Documentary posted online to mark 50th anniversary of Sterling Hall bombing

MADISON — Monday, August 24, 2020 marks 50 years since Sterling Hall was bombed at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.

Photo of plaque dedicated in 2007 to the memory of the 1970 Sterling Hall bombing
In 2007, a plaque was dedicated at Sterling Hall in memory of the bombing which killed a 33-year-old physics researcher.

It was between semesters, in the early morning hours of August 24th, 1970, that a van loaded with six barrels of explosives blew up just outside the East Wing of Sterling Hall. The bombing was carried out by four men in protest of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

The bombing was directed against the Mathematics Research Center, a U.S. Army-funded facility, which was located in the East Wing of Sterling Hall along with the physics and astronomy departments. “Army Math,” as it was known, was despised by many antiwar activists who felt the center was contributing to the death and destruction in Southeast Asia through its research.

A 33-year-old physics researcher named Robert Fassnacht was one of those working late in Sterling Hall when the blast went off. He was killed in the explosion, and four others in the building were injured.

To mark the anniversary, Leemark Communications has posted online for the first time, a documentary entitled “The Bombing of Sterling Hall.”

The 27-minute video was produced in 1998 by Leemark Communications owner Christopher Lee as his graduate project in broadcast journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It looks back at the bombing and examines how some of those involved view the event nearly 30 years later.

One of the highlights of the documentary is the warning phone call to the police. It took a lot of persistence to get access to it, and it is believed to be the first time this audio was made available to the general public.

The program was broadcast statewide by Wisconsin Public Television on March 26, 1999 and has been available on VHS videotape, but this is the first time it has been offered over the internet at no cost.

“The Bombing of Sterling Hall” can be viewed on this Web page, or directly on YouTube’s site at

The video includes interviews with the following people (in alphabetical order):

  • KARL ARMSTRONG — One of the men convicted of the bombing.
  • PHIL BALL — Former member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War; also served on Karl Armstrong Defense Committee.
  • DON BUCHOLTZ — Electronics supervisor for the Astronomy Department at UW-Madison.
  • MEL GREENBERG — One of the attorneys who helped defend Karl Armstrong.
  • HERB HANSON — Retired UW Police Lieutenant and one of the first police officers on the scene.
  • ART HOVE — Former Assistant to the Chancellor of UW-Madison; wrote a history of the campus.
  • MICHAEL MOLNAR — Former Astronomy grad student at UW-Madison, whose nearly completed doctoral research was almost wiped out in the blast and ensuing fire.
  • HUGH RICHARDS — Professor Emeritus of Physics at UW-Madison.
  • MARY TAYLOR — Retired nurse who was working at University Hospital that night.
  • MIKE ZALESKI — Former Assistant State Attorney General who helped prosecute Karl Armstrong.

Leemark Communications develops websites, produces videos and offers computer consulting.

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