The Assassination Attempt On FDR

After giving a speech at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt (above) and a small entourage of political bigwigs made their way to FDR's light blue touring Buick (via Thought Co). It was around 9:35 p.m. Stopping to speak with reporters who had gathered around the Buick, FDR and one of his guests, Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, pressed the flesh and made small talk. As Roosevelt hoisted himself into the car, several shots rang out into that mid-February night. Before the smoke cleared, five would be wounded, with Cermak himself mortally wounded, with a shot to the mid-section (via History).

Two weeks prior to being installed as the 32nd President of the United States, President-elect Roosevelt decided on a last-minute vacation before officially taking on the role of POTUS (via Miami Herald). The plan was for FDR to stop at a rally in Jacksonville, then head to a two-week vacation in the Caribbean. At the last minute, FDR decided to add an impromptu speech in Miami at Bayfront Park. Many notables were in attendance that night at the park, including Cermak. At the conclusion of the speech, while waiting for the motorcade, FDR made light conversation with the collection of lingering reporters and constituents, when Guiseppe Zangara approached.

An assassination attempt

Born in Ferruzzano, Italy, Guiseppe Zangara (above), a veteran of the fighting in World War I, emigrated with his uncle to the U.S. in 1923. Six years later, Zangara became a naturalized citizen (via Murderpedia). A bricklayer by trade, Zangara had a host of physical and mental problems, on top of being poorly educated. Moving from New Jersey to Miami, Zangara would quickly become radicalized as a result of his lack of work, stating that "all capitalist presidents and kings" needed to be assassinated. With this rot destroying his mind, Zangara purchased a .32 caliber pistol for $8 when word reached him of FDR's imminent arrival.

As FDR and the small collection of guests made their way into the president's motorcade, Zangara approached the group. At about 25 feet away (via Thought Co), Zangara stepped onto a rickety chair and fired, emptying the pistol's five shots into the crowd gathered around the cars.

Who was the real target?

By the grace of a higher power or, as some have suggested, the rickety chair, or even the unintentional interaction with a woman who was said to have accidentally hit Zangara's hand as he was firing, the president-elect escaped harm. Four bystanders were not so lucky. Among those shot was Mayor Cermak (above), who died later from complications due to the gunshot wound.

And while everything that happens these days seems to be entwined in complicated conspiracy theories, it's been suggested that Zangara's real target wasn't FDR at all, but really was Mayor Cermak. As Chicago's mayor, Cermak was bent on cleaning up the city's notorious underground (via Everything Czech). In fact, it's been suggested that notorious mobster Al Capone himself, Chicago's most infamous gangster (and perhaps the nation's, as well) was behind Zangara's attempt. However, until his execution on March 20, 1933, Zangara insisted his real target was indeed Franklin Delano Roosevelt.