Gang Busters was an American dramatic radio program heralded as "the only national program that brings you authentic police case histories." It premiered as G-Men, sponsored by Chevrolet, on July 20, 1935.
After the title was changed to Gang Busters January 15, 1936, the show had a 21-year run through November 20, 1957. Beginning with a barrage of loud sound effects — a shrill police whistle, convicts marching in formation, police siren wailing, machine guns firing, and tires squealing — this intrusive introduction led to the popular catchphrase "came on like Gang Busters" - followed by a voice over a megaphone or loudspeaker announcing the title of that night's program: "Tonight, Gangbusters presents the Case of the ---" and ending with more blasts from a police whistle.
The series dramatized FBI cases, which producer-director Phillips H. Lord arranged in close association with Bureau director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover insisted that only closed cases would be used.
The initial series was on NBC Radio from July 20 to October 12, 1935. It then aired on CBS from January 15, 1936 to June 15, 1940, sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive and Cue magazine. From October 11, 1940 to December 25, 1948, it was heard on the Blue Network, with various sponsors that included Sloan's Liniment, Waterman pens and Tide. Returning to CBS on January 8, 1949, it ran until June 25, 1955, sponsored by Grape-Nuts and Wrigley's chewing gum. The final series was on the Mutual Broadcasting System from October 5, 1955 to November 27, 1957. It was once narrated by Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., former head of the New Jersey State Police.
The radio series was adapted for DC Comics and Big Little Books. Universal Pictures made a very popular Gang Busters (serial) movie serial in 1942, starring Kent Taylor and Ralph Morgan. The 1952 Gang Busters TV series was reedited into two feature films, Gang Busters (1955, with Myron Healey as Public Enemy No. 4) and Guns Don't Argue (1957, with Healey as John Dillinger).
"Gang Busters" was a pioneering radio series detailing the activities of the nation's most notorious crime figures of the day. It was unique in that at the end of every episode, the announcer would inform listeners to call the local police or "Gang Busters" for information on wanted criminals still on the loose. In that respect, it was definitely a precursor of today's reality shows like "America's Most Wanted".
The television version, which premiered in 1952, stayed true to the radio format, telling stories of legendary scum like John Dillinger, Willie "The Actor" Sutton, etc. And just as on radio, viewers were informed of criminals still on the loose, and were encouraged to contact the show or the police.