The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Paranoia as Patriotism:
Far-Right Influences on the Militia Movement

Robert DePugh and The Minutemen

Robert DePugh, 72, came into prominence in the early 1960s as founder of the Minutemen - a secretive, extreme right-wing group that perceived an impending Communist takeover of the U.S. and organized violent "counteraction" to prevent the alleged takeover. Organized into secret cells of five to 15 members, the Minutemen stockpiled weapons and trained together to defend the country against what they deemed "subversives." In scattered incidents throughout the U.S. during the 1960s, armed Minutemen clashed with law enforcement authorities and private citizens.

Minutemen carrying out DePugh's orders and objectives placed armed caches in various locations around the country. They attracted notoriety when this military equipment was discovered by law enforcement. In October 1966, for example, 19 New York Minutemen were arrested in raids and accused of planning to bomb and burn three summer camps in the New York metropolitan area, which the Minutemen claimed were being used by "Communist, left-wing, and liberal" individuals. Huge supplies of weapons and explosives - including rifles, pipe bombs, mortars, machine guns, grenade launchers and a bazooka - were uncovered. Because of faulty search warrants, however, the charges against the Minutemen were dropped in 1971, after lengthy court proceedings.

In addition, the Minutemen used threats against their perceived enemies. In one incident, DePugh's monthly publication, On Target, listed the names of 20 Congressmen who had criticized the then-active House Committee on Un-American Activities, warning: "Traitors beware! Even now the cross hairs are on the back of your necks."

In February 1968, DePugh went underground after a Federal grand jury in Seattle indicted him and seven other Minutemen on charges of conspiring to rob a bank. Federal agents captured DePugh and an associate 17 months later as they were leaving a hideout in Truth-or-Consequences, New Mexico. In July 1969, DePugh was sentenced to an 11-year prison term for firearms violations, bond jumping, and breaking Federal fugitive gun control laws.

DePugh's incarceration signalled the end of the Minutemen as a significant presence among the radical right in America. Following his release from prison in May 1973, DePugh attempted to revive his stature in the hate movement, first by affiliating himself briefly with Liberty Lobby, the leading anti-Semitic propaganda organization in the country, and then by collaborating with United Klans of America leader Robert Shelton on an unsuccessful project called "the Committee of Ten Million."

In June 1992, John Grady, leader of the American Pistol and Rifle Association (APRA) - a far-right alternative to the National Rifle Association - appealed to "Selected Patriots" to initiate a letter-writing campaign to overturn DePugh's conviction on other weapons violations. According to press accounts, DePugh had been convicted on two counts of weapons possession by a felon and one count of possessing an unregistered machine gun following a September 1991 Iowa arrest on charges of sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl and misdemeanor possession of of child pornography. No further details on these charges have been reported since. (Anti-Defamation League, 15-16)

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