THE GREAT SUB FLUB

A 1940 DIY EX­TOR­TION plot looked BRIL­LIANT. Its ex­e­cu­tion? NOT so much.

Milwaukee Magazine - - Content - BY Matthew J. Prigge

In 1940, Wal­ter Minx con­cocted an elab­o­rate (and bizarre) plot to ex­tort money from a Mil­wau­kee busi­ness­man. It in­volved a pipe bomb, a death threat, a char­tered air­plane and a hid­den, home­made sub­ma­rine. By Matthew J. Prigge

I“I never read books, it all comes out of my head, and from my imag­i­na­tion. When I was only 14, I said, ‘Give me the money and I’ll build any­thing from a kid­die car to an ocean liner.’”

Wal­ter Paul Minx

was 23 years old in 1940. He was slen­der and fid­gety, with the kind of sharp-fea­tured hand­some­ness that the movies had taught peo­ple not to trust. He was a Ger­man by birth and at heart, but pos­sessed a dis­tinctly Amer­i­can set of am­bi­tions. He ad­mired Adolf Hitler and had once been a proud mem­ber of the Nazi Party. He also wanted to build a busi­ness, to earn him­self a name and a for­tune. Friends and fam­ily called him “the Macher,” a Ger­man id­iom for an im­por­tant man who had in­flu­ence and made things hap­pen. Its lit­eral trans­la­tion was “the doer.” It was of­ten used iron­i­cally.

Wal­ter Minx came to Mil­wau­kee from Ger­many in 1925 with his par­ents, his older brother, Kurt, and a sis­ter. Although his for­mal ed­u­ca­tion had stopped af­ter the sev­enth grade, Wal­ter dis­played an in­tu­itive me­chan­i­cal bril­liance from an early age. He was an in­vet­er­ate builder and tin­kerer. He had once built a work­ing mo­tor­boat, and he later had con­structed a small plane that, as the fam­ily leg­end went, he had ac­tu­ally been able to fly.

As Hitler be­gan his con­quest of Europe and news of naval war­fare made lo­cal head­lines, Wal­ter dreamed up a scheme in which he and Kurt could se­cretly sal­vage tor­pe­doed mil­i­tary ships us­ing a home­made sub­ma­rine. He de­signed and be­gan to build a 20-foot sub that would have been able to travel at 25 miles per hour. He gave up on the project be­fore it was com­pleted, but, as al­ways his mind kept work­ing. He had no doubt he could build a func­tional treasure-hunt­ing sub. He just needed a tar­get closer to home.

On April 15, 1940, an item ap­peared on page six of The Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal’s sec­ond sec­tion. It pic­tured Row­land H. Davie, general man­ager of Mil­wau­kee’s Sears stores, sur­rounded by smil­ing em­ploy­ees as he passed out en­velopes con­tain­ing $62,000 in profit-sharing funds the com­pany was dis­tribut­ing. Davie was mid­dle-aged, be­spec­ta­cled and grin­ning, seated be­hind a stately desk and beam­ing with the vis­age of an im­por­tant man.

A few months ear­lier, Minx had in­stalled dec­o­ra­tive iron­work cashier’s cages in the credit de­part­ment of one of Davie’s Sears stores, lo­cated on North Av­enue. He had since left the firm re­spon­si­ble for the Sears job to start his own com­pany. He had been get­ting steady work, but was hav­ing trou­ble with the cap­i­tal funds needed to truly start see­ing a profit. See­ing the photo of Davie in the news­pa­per, Minx thought he looked like a man with much to lose and cash to spare.

Over the next

few months, Minx for­mu­lated his plot. He would con­tact Davie and threaten him with death and the de­struc­tion of two of his Mil­wau­kee stores if he did not pay $100,000 in cash. To show that this was not an idle threat, Minx would det­o­nate a small pipe bomb at the North Av­enue store the day af­ter the let­ter was de­liv­ered. Davie would be or­dered to char­ter an air­plane with enough fuel to fly 75 miles from the Cur­tiss-Wright air­field (now Tim­mer­man Air­port) and await in­struc­tions. Minx

would have the plane fly east, over Lake Michi­gan, where he would be hid­den be­neath the wa­ter in a home­made sub­ma­rine. A pair of lights would float above the sub, in­di­cat­ing where the cash should be dropped. Af­ter the drop, Minx would sur­face, col­lect the loot and re-sub­merge. As he made his way back to­wards the main­land, Minx would trans­fer the cash into a wa­ter-tight in­ner-tube. A few hun­dred feet off of Brad­ford Beach, he would scut­tle the sub and swim back to a se­cluded part of shore, where his car would be wait­ing for him.

To aid in the plan, Minx re­cruited Kurt and their 28-yearold brother-in-law, Daniel Carter. As the mas­ter­mind, Wal­ter claimed half of the $100,000, while Kurt and Carter agreed to take $25,000 each. Through­out the sum­mer, Wal­ter worked on the pipe bomb in the North 11th Street shop he rented for his iron­work busi­ness, build­ing the weapon side-by-side with his reg­u­lar work. It took him sev­eral weeks to per­fect the de­vice and out­fit it with a “blast” suit­able for send­ing his mes­sage.

Build­ing the sub­ma­rine went much quicker. Us­ing sheet metal and a bat­tery-op­er­ated au­to­mo­bile mo­tor, Minx com­pleted the craft in about a week, work­ing on it at his par­ents’ Holton Street home. The de­sign for the 7-by-3-foot boat was en­tirely his own. Af­ter he had com­pleted the craft, Wal­ter sat in­side it as his brother dumped bucket af­ter bucket of wa­ter over it, check­ing for leaks. As Wal­ter ex­pected, it was wa­ter­tight.

23,

On July

the gang was ready to make con­tact. Kurt pulled to the curb on Shore­wood Boule­vard as his car neared the ad­dress Wal­ter had found in the tele­phone di­rec­tory. Wal­ter got out and walked for­ward briskly while Kurt pulled away and rounded the cor­ner. In Wal­ter’s pocket was a two-page, punc­tu­a­tion-free note, writ­ten in crude, all-caps print re­lay­ing the details of the cold-blooded plot. It told Davie to run an ad in the next day’s paper read­ing “Joe Will Be At Home, R.H.D.” if he agreed to their terms. The note was signed “WE.”

As he ap­proached 2612 E. Shore­wood Blvd., Wal­ter cut a quick path across the grass, tossed the en­ve­lope near the porch and

an­other treat­ment at the spa, uses nat­u­ral retinol al­ter­na­tives to pro­mote the skin’s firm­ing and tight­en­ing. New this sum­mer, the Fa­cial Re­newal Acupunc­ture “re­ju­ve­nates and re­vi­tal­izes the fa­cial tis­sue by al­low­ing the mus­cles to lift and tone or­gan­i­cally, while soft­en­ing lines of the face,” says Roeh. Plants and herbs (such as laven­der) folded into the masks are sourced from the re­sort’s land.

To ad­dress con­cerns for the rest of the body, mov­ing be­yond just the face, Aspira Spa’s Pu­ri­fy­ing Cedar Treat­ment re­moves dead skin cells and detox­i­fies the skin via a cedar scrub fol­lowed by a body-milk ap­pli­ca­tion. Sim­i­larly, the Wild Chamomile and Laven­der Body Masque, which is also a full-body treat­ment, uses chamomile and laven­der grown in the spa’s gar­dens. “The sooth­ing ben­e­fits of these in­dige­nous herbs,” says Roeh, “leave the skin re­freshed, soft and sup­ple.”

QUINTESSA AES­THETIC CEN­TER

Quintessa Aes­thetic Cen­ter’s lo­ca­tions in Me­quon, Delafield and She­boy­gan staff two board-cer­ti­fied plas­tic sur­geons – in­clud­ing Dr. An­drew Camp­bell – ranked among the coun­try’s top-10 aes­thetic plas­tic sur­geons by Aes­thetic Ev­ery­thing – and a team of providers. The Broad Band Light treat­ment “reaches to the lay­ers of the skin where much of the ag­ing process (sun spots, age spots, bro­ken cap­il­lar­ies) hap­pens, leav­ing a much more even skin tone,” ex­plains Miller. “In a long-term clin­i­cal study, pa­tients who re­ceived reg­u­lar BBL treat­ments were proven to have younger-look­ing skin.”

Halo, a hybrid frac­tional laser that treats sun and age spots along with the skin’s tex­ture, re­duces fine lines and pore size. It is a trend­ing treat­ment, says Miller, in part be­cause it also smooths the tex­ture of the skin. “Your skin re­flec­tiv­ity – a glow – il­lu­mi­nates your skin within the months to fol­low,” says Miller. A sub­se­quent derma­plane and oxymist treat­ment a month later re­moves re­main­ing dead skin cells and fur­ther hy­drates the skin.

Each visit to Quintessa be­gins with an in-depth con­sul­ta­tion, “dis­cussing sk­in­care goals, at-home rou­tine and in-of­fice treat­ments, and how this fits in with their life­style,” says Miller. “This is a great way to get to know our pa­tients and en­sure we’ve met their ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Im­pres­sions be­lieves that we are bom­barded with chem­i­cals in our daily lives and we should not put them

on our skin.

LEFT TO RIGHT: WAL­TER MINX, HIS

BROTHER-IN-LAW, DANIEL CARTER, KURT MINX, WAL­TER’S AND BROTHER

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