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Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and Its Aftermath Paperback – September 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial; 1ST edition (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060924284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060924287
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,765,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bates recounts the 1970 bombing of the University of Wisconsin's Army Math Research Center in Madison and examines how this event marked the end of the violent 1960s. Beginning with the bombing itself, which killed a young physicist and caused $6 million in damage, Bates then backtracks to local, national, and international events prior to the explosion. He discusses the obscure terrorist group that set the bomb and tells the story of Karl Armstrong, one of its members. He describes the government crackdown and the FBI hunt for Armstrong. Bates evokes the emotions of the period by analyzing each person's reaction to the events around them. He explores the characters' thoughts in extreme detail, leaving the reader to wonder how such precise information was obtained. Additionally, the large number of participants is confusing, and it is difficult to remember each person's role. Even so, this book is exciting to read and is recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries interested in this time period.
- Jeanine McAdam, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I have purchased this book for both of my children.
Francie
This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in radicalism, historic bombings, or the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s.
Andrew
If it wasn't true, you would have a hard time believing that it all really happened.
Carrie Cupcake Plum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
RADS manages to capture the sometimes-hysterical jollity of the 1960s and hints at why a conservative governor once described the city of Madison as "25 square miles surrounded by reality." Aside from that, the only thing I can add to the preceding reviews is that when RADS was published in 1992, the present-day remnants of Madison's radical community greeted it with outrage. The crux of their criticism seemed to be that Bates portrays Karl Armstrong's motivation as being more personal than political; that he was seduced by the romantic aura of radical activism and lashed out because of deep-seated rage against his father, who had physically abused Karl when he was a boy. Karl Armstrong himself was quoted in a Madison newspaper as calling RADS "bullsh--."
I think there's some validity to the radical criticism, based on the way Bates withholds the fact of the abuse until page 429 of a 446-page book. Revealing it at the end is a trick out of Jerry Springer, one which cheapens the book. On the other hand, I also can't help thinking that the radical criticism came from people who didn't want to admit that the bombing was a foolish, self-destructive act which effectively discredited the antiwar movement in Madison and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the country. By criticizing Bates' ploy, they didn't have to grapple with the wider implications of RADS.
The 1980 film THE WAR AT HOME documents the Madison antiwar movement (including the bombing) from the radical perspective. It implies that the bombing was a logical if tragic response to U.S. government oppression (it includes much disturbing footage of assorted law-enforcement agencies "controlling crowds" with nightsticks and teargas). It's interesting to see the film and read the book and note how they differ in both interpretation and (sometimes) factual detail.
I'd really like to know what happened to Leo Burt, the bomber who was never captured.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Tom Bates presents the bombing of the AMRC within an intriguing, captivating story. As a high school senior, I have not lived through the war and the anti-war movement. Nonetheless, RADS provided me with enough background information to understand the book (based around the bombing) on both the specific level and the larger scheme of things.
Bates introduces the 'romantic' appeal of political radicalism in the late 60s and early 70s logically and insightfully. In addition, throughout the book, the reader gets to know the bombers and the people with whom they interact.
The book does not include any extraneous chapters. Bates has a reason for every section of the book that he includes. Because of this, the book is never slow to read; much of the book is very suspenseful, set up by the well-chosen quotes that begin every chapter.
This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in radicalism, historic bombings, or the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book does a good job describing both the "New Years Gang"'s origins and motivations and the overall mood at UW-Madison in the late 1960's. The UW-Madison campus had at least its share of "activists" in those days. Unfortunately, it also had some misguided townies who were willing to take concrete steps in response to the activists' rhetoric.
The engineering campus tended to be on the sidelines of the activism, and Bate's book fills in some of the blanks from those days. It also provided some of the answers to the questions I had about the incident. The bombing occurred the summer after I graduated from there and two weeks after I was drafted into the Army. The Armstrong trial took place while I was attending grad school at UW after discharge.
There's a number of lessons from this account that would-be bomb makers of any stripe would do well to ponder before going out and blowing up buildings in the name of idealism.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Walter K. Ezell on July 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I knew bombers David Fine and Leo Burt as fellow members of The Daily Cardinal staff and figuratively crossed swords with them at editorial meetings over the strident content of staff-written editorials.

Bates manages to weave together an number of parallel narratives so the book reads like a novel. To do this he gives colorful, sometimes cruel physical descriptions of his characters, reconstructs conversations that took place years earlier, and describes the thoughts of characters, including Leo Burt, who has never been found and whom, we must presume, Bates never had the privilege of interviewing. But Bates understands his role as journalist and historian and with the above reservations, I believe he performed it well.

He documents the role of the Army Math Research Center in advancing the military capabilities of the U.S., and does so with a lucidity and economy of words that I never found in the exposes of Jim Rowen, who investigated the AMRC in the late '60's and helped inspire the bombing.

Rads traces the influence of three well-known UW history professors, including the Marxist Harvey Goldberg. Their conflicting views illustrate the diversity of thinking about anti-war tactics and revolution.

It is interesting to note in this book how many radicals turned to violence after being beaten by police at anti-war demonstrations.

At last this book is the story of Karl Armstrong. The narrative reveals Karl as confused, ambivalent and in every instance incompetent as an anti-war terrorist, fugitive and defendent, whose achievements were made possible by the countervailing bungling and in-fighting of the authorities.
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