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Harry Truman - Assassination Attempt

President Truman was living in the Blair House while construction work was being done on the White House. On November 1, 1950 two Puerto Rican Nationalist tried to assassinate President Truman. They were trying to bring attention to their cause.

Blair House
Blair House in Washington, D.C.

After they had breakfast, Collazo and Birdzell went for a walk Capitol grounds and then to a taxi t the Blair House and saw the guards on duty and the two white sentry booths. They then walk to get familiar with the area. It wasn't until that morning that Torresola taught Collazo fire the revolver.

Their plan was to storm Blair House and to find Truman somewhere and shoot him. They planned to approach from different directions and meet at the front steps.

President Truman was napping. At 2:25 P.M. Griselio Torresola armed with a German Luger and Oscar Collazo with a .38 caliber revolver approached the Blair House for opposite directions. They were carrying 69 rounds of ammunition. White House Police were standing guard outside. Police man Birdzell hear a gun misfire. He drew his gun as Collazo fired a shot that hit him. Birdzell returned fire.

Meanwhile, Torresola, fired at Policeman Coffelt. He fired three shots at close range. He then fired at Birdzell who was lying in the street. He hit Birdzell in the leg. Birdzell who has been shot twice continued to fire his gun. Police Officer Coffelt, who was in the sentry booth, shot Torresola in the head and killed him. Police officer Davidson and Secret Service agent Boring fired at Collazo three bullets hit Collazo, one in the chest. The gun battle took only three minutes during which 27 bullets had been fired.

It was 84 degrees that day and Truman was sleeping with the windows open. President Truman woke up to the sound of gunfire and went to the window. Agent Boring yelled at him to get back which he did.

Policeman Coffelt died within a few hours. Police officers Birdzell and Downs were wounded but survived.

Torresola was dead and Collazo was brought to trial. Collazo was sentenced to death. President Truman reduced his death sentence for the sake of good relations with Latin America, to life imprisonment. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter freed Callazo for the same reason. Collazo returned to Puerto Rico.

Interesting note: At 3:00 p.m. that day President Truman dedicated a statue honoring Sir John Dill at Arlington. He did not change his presidential calendar.


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Chronlogical (by Year) Order
Of the Presidents.




The Presidents of the United States. 22 September 2004:

Davis, Gibbs and Ilus. David A. Johnson. Wackiest White House Pets. New York: Scholastic Press, October 2004

James, Barber and Amy Pastan. Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies. New York: DK Publishing, 2002

Kane, Joseph Natan. Facts about the Presidents from Washington to Johnson. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1964.

McCullough, Noah, The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia. Random House, USA, 2006

Pine, Joslyn, Presidential Wit and Wisdom: Memorable Quotes from George Washington to Barack Obama . Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 2009

Huffington Post web site.

Lang, Stephen, The Complete Book of Presidential Trivia, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, 2011

O'Reilly, Bill, and Dugard, Martin, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2011

St. George, Judith In the Line of Fire: Presidents' Lives at Stake , Scholastic Inc. New York, 2001

In addition to these books, I have also read and have used information from those listed on my Books About Presidents page.



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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 31, 2018

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