Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
While the White House was undergoing extensive structural renovations, President Truman lived across Pennsylvania Avenue NW at Blair House. It was there that two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to break in and assassinate him. Truman appeared unruffled by the attack, remarking, "A president has to expect those things." The Post's front page of Nov. 2, 1950, also reported Pope Pius XII's infallible proclamation of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the death of George Bernard Shaw. An excerpt:
By Chalmers M. Roberts and
Alfred E. Lewis
Two Puerto Rican Nationalist revolutionaries made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Truman at Blair House yesterday.
In a wild exchange of blazing guns which broke the early afternoon Indian Summer calm, one of the men was killed and the other wounded by White House policemen.
Before they fell, the assassins fatally wounded one of the guards and wounded two others, one of them critically. Twenty-nine shots were fired, 14 by the assassins.
The dead White House policeman was Leslie Coffelt, shot in the chest and stomach.
Donald T. Birdzell, uniformed guard, bullet wounds in each leg, in fair condition and expected to recover; Joseph H. Downs, guard in plainclothes, bullet wound in the chest, abdomen and head, in critical condition. ...
Mr. Truman was inside Blair House at the time -- about 2:15 p.m. -- preparing to go to Arlington Cemetery to dedicate a monument. He heard the shots and peered out a window only to be waved back frantically by guards. No shots were fired at him. Half an hour later he slipped out the back door to attend the ceremony, just about on schedule.
Secret Service Chief U.E. Baughman told reporters one of the Puerto Ricans from his hospital bed told a Secret Service Agent:
"We came here with the express purpose of shooting the President."
The man is Oscar Collazo, 37, of 173 Brook ave., the Bronx, New York. He was shot in the chest and is expected to live. Like all the wounded, he was taken to Emergency Hospital, only a block from the shooting scene. He fell at the foot of the Blair House steps, his shirtfront clotted with blood.
Collazo also said the two assassins got together in New York on Monday and decided on the plan to kill Mr. Truman. They came to Washington on Tuesday. They also hoped to start a revolution in this country, Baughman quoted Collazo as saying.
At 9:30 last night Metropolitan Police formally lodged a murder charge against Collazo. Earlier U.S. Commissioner Cyril S. Lawrence indicated the charge would be "first degree murder in the perpetration of an attempted crime -- to assault or injure the President."
The dead Puerto Rican was identified as Griselio Torresola of 1259 Ward dr., also in the Bronx. A bullet pierced his head from ear to ear and he toppled over the hedge onto the tiny lawn in front of the Blair-Lee House, adjoining Blair House on Pennsylvania ave. His age was unknown, but he appeared to be in his thirties.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com