The so-called battle of Alcatraz began on May 2, 1946. Located on an island in San Francisco bay, Alcatraz prior to 1933 was a military prison. In 1933 the Federal Bureau of Prisons refurbished it, and it became a supposedly escape proof prison, due to the high currents of the bay, where Federal prisoners who had caused trouble in other prisons were transferred. The prison was closed in 1963. Ironically considering its infamous reputation, many convicts asked to be transferred to Alcatraz. Several former inmates report that the food and treatment were better at Alcatraz than in other Federal prisons.
On May 2, 1946 inmates Bernard Coy and Marvin Hubbard teamed up to overpower a guard. They then released inmates Joseph Cretzer and Clarence Carnes from their cells. Taking over C block and D block, they attempted to open the yard door to seize the launch, using the nine guards they had captured as hostages. How they would have escaped from San Francisco after reaching it is a matter of speculation, as the yard door jammed and the inmates were trapped in the two cell blocks they controlled. Now began a standoff which would receive heavy press coverage, especially due to the involvement of two platoons of US Marines under Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the leader of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma. On May 4, 1946 guards retook the cell blocks. Three inmates died in the fighting: Cretzer, Coy and Hubbard. Clarence Carnes would receive a life sentence and be released in 1973. Inmates Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson were subsequently tried and executed for their role in the slaying of the two guards who died during this foiled escape attempt. Contrary to the 1962 movie, The Birdman of Alcatraz, inmate Robert Stroud played no role in ending the stand off.