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1934 - Bonnie & Clyde

Bonnie & Clyde - notorious outlaw couple's crime spree comes to a bloody end in a police ambush

Bonnie Parker met the charismatic Clyde Barrow in Texas when she was 19 years old and her husband (she married when she was 16) was serving time in jail for murder. Shortly after they met, Barrow was imprisoned for robbery. Parker visited him every day, and smuggled a gun into prison to help him escape, but he was soon caught in Ohio and sent back to jail. When Barrow was paroled in 1932, he immediately hooked up with Parker, and the couple began a life of crime together.


After they stole a car and committed several robberies, Parker was caught by police and sent to jail for two months. Released in mid-1932, she rejoined Barrow. Over the next two years, the couple teamed with various accomplices to rob a string of banks and stores across five states–Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Louisiana. To law enforcement agents, the Barrow Gang–including Barrow’s childhood friend, Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Henry Methvin, Barrow’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche, among others–were cold-blooded criminals who didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way, especially police or sheriff’s deputies. Among the public, however, Parker and Barrow’s reputation as dangerous outlaws was mixed with a romantic view of the couple as “Robin Hood”-like folk heroes.


Their fame was increased by the fact that Bonnie was a woman–an unlikely criminal–and by the fact that the couple posed for playful photographs together, which were later found by police and released to the media. Police almost captured the famous duo twice in the spring of 1933, with surprise raids on their hideouts in Joplin and Platte City, Missouri. Buck Barrow was killed in the second raid, and Blanche was arrested, but Bonnie and Clyde escaped once again. In January 1934, they attacked the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas to help Hamilton break out of jail, shooting several guards with machine guns and killing one.


Texan prison officials hired a retired Texas Ranger, Captain Frank Hamer, as a special investigator to track down Parker and Barrow. After a three-month search, Hamer traced the couple to Louisiana, where Henry Methvin’s family lived. Before dawn on May 23, Hamer and a group of Louisiana and Texas lawmen hid in the bushes along a country road outside Sailes. When Parker and Barrow appeared, the officers opened fire, killing the couple in a hail of bullets.


All told, the Barrow Gang was believed responsible for the deaths of 13 people, including nine police officers. Parker and Barrow are still seen by many as romantic figures, however, especially after the success of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.


Further Reading


Eyewitness to History - Shoot-out with Bonnie and Clyde - The Real Bonnie and Clyde: 9 Facts on the Outlawed Duo

1934 - Long March

Long March - during China's civil war, Mao Zedong leads a retreat of communist forces through Nationalist lines, although over the course of the grueling journey only a fraction make it to safety

Civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communists broke out in 1927. In 1931, Communist leader Mao Zedong was elected chairman of the newly established Soviet Republic of China, based in Jiangxi province in the southeast. Between 1930 and 1934, the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek launched a series of five encirclement campaigns against the Chinese Soviet Republic. Under the leadership of Mao, the Communists employed guerrilla tactics to successfully resist the first four campaigns, but in the fifth, Chiang raised a huge force and built fortifications around the Communist positions. Mao was removed as chairman, and the new Communist leadership employed more conventional warfare tactics, and its Red army was decimated.

With defeat imminent, the Communists decided to break out of the encirclement at its weakest points, and the Long March began on October 16, 1934. Secrecy and other tactics confused the Nationalists, and it was several weeks before they realized that the main body of the Red army had fled. The retreating force initially consisted of more than 85,000 troops, by some estimates, and thousands of accompanying personnel. Weapons and supplies were borne on men’s backs or in horse-drawn carts, and the line of marchers stretched for miles. The Communists generally marched at night, and when the enemy was not near, a long column of torches could be seen snaking over valleys and hills into the distance.

Mao began to regain his influence, and in January, during a meeting of party leaders in the captured city of Zunyi, he re-emerged as a top military and political leader. He then changed strategy, breaking his force into several columns that would take varying paths to confuse the enemy. And the destination would now be Shaanxi province, in the northwestern region of the country, where the Communists hoped to fight the Japanese invaders and earn the respect of China’s masses.

After enduring starvation, aerial bombardment and almost daily skirmishes with Nationalist forces, Mao halted his columns in northern Shaanxi on October 20, 1935, where they met other Red army troops. The Long March was over. By some estimates, 8,000 or fewer marchers completed the journey, which covered more than 4,000 miles and crossed 24 rivers and 18 mountain ranges.

The Long March marked the emergence of Mao Zedong as the undisputed leader of the Chinese Communists. Learning of the Communists’ heroism and determination in the Long March, thousands of young Chinese traveled to Shaanxi to enlist in Mao’s Red army. After fighting the Japanese for a decade, the Chinese Civil War resumed soon after the end of World War II. In 1949, the Nationalists were defeated, and Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. He served as head of the Communist Party of China until his death in 1976.



Further Reading


Thought Co - What Was the Long March?

Columbia University - The Long March (1934-1936)

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