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Franklin Delano Roosevelt hadn't even been inaugurated yet when an attempt was made on his life. The shots were fired in Miami by a young man who kept squeezing the trigger of his gun even after his arm had been grabbed by other spectators who had gathered in a park to hear a short speech by the President-elect who was vacationing in Florida.

However, five others were hit by bullets, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, whose life hung in the balance for 19 days before he died.

Since the event, some have theorized that Cermak was the intended target, but the outspoken, defiant assassin, Giuseppe Zangara, made it clear he was trying to kill Roosevelt.

Chicago reporters, familiar with Cermak's views, doubted whether the mayor actually said some of the things attributed to him after the shooting, such as telling Roosevelt, "I am mightily glad it was me instead of you," because Cermak was not an FDR supporter, at least not before the 1932 Democratic National Convention that selected the party's Presidential candidate.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 16
MIAMI (AP) — A woman’s bravery saved President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt from assassination, but five other persons were wounded by bullets intended for him.

Today the victims lay in a hospital, two near death, as the man who fired the shots at 9:30 here last night was held in jail. Among the seriously wounded was Mayor Anton J. Cermak of Chicago.

Shortly before noon today the Chicago Mayor was reported “resting much easier,” though he was still in a critical condition, and attending doctors said no unfavorable developments had arisen.

They hesitated, however, to operate for the removal of the bullet for fear of overstraining a weakened heart.

Mrs. Joseph Gill of Miami underwent a blood transfusion but was reported as losing ground in her fight for live.

All five of the wounded were visited this morning by Mr. Roosevelt, who rode in an open car, over a route carefully guarded by Secret Service men and police, from the Vincent Astor yacht to the Jackson Memorial Hospital on the outskirts of the city.

At the hospital he spoke encouraging words to the victims of the half-crazed Giuseppe Zangara’s fusillade of shots, and turned back, very grave and intent, to board a 10 o’clock train for New York.

There was a touching and dramatic scene between the President-elect and the mayor of the second largest Democratic city in the United States.

“You are looking fine,” said Mr. Roosevelt as he came to Cermak’s bedside. “The first thing you know you will be back on your feet.”

“I hope so,” replied Cermak, in a faint voice. “I hope it will be in time for the inauguration. I am mightily glad it was me instead of you. Before you came, I visited here with Jim Farley and Mae and we had a good time.” Then he added:

“I wish you would be careful. The country needs you.”

“We need men like you,” Roosevelt replied.

Among the chief topics of conversation was the bold act of a frail little woman, Mrs. W. F. Cross of Miami, who was the first to snatch at the assassin’s wrist when he opened fire in the picturesque Bayfront Park, where the President-elect had completed a brief speech, and diverted his aim.

The attempted assassination came a a melodramatic climax to a happy scene of welcome in the park.

The President-elect had just returned from a fishing trip, tanned, healthy, ready for the long, hard task ahead. He drove to the crowded park and spoke a few words of greeting to thousands gathered there.

Then Zangara, a swarthy former bricklayer, warped in mind by unreasonable hate, climbed on a bench beside Mrs. Cross. He rested a pistol on the shoulder of a man in front of him and began firing at the Roosevelt car, some 25 feet away.

Turmoil and uproar were immediate. Mrs. Cross threw herself upon the man beside her, clutching his arm and spoiling his aim. The President-elect was saved, but those close to him were less fortunate.

As citizens, police and Secret Service men hurled themselves on Zangara, Mayor Cermak fell with a bullet in the abdomen.

Nearby, Mrs. Gill also dropped to the pavement with a similar wound.

Miss Margaret Kruis of Newark, New Jersey, was shot in the hand, and head wounds were inflicted on William Sinnott, a New York policeman, and Russell Caldell of Miami.

The reaction of the President-elect was immediate and his concern was entirely for the injured, apparently having no time for thought of his own narrow escape from death just as he was preparing to assume the highest office in the land.

Into his own car he ordered the Secret Service men to place the wounded mayor of Chicago, and they drove to the hospital, Cermak held tight in the arms of his party’s leader.

The other wounded also were quickly transported to the hospital, and today all five were still alive, although doctors had to resort to a blood transfusion on Mrs. Gill and Mayor Cermak was for many hours given but an even chance of survival.

Roosevelt had intended to start back to New York last night, but after the shooting he immediately changed his plans and went back to the Vincent Astor yacht on which he had made his fishing trip.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 16
MIAMI (AP) — Guiseppe Zangara, his bulging eyes dilating as he talked with severe interrogators in the Dad County jail, today said he had no regrets for his attack on President-elect Roosevelt.

Speaking in broken English, the prisoner answered questions readily. Sheriff Hardie, something of a linguist, helped carry the conversation. Here is Hardie’s account of the examination:

“Why do you want to kill? Did you want to kill the policeman who caught you?”

“I no care to kill police,” he replied. “They work for living. As a man, I like Mister Roosevelt. As a President, I want to kill him. I want to kill all presidents. In Italy, ten years ago, I want to kill the king, but I cannot get to him.”

“Are you an anarchist?”

“I do not belong to any society. I am not an anarchist. Sometimes I get big pain in the stomach, too, and then I want to kill these presidents who oppress the working men.”

There is a deep scar on the abdomen of the assassin. He speaks to the officers without apparent realization of what he did. Occasionally he grows bitter.

He said he came to Miami about two months ago “because they tell me it will help these pains in my stomach.”

He has been in America for about nine years and is understood to be a naturalized citizen.

He is caged in a little steel-barred cell, 21 floors above the ground, in the Dade County Jail.

Miami police pose with Giuseppe Zangara.

Syracuse Journal, February 16
MIAMI, Florida (Universal) — This is the story of the attempt to shoot President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt as told by the would-be assassin, Giuseppe Zangara, in the Miami County jail where he was examined by Sheriff Daniel Hardie:

“I tried to kill President-elect Roosevelt because I have been in constant torment from a stomach operation. I have six inches of stitches in my right side.

“I have always hated the rich and the powerful. When I read in a newspaper that President-elect Roosevelt was coming to Miami, I determined to kill him.

“I hope that I would have have better luck than I had 10 years ago in Italy when I bought a pistol to kill King Victor Emanuel. But a queer trick of fate, the same thing that foiled me at that time was the same thing that prevented me from killing Mr. Roosevelt tonight. There was too dense a crowd around me and I couldn’t shoot properly.

“After I read in the paper about Mr. Roosevelt, I went to a store on North Miami Avenue and bought a pistol. There was a sign in front of it which read ‘Money to loan.’

“I paid $8 for the gun. I tried to get to the park early tonight so as to be up as close to the president-elect as possible, but some people were before me.

“I sat waiting and my stomach kept itching more than ever. Maybe the excitement was responsible. I kept thinking if the crowd does not get too thick around me I will not fail tonight.

“I meant to shoot the president while he was talking, but the people in front of me were standing, but I m a short fellow [Zangara is only five-feet-one-inch in height). I didn’t have a chance. My only chance came when some people got tired and sat down.

“I stood on the bench and pointed the gun at Mr. Roosevelt, but the people around were pressing against the bench and making it wobbly. The gun started to shake, but I pulled the trigger anyway I don’t know how many times.”

 

Syracuse Journal, February 16
MIAMI, Florida (INS) — Mrs. W. F. Cross of Miami was the heroine of last night’s attempt on President-elect Roosevelt’s life.

She was the brave lady who pushed the gun in Giuseppe Zangara’s hand out of position so that it failed to pour a deadly barrage into Mr. Roosevelt.

She was standing next to the wild-eyed Italian.

“I couldn’t see when Mr. Roosevelt started to speak,” she said, “because so many people in front of me stood up. I climbed up on one of the benches, too.

“This man [Zangara] stood up. The bench almost collapsed.

“I looked at him and saw he had a pistol in his hand. He began shooting at the president-elect.

“I grabbed his hand and pushed it up in the air. Then I called for help. Tom Armour, the man next to me, grabbed his hand and between us we held it there so he couldn’t shoot any more.

“In a minute more all of those around us were trying to choke him. He went down under a pile of men.”

Mrs. Cross, 48, and weighing but 100 pounds, didn’t get frightened or nervous hen she saw the weapon.

“I didn’t begin to get nervous until it was all over,” she said. “I knew he was aiming right at the president. That’s why I grabbed his arm. I had my bag in my right hand, but I switched it to my left and caught his arm and twisted it up. I don’t know how many shots he fired or where they went.”

Mrs. Cross drove to the park with her husband, Dr. W. F. Cross, she said, and Mrs. Willis McCrary, a friend from Atlanta. Mrs. Cross and Mrs. McCrary got seats in the front rank, Dr. Cross sat further back.

“President-elect Roosevelt was only about 15 feet from us,” she said. “He had just finished his speech and was about to drive away. I stood up on the bench to see him better. Then this man stood up on the bench, too, but on the back part, and it sort of folded in the middle. It was a folding bench, you see.

“I was afraid I was going to fall, so I turned and said:

“ ‘Don’t do that, please; you’re going to knock me off.’ Then I saw the pistol.”

The shots were fired so close to Mrs. Cross’ face her right cheek was smudged with powder — but she didn’t notice it until she arrived home, she said.

Justice was amazingly swift. Zangara pleaded guilty on February 20 to four counts of assault with intent to murder. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Hanging over his head was the fate of the fifth person he shot — Mayor Cermak.

Zangara told the judge he attempted to kill Mr. Roosevelt because of "the pains in my stomach. I suffer and I decided to make him suffer."

Meanwhile, the millions of Americans who followed the medical progress of Mayor Cermak were taken on a roller coaster ride by the press. On February 21 it was reported that Cermak seemed on the road to recovery This changed three days later when doctors indicated Cermak was losing his fight for life.

On February 25 it was reported the Chicago mayor was near death. A day later, he rallied, but 24 hours after that it was reported he had pneumonia ... yet on February 28 physicians said Cermak was not only holding his own, but making progress.

Back and forth it went until March 6 when Anton Cermak died. Three days later Zangara pleaded guilty to the mayor's murder. He was sentenced to death.

The execution of Guiseppe Zangara took place March 20 in Florida's electric chair at the state prison in Raiford.

Meanwhile, federal officials were investigating another attempt to assassinate the new President, this one involving crude bombs that were packaged and mailed to Washington, D. C., from Watertown, New York.

 

Syracuse Journal, February 22
WASHINGTON (INS) — Scores of federal investigators today were detailed to Watertown, New York, after the discovery of a second attempt upon the life of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Accidental finding of a bomb in the Washington post office, address to Franklin D. Roosevelt Washington, D. C.,” was the cause for the immediate dispatch of secret service men, department of justice operatives and postal inspectors to the city in northern New York.

The infernal machine, consisting of a single shotgun shell held together by a corroded wire and connected to a detonator, was discovered when postal employees dumped the contents of a mailbag to the floor of their work room.

The bomb was wrapped in brown paper, but held insecurely in its wrappings by poorly tied twine. When an employee picked up the package to better secure its fastenings, its contents were discovered. C. E. Schooley, superintendent of mails, was immediately notified.

Firearms experts said the bomb was designed to explode upon opening of the package, but the poor construction left doubt whether this actually would have occurred.

Postal authorities, in describing the address on the package, said the writing was “that of a foreigner.”

Syracuse Journal, February 24
WATERTOWN — Investigation of the Roosevelt bomb case still centers in Watertown, with the only discovery so far being the time and mailing place of the package, a clue unearthed by police.

Postal inspectors are seeking a local resident who may have seen some person placing the package on the box. None of the night clerks at the post office recalls handling the package on Sunday night. Investigation has shown it left this city Monday on the 7 a.m. train.

Chief E. J. Singleton says he is becoming convinced the bomb was not the work of a crank, radical or maniac, but of a group of young boys.

Ballston Spa Daily Journal, June 21
WATERTOWN, New York (INS) — Joseph Doldo, 20-year-old confessed sender of bombs and threatening messages to President Roosevelt, awoke in solitary confinement this morning after a good night’s sleep in the city lockup.

Apparently unperturbed over the consequences of his rash acts, the undersized Italian has adopted a policy of silence and refuses to talk with anyone but police officials.

He will be turned over to federal inspectors from Buffalo tonight. He probably will face charges of sending threats through the mail and mail explosives.

If the government decides to prosecute, the youth will be arraigned tomorrow before United States Commissioner W. Glenn Larmonth and will be allowed to plead and held for federal court.

“He has the mentality of a five-year-old child,” declared Chief of Police Edward J. Singleton today. “I do not believe he will be jailed, but rather placed in a suitable state institution.”

When arrested, Doldo wore a cap inside of which was sewed a small flag.

He said today he sent bombs “just for fun” and that he does not want to “hurt the president”

Chief Singleton characterized the prisoner as “just dumb enough to perform his misdeeds so that we couldn’t catch him. Had he been more intelligent, we probably would have captured him long ago.”

Syracuse Journal, July 15
WATERTOWN (INS) — Joseph Doldo, 21, charged with sending crude bombs and threatening letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was indicted today and will be arraigned before Judge F. H. Bryant in United States court, Malone, on Monday.

Syracuse Journal, July 18
MALONE — Joseph Doldo, 21, Watertown, an Italian youth who sent crude bombs and threatening letters of President Roosevelt, yesterday was sentenced by Judge Frederick H. Bryant to 16 years at any institution designated by the attorney general. Doldo pleaded guilty to federal charges for sending non-mailable articles and threatening letters.


 
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