2 shot in seeming effort to kill Truman

United Press

WASHINGTON -- White House guards today killed one armed man and wounded another in a gun battle on Pennsylvania avenue which broke up what appeared to be an attempt to assassinate President Truman.

Three White House Guards also were wounded in the shooting which occurred near Blair House residence.


Truman was inside the house at the time. He had been scheduled to leave by the same entrance a few minutes later to attend memorial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

The wounded gunman, Oscar Collazo, was identified by his 15-year-old daughter at New York as the revolutionary Puerto Rican Nationalist.

The attack apparently directed at the President came within the hour of an attempt by another black-shirted Puerto Rican Nationalist to blow up the office of the Puerto Rican government at New York.

Police Inspector H. W. Francis said the two assailants, dressed in civilian clothes and armed with automatic pistols, approached Blair House from opposite directions about 2 p.m.

Blair House is across Pennsylvania avenue from the White House, and is the President's home while the White House is undergoing repairs.

Without warning the two gunmen opened fire on the three uniformed White House policemen guarding the Blair House entrance.


The guards, and two Secret Service men who ran out of a nearby guard shack, returned the fire. Witnesses estimated more than 24 shots were fired in the ensuing fight.

One Races for Steps.

One of the assailants was shot through the chest as he raced toward the steps of the building. The other fell inside shrubbery near the building with several shots through his head and body.

One of the assailants was dead before an ambulance could get him to Emergency Hospital. The other was at first reported to be in "serious" condition, but later was said to have been wounded only slightly.

The wounded White House officers were: Leslie Coffelt, Arlington, Va., in "very critical condition"; Joseph Downs, Silver Spring, Md., "critical condition," and Donald T. Birdzell, Washington, in "fair condition."

At Emergency Hospital, Superintendent James Caposella identified the surviving assailant as Oscar Collazo of 173 Brook avenue, New York City.

"Collazo admitted to police that he did the shooting," Caposella said, "but he wouldn't say why. Police are trying to get a statement from him now. He says the dead man is his friend but doesn't give his name."

From documents found in his pocket, the dead assailant was identified tentatively as Oscar Olliskin.


Caposella said the dead man had three pockets full of bullets. Police officers said the weapon used by Collazo was a P-38 caliber pistol, resembling the German Luger.

Daughter Questioned.

Collazo's daughter Carmen, speaking in Spanish, said at New York her father was a metal polisher by trade and had lived in New York for six years. She and her two older sisters joined him here three years ago, she said.

"I never heard him say anything about President Truman." Carmen said. "We didn't even know he had gone to Washington."

The girl said her two sisters, 22 and 23 years old, were at work in New York's garment district.

She said her father had left home yesterday without saying where he was going.

Asked if her father had ever been a Government employe, as reported by hospital authorities in Washington, she said, "he is not now. He is a metal polisher."

(The Associated Press quoted Collazo's wife, Rose, as saying her husband left home yesterday telling her "Puerto Ricans can no longer be slaves of the United States."

While plainclothes men, Secret Service agents and metropolitan police swarmed around the front of Blair House, the President quietly left Blair House by a rear entrance about 2:45 and drove to Arlington. His open car was loaded down with Secret Service men.


All three officers fell where they stood while shooting it out with the two attackers.

The fight took place as hundreds of Government employes were walking back from lunch. Many out-of-town visitors were strolling down Pennsylvania avenue for a glimpse of the presidential residence.

As the first shots rang out, some of the passersby fled. Others ducked behind trees. Within minutes, police radio squad cars and four ambulances sped to the scene, their screaming sirens adding to the turmoil.

Block Cleared by Police.

Plain clothes men of the District of Columbia police department and the White House Secret Service detail swarmed onto the sidewalk near Blair House.

Uniformed police quickly cleared the entire block of curious onlookers, and cordoned the area.

Charles Corte, an Acme News photographer, was driving down Pennsylvania avenue with other photographers when the shooting began.

"We pulled over to the side and stopped the car," Corte said. "I saw one officer in the middle of Pennsylvania avenue on one knee, shooting toward the Blair House.

"I took a quick picture and hopped into the shrubbery when some more shots rang outt

"After about 10 or 12 shots were fired, the shooting stopped. I ran across the street and the policeman was now lying on his back in the middle of Pennsylvania avenue.


Finds One Dead.

"Just outside the Blair House I saw a civilian. He was dead. His face was smashed from a shot in the head and he had been shot in the chest.

"A White House guard said: There's another one back there in the shrubbery.

"I looked and there was another civilian lying on his back. He looked dead, too. Near his hand was a pistol.

"Five feet away from him was another wounded White House guard with whom he apparently had shot it out."

The late President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the target of the last previous assassination attempt on a United States President. At Miami, Fla., on Feb. 15, 1933, Joseph Zangara, an anarchist, fired a shot at President-elect Roosevelt The shot missed its target, but fatally wounded Mayor Anton J. Cermak of Chicago. Zangara was electrocuted March 20, 1933.

Hospital Superintendent Capossela said that Callazo was wounded in the chest but that his condition was fair.

Callazo "claims to be a Government employe," Capossela said.

Tries to Storm Entrance.

One gunmen attempted to storm the main entrance of Blair House. Without warning he whipped out a pistol and began firing at the officer on duty at the stairs. At the same moment the gunman's partner cut loose at two officers standing outside a sentry box to the left of the main entrance to Blair House.


From the sentry box to the right of the main entrance to Blair House, Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring and a uniformed White House officer returned the fire. Their bullets, plus the shots from one of the wounded White House officers, quickly felled the two assailants.

One White House officer, as he fell gravely wounded to the sidewalk, drilled one of the assailants squarely between the eyes with his police revolver.

One of the attackers fell at the foot of the steps leading to the Blair House.

That was as close as either got to the President.

The man who fell at the foot of the steps left a pool of blood on the sidewalk. Officers said he was shot twice in the chest.

They exhibited a soiled and battered brown felt hat of one assailant. A bullet had bored through the brim and crown. The lining inside was stained with blood.

Assassination Aim.

Police Inspector Hobart Francis told reporters: "I presume it was an attempt to assassinate the President."

The sidewalk in front of Blair House was scarred in several places where bullets hit and chipped the concrete.

Forty minutes after the shooting, two workmen with a bucketful of soapy water appeared in front of Blair House to scrub off the bloodstains.


Two bullets penetrated the pane of a basement window about 12 feet from the Blair House steps. The windows are to service quarters and not to the President's living-room quarters.

Another bullet was imbedded near the door of the basement guard room. About three inches had been knocked off the top of a cast iron picket in the fence across the front of Blair House.

Officer Marion Preston, a Washington policeman, narrowly missed being a victim of the shooting. He was walking his beat at the nearby corner of Seventeenth street and Pennsylvania avenue, at the time. A bullet passed through his coat and trousers, but missed his flesh.

The operating room at Emergency Hospital was jammed with doctors and nurses.

Brig. Gen. Wallace II. Graham, President Truman's personal physician, went to the hospital to see how the wounded officers were making out.

Gunfire Heard Inside.

During the attack, the sound of the gunfire reverberated loudly in Blair House, alarming the occupants, including Mrs. David Wallace, the President's ailing and elderly mother-in-law. She came here from her home in Independence, Mo., some time ago and has been living at Blair House.

Accounts differed as to how many shots were exchanged. Apparently there were at least 10.


Officers, speculated that the two gunmen knew the President planned to leave Blair House this afternoon to go to the ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery.

About 15 minutes after the shooting, Press Secretary Charles G. Ross rushed to Blair House to ask the President whether he would go through with the ceremony at Arlington.

"Why certainly," replied the President, who had been wakened from his post-luncheon nap by the gunfire.

President Calm.

Ross described the President as the calmest person in the house after the shooting.

When the President started his return from Arlington to the White House, Washington police had heavy details stationed all along his route.

Extra guards of policemen were stationed at the White House and at Blair House.

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