Book Review: Terrorist Attacks on American Soil: From the Civil War Era to the Present


by J. Michael Martinez

Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. Pp. xii, 476. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $61.00. ISBN: 1442203234

The Long History of Terrorism in America

Although most Americans think terrorism is something unknown in our country until recently, Martinez, an attorney with a string of books to his credit that touch upon law, rights, and history, including Carpetbaggers, Cavalry, and the Ku Klux Klan: Exposing the Invisible Empire During Reconstruction andComing for to Carry Me Home: Race in America from Abolitionism to Jim Crow, reminds us that it has a long history in America, though until recently we have usually been quick to put it behind us.  In a dozen chapters he examines notable cases of terrorist incidents in America, most of which were well known in their day, yet are largely forgotten today .

The events covered are the Mountain Meadows Massacre (1857), the Confederate Yellow Fever plot (1864-1865), the Colfax Massacre (1873) , the Los Angeles Times bombing (1910), the Wall Street “Wagon Bomb” (1920), the Truman assassination attempt (1950), the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing (1963), the “Weather” underground (1960s), the “Unabomber” (1970s-1990s), the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), the Atlanta Olympics Bombing (1996), and of course the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda

While he certainly could have chosen differently (the Black Tom explosion or some other act by German agents in the world wars might have been included), his selection allows Martinez to profile a broad range of perpetrators. So we get religious fanatics of various stripes, white racists, who are actually responsible for more acts of domestic terrorism than anyone else, deluded ultra-patriots, radical anarchists, enemy agents, mentally unstable loners, and more.

Martinez opens each chapter with the circumstances that led to the incident. He then looks at the perpetrators, trying to understand what they saw as their objectives and their choice of tactics.   There follows a concise account of the incident as it unfolded, the official response, the consequences of the event, and any lessons to be learned. 

While Martinez hardly covers more than a handful of terror attacks on American soil, his examples more or less cover the varying nature of these events and the people who committed them, making this a profitable read for the concerned citizen.


Note:  Terrorist Attacks on American Soil is also available as an e-Book, $59.99, ISBN 978-1-4422-0324-2

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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