Fighting crime became part of FDR’s administration in the same spirit as fighting soil erosion and unemployment. And of all the alphabet agencies of the New Deal, none captured the public’s imagination and loyalty like J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. (Teddy Roosevelt had established the Bureau of Investigation in 1908, but it didn’t become the modern crime fighting bureau until the 30’s.)

In the depression, the success or failure of the government in fighting crime took on mythical proportions. Every major crime and successful gangster seemed to test whether the nation would survive. The crime problem was frightening and real, however exaggerated by the FBI. “The criminal in America is on the march,” Hoover announced. Dillinger, Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and Baby Face Nelson were among the public enemies; Hoover and the Government Men were the public heroes. Hoover was a master of manipulating the myth and reality about himself and the Bureau. His celebrity and the public support became the basis for almost unprecedented power. G-Men is set in the years 1930-39.

My American Experience

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