Sterling Hall Bombing - One killed

Police and firemen carry the body of Robert Fassnacht, 33, from Sterling Hall at the UW-Madison campus on Aug. 24, 1970. The graduate student was killed by a bomb that extensively damaged several other buildings.

The Capital Times archives

The bombing of UW-Madison's Sterling Hall has its 40th anniversary this Tuesday, and historians want to hear from people who lived through it.

A "story booth" will be set up this week in Memorial Library, 728 State St., to collect audio and video remembrances.

"We hope anyone with a story, no matter how small or detailed, takes the time to sit down and get it preserved," said Troy Reeves, director of the university's Oral History Program.

The bombing in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 24, 1970, was a watershed moment in Madison and in a country torn by anti-Vietnam War protests. Investigators said a group of campus radicals, called the New Year's Gang, targeted the Army Math Research Center in Sterling Hall to protest the war. Three men went to prison for their roles in the bombing; one, Leo Burt, was never caught.

The explosion damaged 26 buildings and killed Robert Fassnacht, a 33-year-old physics researcher who was working late in the building. Army Math ended up being the least damaged part of the building.

Reeves said he and the booth's other organizer, the Wisconsin Story Project, hope to hear from at least 100 people, young and old, who were in Madison that day.

"The noise was so loud that it was heard throughout the town," he said.

Participants can show up anytime during the day to record their stories. The booth will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, beginning Monday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The booth records audio and video and only requires visitors to hit a red button and start talking, he said.

The Wisconsin Story Project hopes to use the recordings for a play or other public performance focusing on student protests of that era, focusing on the Sterling Hall bombing. The Oral History Project will then archive the recordings and make them available online, Reeves said.

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