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Michael survives an attempt on his life at the beginning of the Godfather 2. The gunmen miss him and attempt to flee. We then see that they have been killed.

Who killed the bodyguards?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

The first question that needs to be answered is who tried to kill Michael. Then, some theories as to who killed the would-be assassinations can be drawn.

As we know by the end of the film, Hyman Roth is behind the hit on Michael. There are a few reasons for this, the largest of which is resentment at Michael having killed Moe Greene in Godfather I.

To do this, he uses Johnny Ola, his right hand man. He sends Johnny to talk to Fredo, Michael's brother, and has him manipulate him into giving information that can be used to attempt an assassination. We never find out what this information is. Whether Fredo was callous enough to give direct information that could be used, or simply angry and careless enough to let slip something innocuous, we don't know.

This exchange is all we have on it. You can decide for yourself how "in the know" Fredo really was:

Fredo Corleone: I haven't got a lot to say, Mike.
Michael Corleone: We have time.
Fredo Corleone: I was kept pretty much in the dark. I didn't know all that much.
Michael Corleone: What about now? Is there anything you can help me out with? Anything you can tell me now?
Fredo Corleone: They've got Pentangeli. That's all I can tell you. I didn't know it was gonna be a hit, Mike. I swear to God, I didn't know it was gonna be a hit. Johnny Ola bumped into me at Beverly Hills, and he said that he wanted to talk. He said that you and - and Roth were in on a - a big deal together and that there was something in it for me if I could help 'em out. He said that - He said that you were bein' tough on the negotiations, but if they could get a little help and close the deal fast, it'd be good for the family.
Michael Corleone: You believed that story? You believed that?
Fredo Corleone: He said there was somethin' in it for me. On my own...

So now we know the three people implicitly involved in the assassination attempt. As to who killed the failed-assassins, there are a few possibilities:

  1. Fredo - He could have killed the assassins out of panic whenever he realised the hit had failed. This could have happened two ways - he might have given Roth information allowing him to access the compound, or allowed a mole in, and once he realised what transpired, murdered the assassins inside the compound out of fear. Or, of course, he could have been well aware all along a hit was going to take place and killed the assassins out of self preservation. However, if Fredo had killed them, it raises questions as to how he knew exactly where they would be (and how he could kill them with no other guard on the compound knowing). If Fredo did kill the assassins, it's difficult to imagine he wasn't well aware there was an assassination plot.

  2. Fredo's Men - Fredo is a caporegime, so he has a lot of men under him. He could have had one of those men kill the assassins (then either hushed his man with money or killed him to silence him). However, the biggest issue with this idea is the notion that Fredo could offer someone more than Michael could (or could intimidate someone more than Michael could).

  3. Michael's Guards - It is of course possible that Michael's guards killed the assassins. These guys are mafia men - they're not trained soldiers. If they cornered an assassin and the assassin raised his gun, it's unlikely they would be aiming for the shoulder or foot. It's perfectly plausible that a scenario like this occurred and Michael's men killed everyone.

The movie (or books) don't ever actually say exactly who killed the assassins, but this conversation occurs after the hit:


If we catch these guys do you think we'll be able to find out who's backing them?


That's not the catch -- unless I'm very wrong, they're dead already. They're killed by somebody close to us -- inside. Very, very scared they botched it.


What about your people ROCCO and NERI? You don't think that they had something to do with this.


You see -- all our people are business men, their loyalty is based on that. Now, one thing that I learned from Pop was to try to think as people around you think. Now on that basis, anything's possible.

So Michael certainly suspects an inside man. Given that we later find out Fredo betrayed Michael, that most likely scenario does seem to be that Fredo himself killed the assassins.

To reiterate however, all of this is just speculation, as it is never confirmed in either the films or books.

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Thanks for the dialogue, helps me flesh out another answer. ;-) – Napoleon Wilson Mar 10 '14 at 21:05
You're very welcome! – Andrew Martin Mar 10 '14 at 21:06

I thought the would be assassins were killed by other people in their crew who were supposed to aid their escape. Like a typical conspiracy, the killers are eliminated by a third party so they can't be questioned if caught. Jack Ruby kills the patsy theory. Just my thoughts.

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Provide some citation or source why you think so. – Panther Sep 8 '15 at 3:03

It would have been Fredo's men. Fredo would have told his men to let them in and kill them after the hit. Micheal even says that he doesn't trust the men, and they are just trying to make money.

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In the scene with the bodies in the stream I believe you can see a slit throat because there were no other gun shots. I also don't think Michaels Rocco and Neri did it , they seem very loyal. So maybe Johnny Ola (from Sopranos fame) some how wormed a couple boys in there but the powers that be didn't go into it.

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The bodies are seen by Fredo's wife, who screams hysterically that they were right outside her window, suggesting in turn close proximity between Fredo and the bodies.

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IMO, the most plausible answer would be that Michael's men hunted for, then discovered the shooters, and killed them. However, we don't hear any more gunshots after the bedroom scene, and Michael specifically ordered they be kept alive, so the next most plausible scenario is that pentangeli left one or more men hidden inside the compound (after he left for New York) in order to silence the shooters. It's also possible the shooters killed themselves, especially if they realised they hadn't been successful. I don't see Fredo killing anyone, considering how he handled the attack on his father (Godfather I).

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This question has always bothered me.

It is correct that Fredo doesn't have the stones to kill, maybe, anybody. A killer, and a successful Mafia soldier, has to have a cold-bloodedness that Fredo simply doesn't possess. That has been seen many times. Fredo could have opened the drapes, though. Pentengele leaving men behind (even one) -- that's a pretty good theory. It would explain why Pentengele is defensive later when Michael comes to see him at what was Don Vito's house. "Let's hit 'em now, while we got the muscle" - that line is a little desperate on Frankie's part.

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From Fredos answer to Michaels question about what he could tell him, we learned that Fredo knew they had Pentengeli. Based on that alone it indicates Frito was in on the whole plan from the start, including opening the drapes in Michaels bedroom, the hit and getting rid of the would be assassins.

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Please edit your answer. – CGCampbell Feb 4 '15 at 15:06

Come on, there's no way Fredo had the stones to kill anybody: remember the way he fumbled his pistol when Sollozzo's men tried to kill don Vito? Also, as mentioned above, there's the sheer physical impossibility of Fredo being able to find them, much less kill them, without being noticed -- they guy's no James Bond or Ethan Hunt, he can't even control his wife. Also, Fredo didn't live at the Tahoe compound, so why would he have brought his own muscle to his brother's house, and why would Michael allow them to mingle with the regular security detail even if Fredo had brought them? Either it's a plot hole, or the simplest explanation is that they killed themselves in order to avoid capture; in fact this sort of self-sacrifice is shown later when Rocco kills Roth, knowing the police will probably kill him.

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