Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mike's Memories: Radical

Before graduating from OSU that May of 1971, the Army had cancelled all deferments for for college students and replaced the current draft system with the lottery. In January a lottery drawing was held on national television. Numbers were drawn much like a lotto with ping pong balls with birthdays from January 1 to December 31 listed on them. These were placed on a board in order. We were told that anyone with a birthdate drawn in the first 110 should expect to be drafted immediately and after that the higher the drawing order the the less your chances of ever getting drafted. We watched with another couple. I drew number "17" and his birthday was "300+". I received a letter for a physical two weeks later. I was in my last semester and was going to Vietnam instead of graduating. So, I joined the Oklahoma National Guard, 120th Combat Engineers and traded 2 years in the Army for 6 years in the Guard, but with a degree!

Part 1

In August, 1971 I arrived at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri for Army Basic Training. ECCO Company was made up of a combination of 18 year olds going into the regular army and college grads just out of school. In basic the normal forms of conversation revolved around girls, getting drunk and cars. I was married, did not drink, and easily bored. Three of us in the company became friends, James Jensen, Harold Harris and me. (JJ, HH & MM!) Jensen was a skinny pale, college dropout from Chicago but well read, Harold was a black North Carolina grad and I was a small town Oklahoma boy with an Architecture degree. James and I really hit it off because we liked current events and politics, read newspapers daily and he knew more about Architectural history than I did. he would tell me stories of going to Woodstock, and voter registration drives in the south in the 60's and Campus riots. I did not believe him but they were good stories. We set up nights arguing politics, and he once told me, "Mike, if you want to vote for a president, you had better vote in the 72 elections because those elections will be the last! Revolution was coming. "

James also constantly pushed the Drill Sargent (DI) buttons by messing up in exercises and falling back in runs. However, on the rifle range he, from day one, shot almost perfect "bull's eye" every time, every shot!. The D I would overlook his other failings because James would represent our company in the M16 qualifying contests. The day of qualifying he barely passed! He made the minimum score to pass!

I went to the hospital one night with 104 temperature and stayed for three days. During that time he showed up every night after lights out (breaking many rules) and brought me copies of the Chicago Tribune.

In October after the first part of basic, I remained at Leonard Wood in Combat Engineering and James and Harold went to Fort Polk for Infantry training. I got a letter from Harold in November saying that James was AWOL!

Part 2

I arrived back in Muskogee in December to resume my job and in January came home from work one day to find 2 FBI agents in our home with a puzzled Carol as host. They stated that the Army had identified me as a friend of James Jensen. I said yes. Then as Paul Harvey once said, they told me "the rest of the story". James was actually Ronald Kaufman, a Federal fugitive, a member of the Weather Underground, a ARMY VETERAN and instead of being a college dropout he had a PHD from Stanford, a Masters from Wisconsin & a bachelor's from the University of Illinois. During the Chicago riots at 1968 Democratic Convention, Abbie Hoffman used "James's "apartment as a crash pad. His nickname was "Abbie's Jewish Momma!"

It seems my good friend James had placed time bombs in safe deposit boxes in eight New York, Chicago and San Francisco banks in July of 71, and "rejoined" the army as a place to hide out and learn about C4 explosives! His fingerprints matched those of the AWOL James. He had sent letters to various newpapers telling taht bombs were in the local banks and that in the future bombs would be embedded in the foudations of buildings under construction! His letters warned that future bombs would be of plastique explosives (C4) and news reports later said that the bombs were very advanced because the timers used could be set months in advance instead of hours.

They told me that all this was about to become public. They cautioned me that if he came to Muskogee to visit, I would be harboring a fugitive! All I could think of was how good he was with guns! It was all like a movie!

2 weeks later Time magazine had pictures of him with Abbie Hoffman, copies of threatening letters and stories of his exploits (many of which he had told me). I didn't think anyone had been all those places. I was wrong! He was wrong also. I have voted many times since 1972, but I do not ever forget his statements. I still have pictures of Jensen and I and the Time articles and radio copy of his story that was on a radio show called Life Line.

Yes, I once knew one of the 60's radicals.

Part 3

One day in the late 80's I was in my car listening to the radio news, when the reporter mentioned that a SDS radical fugitive on the FBI 10 Most Wanted list was captured in California after 20 years in hiding. James (or Ronald) was working as a janitor in a California School!

1 comment:

Steve Esposito said...


Sent you an email about this story last night. I am researching those bank attacks for a story for FEE.Org and was wondering if you could fill in some gaps for me.

Thank you,