Escape from Alcatraz: 1943

When inmates attempted to escape from Alcatraz, it seems that they felt strength in numbers was one of the best approaches towards success. Oftentimes, inmates grouped up together to attack guards, take down bars and reach the shore. In this article, you will encounter the fates of four criminals that attempted to escape in 1943.

It was April 14, 1943 when James Boarman, Harold Brest, Floyd Hamilton, and Fred Hunter tried to break free of Alcatraz’s heavy grip. The group overpowered and tied up two guards as they made their escape from the industries area. The escapees made it into the water, but one of the guards managed to get free and trigger the alarm. When guards spotted the escapees, they shot fire at the men. Boarman was wounded in the process, but his body was never recovered. The others were all eventually recaptured. The only one that had a slight taste of freedom was Hamilton, who spent two days in freezing condition in a small cave on the island. He climbed back into the industries building, where correctional officers found him.

The plan of escape first started at 9:30 a.m. in the model building at the northwest end of the island. The four inmates were equipped with handmade knives (called ‘shivs’ in jail). They were able to overpower Custodial Officer Smith, who was bound and gagged. Soon after, Captain of the Guards, Henry Weinhold noticed that Smith was not where he was supposed to be, so he entered the room and was also overpowered by the inmates. The prisoners took their chance to jump out of a window. They were only wearing their underwear at the time , their bodies were covered in grease. The jump into the water was 30 feet down a cliff. In the water, there were cans floating in the water that had army uniforms inside.

Officer Smith got his whistle loose and placed it in the mouth of Weinhold, who blew it. Another officer named Frank Johnson was outside when he spotted the convicts swimming away. He quickly sounded an alarm. The guards in the tower zeroed in on the group and started to shoot into the water. Boarman was hit by a bullet that settled into the back of his head. He floated in the water in an unconscious state. A prison launch was sent out and pulled next to Brest, who was holding on to the unconscious and wounded Boarman. As Brest reached up to be pulled into the boat by the guards, he let go of Boarman, who vanished under the water. The guards believed that he was dead when he went into the water.

With cuts on his hands and an injured back, Hunter stopped swimming and looked for shelter at a nearby cave. The guards maneuvered the boat to the entrance of the cave and ordered him to come out. When he did not answer, a guard fired a single shot from his pistol. It was then that Hunter decided to come out. Throughout the day, the search for the bodies of inmates lingered on.

Hamilton was thought to be dead, but he was hiding in the same cave as Hunter. He stayed in the cave for days until he decided to climb back up the cliff and through the same window from which he had jumped out of. He hid under a pile of material in the storeroom of the model building until Weinhold discovered the convict the next morning. Hamilton did not have any wounds from the gunfire which contradicted the statement released by Warden James A. Johnson who said that they were positive that Hamilton was dead, shot, and fell under the water.

Boarman’s body was never been found and because of this, he was declared dead by drowning.