November 02, 1950

President Harry Truman Writes about the Assassination Attempt on His Life Just the Day Before

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"At this time all of us in Washington had a bad scare. It occurred on November 1, 1950. The Cabinet had assembled in midafternoon in the National Cemetery at Arlington, where the President was to unveil a monument… My wife and I were sitting with General and Mrs. Marshall. John Synder, Secretary of Treasury, joined us. “An attempt has been made,” he said, “to assassinate the President. I don’t know what has happened. Shooting has been reported in front of Blair House [where the President was living]. I think the President is all right, but I don’t know.” A buzz of conversation broke out around us as those who had overheard passed the word to those behind them. Just then the Marine Band broke into “Hail to the Chief” as the President stepped out of his car and walked to the rostrum looking as if he had not a care in the world."

           -Dean Acheson, Present At The Creation (New York: W.W. Norton, 1969), p. 459

Harry Truman was upstairs at Blair house, napping in his underwear, when two Puerto Rican nationalists began firing at the guards outside, ostensibly on their way to murder the President. Truman, hearing the gunfire, rushed to the window to see what was happening; was shouted at, “move away, move away”; then dressed quickly, came downstairs, saw the cluster of policemen bending over a wounded assassin, and calmly proceeded to Arlington for the dedication. “A president has to expect these things,” he said. In this wonderful letter, written the day after the assassination attempt, which left one White House policeman dead and two wounded, he comments on the experience…

It was a most unnecessary happening over there at the Blair House and the people who really got hurt were wonderful men. The two men who did the job were just as stupid as they could be. I know I could organize a better program than the one they put on. They came nowhere near their objective - one of them faces the gallows and the other one is dead, although they did injure two good Guards and kill another one unnecessarily.

As calm as Truman was about his own safety, however, is how upset he was to learn that one of his guards had been killed. The day he wrote this letter, he said to reporters he was sick over it, and the wounding of two others: it was a terrible thing. Of course, that did not stop him from taking his usual morning stroll through Washington.

Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, November 2, 1950. To Secretary of State Dean Acheson.   Bearing Department of State date stamp on verso.

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Transcript

The White House
Washington

November 2, 1950

Dear Dean:

 

I can't tell you how much I appreciated your longhand note of yesterday.

 

It was a most unnecessary happening over there at the Blair House and the people put on. They came nowhere near their objective - one of them faces the gallows and the other one is dead, although they did injure two good Guards and kill another one unnecessarily.

Sincerely yours,

HARRY TRUMAN

Honorable Dean Acheson
The Secretary of State
Washington D.C.