President Harry S. Truman's Assassination Attempt | Free Essay Example

President Harry S. Truman’s Assassination Attempt

Words: 2823
Topic: Politics & Government


The American presidency is riddled with numerous successful and attempted assassinations. James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy are among the presidents who have been assassinated in the American history (McCann, 2006). Andrew Jackson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman are among the presidents whose assassination attempts have failed. The latest presidential assassination attempt was directed at the sitting President, Barrack Obama, whereby a letter containing harmful components was sent to him. However, the assassination backfired when the Whitehouse officials detected the conspiracy. The numerous presidential assassinations are attributed to the terrorist activities that have escalated in the past few decades.

Some of the assassination attempts have occurred in major events whereby terrorists launch attacks in the presence of the head of state. However, much as terrorists instigate the assassinations, there have been allegations that politics plays a great role in the presidential attacks. This paper shall analyze the assassination attempt of Harry S. Truman, who was the president of the US between 1945 and 1953. The paper shall give a brief synopsis of the mentioned assassination attempt case to detect the underlying cause of the lynch attempt. The paper shall also determine whether politics played any role in the attacks. The legal implications of the attacks shall also be analyzed to give insight to the reader of the application of the US laws in cases involving the murder of a senior government official.

Synopsis of the case

The conspiracy revolved around two nationalist party members, Torresola and Collazo. Collazo was the head of the nationalist party in the US, and he played a great role in the planning of the attacks. Blair House hosted the president of the US at the time when the crisis occurred. The two men approached the white house from opposite directions. Torresola attacked the Blaire House from the western side while Collazo attacked from the opposite side. Collazo initiated the attacks when he shot one of the statehouse security officers, Donald Birdzell at the knee (Crouch, 2013).

Torresola, on the other hand, attacked an officer stationed at the guard booths in front of the white house. He shot the officer four times and walked towards the white house’s door. However, another officer secured the door to the state house before Torresola could access it. Coffelt reiterated by shooting Torresola on the head causing him to lose his conscious. At the time of the attacks, the president was resting on the second floor of the Blaire House, and when he heard the gunshots, he quickly went to the window to unravel the cause of the engagement. An officer on the ground shouted at him advising him to go down from the window, which he did. Collazo was shot in the chest, and he was rushed to the hospital when the attacks had been neutralized.

Luckily, he survived the gunshot and he was sentenced to death upon his recuperation. Both Torresola and Coffelt succumbed to the injuries they caused to each other. Before his execution, the president revoked the death sentence and instead proposed a life sentence for the criminal. Interrogations as to the cause of the attack revealed that the attackers wanted the US to give attention to the concerns made by the nationalist party. Initially, the US sidelined them in the discussion regarding granting the island its independence. The US government only listened to the ruling party’s concerns and never involved the nationalists in the independence talks.

The alleged cause of the assassination attempt

Puerto Rico is an island located in the northeastern Caribbean, and it is a territory controlled by the US government. For a long period, the territory has instituted battles against the US government in the quest for independence. The territory’s capital city is located at the San Juan. The territory is “governed under a local constitution that grants the citizens the right to elect a governor” (Duany & Pantojas-Garcia, 2006, p. 21). However, the Puerto Rico’s citizens do not have the right to vote in the presidential elections. At the time of the assassination attempts, the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PPD) was governing the territory. The opposition, the nationalist party, has been opposing the territorial status of the island, and they have severally proposed full statehood. The long struggle for the territory’s independence has been linked to the assassination attempt on President Harry S. Truman.

Stakeholder Analysis

The term stakeholders refer to the persons who are affected directly or indirectly by a decision, a situation, or a crisis. In this case study, every person affected by the crisis qualifies to be termed as a stakeholder. The stakeholders in this dispute include the president, the assassins, the citizens of Puerto Rico, the police officers, and the American citizens at large.

Incident Prevention

The secret presidential security officers countered the attacks securing the building in which the president was residing at the time. The attackers approached the building from opposite directions with Torresola coming from the western side of the building while Collazo came from the East. The two attacked vigorously with Torresola attacking one of the officers at the booth and shooting him four times. The two then walked towards the Whitehouse door, but another officer repelled them by successfully securing the door thus denying the attackers entry into the building. Torresola died instantly from head gun wounds.

Another officer, on the other hand, shot Collazo, in the chest as he walked through the corridor of the building to meet the president. The shootouts between Collazo and the officers lasted for 38 seconds while that between Torresola and the security men lasted about 20 seconds (McCann, 2006). The shootout is said to be the longest to have ever occurred involving the statehouse security officers. To avert the recurrence of such incidences in the future, the US has invested heavily in the presidential security and it has embraced the use of IT to detect and deter crime across the country. However, terrorism remains a great threat to the president’s security in the US.

Intervener Performance

An intervener may be defined as a person who mediates a crisis to provide an amicable solution to a problem. In this case study, the assassination attempt on the president was prompted by the ideological differences between the president and the leaders of Puerto Rico. If the two parties sought the intervention of a mediator, perhaps the attempt would be mitigated before its occurrence. Since the crisis is far from over, the two parties need to seek for an intervener to help mediate the independence dispute that threatens the security of the American heads of state.

Physical and Technological Factors

The physical and the technological factors affect the case studied in this paper. The physical factors that are influential in this case include the location of the president at the time of the assassination attempts and the location of the island in question. The presence of the president in the Blair House influenced the attacks. Perhaps if the president were in the Whitehouse at the time, the attacks could be mitigated. The invention of the Internet has affected terrorism in that it has enabled them communicate efficiently with their supporters. The government should make use of IT to manage the security of the senior government officials to mitigate the recurrence of similar murder attempts.


The media contributes heavily to the increasing number of security threats targeting the president and other officials. Martinez (2012) states that the media compounds the process of dispute resolution and it may be used by the parties to a crisis to mobilize people into insurrections. In that regard, media regulation is inevitable to mitigate incidents of similar attacks. In the case study explored in this paper, the dispute revolved around the nationalist desire to have the independence of the Puerto Rico territory granted by the US. Their intention was to draw the attention of other nationalists and the citizens and to mobilize them to support the revolts.

To accomplish the said mission, the media had to be involved to pass the message to the nationalists and the citizens of the territory at large. The airing of such sensitive information encourages others criminals with similar intentions to launch such attacks. The role of the media in the escalation of revolutions and assassination incidences, therefore, cannot be overlooked. Following the spread of the news of the attack, the nationalist launched demonstrations across different parts of the US to protest against the territorial status of Puerto Rico. If the media had not aired the news, perhaps the other nationalist party supporters could not have launched such demonstrations.

Victim Impact

The victims of this attack include the president, the attackers, and the security officers involved. The attackers did target the highest office in the land as a sign of the seriousness of the matter. Earlier on, the president had described the revolutions led by the nationalist party as one that did not affect the US and that it involved inter-party disputes (Blanco-Rivera, 2005). The attack on him sent signals that the matter was more intense than he had perceived it. The killing of the police officer guarding the presidential residence signified the commitment of the nationalist party to achieve independence of the territory.

It also signified that the attackers could not spare the president had they gotten a chance to meet him. Lastly, the offset of the attack signified the ability of the government to counter similar attacks in the future. Other persons conspiring to make similar attacks may thus be prevented from doing so for the fear of failure. However, the shooting, arrest and the release of Collazo, one of the attackers, sent a heroic message among the nationalists. The nationalists and the citizens at large perceived him as a hero when he was later released from prison. He continued with his campaigns for independence in the backdrop of the opposition from the US government.

Public Attitude Impacts

In this case, the public includes the US and the Puerto Rico’s citizens as well. The public influences the policy formulation especially in countries where democracy and the right for expression are guaranteed by the constitution. The US is founded on the concepts of democracy and the freedom of expression. The media too is unregulated giving the citizens the power to air their concerns. The attempts to assassinate the president instilled a sense of the seriousness of the issue among the public, and they could easily influence the government to grant independence to the territory. The ability of the public to influence the granting of independence is seen in the aftermath of the assassination where the citizens voted against the territorial status of Puerto Rico and instead proposed full statehood in the 2012 elections. Additionally, the attempts to lynch the president heightened the public resentments between the US government and the citizens who felt that the US should grant full statehood for the territory.

Risk Analysis

The risk involved in this case is high due to the politicization of the assassinations. Political forms of assassinations are hard to detect owing to the view that the president must interact with other politicians in the course of dispensing his mandate. Additionally, the politicians have access to all the information regarding the president including the schedule of his/her meetings. Given that the attacks took place away from the Whitehouse where the president was provisionary residing, fellow politicians could have licked the information about his presence in the Blair House. In conclusion, politically instigated assassinations have high levels of risks compared to assassinations grounded on other factors.


The assassination attempt on the president was politically instigated. The dispute revolved around the nationalist party desire to have Puerto Rico disintegrated from the US. They accused the US government of sidelining them when deliberating about the independence of the territory with the ruling party. Their attempts to hold a peaceful demonstration to pressurize the US government to grant independence to the territory were not successful. It was after exploring all the other options at their disposal that they resulted into violence to cause the US government to listen to their concerns.

Collazo cited that the nationalists had severally advised the ruling party to drop negotiations with the US government until the territorial status is changed (Duany & Pantojas-Garcia, 2006). This aspect is indicative of the political struggles that characterized the attacks. However, even after the attacks, the government did not change its stand regarding the territory being under the control of the US government. The nationalists also wanted to gain public loyalty since the success of their call of independence would illustrate their commitment to the welfare of the newly formed nation.

Law and Litigation

The US constitution derives from the English common law that criminalizes murder or any form of conspiracy related to such acts. If a suspect pleads guilty to murder charges leveled against him/her by the nation’s prosecutor, one may be subjected to a death sentence or life imprisonment (Martinez, 2012). In the US, a suspect is arrested by the police and subjected to interrogations to compose evidence that may be presented in a court of law. Once the evidence is collected from the suspect, he/she is aligned in court to answer to the charges. The first day of the suspect’s presentation in court involves the mention of the case. The suspect has the right to give information to the police or remain silent during the interrogations.

Additionally, the suspect has the right to representation, and he/she can hire an attorney during the interrogations. The right to representation during the proceedings is guaranteed by the constitution. The suspect may hire a private lawyer or request the presiding judge to choose a public lawyer at the expense of the state. Upon the conclusion of the case, the president may pardon the defendant in the exercise of the federal power granted to him by the constitution (Crouch, 2013). In the case presented in this paper, the president revoked the execution sentence granted to the attacker by the courts and instead granted him a life sentence.

Was a Crime Committed?

According to the US laws, killing or conspiring to kill a person amounts to a crime punishable by death or a life imprisonment (Schwartz, 2009). The two nationalist party members committed various crimes in their endeavors to have their voices heard. Firstly, they could be charged with causing disruption and inciting the public against the US government. The two persons were influential members of the nationalist party, and they helped organize major rallies both in Puerto Rico and in the US. The rallies were branded as peaceful demonstrations allowed by the constitution. However, in most instances, the rallies resulted in violence due to hate speeches delivered by the leaders. Secondly, the two men could be charged with murder for conspiring to kill the president of the United States. The murder charges could be exemplified by the fact that the two killed a police officer in the process of hunting the president. The mentioned views are illustrative that the two men committed serious crimes in their efforts to fight for the independence of Puerto Rico.

Critical Incident or Not

A critical incident may be defined as a dramatic event likely to affect one’s attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors. The assassination attempt on the US president greatly influenced the behaviors and the attitudes of the various stakeholders (Astor, 2010). Firstly, it affected the president’s behaviors and attitudes towards the independence of the affected country. It also affected his perception regarding the security of both the nation and self. Following the incident, the president altered his schedule, and he had to skip various events for fear of being lynched. Secondly, the public’s attitude was greatly impacted by the attempt in that it illuminated their fight for independence. Just days after the attack, the public launched demonstrations requiring the US government to allow the territory to be independent. In light of the mentioned views, the incident may be termed as critical.


Presidential assassination attempts against the US presidents have been a concern for a long time. Terrorism coupled with politics is largely attributed to such assassinations. Astor (2010) suggests that most assassination attempts directed at political leaders are politically instigated. However, Schwartz (2009) disputes the allegations claiming that terrorists are responsible for the assassinations. The mentioned views apply not only in the developed countries but also in the third world countries. In most African countries, such assassinations are fueled by political differences. This paper analyzes the assassination attempt of President Harry Truman. The paper found that politics fueled the assassination attempts. The US government could find an intervener and embrace the use of IT to secure the president to mitigate similar attacks in the future. The events were critical since it affected the behavior and attitude of the concerned parties. The assassins committed a crime according to the US laws.


Astor, G. (2010). Presidents at War: From Truman to Bush, the Gathering of Military Powers To Our Commanders in Chief. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Blanco-Rivera, J. (2005). The forbidden files: creation and use of surveillance files against the independence movement in Puerto Rico. The American Archivist, 68(2), 297-311.

Crouch, J. (2013). The President’s Power to Commute: Is It Still Relevant? University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 9(3), 3-7.

Duany, J., & Pantojas-Garcia, E. (2006). Fifty Years of Commonwealth: The Contradictions of Free Associated Statehood in Puerto Rico. The Okinawan Journal of American Studies, 4(3), 7-27.

Martinez, M. (2012). Terrorist Attacks on American Soil: From the Civil War Era to the Present. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

McCann, J. T. (2006). Terrorism on American soil: A concise history of plots and perpetrators from the famous to the forgotten. Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications.

Schwartz, R. A. (2009). The 1950s. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.