Maurizio – Omnologos

Where no subject is left unturned

Where’s the Medal for the Woman Who Saved FDR?

with 6 comments

75 years ago, on Feb 15, 1933, an Italian US citizen by the name of Giuseppe Zangara stood on a bench to aim at then-President-Elect Franklin D Roosevelt. Unfortunately for Zangara, and fortunately for much of the rest of humanity, at the other side of the bench there was a woman by the name of Lillian Cross standing already.

As Zangara’s movements made her risk to fall, Mrs Cross “turned around and said “Don’t to that”…Just then [she] saw the pistol“.

Determined to stop Zangara, Lillian Cross managed to “[force] the would-be assassin shooting arm upwards“.

The end result was a healthy FDR ready to take on the Presidency in 3 weeks’ time, to enable welfare reform if not its foundation, to get the USA on the path towards recovery from the 1929 crisis, to get re-elected for a record 3 times, and to push a reluctant nation towards supporting Britain against the Nazis and then to a full-scale victorious war on two faraway fronts.

Mrs Cross died in 1962 at the age of 78. Had she been heavier than her 100-pound body frame, perhaps she would not have noticed Zangara’s hand soon enough.

This is of course the stuff of sci-fi and alternative universes, and no less than Philip K Dick has visited this episode, twice in fact.


A curious side story: among the wounded that day, Detective William Sinnott (on holiday in Florida), with a bullet in his head. Described as an “old friend” by FDR in a Feb 17, 1933 message, Sinnott was back at work in New York on April 8, that is only 52 days later, 4 days after leaving hospital.

Sinnott, who died in 1965, received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1940, although his exact role in saving the President is not clear.

Mrs Lillian Cross has received no Medal, as far as I know. She does not even have her own Wikipedia page…


Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933 (33 days after the incident…as they say, the past really is a different country…), as Chicago mayor Anton Cermak died on March 6 due to complications having received one of Zangara’s bullets in his chest.


(1) Assassin shoots 5 times; police and bystanders leap for him and take him prisoner. Accomplice taken later cermak and new york officer, rushed to hospital — now in serious condition. Roosevelt delays trip had been warmly welcomed and intended to start for north at once. Shooting at miami causes profound sensation in the national capital
By james a. Hagerty.special to the New York Times.
February 16, 1933, thursday

(2) Woman diverted aim of assassin; 100-pound wife of miami doctor tells how she forced up. Man’s arm. Held on during shooting gun had been pointed “right at mr. Roosevelt” 15 feet away, she relates. Woman diverted aim of assassin
February 16, 1933, Thursday

(3) Messages sent to victims.
February 17, 1933, Friday

(4) Policeman, shot by Zangara, back.
April 8, 1933, Saturday

(5) Woman who saved Roosevelt from assassination is buried; incident is recalled
November 11, 1962, Sunday

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/16 at 22:25:07

6 Responses

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  1. Thank you for this information which clearly shows the subservient position of women in most societies. What they do is never acknowledged to make them equal to men. Unfortunately, women as a group are good at doing this to themselves.

    Cynthia Mahlin

    2008/Feb/17 at 14:29:34

  2. […] the man who was then President-elect, but somehow managed to miss him. A bystander, Lillian Cross, grabbed his arm, and others in the crowd wrestled him […]

  3. Lillian Johns Cross was my great great aunt. I always thought the FDR story was a family legend until I actually saw her in film clip on a History Channel documentary several years ago. If anyone knows the name of the documentary, please post it on line. I’d like to try and purchase a copy.

    Pat Miller

    Pat Miller

    2011/Sep/26 at 21:17:52

  4. William Sinnot was my Mother’s uncle. There was 5 bullets shot. One dead Mayor, and 4 wounded. How could Lillian Cross have stopped anything if there were that many victims? I know the story and these articles are not accurate concerning the role of William Sinnot.


    2012/Feb/20 at 03:05:46

    • Kathleen – there is always the uncorroborated hypothesis that Sinnot took a bullet which would have hit FDR anyway. Did he ever mention any of that?

  5. […] scampo’ senza un graffio (probabilmente grazie al provvidenziale intervento della signora Lilian Cross, che si aggrappo’ al braccio di Zangara), ma questi fu condannato a morte perche’ il […]

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