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Escape from Alcatraz: 1941 & the Solo Attempts

In 1941, two attempts to escape took place at Alcatraz Island , the infamous prison occupying an isolated location in San Francisco Bay. There were also a few souls that believed they could make a run for it on their own. In this article, you will learn about a group escape that never really got off of the ground and two solo attempts that took place between 1941 and 1943.

The May 1941 Escape Attempt

It was May 21, 1941 when four inmates of Alcatraz prison attempted to reach the shore in a plan to escape. While working in the industries area, Joe Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Arnold Kyle and Lloyd Barkdoll jumped the guards that were on duty and started sawing through the window bars so that they could bust out of prison. However, the bars were made to resist the use of tools to break through and they had to surrender when it became clear that they were not going to make it out.

Joe Cretzer was a bank robber that got sent to Alcatraz. Before being sent to the island for a prison term, he had been in and out of other jails since 1927. He formed the Cretzer-Kyle Gang, which spent their time robbing banks along the west coast. At one point, Cretzer reached the #4 position on the FBI’s list of most wanted in 1939. When Cretzer was arrested in Chicago and sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.

Sam Shockley committed bank robbery and kidnapping in Oklahoma before becoming an inmate at Alcatraz. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in May of 1938. When prison psychiatrists performed an examination on Shockley, it is said that they found that he was of unstable character and prone to violent rages. From Leavenworth, he was transferred to Alcatraz so that he may benefit from the strict routines of the prison. Most of his time was spent in the isolation unit (or D-wing) of the prison.

This May 1941 escape attempt was not the last time that Cretzer and Shockley would try to leave the island , they participated in the Battle of Alcatraz, which took place between May 2 and May 4, 1946. To learn of the fates of the two prisoners, read the article titled, “Battle of Alcatraz.”

Lone Escapes at Alcatraz

John Bayless , John Bayless had a job on garbage detail and managed to escape the sight of guards. On September 15, 1941, he successfully reached the shores of Alcatraz. He jumped into the water and attempted to swim to San Francisco, but quickly abandoned this thought after a while.

Ted Walters , Ted Walters escaped from the laundry building of Alcatraz on August 7, 1943, and made it to shore. However, he was captured before he ever had a chance to enter the water.

To learn about an infamous and bloody escape attempt, check out the article titled “Battle of Alcatraz.”