RIP Leslie W. Coffelt, 59th Anniversary of Death in Line of Presidential Duty

I arrived at the White House just after 6 a.m. today and found dozens of US Secret Service officers huddled against the steady rain outside Blair House.

I wasn't sure, but I thought it might have something to do with Leslie W. Coffelt, killed in the 1950 assassination attempt on President Harry S Truman. I was correct.

The Secret Service officers attached this replica badge to the fence outside Blair House, next to the permanent plaque honoring Coffelt's sacrifice.

In 1950, Coffelt, 40, was a member of the White House Police Force, the fore-runner to the US Secret Service Uniformed Division. On Nov. 1, of that year, he was standing post with three other officers (Floyd Boring, Donald T. Birdzell and Joseph H. Downs). At the time, city buses dropped off passengers on Pennsylvania Avenue near Blair House.

The Trumans were living in Blair House during White House renovations. On the afternoon of Nov. 1,  Truman was upstairs taking a nap.

Two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola,  approached Blair House from opposite directions and opened fire. Coffelt, stationed inside a guard booth, suffered three gunshot wounds to the chest  and abdomen. Coffelt rallied enough to exit the booth, brace himself against it and, from a distance of about 30 feet, shoot Torresola to death with a single shot to the head.

Coffelt died hours later from his wounds. Truman was never endangered by the assassination attempt.  Collazo and Griselio never made it inside Blair House, thanks to Coffelt and the other White House Police Force officers (Birdzell and Downs were also wounded, but recovered).

Coffelt is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Secret Service honors Coffelt's death every year, as it did in the pre-dawn dark and pouring rain this morning.