Guiseppe Zangara was a mentally disturbed former bricklayer who had made it his mission in life to kill Presidents and Kings (followed, he claimed, by ‘all capitalists’). In 1933, while President-Elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt was giving an impromptu speech from the back of a convertable car in Bayfront Park, Miami, Zangara fired five shots at him with a .32 calibre pistol purchased at a nearby pawnshop.
His first shot missed, and bystanders tackled him, making his other four shots go wild. One of them hit Anton Cermak, the Mayor of Chicago who was part of Roosevelt’s party. Cermak died of his wounds 19 days later, and Zangara was executed for the murder a fortnight after that. Roosevelt would go on to become the single longest serving President in United States history. On the day of the shooting, Cermak had told him “I’m glad it was me instead of you” – a sentiment echoed by everyone glad of the Allied victory in World War Two.
Consistently one of the highest ranked Presidents in United States history, far and away the longest serving President, and despite the long years since his death, one of the most controversial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was only 63 years old when he died. It was his thirteenth consecutive year as President, and the last year of World War Two.
Roosevelt had long suffered from polio and his health had become increasingly fragile in the last years of his life, with the stress of leading his nation through World War Two taking its toll on him. In the last months of his life, he was diagnosed as suffering from hardening of the arteries, and his death was the the result of a cerebral hemorrage. His death shocked and dismayed America and her allies, as the details of Roosevelt’s health had been a closely held secret. The nation mourned his lost, and on V-E Day, less than a month later, President Harry S. Truman, who had succeeded Roosevelt, dedicated the victory to the fallen man.