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The Battle of Alcatraz I

In an incident called the ‘Battle of Alcatraz,’ a group of inmates including two who were no strangers to trying to break out of The Rock engaged in a two-day attempt to get off of the island. How did such an event last for two days?  In this article, you will learn about their plan, as well as whether or not they were successful in becoming free men.

It was May 2, 1946, when Bernard Coy, Paul Cretzer, and Marvin Hubbard caught a man named Corwin off guard, and then asked Shockley where they could find Franklin. Inmate Coy went to release Franklin but he was not in the cell that he was supposed to be in. He had been moved from the third tier to the first floor, which was electronically operated. Coy knew there was a red light that lit up the gun gallery, but he was not aware of the same kind of light that was used in the armory. For some reason, the proper alerts were not sounded. Perhaps something was wrong with the light if a guard did press it. However, it was a jamming of the recreation yard door that foiled their plans. As a result, the inmates were armed, but they now found themselves in a confrontation with the guards.

The inmates were not subdued until two days and the escape plan went down in Alcatraz history as one of the bloodiest attempts that the island ever saw. Two prison guards were shot dead , Bill Miller and Harold Stites lost their lives. Three inmates did not make it out alive , Bernard Coy, Joe Paul Cretzer, and Marvin Hubbard. Eleven others were wounded in the process of the escape attempt. The Battle of Alcatraz lasted from May 2 to 4, 1946.

Trials were held for Sam Shockley, Miran Edgar Thompson, and Clarence Carnes. They were found guilty. Carnes was 19 years old at the time and was able to beat the death penalty after a few corrections officers that had been taken hostage, testified that he did not kill the guards when told to by the others. He was given a life sentence instead. Shockley entered a plea of insanity, but he and Thompson were given death sentences. The two of them were put the death in the San Quentin gas chamber on December 3, 1948.

About the Inmates

Bernard Coy

Coy was a bank robber from Kentucky who also held the position of a cell house orderly on Alcatraz. He managed to take possession of the gun cage in the main cell house. There were two firearms in storage, which gave the inmates firepower in their plans to escape from the prison. Yet, a police officer breached regulations of the prison and the yard door key (which the inmates planned to use to escape) was not in its place.