Alcatraz Revolt—The Second Day—'Shot in Cold Blood, I Lay There 10 Hours'
by Stanton Delaplane

It was Joseph Paul Cretzer—”Dutch Joe,” the bank robber and cop killer—who went wild with a .45.

“I was shot down in cold blood by Cretzer,” said Guard Robert R. Baker. Baker lay playing dead in the cell block for 10 hours.

But it was crafty little Bernard Coy, a Kentucky bankrobber who sprung 24 hardcore convicts from their cells. Guards said Coy, probably cleaning windows, reached through the bars of the gun gallery and caught Guard Burch around the throat with a T-shaped squeegee.

He dragged Burch against the bars and slugged him. With a handful of keys, a rifle and revolver, Coy threw the release switch on the cells. Coy kept the rifle.

Cretzer, the killer and escape artist, got the pistol.


When nine guards, including Baker, charged, unarmed, into the cell block, they walked right into the guns. Guard Sundstrom was slugged in the jaw. Baker, Sundstrom and Simpson were thrown into one cell. The other six guards went into another, Baker reported.

“Someone suggested they hold us as hostages, Cretzer just laughed.”

“‘We don’t need hostages,’ he said, ‘We’re not going to make agreements. We want the keys.

“They threw Miller (a guard) on a bench and punched him and kicked him. Miller took it as long as he could and they gave up the keys. He held out the important key—the key to the back gate. Miller passed out.

“The cons seemed to go crazy. Thompson swung a rifle, yelling ‘Let’s shoot the sons of *****es.

“They jammed us into a cell.


“I don’t know who fired into the other cell. But Cretzer stood at the door to the cell I was in and went wild. He emptied a .45 automatic into us. There wasn’t time to think of falling to the floor.

“Simpson (a guard) stood on the bed. Two bullets hit him in the chest, and he fell flat on the cot.

“Before I could get under a bed, a bullet got me and dropped me. Sundstrom, in my cell, fell to the floor behind me and wasn’t hit.

“I thought Cretzer would come in and finish us off. But he left.


“I lay there for 10 hours with blood splashing from my wound. The floor was cold, and I didn’t pass out. Sundstrom hugged the floor without a sound. But I could hear Simpson moaning.

“We didn’t dare help him. The convicts kept coming back and looking in.

“When Cretzer said he didn’t want hostages, a con said: ‘Let’s kill these witnesses. We don’t want witnesses.

“Coy was one convict who did plenty of damage during it all. I saw him pick off three guards with as many shots during the start of the fight in the cell tiers.

“He’s deadly with a rifle.”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 4 May 1946, page 1.

Hour-by-Hour Account of Battle
Here is a chronological report of the bloody battle of Alcatraz Island which began Thursday afternoon.


2 p.m.—A pair of desperadoes, identified as Bernard P. Coy, Kentucky bank robber and Joseph Paul Cretzer, murderer and bank robber overpower guard in prison gun gallery, take possession of arsenal and with 16 other convicts open fire, holding an undisclosed number of guards as hostages.

3:15 p.m.—Residents of Marin county and Golden Gate Bridge passengers hear gun firing from Alcatraz.

3:17 p.m.—Warden J.A. Johnston sends word there is “serious trouble” but is unable to tell extent of injuries suffered by officers or amount of damage done.

3:20 p.m.—Warden sends emergency calls to Marines stationed at Treasure Island; to S.F. Police, the Navy and Coast Guard.

4 p.m.—Gun fire intensifies on Alcatraz.

4:30 p.m.—Naval and Coast Guard vessels ring island to circumvent possibility of escapes.

5 p.m.—First load of re-enforcements landed on island; believed to be Federal agents.

5:30 p.m.—First tear gas bombs and hundreds of bullets hurled by guards into southern windows of cell block.

6 p.m.—Marines, in battle dress and equipped with a variety of weapons, land and take over guarding of nonbattling convicts.

6:15 p.m.—Firing continues at higher pitch. Thousands line San Francisco shore, watching pattern of tracer bullets, Naval patrol around island increased.

7:15 p.m.—Warden informs outside world prisoners continue to hold possession of gun gallery. Two officers wounded as they attempt to storm arsenal: identified as Harry Cochrane and Fred Richberger. Cochrane’s condition held critical.

7:45 p.m.—Wives and children of embattled guards line Aquatic Park, pleading for word of husbands and fathers.

8:30 p.m.—Warden Johnston telegrams word of death of Officer Harold P. Stites and wounding of Officers Herschel R. Oldham and Elmus Besk.

9 p.m.—Most sustained burst of gunfire of entire day opens and continues for more than 45 minutes.

10 p.m.—San Francisco police rushed to scene under command of Captain Bernard McDonald.

12 midnight—Battle continues, although at a slower tempo. First group of wounded hostages landed in San Francisco, all critically injured; are rushed to Marine Hospital.


1 a.m.—Two more wounded men landed in San Francisco; report shooting halted momentarily and insurrectors cornered in cell block. Admit tear gas being used extensively.

3 a.m.—Warden Johnston sends word of rescue of several more hostages. Reports serious injuries to R.R. Baker, Captain Henry H. Weinhold, Cecil D. Corwin, William A. Miller, Carl W. Sundstrom, Joseph Burdette, E.B. Lageson, Robert C. Bristow, Fred S. Roberts. Identifies assault leaders as Cretzer, Coy, Thompson, Shockley, Fleish, Carnes.

4 a.m.—Battle continues but is now isolated in western wing of main cell block—one black spot on brilliantly illumined fortress.

5 a.m.—Crescendo of battle again increases after pre-dawn lull.

5:30 a.m.—Warden issues terse order to “shell out” convict holdouts.

7 a.m.—Guard Miller dies at Marine Hospital after identifying Cretzer as slayer.

8 a.m.—Guards launch vigorous new attach with hand grenades.

9:05 a.m.—Guards attempt to chop hole in roof of cell house to drop more grenades in besieged area. Other leathernecks set up automatic weapons in protected positions in high wall.

9:30 a.m.—Reports received Justice Department reinforcements and guards being flown to Alcatraz from Leavenworth, Kan., Denver, Col., and McNeil Island.

10 a.m.—Reinforced combat Marine forces land.

11 a.m.—Grenades are lobbed into cell block every half hour.

11:32 a.m.—Grenade assault fails to dislodge desperate prisoners. New “shape charge” and bazooka shells are ferried to island.

11:35 a.m.—Fire ignited by low-lobbed grenades at base of cell block.

11:38 a.m.—Warden reports situation still out of control.

11:41 a.m.—Three cases of TNT and two demolition experts dispatched to island, along with supply of gas masks, indicating possibility of chemical warfare would be opened against convicts.

11:45 a.m.—James V. Bennett, director of Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington admits it may take “some time” to control situation.

12 noon—Rifle grenade fire, directed by an Army officer, continues. It is concentrated, however, around the fifth window of the main cell block.

1:40 p.m.—All firing ceases abruptly on the island. Reports say the guards are negotiating for unconditional surrender.

6:55 p.m.—Battle resumes, with the convicts firing from barred windows and the guards returning the fire through holes chipped in the cell block roof. The exchange lasted for 15 minutes.

12 midnight—Alcatraz notifies San Francisco Police Department activities suspended for the night. Convicts still barricaded.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 4 May 1946, page 3.