Sterling Hall, 40 years on
August 21, 2010 10:02 PM Subscribe
“No, no. Academia is now part of the real world. Everything goes.” Just before dawn, on August 24, 1970
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, Dwight and Karl Armstrong, Leo Burt, and David Fine parked a van
outside Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin. The van was filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, and when it blew
, it killed Robert Fassnacht
, a young physicist working through the night. The Army Mathematics Research Center, the bombing's target, was untouched. The bombers, known as the "New Year's Gang," went underground, and enthusiasm for the radical movement in Madison was permanently dampened. The University of Wisconsin collection of transcribed interviews about the Sterling Hall Bombing
"I think what it’s important to, to realize is that there were dozens, probably hundreds, maybe thousands of Karl Armstrongs out there. There were firebombings constantly. There were probably hundreds of fire bombings a year at that time. There was, you trashing going on constantly. It was inevitable that Army Math was going to be blown up. And I think everybody knew it."
(Sarah O'Brien, student)
"They were going around saying, “Ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh.” And I worked in sociology. And actually I quit that job, because the grad students in one area were flying a big red flag. And they said they were supporting the North Vietnamese against the American soldiers. I tried to talk them into taking the flag down. It didn’t do any good. [laughs] I took an American flag in and hung it in the room that I was working in. And I’m not an American. Canadian."
(Emily Chapman, student)
"Although, during that time, uh, the kids had started to clean up, and we built up quite a retail business in shampoos and started selling an awful lot of shampoos and conditioners. And they started taking care of their hair and their personal appearance again."
(Herbert Eberhardt, barber)
Tom Bates's RADS
is a book-length account of the bombing, and the strange world of radical UW, with undergrads storing explosives in the basements of their fraternity houses, and studying for exams while simultaneously planning firebombings on campus. RADS reviewed in the New York Times in 1992