Minneapolis newspaper headlines from the summer of 1970

Terror Alert: 1970 offers a well-articulated introduction into a time many of us could not (or can not) grasp understanding of. It's one of those micro topics you might only briefly cover if you take a history class on the 1960s, as I did in college. One immediately makes comparisons to the nature of today's terror attacks vs. the year 1970 upon reading. And as far as Minnesota goes, well, personally I never heard of a string of such bombings! How is it that I missed that about my own home state's history?

The text transitions very nicely from introducing a specific terror threat at a Twins baseball game and linking it with one of the many summers of unrest due to the Vietnam war protests. But are such unexplained bombings linked to Vietnam? Further reading seems to prove confusion of the motives.

When you think of today's terrorists, you think of an outside enemy with fundamentally different ideals invoking fear and disrupting the daily lives of western citizens. We know who they are and why they want to harm our society. But in the case of domestic terrorists, no one seemed to know who or why. What were they hoping to accomplish?

Also puzzling is why certain companies were targeted that had nothing to do with what was happening in the news about war overseas. With an astonishing 400 bomb threats made in just part of the year, how did the public react? Today, we would think of the many violent gun crimes and hear people rally to do something to stop criminals from getting them. But what do you do about bombs? You certainly can't ban something someone will make at home and use to cause serious damage. That isn't rational.

I think these events happening in the year 1970 tells us something. That there was an alarming shift in our culture. It wasn't the nice, complacent 1950s anymore. Any sense of peace and unity seemed scarce with the ever growing “new left” political atmosphere at the end of the 1960s decade. What it comes down to is, who is to blame for these events? Individual actions? Or outside events that drove them to it? In the end, you, the reader must decide for yourself.

Terror Alert: 1970--The Strange Summer of Bomb Threats in Minnesota (e-book)

by Jeff R. Lonto  ISBN: 9781310930829


On August 17, 1970, a dynamite blast in the overnight hours at a downtown Minneapolis federal building, where a Selective Service office among other things was located, caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage, hurled chunks of granite weighing up to 300 pounds into the street and injured a nighttime security guard, the building's only occupant. Five days later, a two-pound stick of dynamite exploded in a wastebasket in the women's rest room at the St. Paul Dayton's department store, seriously injuring one woman. A second, much larger bomb with a timing device was found in a nearby location in the store, and was, thankfully, defused.
 
Then over the next several weeks, residents, area businesses and the police were kept on their toes with phoned-in bomb threats on a daily basis, forcing many evacuations. In some instances, bombs were found, but more often, the threats turned out to be false alarms. One such threat forced the evacuation of a Minnesota Twins baseball game at Metropolitan Stadium on August 25, 1970. About 3,000 of the nearly 17,700 fans actually went out on to the field, against the wishes of law enforcement and team officials, and mingled with the players. Beer and hot dog vendors followed them out there and did brisk business. No bomb was found and the game resumed after a 45 minute delay. It was obviously an entirely different world then.


A couple days later, a woman was quoted in the Minneapolis Star newspaper, "Imagine. Come to Minneapolis and live dangerously. Who would have thought it?"


The bomb scares continued in the Twin Cities. Area hotels, TV stations, and all kinds of businesses had to deal with bomb threats. Actual bombs were found, and quickly removed, from two Minneapolis restaurants. And a young man was literally blown to bits while carrying plastic explosives during a late night thunderstorm and was apparently struck by lightning, damaging a home and a car, but killing only himself in the process. The big mystery was, why was this happening? There was a lot of speculation, but no clear answers.


Twin Cities-based historian Jeff R. Lonto recounts that turbulent summer at the height of the Vietnam War era through vintage newspaper accounts, and shows what a completely different world it was thirty-one years before the 9/11 terror attacks.



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"Terror Alert: 1970" e-book cover

Reader review by Erin Brew