11/1/1950 - Thinking their act will raise awareness in the cause of independence for Puerto Rico, Nationalists Griselio Torresola (25-years-old) and Oscar Collazo (36-years-old) put into play the madly suicidal plan they have concocted in New York City ... launching an attack on Blair House in Washington D.C. to kill the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.
Rosa and Oscar Collazo & Torresola
Blair House - 2009
Both members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party from an early age (they view Puerto Rico as a colony of an imperialist America, a colony deserving of being an independent country ... made so by violent means if necessary), the would-be assassins quickly bond with each other when they meet as members of the New York branch of their party. Incensed at the Ponce Massacre of 1937 (a march in Puerto Rico in support of independence that becomes violent ... 19 marchers will be killed along with 2 police officers, and another 235 Puerto Ricans are wounded), the murder of several members of the party, the incarceration of their party's president, Pedro Albizu Campos, and the failure of the Jayuya Uprising in Puerto Rico (3 Nationalists will be killed, 6 police officers wounded, martial law will be declared, and the city of Jayuya will be strafed by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts before the revolt is put down ... and during the event, Torresola's sister is wounded and his brother is arrested), the pair quickly concoct a plan to kill Truman ... believing security will be less difficult to cope with while Truman resides at Blair House (the White House is undergoing renovations), the pair while kill the guards on the street, sweep into the home, and take out Truman.
Ponce Massacre - The Shooting Begins
Campos at Harvard - 1919
1950 - Martial Law in Puerto Rico
Symbol of the Nationalist Party
Taking a train from New York City down to Washington D.C., the pair arrive at the Capitol's Union Station on Halloween and check-in for the evening at the Harris Hotel. The next day they head for Blair House ... in concert, Torresola approaches from the west side of Pennsylvania Avenue, holding a 9x19mm eight-round German Luger, while Collazo comes up the street from the opposite direction armed with a German eight-shot 9mm Walther P.38 pistol.
The Actual Pistols - Harry S. Truman Library
Collazo is the first of the assassins to go into action. Coming up behind police officer Donald Birdzell standing on the steps leading into Blair House, near one of the two guard booths in front of the building, Collazo tries to shoot the lawman, but not familiar with the gun Torresola has given him, forgets to chamber a round first. Fixing the problem, the gun goes off as Birdzell starts to turn around and the officer goes down, hit in the right knee. Hearing shots from outside, Secret Service Agent Vincent Mroz runs through a basement corridor in Blair House, steps out of street level door on the east side of the structure, and opens fire on Collazo, along with Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring (who crazes Collazo in the head with a slug from his .38 service revolver) and police officer Joseph Davidson. A one on three gunfight in a matter of seconds, only feet away from the entrance to Truman's residence, Mroz stops Collazo with a well placed slug to the chest (the would-be killer will unfortunately survive his wound).
Wounded Officer Birdzell
Collazo In Front Of Blair House
After - Agent Mroz Holding Torresola's Luger
While Collazo is being brought down, Torresola approaches the west corner guard booth and surprises 40-year-old White House Police Officer Leslie Coffelt. Firing on the officer from almost point-blank range, Coffelt goes down with three bullets in his chest and abdomen (a fourth round goes through Coffelt's coat). One obstacle dealt with, Torresola then targets police officer Joseph Downs, bringing the lawman down before he can draw his weapon with a bullet that hits Downs in the hip, and making sure he stays down with two more rounds to the officer's back and neck (though gravely wounded, Downs will crawl to the basement entrance of Blair House and lock the door behind him, barring entrance into the building ... taken to a nearby hospital after the attack, like Birdzell, he will also survive his wounds). Downs dealt with, Torresola next turns his attention to the gun battle his partner is in ... firing a round that wounds the already wounded Birdzell in the left knee.
Blair House After
Pennsylvania Avenue After
Woken from his nap on the second floor by the sound of gunfire from outside, Truman gets out of bed and goes to a window that looks down on the street ... and there, only 31 feet away, the president makes eye contact with Torresola as the killer stands on the steps leading into Blair House while he reloads his Luger. Yanked away from the dangerous window's view, Truman misses seeing his assailant go down a second later. A hero's hero, though mortally wounded, Coffelt pulls himself to his feet, leans against his guard station, and from ten yards away, puts a single shot from his .38 pistol into the skull of Torresola, just above his ear, killing the gunman instantly (he then stumbles back to his seat and blacks out, dying four hours later at a local hospital ... he leaves a widow behind and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery ... his epitaph reads, "White House Policeman: Who Gave His Life in Defense of the President of the United States at the Blair House, Washington D.C.").
Leslie W. Coffelt
Torresola After Coffelt's Shot
To the Morgue for Torresola
Gravesite of a Hero - Arlington National Cemetery
A lifetime of seconds with lead flying about, Torresola's gunfight lasts roughly 20 seconds, while Collazo's battle lasts about 38 seconds.
Protected, President Truman survives the bullet protest from the gunmen, serving out his term of office and becoming one of the great leaders in American history before retiring back to Independence, Missouri. Done with politics, he lives out his life in the company of his wife, writes his memoirs, and dies from pneumonia complications at the age of 88.
12/27/1972 - Truman's Casket
Nursed back to health, Collazo goes on trial for the attack on Truman and the murder of Officer Coffelt ... convicted in Federal Court, Collazo is sentenced to death for his crimes, but a kind hearted Truman (not wanting to give the Puerto Rican independence movement a dead martyr ... it also helps that Collazo's wife coordinates a push that gathers over 100,000 signatures requesting the gunman should be saved from the electric chair), commutes the sentence to life in Leavenworth Prison ... a sentence that touchie-feelie Georgian foulball Jimmy Carter commutes to time served in 1979 (shortly afterwards, Collazo will be given a "freedom" medal by Communist Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro) after the assassin had been behind bars for 29 years (along with commutations for Irving Flores, Rafael Cancel Miranda, and Lolita Lebron, the ass clowns that attacked Congress in 1954, wounding five members of the House of Representatives, again as a means of seeking Puerto Rican independence). Freed, Collazo returns to Puerto Rico where he dies from a stroke at the age of 80.
11/1/1950 - Washington D.C. - Blair House - Agent Floyd Boring & Collazo