The Bombing of Sterling Hall


In these pictures you can see where the bricks are different colors from when the wall was repaired.

Plaque dedicated Friday May 18, 2007
Fassnacht's twin daughters Heidi and Karin attended the dedication,
his widow and son did not.

Monday, August 24, 1970, 3:40AM Madison, WI
The most powerful and the most damaging domestic terrorist bombing in the United States up until that point happened at Sterling Hall on the campus of the University of Wisconsin here in Madison. The target was the Army Math Research Center, housed in the building. A researcher working in the building, Robert Fassnacht, was killed in the blast. The blast, audible in Belleville 30 miles away, was so powerful that pieces of the stolen Ford Econoline van containing the ANFO bomb landed atop an eight-story building three blocks away. Twenty-six buildings in the area sustained damage.

Four Madison men were eventually sought in connection with the bombing. Karl Armstrong, the leader of the group, was arrested in Canada in 1972, fought extradition, and eventually agreed to a plea deal that got him a 23 year prison sentence. He was paroled in 1980. David Fine, who was only 17 at the time of the blast, was captured in 1976 and served three years. Armstrong's brother, Dwight, remained on the run until 1977. After his arrest, he made a deal for a seven-year sentence, he was also paroled in 1980. The fourth conspirator, Leo Burt, has never been found.

Protests of the United States involvement in Vietnam started in Madison, mostly by students on the University of Wisconsin campus in the late 1960s. By 1970 the protests had become frequent, some violent. Many students perceived that the police and university officials preferred tear-gassing first and asking questions later. The Sterling Hall bombers wanted to make a more powerful statement than merely marching, by targeting a military installation on the UW campus. And so they stole a truck and built a bomb, the same type that used in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

After The bombing of Sterling Hall the antiwar demonstrations in Madison seemed to simply stop.

Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and Its Aftermath Tom bates (1992)

The Madison Bombings: The Story of One of the Two Largest Vehicle-Bombings Ever Michael Morris (1988)