November 1

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 1, 1950:

An assassination attempt threatens President Harry S. Truman

On this day, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempt to assassinate President Harry S. Truman at the Blair House in Washington, D.C. Truman escaped unscathed.

In the autumn of 1950, the White House was being renovated and President Truman and his family were living in the nearby Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the afternoon of November 1, Truman and his wife were upstairs when they heard a commotion—and gunshots—coming from the front steps of the house. Indeed, the pair of would-be assassins had strolled up to the front door of Blair House and opened fire. They never made it past the entry steps, however, due to the quick reaction of police officers and guards. Secret Service Agent Leslie Coffelt was mortally wounded in the ensuing melee, but not before he managed to kill Torresola. Collazo later revealed to police just how poorly planned the assassination attempt was: the assailants were unsure if Truman would even be in the house when they launched their attack at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.Torresola and Collazo were political activists and members of the extremist Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, a group fighting for full independence from the United States. The "Independistas," as they were commonly called, targeted Truman despite his support of greater Puerto Rican autonomy.

Apparently unfazed by the attempt on his life, Truman kept his scheduled appointments for the day. "A President has to expect these things," he remarked dryly. Oscar Collazo was sentenced to death, but in an admirable act of forgiveness on July 24, 1952, Truman commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

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