#7 of 7: Excerpts from David Goewey's Crash Out: The True Tale of a Hell's Kitchen Kid & the Bloodiest Escape in Sing Sing History. One of the 3 inmates, a prison guard and a village policeman were killed.

"Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, NY, April 14, 2003 ---
"In the chill of an early spring dawn Sing Sing prison gathers to honor its dead. . . Every spring for the last 62 years Sing Sing pauses to remember the officers killed during the worst break in the prison's 178-year history, on Easter night 1941. . . . [This] morning the convicts are not mentioned by name; their ignominy is obvious to everyone present. But for me, the fugitives are there too, haunting the event, shadows behind the sombre reverence. . . ."

Excerpts from David Goewey's
The True Tale of a Hell's Kitchen Kid & the Bloodiest Escape in Sing Sing History.


Crash Out drew "full house" at library.
Crash Out author takes a question at library. His next Crash Out appearance is set for April 21 Friday 6:30 to 8:30 PM. at Village Zendo, 588 Broadway, Manhattan. Click image for details.
[Excerpts from Pages 79 - 80:]

Just east of Dobbs Ferry; and north of Yonkers in Westchester County, the town of Ardsley nestles comfortably among sculpted, landscaped estates and lush-green country clubs. . . .

About eleven o’clock on a Tuesday morning in December 1935, the tranquillity was disturbed when a late-model sedan rolled to the curb outside the First National Bank of Ardsley on Main Street. . .

As the automobile idled at the curb, five young men climbed out, pulled up their overcoat collars, settled their fedoras close on their brows, and entered the bank. . . .

The gang leader, a tall man with an olive complexion and a loud voice, announced a holdup. The robbery team worked fast -- in less than five minutes, the bandits relieved the bank of nearly $8,400 in cash and over a thousand dollars in stock certificates.

Author David Goewey was born and raised in Ossining (an OHS grad, Class of '73). Grandson, son and brother of Sing Sing prison officers, David didn't entirely escape working in NY Correction.

For about a year and a half, David taught in the NYC DOC inmate education program on Rikers Island -- at OBCC, GMDC & AMKC detention facilities there -- from early 2001 to late summer 2002.

Grandfather Robert S. Goewey can be seen in a 1935 group picture of Sing Sing officers posed in front of the prison administration building, that photo appearing in Guy Cheli's Images of America: Sing Sing Prison.

Click Grandfather R. S. Goewey's thumbnail image left to access a presentation of the full photo and four linked closeup sections.

A link to a NYCHS sampling of other Sing Sing images in Cheli's book is provided at the bottom of this web page.

With BA from Cal State Northridge and MFA from the New School in David's c.v., he has taught writing in the CUNY system at LaGuardia Community College.

In the '80s and '90s he performed as an actor in LA as well as on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-off Broadway. He lives in New York City.

Although while growing up in an Ossining Correction household, David had heard about the bloody 1941 prison breakout, the idea of his writing about it didn't occur to him until a decade ago when his brother Kenneth, then in his 25th years as a Sing Sing officer, sent him copies of newspaper stories and photos of the escape and its aftermath.

David has kept the book dedication in the Goewey Correction family:

For my parents
Officer J. Robert and
Lorraine M. Goewey.
As the alarmed village police raced to the bank, the robbers abandoned their car a couple of miles away in Yonkers and disappeared south into Manhattan. . . .

In short order, two arrests were made, The suspects, James Fay and John Flood, held their tongues about the names of their accomplices despite police fists, but three “John Doe" warrants issued with federal charges attached.

William "Willie the Greek" Athalis also known as "Speed," the gang leader - a 23-year-old first generation Greek American and unemployed cabinetmaker’s helper (with a year of high school, the most highly educated of the gang) -- had finally brainstormed himself onto the FBI’s wanted list. He and his fugitive partners, John “Patches” Waters and Edward Kiernan, aka “Eugene King,” were on the run.

Patches and Kiernan were longtime partners in crime, dating back to the dormitory they shared at Elmira Reformatory when they were teenagers and to a subsequent stretch in Sing Sing. And like most of their adventures, the Ardsley job ended in a courtroom.

Within the month. Kiernan, his thinning red hair combed back wetly and his doughy face, resigned, and Patches, a thousand-yard stare in his blue eyes contradicting the blood in his cheeks, stood before a judge and heard the rohbery charges dismissed. Their captured confederates Fay and Flood, already in custody, refused to bargain and testify against them, and the witnesses' memories, so firm just a few weeks ago, had begun to dissolve.

The robbery charges didn’t stick, but Patches and Kiernan had violated their parole by keeping each other’s company Stylish before the bench in their John David suits, the two were hustled back to Sing Sing at the end January 1936. . . .

[Excerpts from Pages 83 - 84 :]

When the six months were up, Athalis emerged from Rikers Island eager to make up for lost time. He’d made it through half a year in the penitentiary without the Ardsley caper coming to the surface. Surely luck was in his favor. . .

As far as the jobs [heists] went, Willie would put them together for himself . . .

It would be the same formula he’d developed years ago, the model they’d used for the Ardsley job — five-man teams plus a driver, with everybody knowing their positions, fast in and fast out. He’d make inquiries and assemble a new gang.. . .

Willie found out that Patches was out of Sing Sing and back at work on the West Side docks; but Kiernan was still inside, transferred to Auburn State Prison.

Cover of David Goewey's Crash Out: The True Tale of a Hell's Kitchen Kid & the Bloodiest Escape in Sing Sing History.

These excerpts from it are presented with permission of author David Goewey who retains their copyright and reserves all rights thereunder.

Since the selected texts focus primarily on the smuggling into Sing Sing of guns that figured in the escapees' killing prison guard John Hartye and Ossining patrolman James W. Fagan, these excerpts highlight the reputed role of Edward Kiernan as the chief outside accomplice.

In some instances, lower-cased words in the orginal text have have had their first letters capitalized when they begin excerpted passages.

Click the above image for more about the Random House/Crown Publishers book.

Patches brought in an old friend of Kiernan’s instead, William Wade, aka “Billy Dalton,” a skinny, reddish truck loader from the docks and a fast and steady driver. The new gang was all set. . . .

When Wade got locked up on a burglary charge, Patches suggested a new guy to Willie — a blond kid Patches had met on the docks, a stand-up guy from Hell’s Kitchen called "Whitey" [Joseph Riordan].

[Excerpts from Pages 134 - 137:]

The New York State Police would later determine that Patches Waters “commenced making arrangements” for his angle of Charlie McGale’s escape plot sometime in late spring and into the summer of 1940.

Patches was responsible for the outside plan, and his scheme had two main components.

First, a waiting getaway car -- which meant enlisting a trustworthy team of outside men to procure the car and then to stow it. Second, communication -- a good plan needed to be completely understood by the outside team. Patches considered the pieces one by one. . .

Wade owed Patches a big favor. He was out walking the city streets that very evening because Patches and Whitey had both kept their mouths shut about Wade’s involvement with the robberies. Billy Wade was waterfront Irish — he would honor, as a Journal American reporter put it, “the strange tie of underworld gratitude.”

But how could Patches plan a breakout with any former gang member? He couldn’t very well write a letter to Wade -- "hey, planning a crash out, need your help." Inmate mail was read, both incoming and outgoing.

That left the visiting room, not an ideal choice given the experienced convict’s aversion to prying ears. Besides, criminal associates would never be allowed to visit one another in Sing Sing. . . .

The only visitors not fingerprinted were immediate family members — but Wade didn’t look like kin. . . .

The Relevance of Remembering

What is the relevance of revisiting in 2005 the deadly 1941 Sing Sing escape?

Remembering Correction involves hope of remorse, reform, and reconciliation is always relevant.

Remembering the service and sacrifice of officers killed in the line of duty is always relevant.

Remembering authorities' duty to stay within limits the law imposes on power conferred is always relevant. ---- ---- ---- ------ ------ ----- ----- ---- ---- --- NYCHS webmaster.

But what about Eddie Kiernan? Patches’s old partner in crime — cellmate from Elmira and the Big House, alleged former gun mate from the Ardsley bank job— had been released from Auburn the previous month.

With his small mouth and shapeless nose, Kiernan could easily pass for Patches’s brother. Plus, Kiernan and Billy Wade went back 20 years, all the way to St. John’s parochial school they were bosom pals who trusted each other.

Would Kiernan be game enough to jump right back into the mix? Patches thought so — as Eddie Kiernan’s long police record demonstrated, the man lived and breathed for the angles.

[Excerpts from Pages 141 - 143:]

Gertrude [Carlson, representing herself as his common law wife] got to see Patches 32 times over the next 12 months, about every 11 days. . . .

Certainly he needed to tell Gert that he wanted to see Eddie Kiernan. But he didn’t have to tell her why. He’d have to explain that Kiernan was an ex-con, though, because ex-cons weren’t allowed to visit inmates, and they’d need to find a way around that. And they’d have to talk about the Waters family, because those details were essential to Kiernan’s visiting . . . .

Above graphic pen sketch, in sepia, of Edward Kiernan is based on a b&w image of him and William Wade appearing in Crash Out by courtesy of the New York Public Library.
Click image for the NYPL web site.
By the summer, she was conversant enough in visiting room procedure and Waters family particulars to instruct Eddie Kiernan on the best way for an ex-con -- a guy who had been to Sing Sing himself twice before -- to get into the prison visiting room.

Though Gertrude had never met Kernan before the early months of 1940, he sat beside her twice that summer on the northbound train out of Grand Central, headed for Ossining. These hour-long rides gave Gert the perfect opportunity to fill Kiernan in on all he had to know.

Eddie Kiernan had taken a last look at Sing Sing prison in 1936, as he climbed into the paddy wagon for his transfer upstate to Auburn prison. Now four years later, in June 1940, Kiernan was back, approaching Sing Sing’s Administration Building as a civilian.

His prison grays would have been replaced with a favorite suit. Eddie Kiernan was always stylish in police photos -- the double-breasted blue wool, say, set off by a pearl tie and a charcoal fedora. The suit looked snug after years of starchy prison food, but that added an air of prosperity. . . . [a] respectable appearance . . . .

Since his release from Auburn in early March, Kiernan had been toeing the straight and narrow. He was living in Chelsea with his older sister, Margaret, who had practically raised him after their immigrant mother died when he was a baby and their grief-stricken father had turned more and more to drink. Every morning, Kiernan took the subway out to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and his job with Jarka & Co., a stevedoring company.

But aside from playing a few rackets, mostly low-stakes dice, he was working the docks and keeping his nose clean. Besides his parole officer, to whom Kiernan reported weekly, Margaret made going straight a condition before offering her little brother the lumpy sofa in her small apartment on West 21st Street.

With all those demands on his honesty though, Kiernan sometimes escaped into whiskey and beer. He wasn’t really allowed alcohol while on parole, but he carried a burden going straight — and when he drank, anything seemed possible, even keeping on this side of the law. But now Patches had something in the works. Try as Eddie might, he couldn’t help but be a part of it.

Above graphic pen sketch, in sepia, of William Wade is based on a b&w image of him and Edward Kiernan appearing in Crash Out by courtesy of the New York Public Library.
Click image for the NYPL web site.
State police and prison records indicate that ever since he was a kid at St. John’s parochial school on West 31st Street, Kiernan and his partner Billy Wade were in almost constant trouble. Typical kid stuff, though, like boosting change from the collection boxes in the church or merchandise from the stores lining Seventh Avenue.

But he wouldn’t have thought of himself as a bad guy, compared to some of the hardboiled cases you met at Auburn and Sing Sing. He had never killed anyone, for instance, or even hurt anyone much in the course of his criminal career. Anyway, he made amends by going to Mass every Sunday with his sister Margaret.

And besides, everybody was a finagler; any newspaper could tell you that. Eddie Kiernan simply found his kicks in thieving, be it armed robbery or burglary.

After Eddie was sentenced in 1936 for parole violation after the Ardsley bank job wouldn’t stick, the system in its wisdom made sure to keep him and Patches separated. Patches went to Sing Sing; Kiernan went upstate. But the system was the system, lousy no matter where you went. Anything Patches had in mind couldn’t be too good for this place, and Eddie Kiernan was there to help. He’d become Terrence Waters, arriving at Sing Sing to see his imprisoned brother John.

Kiernan and Gertrude followed the other visitors toward the visiting room, the prison’s most public space. The gates banged and locked behind them, and they lined up before the visiting room guard’s desk. The whole atmosphere -- the echo of the voices, the scent of disinfectant was oppressive. . . .

Officers saw lots of convicts come and go, so Kiernan wouldn’t be too worried about them. . . . And when he removed his hat, stepped up to Officer Wilson, and correctly answered his questions, the precedent was established. Eddie Kiernan was Terrence Waters.

For the next year, he and Patches Waters schemed right under the prison’s eyes and ears.

[Excerpts from Pages 160 - 164:]

Above sepia image is derived from the soft gray background photo David Goewey used on the title page and its facing page in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society. A full b&w version also appears in Guy Cheli's Images of America: Sing Sing Prison where it is identified as "Guard Post 10 circa 1940."

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society. A link to a NYCHS sampling of other Sing Sing images in Cheli's book is at the bottom of this NYCHS web page.

Patches wanted a tommy gun -- serious firepower. Kiernan was accommodating; he’d see what he could do.

Billy Wade might know. But Kiernan hadn’t seen Wade since Wade had gotten out of the Tombs, escaping conviction on the Con Ed job with his usual Irish luck. . . .

Another fellow came to Kiernan’s mind, Alfred Catelan, aka “Steve Collins,” who would sell Kiernan a machine gun that summer for $100. Right off the bat, the heavy stuff was set. . . .

Patches was almost sorry to leave his job in the steaming mess hall. But he had managed another leap forward. He had positioned himself closer to the tunnel. The previous autumn, seeing the need for an even closer eye, he’d put in a request to the Assignment Board for an orderly job in the hospital, hoping his experience banging around in the prison mess hail would be an advantage -- who better to roll food carts up and down the sick wards? Apparently, the Board agreed. When a position opened up, Patches was reassigned to the hospital in January 1941.

He brought meals up from the basement kitchen, and fresh linens and towels from the laundry. He quickly memorized the hospital’s layout and routines. And the next time Kiernan visited, Patches gave him his most important assignment: he put him on the trail of the milk truck. . . .

Kiernan had bought the machine gun and hidden it safely in his basement. But Patches needed handguns inside. He wasn’t sure how many yet, two at least. . . . He’d worry about how many guns later; right now, he had to figure out a way to get them inside.

Every morning, a milk truck stopped at the hospital. Crowley’s Dairy. Patches asked Kiernan to take a look, see if it was even possible.

Above image is derived from the sepia photo David Goewey used on the endpapers in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society. A full b&w version also appears in Guy Cheli's Images of America: Sing Sing Prison where it is identified as "guard post 12 circa 1940 . . . now the site of Louis Engel Park."

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society. A link to a NYCHS sampling of other Sing Sing images in Cheli's book is at the bottom of this NYCHS web page.

From repeated observation, Patches and McGale determined that the milk truck made daily daybreak deliveries. It entered the prison at the 12 Post gate, under the tower right outside the Administration Building, and stopped to be searched inside the stockade. A lone officer was assigned to check every vehicle that came inside, even Warden Lawes‘s automobile. . . .

But there was no pit from which the guard could check vehicle undercarriages, and there were no mirrors to slide under the truck in order to fully examine the chassis. The uniformed officer had to wriggle under the vehicle on his back.

Up until now, Eddie Kiernan had been laying the groundwork alone. - But now he needed help - it was time to give Billy Wade a call. Kiernan didn’t want to follow a milk truck by himself, get lost up in Newhurgh for instance . . .

Billy Wade knew vehicles — he was a trucker’s helper on the West Side docks, when he wasn’t a getaway driver for armed robberies. . . .

According to the New York State Police report, Kiernan and Wade began meeting to discuss the escape plot sometime in February 1941. They usually met at a saloon in the mid West 30s, off 8th Avenue. The report doesn’t specify the address. . . .

Kiernan was in his element. “They have some keys for some doors up there,” he said, telling Wade the whole idea. “Can you get a car?”

Wade was 32 years old, skinny, his reddish pompadour in need of a comb after the February wind. Pictures show him with a square chin and an impish expression, like he had the smart answer before you asked a stupid question. Besides working the docks, he was known in the rackets for taking numbers on the horses. He had five arrests dating back 12 years but no convictions. The latest pickup, for the Con Ed robbery, put him in the Tombs for ten months. Now he was free, and he surely appreciated why. If Patches Waters needed a car, Billy Wade could not say no.

But Kiernan wasn’t finished. Patches also needed guns, and he thought he’d figured a way to get them inside. Wade was a driver. Could he help Kiernan case a milk route? Wade could. . . .

The above sepia image is derived from a b&w photo that David Goewey used in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society. Goewey indentifies it as the prison's old visiting room where Patches and Kiernan discussed, in whispers, the breakout plan.

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society.

The following Friday night, around midnight, Kiernan and Wade crossed the Henry Hudson Bridge into Riverdale . . . . Eventually they crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge . . . and reached Newburgh just before one o’clock. They turned off the headlights and parked down the street from the truck entrance to the Crowley Dairy, on the opposite side of the street. . . .

How could they tell which truck went to Sing Sing? The Crowlev Dairy served the entire Hudson Valley, making deliveries to the prison seven days a week. Patches was interested only in the truck that came on Saturdays — because he worked Saturdays unloading the truck at the hospital, or because McGale would have the best access on that day.

There were maybe half a dozen trucks in the industrial fleet. Either Patches had been quite specific about which milk truck made the Saturday delivery providing Kiernan and Wade with an identifying vehicle or license plate number. Or the men may have had to follow the trucks one by one until they found the truck that delivered to Sing Sing.

In either case, this surveillance took about eight weeks — time enough to allow for false starts, identify the correct truck, and confirm its routine. The exact scheme was never revealed, but when the right truck slowed for Sing Sing’s front entrance, the boys knew enough to steer past it and proceed up the hill that curved around the great limestone wall.

On the tenth of March, Kiernan signed into the visiting room and told Patches they had the milk truck cold. . . .

[Excerpts from Pages 166 - 167:]

Over midnight, into the early morning of Saturday, March 22, Kiernan and Wade drove back up to Newburgh for the last time. A red cardboard-bound package was stuffed under the passenger seat. . . . Kiernan was dressed for dirty work in a dark jacket and work pants. . . .

The above sepia image is derived from a b&w photo that David Goewey used in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society and that also appears in Guy Cheli's Images of America: Sing Sing Prison where it is identified as "Guard post 12 shown here from Hunter Street." Goewey also indentifies the stockade entrance as the place where Crowley milk trucks and other delivery vehicles entered and left.

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society. A link to a NYCHS sampling of other Sing Sing images in Cheli's book is at the bottom of this NYCHS web page.

In Newburgh, they circled around the block, drove past the dairy, and parked down the street on the same side.

Kiernan, twisted around in his seat, reconnoitered with a pair of binoculars; Wade kept watch through the rearview mirror.

Around 1 A.M., the delivery trucks growled to life and began backing up to the loading platform.

Kiernan reached under the seat and retrieved the red cardboard package and zipped it into his leather jacket. He opened the door and climbed into the dark.

The chain-link fence around the dairy was old and bent. From a previous observation, Kiernan had found a wide rip in the mesh. He squeezed through. A scrub-grass lot bordered the loading area. Hunched low, Kiernan kept in the building’s shadow and approached the loading platform from the side. . . .

Behind the truck, he unzipped his jacket and took out the package. He lay on his back and used his elbows to shift from side to side, wriggling under the truck. . . .

A spare tire was set almost flush against the rear axle. He took off his black gloves, wedged the package into a niche, and buckled it tight with leather thongs like the straps a kid would use to hold schoolbooks together. He was satisfied that the package was there to stay until someone removed it.

Kiernan inched back . . . . then emerged from underneath and hurried back across the scrub lot to the hole in the fence. Wade started the car when he saw him.

They didn’t follow the milk truck that night. Kiernan and Wade took their time driving back to New York City; this part was done . . .

[Excerpts from Pages 184 - 187]

The above sepia image is derived from a b&w photo that David Goewey used in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society. Goewey indentifies it as the prison hospital ward from which inmates Waters, Riordan and McGale (not those in the picture) launched their bloody breakout.

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society.

Eddie Kiernan and Billy Wade would never admit it themselves — the official police version says it for them — but in the final hours of Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941, they stole a beige 1939 Plymouth two-door sedan . . . . the two wouldnt have wanted to hot-wire a car from their own threadbare Chelsea neighborhood. Instead, around 9:30, they took the IRT up to West 79th Street and walked over to quiet, residential West End Avenue, where the quality of goods was better. . . .

The cool spring afternoon clouded over by nightfall, and the air became muggy. A photo taken later shows Kiernan still wearing his Easter suit and pearl tie. Standing lookout on the sidewalk in front of 411 West End Avenue, he must have been sweating in his overcoat and fedora. Wade, dressed for the job in dark work pants and a nylon windbreaker, jimmied the Plymouth's passenger side door, leaned across the front seat, and stripped and twisted the ignition wires to start the engine.

Patches Waters had instructed them to park the car under the Ossining railroad station ramp, ready to go with the loaded machine gun, at 1:30 A.M. The break was scheduled for 2:30, and the extra hour would allow time to straighten out any snafus that might arise.

Would Kiernan and Wade have been gutsy or foolish enough to attempt a car theft with a Tommy gun in their possession? That might explain Kiernan’s long coat in the mild weather. Or perhaps they drove back downtown to Chelsea and retrieved the gun from Kiernan’s basement. In either case, at 11 o’clock, the men were headed north on the Albany Post Road to Ossining. . . .

The above sepia image is derived from a b&w photo that David Goewey used in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society. Goewey indentifies the added "X" as marking the spot where Waters, Riordan and McGale, armed with guns smuggled in by Kiernan and Wade, exited the steam pipe tunnel and climbed down to the railroad tracks .

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society.

Wade kept to the speed limit, while Kiernan snapped together the Tommy gun in the backseat.

The Plymouth’s rearview mirror flashed with the reflected headlights of an Oldsmobile swinging around the curves behind them. In the Olds’ front seat, 39—year—old Brooklyn longshoreman Charles Bergstrom rode beside the driver, moon—faced Robert Brown, Patches’s pinball machine business partner.

Charles Bergstrom was a game but low—stakes crony of the gang, friendly with both Wade and Kiernan. Bergstrom had a long police record, but his role in this plot was minor at best. . . .

Robert Brown . . agreed to handle the vital though peripheral arrangements for Wade and Kiernan’s return trip to the city. Visiting Patches one last time on Good Friday, Brownie also finalized the agreement to secure a hideout for the fugitives. On Saturday he went up to Harlem to shell out $14 for a studio apartment, far west on 124th Street. . . .

The cars motored up the lower Hudson Valley. But somewhere between the traffic lights in the sleeping villages, the two cars became separated. Wade and Kiernan continued north . . . .

Wade braked the Plymouth down steep Secor Road, which descended to the train station plaza. . . . Wade turned right, drove around and under the ramp, and pulled the car to a stop at the curb. . . .

Wondering about their ride back home and concerned about being on time, the men checked their watches—about 1:20 A.M. They were right on schedule. . . .

The above sepia image of prison guard John Hartye, slain in the 191 escape, is derived from a b&w photo that David Goewey used in his Crash Out by courtesy of the Ossining Historical Society and that also appears in Guy Cheli's Images of America: Sing Sing Prison

Click image for the Ossining Historical Society. A link to a NYCHS sampling of other Sing Sing images in Cheli's book is at the bottom of this NYCHS web page.

There was a small tavern on Depot Plaza’s northern boundary. The men had told Bergstrom and Brownie to meet them there for the return trip downtown, in case they got separated. Wade and Kiernan left the car unlocked. They walked across the parking lot toward the neon lights. . . . they had plenty of time. . . .

[Excerpts from Pages 188 -- 190:]

Officer John Hartve finished the 1:30 count in Medical Ward 1— at the south end of the hallway, where Whitey, Patches, and McGale lay waiting— and walked to the north end of the hallway to count through Ward 2. He called both counts in to the desk operator on the hall telephone and went back into his office. . . .

Most officers dreaded working overnight shifts . . . . But John Hartve, a veteran Sing Sing officer approaching 20 years’ service, preferred overnight shifts. He could stay awake and apparently wasn’t bored by the quiet. He even seemed to enjoy it. Each work night he drove up without complaint from the Bronx, where he shared a large apartment with his sister and her husband in tree-lined Mott Haven.

At fifty-five, he was still unmarried, and the nighttime peace and quiet fit his genial personality. . . .

Hartve was a big man, easily carrying his 225 pounds on a six—foot, two—inch frame. The rookies under him appreciated his willingness to work midnights, weekends, or holidays. He was always amenable to shift swaps when a wife was expecting or a child was sick (Sure, boyo, course, in his reassuring brogue).

He’d taught many of them the ropes when they’d first come on the job — the most comfortable, quietest boots to wear, still bruising enough to an unruly convict if you had to . . . .

The young rookies nicknamed him “Old John.” Even an institutional staff photograph . . . shows a full-faced man with graying temples, a high forehead rising above no-nonsense eyes that are tempered by laugh lines, and a broad mouth shaped by smiles.

Officer Hartye linked the new officers to Sing Sing’s storied past, almost back to the era [when] keepers “had custodial charge of contractors’ shops and maintenance groups, and performed cell hall and gate duty. Guards were stationed about the grounds and did strictly guard duty, having no control over inmates.” The titles were still in use in 1941, but they were synonimous terms by then, . . .

Above graphic pen sketch, in sepia, of Ossining police officer James Fagan, slain in the 191 escape, is based on a b&w image of him appearing in David Goewey's Crash Out by courtesy of the New York Public Library.
Click image for the NYPL web site.
Whitey was lying on his back when Officer Hartye made his round. . . . As he passed Whitey’s bed, the guard’s thick index finger could be seen beating in time to the count. . . . Whitey reached over for his wristwatch on the bedside cabinet, held it close in the dim light. 2 A.M. Almost time. . . .

He must have felt that last half hour crank up right then, a final countdown pumping through his veins. The ward was still. . . . Just dead quiet for a minute or two.

Then two gunshots boomed across the third floor. . . .

[Excerpts from 200 - 208:]

A report of loiterers [near the train station] had been received at headquarters -- Brownie and Bergstrom had arrived at last and were parked at the curb near the bar waiting for Kiernan and Wade to appear.

Officers William Nelson and James W. Fagan were dispatched.

The two patrolmen braked their car to the curb at the corner of Main and Water Streets, two blocks from the train station and just east of a small tavern. . . .

As Officer Nelson settled his wire-rims on the bridge of his nose and heaved himself from the car to investigate what the dispatcher referred to only as “characters,” his partner, 35-year-old Jim Fagan, checked his wristwatch and noted the time and complaint in his report book. . . .

Click above image of columnist Bill Reel photo and byline from The Tablet to access excerpts from his story about Kiernan's remorse and reconciliation with his family.
Jim Fagan hadn’t always wanted to be a cop. But he’d always felt a strong pulse of civic pride and responsibility.

Born and raised in town, a handsome, blue-eyed high school football star and former Ossining tennis champion, Fagan volunteered with the Holla Hose firehouse right out of high school. In his spare time, he played the cornet and sometimes performed with local bands. . . .

He [had] tried running a greengrocery with his brother. He’d even taken a law course offered by the Blackstone Institute in Chicago. . . .

He needed . . . a career that would blend the glamour of sports and show business with the true service of volunteering. Jim Fagan found both in police work. . . .

But Jim Fagan’s darkest impression of police work came on a bright summer day, July 23,1934, only four months after proudly pinning badge number 13 to his midnight blue tunic.

On a mild Sunday afternoon . . . a tour bus carrying members and supporters of Brooklyn’s Young Men’s Democratic League wound its way up to Ossining to play Sing Sing’s celebrated inmate baseball team. . .

Down steep Secor Road toward the train station, the brakes failed completely, . . . landing [the bus] upside down in a fiery explosion in the middle of a lumberyard on the other side of the tracks. . . .

Twelve passengers were killed outright, and ten others died over the next few days. Officer James Fagan, among the first on the scene, helped pull bodies from the inferno,. . . Two days later, still on round-the-clock duty since the crash, . . .

Fagan was on hand at dawn to pull the final body from the Hudson River.

Click the image of the cover of Ralph Blumenthal's
Miracle at Sing Sing to access excerpts from the book's text about the 1941 escape.
The incident brought the young policeman . . . his picture on the front page of the local newspaper. But the ghastly bus crash had scorched the glamorous sheen off police work. . . .

Would anyone who had witnessed that awful day ever sit by the curb near the train station, without seeing in his mind’s eye the charred bodies and the twisted wreckage? . . .

At an intersection at the top of the street, near a tavern, an automobile was parked at the curb. Patches and McGale stopped. Whitey kept running to catch up.

Somebody had to tell them that they were headed in the wrong direction, that the car at the curb couldnt have been left for them. That the car, in fact, looked like a cop’s.

Officer Fagan must have smiled. Two men had appeared in the intersection from out of the gloom, opposite the direction from where Officer Nelson had gone inspecting.

They both looked as if they’d been shot out of a cannon — one small and wild-haired, the other shirtless, his bare chest white and scrawny. Obviously a couple of drunks keeping the neighbors awake, just as Fagan had thought.

He rolled down the car window to yell at them and noticed both men were wearing similar trousers. Uniform gray and shapeless. State issue. Fagan’s smile disappeared.

Click the above image of the Seal of the 2nd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals to access the Lumbard opinion in the Wade case.
Click the above image to access NYCHS excerpts from Judge Charles Froessel's opinion for the NYS Court of Appeal's rejection of Edward Kiernan's appeal.
“Hey, you,” Fagan called, his fingers closing around the door handle. “What are you guys...”

Without a word, the two men raised guns and opened fire.

A bullet flattened a gold button on Fagan’s uniform and slammed into his heart. Another pierced the car door and shattered a kidney.

Officer James Fagan, like the cool-headed hero he’d trained all his life to be, the crack-shot marksman and trophy winner at county meets, pulled his sidearm as he tumbled from the car. He emptied his revolver as he collapsed to the pavement mortally wounded.

Hearing the gunfire, Officer Nelson abandoned questioning Brownie and Bergstrom. He drew his .38 and sprinted back down the block.

From 200 feet away, the bespectacled policeman squinted down his gun sight and sent a bullet through Patches Waters’s temple, dropping him dead. . . .

Click the above image of James T. Foley Federal Courthouse in Albany to access his ultimate opinion on the Kiernan appeal.
Officer Nelson lifted his bleeding partner into the backseat of the patrol car, . . .

Officer James Fagan died in the backseat of the squad car on the way to the hospital. . . .

Billy Wade and Eddie Kiernan perched at the bar on the north edge of the plaza, working their way through glasses of beer and shots, undoubtedly wondering where the hell Brownie and Bergstrom were.

Kiernan and Wade had no idea that their accomplices were at that moment parked up the street, being questioned by Officer Nelson.

All they knew was that their ride home was an hour late. The neon clock above the shelved liquor bottles showed about 2:15.

In less than fifteen minutes, Waters, Whitey, and the other fellow were scheduled to make their break. Wade and Kiernan needed to leave now. They couldn’t risk being on the scene when the inmates arrived. . . .

Click the above detail from this presentation's logo to access its introductory overview page.
As the two worried, they heard loud pops outside, lots of them, close by. . . . . That sounded like gunshots.

Wade and Kiernan looked at each other, then back down at their drinks. They put a couple of dollars on the bar, slid off their stools, and hurried out.

NOTE: The copyright to the above text excerpts from Crash Out belongs to author David Goewey who retains and reserves all the rights thereunder.

Focused primarily on the smuggling into Sing Sing of the guns with which the escapees killed prison guard Hartye and Ossining patrolman Fagan, the excerpts highlight the reputed role of Kiernan as the chief outside accomplice. However, the book itself covers in depth the entire story of the escape by inmates Waters, Riordan, and McGale.

Click the underlined page description link to access its page.
Overview, image links to 5 other 1941 escape pages
Bill Reel's Tablet column on escape 'accomplice' Kiernan
Ralph Blumenthal book excerpts on 1941 escape
2d U.S. Circuit overturning 'accomplice' Wade conviction
NYS Court of Appeals affirming Kiernan conviction
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Federal District Court overturning Kiernan conviction
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Excerpts from David Goewey's
Crash Out: The True Tale of a Hell's Kitchen Kid & the Bloodiest Escape in Sing Sing History

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Click for audio
WNYC Leonard Lopate Feb. 05, 2004 interview of Guy Cheli about his Images of America: Sing Sing Prison.
PBS News Hour Feb. 04, 2004 interview of James McGrath Morris about his The Rose Man of Sing Sing.