Friday, November 1, 2013


November 1, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) An attempt was made on the life President Harry S Truman 63 years ago this afternoon, November 1, 1950,  at Blair House here in the Nation's Capital.

Two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola,  walked down the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue in opposite directions toward the residence.

The Blair House                  

As they approached the front steps of Blair House, the would-be assassins became involved in a gun battle with White House police officers and secret service agents.

The attempt on the life of President Truman, who was in residence at the house while the White House was under restoration, occurred about 20 minutes after he began an afternoon nap on the 2nd floor.

Both Collazo and Torresola, a metal polisher and unemployed salesman, were members of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, a minority group in the territory which supported independence.

 They came to Washington from New York City where they learned on October 30 that Torresola's sister had been wounded and his brother was under arrest in a nationalist uprising.

They apparently also learned that President Truman had referred to the nationalist revolt as "an incident between Puerto Ricans."

Torresola, who was skilled with guns, carried a 9mm Luger pistol while Collazo used a Walther P38 pistol.

 Griselio Torresola fired 4 shots at Officer Leslie Coffelt who returned fire and killed the would-be assassin.  Coffelt would die from multiple gunshot wounds at the hospital 4 hours later.

At one point, President Truman, awakened from his nap, came to the window to see what was going on outside.  He was quickly ordered to take cover by agents.

 Officer Leslie Coffelt

 Oscar Collazo collapsed from a bullet in the chest.  He was taken into custody and later sentenced to death but President Truman commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in 1952.  

Collazo's wife, Rosa, was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of involvement in the conspiracy to kill the President.  She spent 8 months in prison, but never went to trial.

Two other police officers, Donald Birdzell and Joseph Downs, were wounded but would survive.

The Truman family ordered that a single fresh red rose placed on the grave of Officer Coffelt at Arlington National Cemetery every day in honor of his sacrifice. 

             Grave of Officer Leslie Coffelt
             Arlington National Cemetery
                  Photo by dbking (2005)

Blair House
Washington, D.C.
 Photo by John White (2003)

                                Blair House
                            Main Entrance
                          Washington, D.C.
              Photo by John White (2003)


There are several ties to JFK in this story.  At the time of the incident, John F. Kennedy was completing his 2nd term as a Massachusetts congressman.

Future JFK friend, Ben Bradlee, who was to become editor of the Washington Post, covered the assassination attempt and got his 1st front page story.

Two Secret Service agents who were active in the agency both during the presidential years of Harry S Truman and John F. Kennedy were Floyd Boring and James J. Rowley.


 "American Gunfight:  The Plot to Kill President Truman and the Shoot-out That Stopped It," by Stephen Hunter and John Bainbridge, Jr., Simon and Schuster.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, Missouri

"Puerto Rico Nationalists Attempt to Assassinate President Truman in 1950," by Andrew Godfrey, Nostalgia and Now, July 13, 2011.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Former President Harry S Truman and former 1st Lady Bess Truman were welcomed 52 years ago today, November 1, 1961, by President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy as guests to the Executive Mansion.

            Elizabeth "Bess" Truman
       Official White House Portrait

A dinner was held that evening in honor of the Trumans.

According to the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes released last year, Mrs. Kennedy said that JFK brought Mr. Truman into her bedroom the next morning without warning, and when they saw she was still in her sleeping attire, quickly backed out.  

Mrs. Kennedy said that she didn't think Mr. Truman, "poor man,"  had ever seen a woman, other than his wife, in a nightgown.

                  Mrs. Kennedy's Bedroom 
                           The White House
                  JFK Library Photo (1962)