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Madison History: Sterling Hall Bombing
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Madison History: Sterling Hall Bombing

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Visiting the UW-Madison campus today, it would be hard to believe that it was the scene of the most powerful and the most damaging domestic terrorist bombing in the U.S. up until 1995.

Early in the morning of Aug. 24, 1970, four anti-Vietnam War radicals — Karleton Armstrong, his brother Dwight Armstrong, David Fine and Leo Burt — used a van filled with almost a ton of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil to bomb Sterling Hall, killing researcher Robert Fassnacht and injuring three others.

The target of the blast was the Army Mathematics Research Center, which only suffered minor damage in the bombing, while the most damage was to the university's physics department, where Fassnacht was working.

The blast was so powerful that it was heard in Belleville, 30 miles from the heart of the University campus. Pieces of the stolen 1967 Ford Deluxe Club Wagon that had held the bomb were found on top of an eight-story building three blocks away.

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Only 18 days away from the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, Madison on Wednesday is quietly commemorating the 41st anniversary of one of its darkest days: the bombing of Sterling Hall on the UW campus.

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