Powerful leaders walk around everyday with bull's-eyes on their backs. And the world would likely be a much different place had many of the failed takeover plots and assassination attempts on the world's most controversial leaders worked - forever altering the course of history. However, nobody can say what would have happened if Hitler hadn't escaped the explosions intended to take his life and the attempted takeovers aimed at ending his reign, or if any of the over 600 assassination attempts on Fidel Castro would have succeeded and completed shifted Cuba's future. Nearly all of the world's leaders have endured threats and attempts on their lives, and below are just a few examples of the times some of them got away.
Surely, either you or someone you know has said: "If I could go back in time, I'd kill Hitler." However, it turns out he wasn't an easy man to assassinate. There are over 20 documented plots to take down the Fuhrer between 1934 and 1944, but two in particular stand out because he escaped by pure luck.
Most famously, he survived a plot on July 20th known as Operation Valkyrie, in which Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators planted a bomb near a conference room table at Hitler's hideout, the Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia. It went off, but had been coincidentally repositioned behind a table leg that happened to be sturdy enough to shield Hitler from its full impact. The bomb injured six, four of whom eventually died, and singed Hitler’s pants. The sophisticated conspirators had begun their attempts to kill Hitler in 1943 when Nazi war efforts were deteriorating, and they felt Germany needed to pivot toward a post-Hitler, post-war footing.
The other infamous attempt involved Johann Georg Elser, a German worker and feverish opponent of Nazism, who prepared a bomb in 1939 and carried out intricate, obsessive plans to assassinate Hitler. He hollowed out a hole in a pillar near a podium where Hitler was to give a speech on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch and timed the explosion for what he thought would be a midway point in the oratory. Alas, the blast happened 13 minutes too late, but had Hitler still been delivering the speech, the ceiling would have collapsed on him. Seven died from the explosion.
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Former Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro once said, "If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal." Although the CIA has long denied ordering any attempts at assassinating foreign leaders, a Senate investigation in 1975 substantiated that the CIA failed to kill Castro at least eight times between 1960 and 1965. Apparently, the US couldn't manage to take down the Cuban leader who was sitting just 90 miles off shore, ready and willing to do the bidding of the USSR at the height of the Cold War.
Agents targeted Castro in his element, attempting to poison his cigars and contaminate the avid scuba diver's wet suit with a deadly fungus. The CIA even reportedly attempted to rig a colorful underwater conch shell with explosives hoping to lure a curious Castro to fiddle with it on a dive and be blown to smithereens. Castro's former protector, Favian Escalante, claimed that the grand total of known assassination attempts on Castro was 638.
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The Nazi war effort had begun to crack by 1943, so desperate times called for desperate measures. Enter Operation Long Jump: an alleged German plan to kill allied leaders Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the Tehran Conference in Iran. Russian agents have been credited with thwarting the German assassins before they could execute their brazen plan, and the Russian media loved to trumpet the heroic triumph of successfully saving Stalin and his frenemies. British and American intelligence considered the Russian report to be baloney, maintaining that it never actually happened.see more on Yalta Conference
Gunpowder Plot Nearly Blows Parliament Sky-High
Many Britons still celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Day on November 5, the anniversary of the failed 1605 Gunpowder Plot, when King James I and all of Parliament almost suffered the blast of dozens of barrels of gunpowder planted beneath the House of Lords.
A group of Catholics led by Robert Catesby had planned the insurrection for a year with the intent of overthrowing King James I, an anti-Papist. The conspirators rented a cellar at the House of Lords and rolled in over 30 barrels of gunpowder. When Parliament was called to order on November 5, the plan was to blow King James I and the entire government to bits.
One conspirator got cold feet on November 4 and urged the politician Lord Monteagle to steer clear of the House of Lords on November 5. Monteagle reported the mysterious message to police, and on the eve of the plot, a search turned up Guy Fawkes, who had been charged with detonating the rudimentary explosives. Fawkes confessed under torture in the Tower of London and all implicated were killed - some after a trial and some before.