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The Great Escape from Alcatraz

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The Greatest Escape from Alcatraz - Another Chapter...


After decades of investigating, the F.B.I concluded that there were more key findings indicative of a failed escape rather than any findings or evidence that would suggest any of the inmates found their way to freedom. In the end, there was never any credible land based evidence that would lend to a positive outcome for any of the inmates.

A little known fact about the famed “great escape,” is that there were initially six accomplices! June Stephens (1225-AZ), had been brought into the plan as early as December and occupied a cell on the third tier, directly above Morris and the Anglin Brothers. During a prison-wide shakedown following the escape , there were also holes found around the ventilation grill inside the cell of Robert L. Williams (1184-AZ). Williams, serving time for murder, later denied any direct involvement, but Stephens admitted his role and later revealed that Frank Morris asked him to withdraw due to three issues that he had felt would ultimately compromise their escape plan.

The first was that each cell was having an additional water spout for warm water installed. While the backsides of the cells at ground level would be easy to conceal for officer inspections, there would be no way to conceal holes located at the backsides of the upper tier cells. Additionally, once the inmates had completed cutting around their grills, there was a risk that loose sections of the cement or grill could fall and alert officers to the escape plot. Finally, if they were successful going undetected, maneuvering out of the hole only being able to hold the pipes at such a high elevation would be much more difficult, not to mention it would be too dangerous emerging from a confined space at that height.

While Stephens role in the escape was believed to end five months prior to the date the plan was executed, his interviews with officials offered detailed descriptions on how the inmates carefully planning and effected their escape. While Robert Williams completely denied his role, Stephens later revealed that Morris and Williams worked together in the Glove Shop and stated that “Williams probably had a significant role” as both he and Morris “were close friends” and that he helped secure many of the articles that were used in the escape. Stephens was later tried and convicted for his role in the escape and sent to isolation. Stephen’s died in November of 1995 and Williams in May of 2006.

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Crew members from the Freighter Ship Norefjell filed an official report stating they had seen a body floating about twenty miles west of the Golden Gate. Click on the ship's photo to read one of the offical statements to the F.B.I. (requires Adobe Reader).

While historians share different theories on why West didn’t make it out, both West and Stephens both provided one common story that would suggest that West was left behind.

An official F.B.I. Investigative Report provided the following statement of the escape:


At 7:15 AM, June 12, 1962, Frank Lee Morris, John William Anglin, and Clarence Anglin, all inmates of the United States penitentiary, Alcatraz Island, California, discovered missing from their cells by officers of the penitentiary, in dummy faces were found in their beds. Escaped by digging holes to the back walls in ventilator areas of their cells; climbing plumbing pipes in utility court or behind cells and then broke through bars in ventilator lid onto the roof. Climb down from the roof on the large pipe at the rear the cell house, over the fence, and to the north east shore of the island. A similar hole in the cell of inmate Allen West as well as a dummy face. They left at about 9:37 PM on June 11, 1962, supposedly to return and help finish West's hole, and not seen since. Later that night Wes completed the hole in the cell, proceeded to the roof, and ascertained they had gone. He returned to his cell and to bed. Escapees had taken a 6' x 14' raft made from rubberized raincoats and three yoke life preservers similarly made. These articles had been made and stored on roof tear under the cell house roof, and escapees had worked on the same in evenings after breaking out of the cell. West states they plan to escape to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay and then to the mainland. They would commit burglary to obtain guns and clothing; then steal a car and leave the area.


Alcatraz Inmate June Stephens was later confirmed by the F.B.I. as being an accomplice to the 1962 Alcatraz Escape.


Holes found around the ventilator grill of June Stephen's cell on the third tier.


Inmate Robert Williams considered a close associate of Frank Lee Morris, where they worked together in the Glove Shop at Alcatraz. Williams was serving a life sentance for murder.

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An authorized complaint was filed June 13, 1962 before USC, San Francisco, charging escapees Morris and Anglin brothers with violation of title 18, section 751, U. S. Code. Federal warrants issued in bond recommended in the amount of $50,000 each. USA, San Francisco, withholding prosecution at this time.

Subjects at large are all convicted bank robbers and should be considered extremely dangerous.


on June 12, 1962, at 7:15 AM, Frank Lee Morris, Alcatraz number 1441; John William Anglin, Alcatraz number 1476; and Clarence Anglin, Alcatraz number 1485, all inmates the United States penitentiary, Alcatraz Island, California, were discovered missing from their cells by officers of the penitentiary. Dummy faces were found in their beds.

Their exit had been accomplished by digging holes in the back walls in the ventilator areas of their cells. Crawling through these holes into the utility corridor, they used the plumbing pipes to crawl on top of the third tier of cells. Thence, they broke out onto the roof of the cell house through bars any ventilator lid. They climbed down from the roof on the large pipe at the rear of the cell house and went over the fence, proceeding down steep embankments to the north east shore of the island in the vicinity of the power plant.

A similar hole was discovered in Allen West’s cell, Alcatraz number 1335, as well as dummy face, Wes stated they were to escape together, but the hole in the cell was not quite completed. At 9:37 PM on June 11, 1962, Morris went to get one of the Anglin's to assist West but they never returned. Later that night West completed the hole in his cell and proceeded to the roof but they were gone. These articles have been stored on top the third cell tier under the cell house roof were escapees had worked on the same in the evenings after breaking out of their cells. West returned to his cell and went to bed. He said they had planned to escape to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, and then to the mainland. Upon arrival to the shore, they had planned to inflate the raft with a concertina which they had made into a bellows. They would then commit burglary to obtain guns and clothing and then steal a car to go as far from the Bay Area is possible beyond that no plans were formulated.

The official Alcatraz History bookstore