RADS by Tom Bates


The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and Its Aftermath
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 Bates (former senior editor at The Los Angeles Times) sifts through evidence from the 1970 bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, building up a portrait of the radicalization of the bombers and describing how the explosion- -which took the life of a talented young physicist--ironically defused and disheartened the already flickering radical-left movement of the 60's. On August 23, 1970, physicist Bob Fassnacht was toiling in his laboratory on the Wisconsin campus. At 3:42 a.m., a bomb went off and Fassnacht was killed, leaving behind a wife, a three-year-old son, and one-year-old twin daughters. Cooked up by self-proclaimed ``The New Year's Gang,'' the bomb injured several other people, destroyed much equipment and years of priceless research, and damaged surrounding buildings. Hours after the explosion, police in the next county picked up the bombers: Karl Armstrong, Dwight Armstrong, Leo Burt, and David Fine. Unable to get a holding order, the cops had to release the suspects, who fled to Canada, where they lived underground for years. Bates portrays Karl Armstrong, who built the bomb out of fertilizer and fuel oil, as a gentle, blue-collar abused child. Feckless, rather slow Karl nonetheless had a zealot's faith in the radical rhetoric he used to justify the bombing--rhetoric that galvanized a generation but that today seems, as Bates says, ``dangerously puerile.'' All the suspects eventually were arrested and served time, except for Leo Burt, who was never found; today, Karl Armstrong makes a living by selling fruit juice on the steps of the University of Wisconsin library. A thorough, temperate account--yet Bates satisfies our intellects without providing quite enough drama to stir our hearts. (Sixteen pages of b&w photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-016754-8
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992