Five failed Assassination Attempts

We are all human, and therefore, are at risk of making odd, stupid and downright silly mistakes. Even with meticulous planning…stuff can still go pear shaped. Assassinations are great examples of human calculation, and at times…miss-calculation…and there have been some great examples of failed assassinations over the years.

Failure in the East

King Zheng of QinKing Zheng of Qin.


In the 220s BC, the Qin state was cleaning shop in the Far East. Under the leadership of King Zheng, AKA Qin Shi Huang, it was well on the way to unifying the nation that still bears his name – China. Not everyone was mad keen on this situation, including Prince Dan of Yan (stop smirking!). He recruited scholar/fighter Jing Ke to take down the up-and-coming Emperor, but he failed badly, being stabbed to death by his own would-be victim. It’s worth noting that this event was only a century after Philip of Macedon was murdered, and it certainly didn’t stop his son’s empire building.

The Gunpowder Plot

gunpowder plotThe members of the doomed ‘Gunpowder Plot’.


The attempted 1605 attack on James I of England and VI of Scotland famously didn’t go down well, leading to the execution of its main participants. Almost all had previous links to rebellious Catholic groups in the UK, or serving in foreign armies. Fawkes was put in charge of the gunpowder because he was a veteran of combat in the Netherlands. The conspiracy was uncovered when schemer Francis Tresham sent a letter to his brother-in-law warning him not to attend the next session of Parliament, but it was ten days before the conspirators were caught in the act.

Operation Valkyrie

Operation VakyrieThe members of Operation Valkyrie.


The 1944 assassination effort on Hitler’s life was real, was carried out, and did result in death, if not that of the intended target. A briefcase was planted underneath a table which a meeting was being held around. Unfortunately, the officer responsible had not packed all the explosives in it, and another official accidentally knocked it further away from the intended victim. At least four people died, but the worst that happened to the Fuhrer was some burned trousers and a burst eardrum.

Castro’s Cigar

fidel castroFidel Castro, with one of his iconic cigars.


Possibly one of the most famous failed assassination attempts, this ridiculous resort probably never happened at all. Some sources claim that the story was counter-intelligence produced by the CIA to cover up their true activities and keep the Cuban dictator paranoid. However, it is much more likely that the CIA made at least one attempt on Castro’s life through the use of poisoned pills. They clearly didn’t work.

Barack Obama

ObamaAmerican President, Barack Obama has been subject to several attempts on his life.


POTUS has received numerous death threats, and several real attempts on his life. The most recent attack was in 2013, when letters laced with the poison ricin were mailed to him, apparently in response to gun control legislation. It later transpired that the real purpose of the letter was to incriminate the sender’s husband. The last president to avoid assassination attempts completely was Lyndon B Johnson (President from 1963-69).

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