglins and Morris. The remaining were captured, including two who were executed after one man, Bernard Coy, jumped a guard and got his gun in May 1946. With the help of others, Coy captured nine guards. However, the ensuing showdown left two guards and three inmates dead, and no one got off the island.

 On this day in 1979, John Wayne dies at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade.

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