February 15, 2013
SHOTS FIRED IN BAYFRONT PARK 80 YEARS AGO
Miami, Florida (JFK+50) On the evening of February 15, 1933, 80 years ago today, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt had finished giving a short speech from the back of his car when 5 gunshots suddenly rang out.
Fortunately for FDR & the country, none of the bullets struck him, but 5 others were not so fortunate.
The alleged gunman was identified as Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara, an Italian immigrant & unemployed bricklayer who hated capitalists.
FDR had departed his yacht via motorcade to Miami's Bayfront Park at 9 p.m.
The president-elect had been vacationing in Florida & was invited to appear at a rally with "influential party leaders."
25,000 people turned out along Biscayne Boulevard to pay their respects to the soon to be 32nd President of the United States.
7,000 more people were seated at the Amphitheater where FDR would appear with several thousand more standing around the area.
FDR, sitting in the back seat of a green Buick open convertible, made a brief 145 word speech after being positioned on the back of the car.
When he finished, FDR slid back down to his seat & called over Anton J. Cermak*, the mayor of Chicago.
*Anton J. Cermak (1873-1933) was born in Kladno, Austria-Hungary & emigrated to the US in 1874. He was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1902 & in 1928 lost his bid for the US Senate. Cermak was elected Mayor of Chicago in 1931.
Anton J. Cermak Monument
Kladno, Czech Republic
According to differing sources, FDR & Cermak were either in the process of shaking hands or simply talking privately to each other when the shots rang out.
Zangara was standing on a "wobby chair" in the 3rd row of seats & as he fired, according to several sources, his arm was hit causing him to miss his target, FDR.**
**Lilian Cross reportedly hit Zangara's arm with her purse in order to make him miss FDR, but Zangara himself refused to admit that anyone interfered with his shots.
Records indicate Zangara was 25 feet away from FDR when he fired the shots.
The would-be assassin was using a .32 caliber pistol he had bought for $8 at a local pawn shop.
While Zangara was taken into custody, Mayor Cermak was put into FDR's car & they sped away.
The mayor, who was 59 years old, had been shot in the chest. He was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he died 19 days later.
The mayor, who had come to Miami to discuss some important matters with FDR relating to the city of Chicago, told the president-elect after the shooting, "I'm glad it was me & not you."
Mayor Cermak after being shot
One other victim, hit in the abdomen, was near death for several weeks but survived.
The other victims, Russell Caldwell, Margaret Kruise & William Sinnott, recovered from superficial wounds.
Bullet Removed from Wm. Sinnott
FDR Library Image
Zangara, who plead guilty to the charges against him, was found guilty, sentenced to death & electrocuted at the state prison in Raiford, Florida on March 20, 1933.
WAS ZANGARA'S TARGET CERMAK NOT FDR?
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) While the attempt on FDR's life in Miami in 1933 has not been chronicled in detail in history books, back in 1988 I read about the incident in David Scheim's "Contract on America."
Scheim made the case that Zangara was not the only shooter in Bayfront Park that evening.
He writes that Mayor Cermak had "made it his mission to drive the mob from Chicago" & feared for his own life.
Scheim says that, according to Kenneth Allsop in "The Bootleggers," the other gunman on February 15, 1933 was a hit man for Al Capone & that he was firing a .45, not a .32.
Other sources say that the idea that Cermak was the target was 1st proposed by newspaper columnist Walter Winchel.
Adding even more confusion to the mix, Dr. Karl A. Meyer, Cermak's physician, said the mayor died from ulcerative colitis & believed that he would have recovered from the bullet wound otherwise.
You Tube Video
"Attempted Assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Bayfront Park," www.miami-history.com.
"Contract on America: The Mafia Murder of President John F. Kennedy," by David E. Scheim, Shapolsky Publishers, Inc. New York, 1988.
Florida Department of State, Division of Library & Information Services, Dade County, Criminal Court Records.