Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and Its Aftermath

Tom Bates, Author
Tom Bates, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (465p) ISBN 978-0-06-016754-7
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
In 1969-1970 a radical group called the New Year's Gang protested U.S. involvement in Vietnam with a series of firebombings in Madison, Wisconsin, which climaxed in the destruction of the Army Math Research Center and several other buildings on the University of Wisconsin campus. The August 24, 1970, explosion took the life of a physicist, injured several people and destroyed valuable research material. The core members of the gang, led by Karl Armstrong, fled to Canada, where they found refuge in Toronto's antiwar underground. Arrested in 1972, they were extradited to Wisconsin, tried and convicted. Bates, a University of Wisconsin student at the time, traces the events leading up to the bombing and its aftermath with insight into the passionate but often ill-formed thinking of these campus activists. The bombing, he remarks, ``demonstrated anew what an inexact science violence is as an instrument of change, what terrible and unexpected side effects it has.'' His narrative of the bombing and the flight, capture and trial of the culprits, is absorbing, but what renders the book memorable is his brilliant re-creation of the protest movement and the self-defeating tactics of both the militants and the authorities. Bates is a former editor of the Los Angeles Times. (Nov.)