Family, Friends & Fellow Officers Remember...

Guard John Hartye

New York State Department of Correctional Services, New York

End of Watch Monday, April 14, 1941

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Reflections for Guard John Hartye

Hi . The Late Prison Officer John Hayrte RIP Was My Mums Great Uncle . When I Was A Child I Remember Her Speaking Of Him . It Is Amazing To Read About His Dedication And Herosim.

Elizabeth Kennedy Nee English
He Was My Great Great Uncle .

November 20, 2020

REST-IN-PEACE My Brother in Arms

Anrae Godley-Cooper
U.S. Army Military Police

July 11, 2018

R I P Brother

Herbie Buck Ret. Officer

April 15, 2016

Article NYPOST April 13, 2015

Annual Sing Sing prison event honors guard John Hartye and police officer James Fagen who were fatally shot by prisoners in jail break

Officer James Fagan was also killed by the prisoners in shootout.
Officer James Fagan was also killed by the prisoners in shootout.
Later this month, a sunrise ceremony at the gates of Sing Sing prison will salute a guard and a local cop who died nearly 75 years ago in a breakout suitable for a “Mission: Impossible” plot.

The names of the victims, prison guard John Hartye and Ossining Officer James Fagan, faded from the front pages long ago. The annual event at Sing Sing serves as a reminder of who they were and how they died.

“It’s always good to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep their communities safe,” said Clarence Fisher Jr., a vice president of the state correctional officers union.

But Fisher said the ceremony will have special resonance this year, after inmate keepers from Attica to Rikers Island have been buffeted by brutality charges.

Hartye’s murder “tells the other side of our story,” Fisher said.

“When you work behind the walls, nobody outside really sees what this job is about — the positive stuff you’re doing for inmates, the danger you face,” said Fisher. “All you get is the ‘bad prison guard’ story.”

About 35 state prison employees have been killed on the job in New York, including 11 during the Attica riot in 1971.

Hartye died 30 years before Attica during an escape that proved just how porous the old joint had become.

Three Sing Sing jailbirds and two outside pals spent nine months plotting an exacting escape.

New York Daily News
Joseph Riordan (l.) and Charles McGale in police custody.

The convicts — Joseph (Whitey) Riordan, 27; John (Patches) Waters, 30; and Charles McGale, 46 — were part of a Hell’s Kitchen robbery crew, the Paper Bag Gang, specialists in machine gun-blazing payroll stickups, including an $11,000 heist from Consolidated Edison.

Each was a Sing Sing repeat customer, with criminal records dating to adolescence and stints in the Catholic Protectory and Elmira Reformatory. Parole was a mirage years away.

Waters was the brains. Riordan, a stout ex-stevedore, was the brawn. McGale, who knew as much about locks as Linus Yale himself, was the keysmith.

The men finagled work details in the prison powerhouse and mapped out an escape route along tunnels lined with steam pipes. McGale disassembled barrel locks on basement gates and fabricated new keys to fit them.

Other details were coordinated in whispered asides during six visiting-room confabs between Waters and Edward Kiernan, posing as the con’s loving brother.

Three weeks before the escape, McGale was waiting in the prison icehouse when a milk truck made its daily delivery. As the rig was unloaded, McGale slipped underneath and untied three .38-caliber revolvers strapped to the rear axle.

The gang concealed the pistols until go-time.

Waters, Riordan and McGale bellyached their way into the prison infirmary on Sunday night, April 13. Just two guards were on duty there, including Hartye. An hour after midnight, the cons brandished pistols and shot the unarmed Hartye in the back. The second guard was locked in a closet.

Daily News Photo
Daily News front page on April 15, 1941.

The men hurried downstairs to the steampipe tunnels, where McGale’s keys worked flawlessly on three gates. At the tunnel’s end, they shinnied 30 feet down a rope onto railroad tracks, then dashed for Ossining village, where a stolen Plymouth outfitted with a Tommy Gun was waiting for them.

No alarm had been sounded, and a getaway was within their grasp.

But the cons crossed paths with a two-man police patrol car while slinking toward the Plymouth. Officer Fagan spotted their prison dungarees and called out to the men.

They replied with gunshots that killed the cop. His partner fired back, fatally wounding Waters.

Riordan and McGale didn’t make it to the getaway car. They fled down to the Hudson’s shore and forced a fisherman to row them across the 2-mile wide river, bucking the tide.

Ninety minutes later, the escapees were deposited at the base of Hook Mountain, where they fled into the woods.

As news of the breakout spread, searchers arrived by land, sea and air, and a pair of state police bloodhounds, Sappho and Monk, tracked down Riordan and McGale not long after dawn.

Surrounded, they surrendered their guns. They had been loose for just seven hours.

Charles McGale (pictured) and Joseph Riordan got seven hours of freedom and, soon after, eternity after being executed for killing Officer James Fagan and Sing Sing guard John Hartye.

The felons were hauled back to Ossining, where they got a rough welcome by colleagues of Fagan, a 36-year-old family man, and Hartye, 55, a bachelor.

Just six weeks later, the escapees and accomplices Kiernan and William Wade went on trial in White Plains for Hartye’s murder.

All four were convicted after a month of testimony and 27 hours of jury deliberation focused on the culpability of the outside helpers. Kiernan and Wade got a break when the panel recommended a mercy sentence of life in prison.

The escapees got no such pity. On June 11, 1942, Riordan followed McGale to the hereafter in the execution chamber at Sing Sing.

They never made it out of the joint.

For years Wade pressed appeals, claiming his confession was coerced during a beating that included 1,400 separate blows. A judge finally agreed in 1958, and he was freed after 17 years. Riordan was paroled a few years later.

At 6:45 a.m. on April 23, the two lawmen who died in the bloody Sing Sing jailbreak all those years ago will be remembered there with a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps.

Retired Police Officer

April 12, 2015

Your heroism and service is honored today, the 71rst anniversary of your death. Your memory lives and you continue to inspire. Thank you for your service. My cherished son Larry Lasater was a fellow police officer who was murdered in the line of duty on April 24, 2005 while serving as a Pittsburg, CA police officer.

Time never diminishes respect. Your memory will always be honored and revered.

Rest In Peace.

Phyllis Loya
Mom of fallen California Officer Larry Lasater, Pittsburg PD, eow 4/24/05

April 14, 2012

Today April 11, 2012 we had our annual memorial at Sing Sing for fallen Correction Officer John Hartye and Ossining Police Officer James Fagan. You will always be remembered.

C.O. J. Soto

April 11, 2012

Found your page on the internet, It was good to read the full account of uncle john. My family is very proud of him and the supreme sacrifice,he made in the line of duty.My late parents often spoke about the terrible day,but never had the full story,Thank you so much for enabling me to research the facts. May GOD rest his soul and that of his colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty.We also wish to pray for the people who committed the crime

Brendan McGrath (IRL)

February 11, 2011

Another year has passed and you are still admired and respectfully remembered in the hearts and minds of so many. My thoughts and prayers are with your loved ones and friends on this anniversary of your EOW. You will never be forgotten.

James Sheppard
Father of Sgt. Jason L. Sheppard EOW 12/7/06

April 14, 2010

I said a little prayer today for Guard Hartye and his family. He may be gone but never forgotten. He will always be a New York HERO.

Robyn Wilkes

April 8, 2009

I am for the the death penalty in certain situations, this being one of them. Thank you for protecting us from the criminals.

February 20, 2007

Rest in Peace.

G. E. Kelly
Sing Sing Prison (Retired)

G. E. Kelly, Correction Officer (Ret)
N.Y. State DOCS

May 23, 2006

You are not forgotten. Thank you for your service to our country. A true freedom fighter. May God cradle you for eternity and may you watch over those who continue. God bless.

Deputy M. Moore
Warren County S.O. (OH)

Sleep well Officer.

Attila Kiss

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