Murder! Bank Robbery! Suicide!


From the camp newspaper, Trench and Camp. Kansas State Historical Society, Copy and Reuse Restrictions Apply.

A sensational crime on January 11, 1918, shattered the regular order at Camp Funston. I’ll let Grandpa start the story.

letter bank robbery 1-12-18

Grandpa’s letter to Grandma, January 12, 1918

bank letter, page 2

letter, page 2

The crime was reported in newspapers across the country. Most included these details. Captain Lewis R. Whisler, hoping to find a shipment of nearly half a million dollars, entered the bank that evening in January. He found five men inside, whom he initially tied up. After discovering the shipment had been delayed, he took what was there–around $65,000–and then attacked the men with an ax, killing four and injuring the fifth. Apparently, and many details remain sketchy, Whisler quietly resumed his regular duties. Soon after the crime, he overheard people saying the injured man had spoken with police and described the bank robber as someone “dressed as a captain.” When Whisler heard that, he took his own life, using his regulation army service rifle. He had pinned a suicide note to an unnamed woman, “I have been thinking of committing suicide for a long time,” the newspapers reported, “but have never had a good reason. Yesterday I went out and made myself a reason.” Whisler had divorced the year before the crime, leaving behind the ex-wife and a 14-year-old son.