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01 November
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The Attempted Assassination of President Harry S. Truman

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White House Policeman Leslie W. Coffelt

White House Policeman Leslie W. Coffelt

On November 1, 1950, a pair of Puerto Rican nationalists made an attempt on President Truman’s life at Blair House, his temporary residence. The two men, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, sought to bring attention to the Puerto Rican independence movement.

The men attempted to shoot their way into the house from the front door of Blair House. A gun battle ensued on and around the front steps with White House police officers and Secret Service agents. President Truman was awakened in an upstairs bedroom by the sound of gunfire. He rushed to the window, but a guard shouted at him to take cover.

When the dust cleared, three White House policemen were injured, Torresola was killed, and Collazo was wounded. Private Leslie Coffelt, who fired the bullet that killed Torresola, died later that day from his wounds. His badge is displayed in his honor in the Blair House security office.

Collazo’s wife Rosa was arrested by the FBI for conspiracy charges and spent 8 months in jail.  Upon her release she helped gather 100,000 signatures in an effort to save her husband from the electric chair.  In 1952, Collazo was sentenced to death, but President Truman commuted his sentence to life imprisonment to be carried out at Leavenworth.  On September 6, 1979, after spending 29 years in jail, President Jimmy Carter commuted his sentence.  Upon their return to Puerto Rico, they were received as heroes by the different independence groups.  Oscar and Rosa Collazo eventually were divorced.  Rosa Collazo died in May 1988. On February 21, 1994, Oscar Collazo died of a stroke, having passed his 80th birthday by just over a month. The guns used by Collazo and Torresola in the assassination attempt are on display at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

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American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill President Truman--and the Shoot-out That Stopped It

American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill President Truman–and the Shoot-out That Stopped It

American Gunfight: The Plot to Kill President Truman–and the Shoot-out That Stopped It

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