tv American History TV CSPAN November 16, 2014 2:21pm-2:54pm EST
judicial decisions, being able to overturn supreme court decisions. referendums on collymore, -- calling war, that the united states would not be able to go to war except in a defensive fashion without a popular referendum. some of those ideas are still being debated today. >> that it shall not corrupt but shall obey the government that guards and protects its rights. neither passive citizenship is not enough. for whatbe aggressive is right if government is to be who areom those addressing what is wrong. >> all weekend, american history tv is joining our charter cable partners to showcase the history of madison, wisconsin.
to learn more about the cities on our 2014 tour, visit www.c-span.org/localcontent. we continue with our look at the history of madison. this is american history tv on c-span3. >> [traffic noises] >> together! >> we were very small when the movement began. ago, 49 yearss ago, those opposed to the war were in a distinct minority. but over the course of the next six years, we would grow into wherejority to the point
the majority of the american people became opposed to the united states being involved in the war in vietnam. we are on the steps of the state capital of wisconsin in madison. this location was significant for two reasons, i think. in the first instant, it is where the first demonstration against the war in vietnam was held in february of 1965. four years later in 1969 and of0, this was the location the massive antiwar demonstrations against the war in vietnam with tens of thousands of people, so that is why this is significant. when the united states started escalating its role in vietnam, i became concerned. i felt the united states should not be attempting to suppress what essentially was a revolution in vietnam. it was a revolution that had begun right after world war ii
by the vietnamese people against their french colonial masters. now the u.s. had taken the place of france and attempted to suppress the revolution. i thought that was wrong, that we should not be sending our soldiers to be killed over there in that connection and we should not be spending money in that connection. we discussed it. not everybody agreed with it. some people at that time among my friends thought the u.s. was right in vietnam. i decided to personally take action in february of 1965. i think it was a friday night. it was right after the united states began bombing north vietnam, which was a massive escalation of the war. >> official u.s. navy films show our bombers plastering north vietnam communication and boat repair facilities. >> the united states have been
there before under president kennedy. but it had not expanded the war period did during that in 1965. i joined with a very few number of people. i think there were 12 of us. we went down here to this spot in front of the statue here and held a vigil against the war in vietnam. it was february in wisconsin. the temperature that evening was brutally cold. it was probably below zero. there was snow, up to about a foot deep in snow, so it was absolutely awful. walked in a us circle around here with placards local males inr, cars came by and started throwing cans of beer at us, so
we knew we were distinctly in the minority. we were aware of that earlier, but this made it awfully clear to us. in 1965 when the united states bombed north vietnam for the of 1955,e, in february opposition to the war was ms. gill -- miniscule. there was hardly anybody opposed to the war in vietnam at that time. by the end of the next six years or so, 66% of the people of madison had expressed opposition to the war in vietnam through a referendum held in madison. >> this is the text of the proposed referendum. it is the policy of the people of the city of madison that there be an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of united states troops from vietnam so that the vietnamese people can determine their own destiny. i and thee beginning,
people i associated with knew there was no way we could persuade the united states to leave vietnam unless we reached a broader part of the population outside of the campuses. it was one thing to get started on the campuses, university of wisconsin, columbia university, in a burst of california berkeley -- university of california berkeley. but you could not stop there. you had to use it as a basis to reach the rest of the population. we knew that from the beginning. the movement grew very slowly through the balance of 1965 and 1966 to the beginning of 1967. to our good fortune, the movement began to accelerate in the spring of 1960's seven. we sent many busloads of people
to the big national antiwar demonstration at the you in building in new york city. from madison. in 1967, an event happened on campus about a mile that way that would have important ramifications for the antiwar movement. >> ♪ almost started a period unlike any other in american history were every week something would change. we had come off the summer of love. the climate was changing. vietnam was becoming more intense. the civil rights movement have moved through much of the sludge of the moment. completelypuses were embroiled in what was going on in the world.
in october, dow chemical company based in michigan was one of the many corporations visiting the university wisconsin campus to try to recruit students to work there after they graduated. it was a process that went on every year. when the 19 city seven fall semester started, the antiwar , probably a few hundred people that were activists , held a protest could there have been one the previous spring. it was not as significant as what would happen on october 18. we plan to hold an act of civil disobedience and stage a sit in in madison. >> october 1967 has been referred to as the dow
demonstration. dow chemical had been to the university of wisconsin to recruit the previous spring. they came back in the fall of 1967 and were notorious as the manufacturers of napalm. we planned a two day demonstration. the first day was going to be an informational picket, which is what it was. the second day was going to be a -in involving civil disobedience in the hallway of the commerce building now known as ingram hall where the dow recruiter was located. >> a few hundred people gathered on the library mall, marched up the famous bascom hill over to the other side and started sitting down inside the commons
building. issueame an interesting of public assembly, civil disobedience, freedom of movement, freedom of speech. because the students who wanted to get their interviews could not get to see the dell people who were there to interview them. campus was pretty divided in terms of faculty. was ae chancellor completely antiwar person who helped start the first teach-in against the war a couple of years earlier. but he was also troubled by the peoples'socking access to something they had a right to do. so he was lost in the moment. he was almost frozen. he did not know how to handle the situation.
as the tensions rose, he called in the city police for the first time. they came to the campus, frombled across the street where the sitdown strike was happening inside the commons building. william sewall, the chancery in -- chancellor, sees this happening from outside his window in bascom hall. >> at the time, there was controversy about what happened when the police moved in. but now with accounts from some of the police officers there, which now verify what the wedents at the doorway said, know when the university of wisconsin officials said to the madison police department that they wanted the students out of cleared, as one madison police officer said years later, he did not tell us how to do it. those of us,
sitting in a to be taken out, expected to besh taken out, dragged out as we were limp. the madison officers came in swinging clubs. at the time, there were claims the officers used clubs to break out windows of the doors and attack students because they met resistance in the doorways. but they had no intent of arresting anyone. to drive the students out of the corridor. >> i was a freshman on campus that fall. i was wearing my first blue jean jacket. i was on the edge of the crowd. i was politically aware but not an activist. i was more of an observer as a young journalist.
i watched the police gather the assembled. -- gather and assemble. i watched the march into the building and watch my classmates come out bloody. it was the first physical confrontation between police and students on a college campus. it started years of more physical confrontation between the doubt -- two sides. >> i was about halfway down the corridor. all i know is that in a matter of what seemed seconds, all the people in front of me disappeared. as we slowly backed out because there was a narrow staircase behind us, i was now at the four or the crowd with five officers approaching. they grabbed me and beat me. i had on a heavy jacket which worked for a well. but eventually, one of the
officers hit me on the base of my spine proved then they went to work on my legs. i needed a few stitches. i survived. studentsly 40 or 50 were injured seriously that day by police. although there were only a few hundred kids in that small corridor where the confrontation happened, by the time it started there were 2000 outside watching. people who came that day uncertain were affected forever by what they saw and started to think more about why an institution would allow this to happen. what are the forces that brought the police to the campus for this confrontation to happen? ofhad an effect on a lot
what a lot of students would feel about the incident and war. in a real represented way and symbolically what was happening to millions of people of our generation who were being disillusioned in one way or another by something having to do with the government and the war. >> in the days following, it led to a student strike that lasted a few days. but when we looked nationally as to what was to happen, a few months later is was to be the sit-in at columbia university. of course, the following year was to be one of the most tragic in our nations history -- patient's history -- nation's history with the assassination of martin luther king, bobby kennedy, followed by the
democratic convention. of course, the following spring there would be a series of more violent demonstrations all over the country. >> the legislature in 1967 blamed the right on the kids. that said it was incited by the protesters in their act of civil disobedience. my study found the exact opposite. it found there were a couple of people in the crowd that might've excited it, but basically it was a police riot. they were ready to pound heads instead of losing control. ofthere was antiwar activity a negative sort going on campus during thevery day school year 1968-1969, particularly early 1969.
windows were broken and so on and so forth. there were thousands of students running around campus engaging in [indiscernible] activities. eriod of the most intense generational struggle in 1967 when the protest happened to august of when the army research center was bombed on campus and a young researcher was killed. >> there was growing frustration that the movement was not ending the war. some people began to say all these antiwar marches, legal, peaceful antiwar marches in madison, new york, washington, d.c., were not accomplish anything. -- or not accomplishing anything. the united states was still involved in vietnam.
this was beginning to engender a certain form of temptation, so to speak. four individuals, of whom i knew three of them, had decided no longer were marches, demonstrations, or referenda or any other height of antiwar activities going to bring the war to an end. .o they took it upon themselves on new year's day of that year, they stolen airplane and dropped about 30 miles northwest of here. onause they dropped these new year's, they began to call themselves the new year's gang. nobody knew who they were. they obtained a lot of explosives. they filled a van with explosives and brought them up here to the loading dock at sterling hall.
but the target they were interested in was not sterling hall, the physics building. it was the army mass research center. this had been funded by the army to find mathematicians to do mathematical research for the army. that is what they were intending to divest the campus of. they parked their van here. they left it here. it blew up and took out a big chunk of sterling hall. it did not touch the army's mathematica research center at sterlingit did blow up hall and kill a doctoral candidate doing research in sterling hall at the time. peoplethree of the four who were in the new year's gang who did this. a young fellow who came
from wilmington, delaware, david fein. he had been active in the antiwar movement at his high school in wilmington. people in the philadelphia movement had gotten to know him, so they sent me a letter saying this guy is great, get him involved in the antiwar movement in madison. another person was carlton armstrong. he had been involved in many demonstrations. his brother was a young high school student by the name of quite armstrong -- dwight armstrong, who i never met. people who knew him said dwight was totally apolitical, he had not a political bone in his body and liked to smoke dope. that is about all they said about him. of the four i knew the best and the person who surprised me he was one of these
four was a fellow by the name of leo burton. he had been a member of the university of wisconsin rowing team and was the sports editor of the student newspaper. i got to know him. i used to talk to him about sports and politics. he did not seem to be ultra left at all in any regard. he seemed like a normal guy. eventually, they caught three of the four and brought them back. three of the four did select a prison terms. what happened after the bombing is it put the antiwar movement in madison into the tank. it took months for the antiwar movement to recover. but peoplely did, were so depressed by what had happened here, a researcher being killed and all of that, that they did not feel inclined to be very active at all.
it was a difficult time for the leaders of the antiwar movement. after 71 and the united states it didwal from vietnam, not regain its level of activity at all. people were involved in the iniwar movement got involved other kinds of pursuits. trade union activity for example. many of the women got involved in the women's liberation movement, women who had been in the antiwar movement. some whose lives returned to normal. there are two things to take from this. one is that things can be done, something can be changed. the united states did leave vietnam, in large part because of the antiwar movement in the united states as well as the vietnamese people themselves.
i think that is a lesson that can be learned. secondly, it takes a lot of hard work. it does not happen overnight, automatically, i think. i think one has to realize you cannot confine movements like this to campuses. whether it be california, madison, or columbia, you have to reach a broader population. hopefully people learned that lesson in madison. the entire madison area had to be reached to convince people to come out against the war. >> all weekend, american history tv is featuring madison, wisconsin. it is one of only two u.s. cities built on a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas. an isthmus. on
our staff recently visited many sites exploring madison's rich history. learn more about madison, wisconsin, all weekend on american history tv. we are in the basement of the wisconsin historical society where we house our museum collections. we are going to look at artifacts elated to the sterling hall bombing of 1970. sterling hall is the physics department on the university of wisconsin campus in madison. it housed the physics department and the army mathematics research center in 1970. the army research center was a think tank for the army. it was created around 1957 to find ways to improve access to the intimate -- enemy, in this case, the vietnam war enemy, and improve weaponry to be more efficient, kill more people when they were at war. in andison campus was
uproar at the time over the vietnam war in general. they tended to focus a lot of their hate -- not hate, but uncomfortableness and anger at the army mathematics research center because they felt they were creating weapons to destroy not only the enemy being soldiers but also civilians. they felt this was not a good approach to the war. these were mathematicians sitting around and doing math to figure out how to improve ratios, for example. they did not think of themselves so much as creating weaponry. there was an attempt to bomb it august 24, 1970. it was the largest domestic terrorism incident until oklahoma city in the united states, so it has some residents nationally. it is not just a local story. they were hoping to close the
center down. the people going after it were part of the new year's eve gained. they were anti-vietnam war. there were four of them. armstrong was considered the leader of the new year's eve gang. he and his brother and the two others were the four people who decided to bomb sterling hall. very much like, mcveigh did in oklahoma city, filled with ammonium nitrate and set off with jet fuel to blow up the building. they were not successful at blowing up the army mathematics research center. they took out the physics lab and the first floor and ended up killing one of the physics of stock girl students -- and postdoctoral students. this was on the second floor. it was saved after the bombing by a professor.
the mathematics research center moved to a new building, the 12 floor, to be safe after the bombing and did not take the sign with them. this professor kind of hid it away. when he retired five or six years ago, offered it to us as a memento of the bombing. development that has come up with a positive make, shall we say, on the vehicle that was involved was that which was suspected earlier. 67 falcon deluxe club wagon. the vehicle is described as being like a volkswagen bus built in a box shape. >> after the bombing, this cylinder block was found in the middle of the street. the police used it as part of the evidence. found in apiece was
flower garden next to sterling hall by someone who came to look at the damage the next day and kept it on his desk as a souvenir until about five years ago. this is a fabulous piece for us. it sort of reflects the power of the bomb in the way it is bent and shaped from the bomb. we find it is a powerful piece for people to look at. they escaped. they heard on the radio early on someone had been killed. they decided to escape to new york city. in new york city, the two splitrs, carl and white, up from leo and david. they all went to canada, but in two groups. carl armstrong was the first captured in canada, in toronto, in february of 1972. so he was on the run for about
18 months before he was captured. he was extradited. it took a year to extradite him because he thought it the whole way, before he came to trial in madison in the fall of 1973. a lot of people felt his action of trying to blow up the army mathematics research center was andod idea and justified the loss of robert was terrible but the statement he was making armstrongant, so carl freedom party, freedom committee also established themselves. there were a lot of protests around the madison state capital with people wearing this t-shirt and this one as well, who felt karl should not go to jail.
so there is a lot of feeling about karl going free. this last piece is a banner that was used in parades. it says to jail the army mathematics research center. we know it was used by a member of the karl armstrong freedom committee. he remembers taking this around to several parades in the fall of 1973 to protest karl's trial. karl is probably still kind of a character. at the trial, he decided to sit with his back to the judge. still, he was convicted. he got 23 years. he served seven of it. the other two, dwight armstrong and david fein were both captured in canada in 1976. they came back and were jailed for about five years. leo burke is still at large. view this as an act of a
person with a depraved mind. we are not looking at the war. we are looking at the tragic death of a brilliant young researcher and the effect on his family. a night watchman is still partially paralyzed. a lot of other injuries were inflected. the loss of the research. that is what has to be looked at. >> the death of robert was significant. the antiwar movement was fighting death in vietnam, so having a death in the antiwar movement was significant. they backed off. it took the wind out of their sails. it also gave a chance for those who did not like the antiwar protests to say you guys are no better than the people you are fighting. you are killing someone, too. it dampened the antiwar movement
and kind of brought it to an end. he definitely brought an end to statementsamatic made by the antiwar movement. i hope they have healed from this. as long as there are people who lived through this and remember being woken up in the middle of the night by the bombing who lived two or three miles away and still felt it and came to town and saw the destruction -- in 1970, this sort of thing did not happen in the united states. you might think we have lived through this a few times now. but at that time, it was new and different. it was something that really rattled madisonians to their core. i think it will rattled those madisonians until that generation has passed away. i think it is part of our history. it is part of what makes madison unique, not that it is a good