Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview
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28 Robert Bolivar DePugh and the Minutemen

See that old man at the corner where you buy your papers? He may have a silencer- equipped pistol under his coat. That fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman that calls on you might be a cyanide gas gun. What about your milkman? Arsenic works slow but sure. Your automobile mechanic may stay up nights studying booby traps. These patriots are not going to let you take their freedom away from them. They have learned the silent knife, the strangler's cord, the target rifle that hits sparrows at 200 yards. Only their leaders restrain them. Traitors, beware! Even now the cross-hairs are on the back of your necks.

Printed on black-bordered letterhead entitled "In Memoriam," this message has been distributed by the Minutemen, an extreme-right para-military organization. Along with other groups such as the Ku Klux Klans, neo-Nazis, and organizations identified with the extreme left such as the Black Panthers, the Minutement created a climate of fear and apprehension during the 1960s and afterwards.

The disconcerting quotation (originally published in the March 15, 1963, issue of the Minutemen newsletter, On Target) became a part of the organization's logo and was printed on three-inch-square stickers under the outline of a rifle's crosshairs and the slogan "Traitors, Beware." It was but one example of the group's talent for attracting attention and sending panic through the ranks of its enemies. No other modern extremist group, except perhaps the Ku Klux Klan, engaged the imagination of its opposition more thoroughly. It was but an example of the genius demonstrated by its leader for generating law enforcement attention and journalistic scrutiny. But like almost everything else the Minutemen did in its roughly ten years of active existence, it was entirely counterproductive.

* * *

The Minutemen organization was founded in 1960 by Robert Bolivar DePugh, then a forty-seven-year-old chemist from Norborne, Missouri. The story has often been repeated that the impetus for the group developed out of a conversation between DePugh and his friends while on a duck hunting trip. Supposedly, one hunter remarked jokingly, in reference to world events, that if the Communists ever invaded the United States, outdoor groups like DePugh's hunting party could easily turn into guerrilla bands and fight from the hills. This led to a sober dis

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