National Guard kills four students in Kent State shootings

National Guard kills four students in Kent State shootings


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On May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio, 28 National Guardsmen fire their weapons at a group of anti-war demonstrators on the Kent State University campus, killing four students, wounding eight, and permanently paralyzing another. The tragedy was a watershed moment for a nation divided by the conflict in Vietnam, and further galvanized the anti-war movement.

Two days earlier, on May 2, National Guard troops were called to Kent to suppress students rioting in protest of the Vietnam War and the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The next day, scattered protests were dispersed by tear gas, and on May 4 class resumed at Kent State University. By noon that day, despite a ban on rallies, some 2,000 people had assembled on the campus. National Guard troops arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse, fired tear gas, and advanced against the students with bayonets fixed on their rifles. Some of the protesters, refusing to yield, responded by throwing rocks and verbally taunting the troops.

READ MORE: Kent State Shootings: A Timeline of the Tragedy

Minutes later, without firing a warning shot, the Guardsmen discharged more than 60 rounds toward a group of demonstrators in a nearby parking lot, killing four and wounding nine. The closest casualty was 20 yards away, and the farthest was almost 250 yards away. After a period of disbelief, shock, and attempts at first aid, angry students gathered on a nearby slope and were again ordered to move by the Guardsmen. Faculty members were able to convince the group to disperse, and further bloodshed was prevented.

The shootings led to protests on college campuses across the country. Photographs of the massacre became enduring images of the anti-war movement. In 1974, at the end of a criminal investigation, a federal court dropped all charges levied against eight Ohio National Guardsmen for their role in the Kent State students’ deaths.


Kent State massacre: 50 years since four students were killed by the National Guard

Ohio National Guard soldiers move in on war protestors at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio in 1970.

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KENT, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students during a war protest at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Four students were killed, and nine others were injured. Not all of those hurt or killed were involved in the demonstration, which opposed the U.S. bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The confrontation, sometimes referred to as the May 4 massacre, was a defining moment for a nation sharply divided over the protracted war, in which more than 58,000 Americans died. It sparked a strike of 4 million students across the U.S., temporarily closing some 900 colleges and universities. The events also played a pivotal role, historians argue, in turning public opinion against the conflicts in Southeast Asia.

In the hours immediately after the shootings, reporters at the chaotic scene struggled to determine who had fired the shots and why. Among the theories was that Guard members shot after spotting a sniper, a theory later proved untrue.

Kent State’s campus, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of downtown Cleveland, will be still on the 50th anniversary Monday. An elaborate multi-day commemoration was canceled because of social distancing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some events, activities and resources are being made available online.

Fifty years after the events, the AP is making some of its photos and a version of its text coverage from the time available.

An official of the Ohio Highway Patrol today disputed reports from the Ohio National Guard that a sniper was spotted by police helicopter before Guardsmen shot four Kent State University students to death Monday during an antiwar demonstration.

The university, ordered evacuated after the shooting, was virtually deserted this morning and under heavy police and military guard.

Earlier, fire destroyed a barn and several farm tractors in one corner of the campus, and fire officials said they believed the blaze was deliberately set.

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said after the shootings that, “At the approximate time of the firing on the campus, the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Today, a patrol official, Maj. D. E. Manly, said, “There is nothing on the log on the sighting.” Manly said if patrolmen in the helicopter circling the campus had seen a gunman it would have been recorded.

Guard officials claimed Monday and again today that the Guardsmen were returning the fire of a small caliber weapon in defense of their lives. A student crowd had surrounded some 30 Guardsmen and were throwing rocks and chunks of concrete at them.

The Justice Department and officials of the National Guard launched separate investigations of the gunfire outburst which took the lives of two girls and two young men.

Miss Allison Krause, 19, Pittsburgh, Pa. Miss Sandy Lee Scheuer, 20, Youngstown, Ohio Jeffrey G. Miller, 20, Plainview, N.Y., and William K. Schroeder, 19, Lorain, Ohio.

Portage County Coroner Dr. Robert Sybert said all four had been shot from the side, “left to right.” All died of a single bullet wound, he said.

Miss Krause was hit in the left shoulder, Miss Scheurer in the neck, Schroeder in the left underside of the chest and Miller in the head.

Dr. Sybert said the final autopsy report wouldn’t be completed for about a week.

Three students remained in critical condition today. One of them, Dean Kahler, of East Canton, Ohio, was paralyzed from the waist down, according to Paul Jacobs, administrator at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.

Eight other persons, including two guardsmen were hospitalized. One of the two guardsmen was treated for shock and the other had collapsed from exhaustion.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, called editorially for “an immediate investigation and prompt steps to prevent a recurrence of the most tragic campus violence ever in the United States.

“Many questions will have to be answered: Why were these people shot? Who shot first? How could these deaths have been avoided?

President Nixon deplored the campus deaths. In a White House statement, he said:

“This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.”

The campus and the City of Kent were sealed off following the shootings.

School officials ordered the faculty, staff and 19,000 students to leave. Classes were suspended indefinitely by University President Robert I. White.

Later, Portage County Prosecutor Ronald Kane, armed with a court injunction, officially closed the university until further notice.

Patrols of guardsmen and state patrolmen roamed the campus and blocked all entrances Monday night.

Businesses in the City of Kent and the approaches to the city were cordoned by police and guardsmen.

Nixon said that he would order a Justice Department investigation if the state so requested and Gov. James A. Rhodes then asked for the FBI to carry out an inquiry.

The governor had ordered the Ohio National Guard to the campus Saturday night following a demonstration by some 1,000 students during which the Army ROTC building was destroyed by fire.

Jerry Stoklas, 20, a campus newspaper photographer, said he witnessed the shootings from a rooftop.

He said about 400 students were harassing the guardsmen and “they turned and opened fire. I saw five people go down.”

Other witnesses said the demonstrators were pelting the guardsmen with rocks and chunks of concrete.

Stoklas said the troops had backed away, but the demonstrators followed. He said the guardsmen had “turned around several times, apparently trying to scare them.”

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said 20 to 30 rounds of MI rifle ammunition were fired.

“At the approximate time of the firing on the campus,” he added. “the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Some students contended the “sniper” actually was one of several student photographers atop Taylor Hall.

Guard spokesmen said 900 to 1,000 persons had been involved in the demonstration at the university’s Commons and that guardsmen had exhausted their tear gas supply in dispersing the crowd.

The state’s National Guard commander, Adj. Gen. Sylvester T. Del Corso, said the troops began firing from semiautomatic rifles after a rooftop sniper had shot at them.

Gene Williams, a member of the student newspaper staff, said he saw the troops turn “in unison, as if responding to a command,” and fire into the crowd.

Brig. Gen. Robert H. Canterbury, who was in direct command of the guard contingent on the campus, said no order was given to shoot.

“A military man always has the option to fire if he feels his life is in danger,” he said. “The crowd was moving in on the men on three sides.

“The shooting lasted about two or three seconds. Officers at the scene immediately called for a cease-fire.”

Canterbury said an investigation into the shooting would attempt to determine which guardsmen fired first, what others fired and actually hit students, and how many rounds of ammunition they expended.

The shooting climaxed student demonstration and disturbances on the campus and in the city that began Friday in the wake of President Nixon’s address to the nation Thursday night on sending U.S. troops into Cambodia.

About 500 students attended a peaceful demonstration on the campus at noon Friday but late that night about 500 persons, most of them students, went on a rampage downtown. Bonfires were set in the streets and several windows of stores and cars were broken.

About 1,000 students demonstrated on the campus Saturday night and some of them set fire to the ROTC building with railroad flares. That was when the National Guard, which had been on standby at Akron, was ordered to the city.

About 1,200 students staged a sit-in at a street intersection Sunday night in defiance of an emergency order from Rhodes banning any outdoor meetings in the city or on the campus. They were driven back to the campus by guardsmen with bayonets on their rifles.

Earlier Sunday night the guard used tear gas in breaking up a march on the campus by an estimated 1,500 students who were violating the governor’s emergency order.


Kent State Shootings

In May 1970, students protesting the bombing of Cambodia by United States military forces, clashed with Ohio National Guardsmen on the Kent State University campus. When the Guardsmen shot and killed four students on May 4, the Kent State Shootings became the focal point of a nation deeply divided by the Vietnam War.

By 1970, thousands of people in the United States were actively protesting the Vietnam War. There were numerous reasons why these protests took place. Some of the prominent ones included revelations that former President Lyndon Baines Johnson had misled the U.S. public about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in late 1964. The ending of college deferments, which previously had exempted most college students from the draft and service in Vietnam, further contributed to the protests. Finally, revelations that the United States military was bombing and sending troops into Cambodia, a country neighboring North and South Vietnam, and the increasing number of U.S. casualties further angered many people.

Numerous people protested the Vietnam War for these and other reasons as well. These protests usually were peaceful and included such things as burning draft cards, fleeing to Canada or some other country to escape the draft, protest rallies and marches, or simply remaining enrolled in college to avoid the draft. However, even peaceful protests sometimes turned violent, as United States involvement in the Vietnam War divided the United States public.

The most well known protest involving the Vietnam War occurred at Kent State University in Ohio in May 1970. On May 1, Kent State students held an anti-war protest. That evening several incidents occurred, including rocks and bottles being thrown at police officers and the lighting of bonfires. These incidents led to the closure of bars by authorities before normal closing time to reduce alcohol consumption. Eventually students, other anti-war activists, and common criminals began to break windows and loot stores.

The mayor of Kent, Leroy Satrom, declared a state of emergency on May 2. He requested that Governor James A. Rhodes send the Ohio National Guard to Kent to help maintain order. Rhodes agreed, and the National Guard members began to arrive the evening of May 2. As the soldiers arrived, they found the Reserve Officer Training Corps building at Kent State University in flames. It is unclear who set the building on fire. It may have been anti-war protesters, but it also could have been someone seeking to have the protesters blamed. Interestingly, Kent State officials had already boarded up the ROTC building and were planning to raze it. Protesters were celebrating the building's destruction as fire fighters arrived. The protesters, who included both students and non-students, jeered the fire fighters and even sliced the hoses that the fire fighters were using to extinguish the flames. National Guard members arrived to reestablish order and resorted to tear gas to disperse the protesters.

On May 3, approximately one thousand National Guard soldiers were on the Kent State campus. Tensions remained high, and Governor Rhodes further escalated them by accusing the protesters of being unpatriotic. He proclaimed, "They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." Some Kent State students assisted local businesses and the city in cleaning up damage from the previous night's activities, but other students and non-students continued to hold protests, further exacerbating the situation. The National Guard continued to break up these demonstrations, including threatening students with bayonets.

On May 4, a Monday, classes resumed at Kent State. Anti-war protesters scheduled a rally for noon at the campus. University officials attempted to ban the gathering but proved unsuccessful in their efforts. As the protest began, National Guard members fired tear gas at the demonstrators. Due to wind, the tear gas proved ineffective. Some of the protesters threw the canisters, along with rocks, back at the soldiers. Some of the demonstrators yelled slogans, such as "Pigs off campus!", at the soldiers.

Eventually seventy-seven guardsmen advanced on the protesters with armed rifles and bayonets. Protesters continued to throw things at the soldiers. Twenty-nine of the soldiers, purportedly fearing for their lives, eventually opened fire. The gunfire lasted just thirteen seconds, although some witnesses contended that it lasted more than one minute. The troops fired a total of sixty-seven shots. When the firing ended, nine students lay wounded, and four other students had been killed. Two of the students who died actually had not participated in the protests.


AP Was There: National Guard kills 4 students at Kent State

KENT, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students during a war protest at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Four students were killed, and nine others were injured. Not all of those hurt or killed were involved in the demonstration, which opposed the U.S. bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The confrontation, sometimes referred to as the May 4 massacre, was a defining moment for a nation sharply divided over the protracted war, in which more than 58,000 Americans died. It sparked a strike of 4 million students across the U.S., temporarily closing some 900 colleges and universities. The events also played a pivotal role, historians argue, in turning public opinion against the conflicts in Southeast Asia.

In the hours immediately after the shootings, reporters at the chaotic scene struggled to determine who had fired the shots and why. Among the theories was that Guard members shot after spotting a sniper, a theory later proved untrue.

Kent State’s campus, about 30 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland, will be still on the 50th anniversary Monday. An elaborate multi-day commemoration was canceled because of social distancing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some events, activities and resources are being made available online.

Fifty years after the events, the AP is making some of its photos and a version of its text coverage from the time available.

An official of the Ohio Highway Patrol today disputed reports from the Ohio National Guard that a sniper was spotted by police helicopter before Guardsmen shot four Kent State University students to death Monday during an antiwar demonstration.

The university, ordered evacuated after the shooting, was virtually deserted this morning and under heavy police and military guard.

Earlier, fire destroyed a barn and several farm tractors in one corner of the campus, and fire officials said they believed the blaze was deliberately set.

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said after the shootings that, “At the approximate time of the firing on the campus, the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Today, a patrol official, Maj. D. E. Manly, said, “There is nothing on the log on the sighting.” Manly said if patrolmen in the helicopter circling the campus had seen a gunman it would have been recorded.

Guard officials claimed Monday and again today that the Guardsmen were returning the fire of a small caliber weapon in defense of their lives. A student crowd had surrounded some 30 Guardsmen and were throwing rocks and chunks of concrete at them.

The Justice Department and officials of the National Guard launched separate investigations of the gunfire outburst which took the lives of two girls and two young men.

Miss Allison Krause, 19, Pittsburgh, Pa. Miss Sandy Lee Scheuer, 20, Youngstown, Ohio Jeffrey G. Miller, 20, Plainview, N.Y., and William K. Schroeder, 19, Lorain, Ohio.

Portage County Coroner Dr. Robert Sybert said all four had been shot from the side, “left to right.” All died of a single bullet wound, he said.

Miss Krause was hit in the left shoulder, Miss Scheurer in the neck, Schroeder in the left underside of the chest and Miller in the head.

Dr. Sybert said the final autopsy report wouldn’t be completed for about a week.

Three students remained in critical condition today. One of them, Dean Kahler, of East Canton, Ohio, was paralyzed from the waist down, according to Paul Jacobs, administrator at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.

Eight other persons, including two guardsmen were hospitalized. One of the two guardsmen was treated for shock and the other had collapsed from exhaustion.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, called editorially for “an immediate investigation and prompt steps to prevent a recurrence of the most tragic campus violence ever in the United States.

“Many questions will have to be answered: Why were these people shot? Who shot first? How could these deaths have been avoided?

President Nixon deplored the campus deaths. In a White House statement, he said:

“This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.”

The campus and the City of Kent were sealed off following the shootings.

School officials ordered the faculty, staff and 19,000 students to leave. Classes were suspended indefinitely by University President Robert I. White.

Later, Portage County Prosecutor Ronald Kane, armed with a court injunction, officially closed the university until further notice.

Patrols of guardsmen and state patrolmen roamed the campus and blocked all entrances Monday night.

Businesses in the City of Kent and the approaches to the city were cordoned by police and guardsmen.

Nixon said that he would order a Justice Department investigation if the state so requested and Gov. James A. Rhodes then asked for the FBI to carry out an inquiry.

The governor had ordered the Ohio National Guard to the campus Saturday night following a demonstration by some 1,000 students during which the Army ROTC building was destroyed by fire.

Jerry Stoklas, 20, a campus newspaper photographer, said he witnessed the shootings from a rooftop.

He said about 400 students were harassing the guardsmen and “they turned and opened fire. I saw five people go down.”

Other witnesses said the demonstrators were pelting the guardsmen with rocks and chunks of concrete.

Stoklas said the troops had backed away, but the demonstrators followed. He said the guardsmen had “turned around several times, apparently trying to scare them.”

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said 20 to 30 rounds of MI rifle ammunition were fired.

“At the approximate time of the firing on the campus,” he added. “the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Some students contended the “sniper” actually was one of several student photographers atop Taylor Hall.

Guard spokesmen said 900 to 1,000 persons had been involved in the demonstration at the university’s Commons and that guardsmen had exhausted their tear gas supply in dispersing the crowd.

The state’s National Guard commander, Adj. Gen. Sylvester T. Del Corso, said the troops began firing from semiautomatic rifles after a rooftop sniper had shot at them.

Gene Williams, a member of the student newspaper staff, said he saw the troops turn “in unison, as if responding to a command,” and fire into the crowd.

Brig. Gen. Robert H. Canterbury, who was in direct command of the guard contingent on the campus, said no order was given to shoot.

“A military man always has the option to fire if he feels his life is in danger,” he said. “The crowd was moving in on the men on three sides.

“The shooting lasted about two or three seconds. Officers at the scene immediately called for a cease-fire.”

Canterbury said an investigation into the shooting would attempt to determine which guardsmen fired first, what others fired and actually hit students, and how many rounds of ammunition they expended.

The shooting climaxed student demonstration and disturbances on the campus and in the city that began Friday in the wake of President Nixon’s address to the nation Thursday night on sending U.S. troops into Cambodia.

About 500 students attended a peaceful demonstration on the campus at noon Friday but late that night about 500 persons, most of them students, went on a rampage downtown. Bonfires were set in the streets and several windows of stores and cars were broken.

About 1,000 students demonstrated on the campus Saturday night and some of them set fire to the ROTC building with railroad flares. That was when the National Guard, which had been on standby at Akron, was ordered to the city.

About 1,200 students staged a sit-in at a street intersection Sunday night in defiance of an emergency order from Rhodes banning any outdoor meetings in the city or on the campus. They were driven back to the campus by guardsmen with bayonets on their rifles.

Earlier Sunday night the guard used tear gas in breaking up a march on the campus by an estimated 1,500 students who were violating the governor’s emergency order.


Nationwide furor

The Kent State shooting quickly garnered international media attention, and nationwide student furor followed.

On May 15, 1970, more student lives would be lost when about 40 Mississippi law enforcement officials fired 150 rounds into Alexander Hall, a dormitory at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University). Students at the historically black college, had protested the historic racial tension and harassment by white motorists who traveled on Lynch Street, a major thoroughfare that linked the campus to downtown.

Jackson State students, local youths and law enforcement clashed following a false rumor that the mayor of Fayette, Mississippi, Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, had been assassinated. During 30 seconds of gunfire, Philip Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State, and James Earl Green, a high school senior, were both killed, and 12 others were injured.

The tragedy at Jackson State largely has been overshadowed by the May 4 events at Kent State, but both incidents of state-sponsored violence against students reflected the disconnect between government and the citizens it was sworn to protect. Student strikes shut down numerous college campuses across the U.S, some for a few days, others for the rest of the academic year.

On May 5, Rhodes lost the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate to Robert Taft Jr., grandson of U.S. president William Howard Taft. Rhodes ultimately served four terms as Ohio’s governor, from 1963 to 1971 and again from 1975 to 1983.

Following the Kent State shootings, 25 students and faculty members were indicted by an Ohio grand jury for 43 crimes. One was convicted of interfering with a firearm, two pled guilty, one was acquitted, and the rest had charges dismissed due to lack of evidence.

In June, Nixon appointed a President’s Commission on Campus Unrest to examine the events at Kent State and Jackson State. The commission wrote that “the actions of some students were violent and criminal and those of some others were dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible” but issued a damning indictment of the shootings. “The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable,” the commission wrote.


Today in History, May 4, 1970: Ohio National Guard killed 4 students at Kent State

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, on May 4, 1970. Four students died and nine others were wounded during student protests against the Vietnam War when National Guardsman opened fire. (Photo: AP Photo/Valley Daily News, John Filo)

Today is May 4. On this date in:

At Haymarket Square in Chicago, a labor demonstration for an eight-hour work day turned into a deadly riot when a bomb exploded.

Responding to a demand from President Woodrow Wilson, Germany agreed to limit its submarine warfare. (However, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare the following year.)

An international conference opened in Geneva to forge an agreement against the use of chemical and biological weapons in war the Geneva Protocol was signed on June 17, 1925 and went into force in 1928.

Chicago mobster Al Capone. (Photo: AP Photo)

Mobster Al Capone, convicted of income-tax evasion, entered the federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Battle of the Coral Sea, the first naval clash fought entirely with carrier aircraft, began in the Pacific during World War II. (The outcome was considered a tactical victory for Japan, but ultimately a strategic one for the Allies.)

The first Grammy Awards ceremony was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The first group of “Freedom Riders” left Washington, D.C. to challenge racial segregation on interstate buses and in bus terminals.

Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire during an anti-war protest at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others.

Marshal Josip Broz Tito, president of Yugoslavia, died three days before his 88th birthday.

Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski was given four life sentences plus 30 years by a federal judge in Sacramento under a plea agreement that spared him the death penalty.

A federal judge sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison for his role in the 9/11 attacks, telling the convicted terrorist, “You will die with a whimper.”


The May 4 Shootings at Kent State University: The Search for Historical Accuracy

On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students. The impact of the shootings was dramatic. The event triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close. H. R. Haldeman, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, suggests the shootings had a direct impact on national politics. In The Ends of Power, Haldeman (1978) states that the shootings at Kent State began the slide into Watergate, eventually destroying the Nixon administration. Beyond the direct effects of the May 4, the shootings have certainly come to symbolize the deep political and social divisions that so sharply divided the country during the Vietnam War era.

In the nearly three decades since May 4, l970, a voluminous literature has developed analyzing the events of May 4 and their aftermath. Some books were published quickly, providing a fresh but frequently superficial or inaccurate analysis of the shootings (e.g., Eszterhas and Roberts, 1970 Warren, 1970 Casale and Paskoff, 1971 Michener, 1971 Stone, 1971 Taylor et al., 1971 and Tompkins and Anderson, 1971). Numerous additional books have been published in subsequent years (e.g., Davies, 1973 Hare, 1973 Hensley and Lewis, 1978 Kelner and Munves, 1980 Hensley, 1981 Payne, 1981 Bills, 1988 and Gordon, 1997). These books have the advantage of a broader historical perspective than the earlier books, but no single book can be considered the definitive account of the events and aftermath of May 4, l970, at Kent State University.(1)

Despite the substantial literature which exists on the Kent State shootings, misinformation and misunderstanding continue to surround the events of May 4. For example, a prominent college-level United States history book by Mary Beth Norton et al. (1994), which is also used in high school advanced placement courses.(2) contains a picture of the shootings of May 4 accompanied by the following summary of events: "In May 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen confronted student antiwar protestors with a tear gas barrage. Soon afterward, with no provocation, soldiers opened fire into a group of fleeing students. Four young people were killed, shot in the back, including two women who had been walking to class." (Norton et al., 1994, p. 732) Unfortunately, this short description contains four factual errors: (1) some degree of provocation did exist (2) the students were not fleeing when the Guard initially opened fire (3) only one of the four students who died, William Schroeder, was shot in the back and (4) one female student, Sandy Schreuer, had been walking to class, but the other female, Allison Krause, had been part of the demonstration.

This article is an attempt to deal with the historical inaccuracies that surround the May 4 shootings at Kent State University by providing high school social studies teachers with a resource to which they can turn if they wish to teach about the subject or to involve students in research on the issue. Our approach is to raise and provide answers to twelve of the most frequently asked questions about May 4 at Kent State. We will also offer a list of the most important questions involving the shootings which have not yet been answered satisfactorily. Finally, we will conclude with a brief annotated bibliography for those wishing to explore the subject further.

WHY WAS THE OHIO NATIONAL GUARD CALLED TO KENT?

The decision to bring the Ohio National Guard onto the Kent State University campus was directly related to decisions regarding American involvement in the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968 based in part on his promise to bring an end to the war in Vietnam. During the first year of Nixon's presidency, America's involvement in the war appeared to be winding down. In late April of 1970, however, the United States invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. This decision was announced on national television and radio on April 30, l970, by President Nixon, who stated that the invasion of Cambodia was designed to attack the headquarters of the Viet Cong, which had been using Cambodian territory as a sanctuary.

Protests occurred the next day, Friday, May 1, across United States college campuses where anti-war sentiment ran high. At Kent State University, an anti-war rally was held at noon on the Commons, a large, grassy area in the middle of campus which had traditionally been the site for various types of rallies and demonstrations. Fiery speeches against the war and the Nixon administration were given, a copy of the Constitution was buried to symbolize the murder of the Constitution because Congress had never declared war, and another rally was called for noon on Monday, May 4.

Friday evening in downtown Kent began peacefully with the usual socializing in the bars, but events quickly escalated into a violent confrontation between protestors and local police. The exact causes of the disturbance are still the subject of debate, but bonfires were built in the streets of downtown Kent, cars were stopped, police cars were hit with bottles, and some store windows were broken. The entire Kent police force was called to duty as well as officers from the county and surrounding communities. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom declared a state of emergency, called Governor James Rhodes' office to seek assistance, and ordered all of the bars closed. The decision to close the bars early increased the size of the angry crowd. Police eventually succeeded in using tear gas to disperse the crowd from downtown, forcing them to move several blocks back to the campus.

The next day, Saturday, May 2, Mayor Satrom met with other city officials and a representative of the Ohio National Guard who had been dispatched to Kent. Mayor Satrom then made the decision to ask Governor Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard to Kent. The mayor feared further disturbances in Kent based upon the events of the previous evening, but more disturbing to the mayor were threats that had been made to downtown businesses and city officials as well as rumors that radical revolutionaries were in Kent to destroy the city and the university. Satrom was fearful that local forces would be inadequate to meet the potential disturbances, and thus about 5 p.m. he called the Governor's office to make an official request for assistance from the Ohio National Guard.

WHAT HAPPENED ON THE KENT STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS ON SATURDAY MAY 2 AND SUNDAY MAY 3 AFTER THE GUARDS ARRIVED ON CAMPUS?

Members of the Ohio National Guard were already on duty in Northeast Ohio, and thus they were able to be mobilized quickly to move to Kent. As the Guard arrived in Kent at about 10 p.m., they encountered a tumultuous scene. The wooden ROTC building adjacent to the Commons was ablaze and would eventually burn to the ground that evening, with well over 1,000 demonstrators surrounding the building. Controversy continues to exist regarding who was responsible for setting fire to the ROTC building, but radical protestors were assumed to be responsible because of their actions in interfering with the efforts of firemen to extinguish the fire as well as cheering the burning of the building. Confrontations between Guardsmen and demonstrators continued into the night, with tear gas filling the campus and numerous arrests being made.

Sunday, May 3 was a day filled with contrasts. Nearly 1,000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the campus, making it appear like a military war zone. The day was warm and sunny, however, and students frequently talked amicably with Guardsmen. Ohio Governor James Rhodes flew to Kent on Sunday morning, and his mood was anything but calm. At a press conference, he issued a provocative statement calling campus protestors the worst type of people in America and stating that every force of law would be used to deal with them. Rhodes also indicated that he would seek a court order declaring a state of emergency. This was never done, but the widespread assumption among both Guard and University officials was that a state of martial law was being declared in which control of the campus resided with the Guard rather than University leaders and all rallies were banned. Further confrontations between protesters and guardsmen occurred Sunday evening, and once again rocks, tear gas, and arrests characterized a tense campus.

WHAT TYPE OF RALLY WAS HELD AT NOON ON MAY 4?

At the conclusion of the anti-war rally on Friday, May 1, student protest leaders had called for another rally to be held on the Commons at noon on Monday, May 4. Although University officials had attempted on the morning of May 4 to inform the campus that the rally was prohibited, a crowd began to gather beginning as early as 11 a.m. By noon, the entire Commons area contained approximately 3,000 people. Although estimates are inexact, probably about 500 core demonstrators were gathered around the Victory Bell at one end of the Commons, another 1,000 people were "cheerleaders" supporting the active demonstrators, and an additional 1,500 people were spectators standing around the perimeter of the Commons. Across the Commons at the burned-out ROTC building stood about 100 Ohio National Guardsmen carrying lethal M-1 military rifles.

Substantial consensus exists that the active participants in the rally were primarily protesting the presence of the Guard on campus, although a strong anti-war sentiment was also present. Little evidence exists as to who were the leaders of the rally and what activities were planned, but initially the rally was peaceful.

WHO MADE THE DECISION TO BAN THE RALLY OF MAY 4?

Conflicting evidence exists regarding who was responsible for the decision to ban the noon rally of May 4. At the 1975 federal civil trial, General Robert Canterbury, the highest official of the Guard, testified that widespread consensus existed that the rally should be prohibited because of the tensions that existed and the possibility that violence would again occur. Canterbury further testified that Kent State President Robert White had explicitly told Canterbury that any demonstration would be highly dangerous. In contrast, White testified that he could recall no conversation with Canterbury regarding banning the rally.

The decision to ban the rally can most accurately be traced to Governor Rhodes' statements on Sunday, May 3 when he stated that he would be seeking a state of emergency declaration from the courts. Although he never did this, all officials -- Guard, University, Kent -- assumed that the Guard was now in charge of the campus and that all rallies were illegal. Thus, University leaders printed and distributed on Monday morning 12,000 leaflets indicating that all rallies, including the May 4 rally scheduled for noon, were prohibited as long as the Guard was in control of the campus.

WHAT EVENTS LED DIRECTLY TO THE SHOOTINGS?

Shortly before noon, General Canterbury made the decision to order the demonstrators to disperse. A Kent State police officer standing by the Guard made an announcement using a bullhorn. When this had no effect, the officer was placed in a jeep along with several Guardsmen and driven across the Commons to tell the protestors that the rally was banned and that they must disperse. This was met with angry shouting and rocks, and the jeep retreated. Canterbury then ordered his men to load and lock their weapons, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd around the Victory Bell, and the Guard began to march across the Commons to disperse the rally. The protestors moved up a steep hill, known as Blanket Hill, and then down the other side of the hill onto the Prentice Hall parking lot as well as an adjoining practice football field. Most of the Guardsmen followed the students directly and soon found themselves somewhat trapped on the practice football field because it was surrounded by a fence. Yelling and rock throwing reached a peak as the Guard remained on the field for about 10 minutes. Several Guardsmen could be seen huddling together, and some Guardsmen knelt and pointed their guns, but no weapons were shot at this time. The Guard then began retracing their steps from the practice football field back up Blanket Hill. As they arrived at the top of the hill, 28 of the more than 70 Guardsmen turned suddenly and fired their rifles and pistols. Many guardsmen fired into the air or the ground. However, a small portion fired directly into the crowd. Altogether between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13-second period.

HOW MANY DEATHS AND INJURIES OCCURRED?

Four Kent State students died as a result of the firing by the Guard. The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing in an access road leading into the Prentice Hall parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the Guard. Allison Krause was in the Prentice Hall parking lot she was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body. William Schroeder was 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when he was shot in the left side of his back. Sandra Scheuer was also about 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck.

Nine Kent State students were wounded in the 13-second fusillade. Most of the students were in the Prentice Hall parking lot, but a few were on the Blanket Hill area. Joseph Lewis was the student closest to the Guard at a distance of about 60 feet he was standing still with his middle finger extended when bullets struck him in the right abdomen and left lower leg. Thomas Grace was also approximately 60 feet from the Guardsmen and was wounded in the left ankle. John Cleary was over 100 feet from the Guardsmen when he was hit in the upper left chest. Alan Canfora was 225 feet from the Guard and was struck in the right wrist. Dean Kahler was the most seriously wounded of the nine students. He was struck in the small of his back from approximately 300 feet and was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Douglas Wrentmore was wounded in the right knee from a distance of 330 feet. James Russell was struck in the right thigh and right forehead at a distance of 375 feet. Robert Stamps was almost 500 feet from the line of fire when he was wounded in the right buttock. Donald Mackenzie was the student the farthest from the Guardsmen at a distance of almost 750 feet when he was hit in the neck.

WHY DID THE GUARDSMEN FIRE?

The most important question associated with the events of May 4 is why did members of the Guard fire into a crowd of unarmed students? Two quite different answers have been advanced to this question: (1) the Guardsmen fired in self-defense, and the shootings were therefore justified and (2) the Guardsmen were not in immediate danger, and therefore the shootings were unjustified.

The answer offered by the Guardsmen is that they fired because they were in fear of their lives. Guardsmen testified before numerous investigating commissions as well as in federal court that they felt the demonstrators were advancing on them in such a way as to pose a serious and immediate threat to the safety of the Guardsmen, and they therefore had to fire in self-defense. Some authors (e.g., Michener, 1971 and Grant and Hill, 1974) agree with this assessment. Much more importantly, federal criminal and civil trials have accepted the position of the Guardsmen. In a 1974 federal criminal trial, District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed the case against eight Guardsmen indicted by a federal grand jury, ruling at mid-trial that the government's case against the Guardsmen was so weak that the defense did not have to present its case. In the much longer and more complex federal civil trial of 1975, a jury voted 9-3 that none of the Guardsmen were legally responsible for the shootings. This decision was appealed, however, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a new trial had to be held because of the improper handling of a threat to a jury member.

The legal aftermath of the May 4 shootings ended in January of 1979 with an out-of-court settlement involving a statement signed by 28 defendants(3) as well as a monetary settlement, and the Guardsmen and their supporters view this as a final vindication of their position. The financial settlement provided $675,000 to the wounded students and the parents of the students who had been killed. This money was paid by the State of Ohio rather than by any Guardsmen, and the amount equaled what the State estimated it would cost to go to trial again. Perhaps most importantly, the statement signed by members of the Ohio National Guard was viewed by them to be a declaration of regret, not an apology or an admission of wrongdoing:

In retrospect, the tragedy of May 4, 1970 should not have occurred. The students may have believed that they were right in continuing their mass protest in response to the Cambodian invasion, even though this protest followed the posting and reading by the university of an order to ban rallies and an order to disperse. These orders have since been determined by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to have been lawful.

Some of the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill, fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were in danger. Hindsight suggests that another method would have resolved the confrontation. Better ways must be found to deal with such a confrontation.

We devoutly wish that a means had been found to avoid the May 4th events culminating in the Guard shootings and the irreversible deaths and injuries. We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted. We hope that the agreement to end the litigation will help to assuage the tragic memories regarding that sad day.

A starkly different interpretation to that of the Guards' has been offered in numerous other studies of the shootings, with all of these analyses sharing the common viewpoint that primary responsibility for the shootings lies with the Guardsmen. Some authors (e.g., Stone, 1971 Davies, 1973 and Kelner and Munves, 1980) argue that the Guardsmen's lives were not in danger. Instead, these authors argue that the evidence shows that certain members of the Guard conspired on the practice football field to fire when they reached the top of Blanket Hill. Other authors (e.g., Best, 1981 and Payne, 1981) do not find sufficient evidence to accept the conspiracy theory, but they also do not find the Guard self-defense theory to be plausible. Experts who find the Guard primarily responsible find themselves in agreement with the conclusion of the Scranton Commission (Report , 1970, p. 87): "The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

WHAT HAPPENED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SHOOTINGS?

While debate still remains about the extent to which the Guardsmen's lives were in danger at the moment they opened fire, little doubt can exist that their lives were indeed at stake in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. The 13-second shooting that resulted in four deaths and nine wounded could have been followed by an even more tragic and bloody confrontation. The nervous and fearful Guardsmen retreated back to the Commons, facing a large and hostile crowd which realized that the Guard had live ammunition and had used it to kill and wound a large number of people. In their intense anger, many demonstrators were willing to risk their own lives to attack the Guardsmen, and there can be little doubt that the Guard would have opened fire again, this time killing a much larger number of students.

Further tragedy was prevented by the actions of a number of Kent State University faculty marshals, who had organized hastily when trouble began several days earlier. Led by Professor Glenn Frank, the faculty members pleaded with National Guard leaders to allow them to talk with the demonstrators, and then they begged the students not to risk their lives by confronting the Guardsmen. After about 20 minutes of emotional pleading, the marshals convinced the students to leave the Commons.

Back at the site of the shootings, ambulances had arrived and emergency medical attention had been given to the students who had not died immediately. The ambulances formed a screaming procession as they rushed the victims of the shootings to the local hospital.

The University was ordered closed immediately, first by President Robert White and then indefinitely by Portage County Prosecutor Ronald Kane under an injunction from Common Pleas Judge Albert Caris. Classes did not resume until the Summer of 1970, and faculty members engaged in a wide variety of activities through the mail and off-campus meetings that enabled Kent State students to finish the semester.

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PHOTO OF THE YOUNG WOMAN CRYING OUT IN HORROR OVER THE DYING BODY OF ONE OF THE STUDENTS?

A photograph of Mary Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway, screaming over the body of Jeffery Miller appeared on the front pages of newspapers and magazines throughout the country, and the photographer, John Filo, was to win a Pulitzer Prize for the picture. The photo has taken on a life and importance of its own. This analysis looks at the photo, the photographer, and the impact of the photo.

The Mary Vecchio picture shows her on one knee screaming over Jeffrey Miller's body. Mary told one of us that she was calling for help because she felt she could do nothing (Personal Interview, 4/4/94). Miller is lying on the tarmac of the Prentice Hall parking lot. One student is standing near the Miller body closer than Vecchio. Four students are seen in the immediate background.

John Filo, a Kent State photography major in 1970, continues to work as a professional newspaper photographer and editor. He was near the Prentice Hall parking lot when the Guard fired. He saw bullets hitting the ground, but he did not take cover because he thought the bullets were blanks. Of course, blanks cannot hit the ground.

WHAT WAS THE LONG-TERM FACULTY RESPONSE TO THE SHOOTINGS?

Three hours after the shootings Kent State closed and was not to open for six weeks as a viable university. When it resumed classes in the Summer of 1970, its faculty was charged with three new responsibilities, their residues remaining today.

First, we as a University faculty had to bring aid and comfort to our own. This began earlier on with faculty trying to finish the academic quarter with a reasonable amount of academic integrity. It had ended about at mid-term examinations. However, the faculty voted before the week was out to help students complete the quarter in any way possible. Students were advised to study independently until they were contacted by individual professors. Most of the professors organized their completion of courses around papers, but many gave lectures in churches and in homes in the community of Kent and surrounding communities. For example, Norman Duffy, an award-winning teacher, gave off-campus chemistry lectures and tutorial sessions in Kent and Cleveland. His graduate students made films of laboratory sessions and mailed them to students.

Beyond helping thousands of students finish their courses, there were 1,900 students as well who needed help with gradation. Talking to students about courses allowed the faculty to do some counseling about the shootings, which helped the faculty as much in healing as it did students.

Second, the University faculty was called upon to conduct research about May 4 communicating the results of this research through teaching and traditional writing about the tragedy. Many responded and created a solid body of scholarship as well as an extremely useful archive contributing to a wide range of activities in Summer of 1970 including press interviews and the Scranton Commission.

Third, many saw as one of the faculty's challenges to develop alternative forms of protest and conflict resolution to help prevent tragedies such as the May 4 shootings and the killings at Jackson State 10 days after Kent State.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MAY 4 SHOOTINGS?

Although we have attempted in this article to answer many of the most important and frequently asked questions about the May 4 shootings, our responses have sometimes been tentative because many important questions remain unanswered. It thus seems important to ask what are the most significant questions which yet remain unanswered about the May 4 events. These questions could serve as the basis for research projects by students who are interested in studying the shootings in greater detail.

(1) Who was responsible for the violence in downtown Kent and on the Kent State campus in the three days prior to May 4? As an important part of this question, were "outside agitators" primarily responsible? Who was responsible for setting fire to the ROTC building?

(2) Should the Guard have been called to Kent and Kent State University? Could local law enforcement personnel have handled any situations? Were the Guard properly trained for this type of assignment?

(3) Did the Kent State University administration respond appropriately in their reactions to the demonstrations and with Ohio political officials and Guard officials?

(4) Would the shootings have been avoided if the rally had not been banned? Did the banning of the rally violate First Amendment rights?

(5) Did the Guardsmen conspire to shoot students when they huddled on the practice football field? If not, why did they fire? Were they justified in firing?

(6) Who was ultimately responsible for the events of May 4, l970?

WHY SHOULD WE STILL BE CONCERNED ABOUT MAY 4, 1970 AT KENT STATE?

In Robert McNamara's (1995) book, "In Retrospect:The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam" is a way to begin is an illustration of the this process. In it he says that United States policy towards Vietnam was ". terribly wrong and we owe it to future generations to explain why."

The May 4 shootings at Kent State need to be remembered for several reasons. First, the shootings have come to symbolize a great American tragedy which occurred at the height of the Vietnam War era, a period in which the nation found itself deeply divided both politically and culturally. The poignant picture of Mary Vecchio kneeling in agony over Jeffrey Miller's body, for example, will remain forever as a reminder of the day when the Vietnam War came home to America. If the Kent State shootings will continue to be such a powerful symbol, then it is certainly important that Americans have a realistic view of the facts associated with this event. Second, May 4 at Kent State and the Vietnam War era remain controversial even today, and the need for healing continues to exist. Healing will not occur if events are either forgotten or distorted, and hence it is important to continue to search for the truth behind the events of May 4 at Kent State. Third, and most importantly, May 4 at Kent State should be remembered in order that we can learn from the mistakes of the past. The Guardsmen in their signed statement at the end of the civil trials recognized that better ways have to be found to deal with these types of confrontations. This has probably already occurred in numerous situations where law enforcement officials have issued a caution to their troops to be careful because "we don't want another Kent State." Insofar as this has happened, lessons have been learned, and the deaths of four young Kent State students have not been in vain.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bills, Scott. (1988). Kent State/May 4: Echoes Through a Decade. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. This book provides town and gown reactions to May 4. It has the best annotated bibliography available on the literature on the shootings and is the basis for the annotations that follow.

Casale, Ottavio M. & Paskoff, Louis (Eds.) (1971). The Kent Affair: Documents and Interpretations . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. This is an early, useful volume which reproduces local and national newspaper articles on the shootings as well as radio and television broadcasts.

Davies, Peter. (1973). The Truth About Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. This is a detailed narrative and analysis of the events of May 4 and their aftermath. He argues that the Guard conspired to fire upon the students. 74 photographs are included.

Eszterhas, Joe & Roberts, Michael D. (1970). Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State. New York: Dodd, Mead. A very quick publication by two Cleveland journalists who use interviews of students, faculty, and Guardsmen to provide a background and narrative of May 1970 events.

Grant, Edward J. & Hill, Michael (1974). I Was There: What Really Went on at Kent State . Lima, OH: C.S.S. Publishing Co. The only book written by members of the Ohio National Guard, the authors provide a view of the hostile environment in which the Guardsmen found themselves.

Hare, A. Paul (Ed.) (l973). Kent State: The Nonviolent Response. Haverford, PA: Center for Nonviolent Conflict Resolution. A series of articles by noted peace activist Paul Hare as well as many Kent State faculty members. The common theme is the search for nonviolent approaches to conflictual situations.

Hensley, Thomas R. (1981). The Kent State Incident: Impact of Judicial Process on Public Attitudes. Westport, CONN: Greenwood Press. This is a detailed examination of the legal aftermath of the shootings, focusing upon the impact of various legal proceedings on public attitudes about the shootings.

Hensley, Thomas R. and Lewis, Jerry M. (1978). Kent State and May 4th: A Social Science Perspective. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. This collection brings together a number of previous articles on May 4 that were published in social science journals, but articles covering the Kent State litigation and the 1977 gymnasium controversy were written specifically for this volume. This book also contains the excellent analysis of the events of May 4 written by James Best.

Kelner, Joseph and Munves, James. (1980). The Kent State Coverup . New York: Harper and Row. Kelner was the chief legal counsel for the students and parents in the 1975 federal civil trial. He presents a harsh analysis of the handling of the trial by Judge Donald Young. The book has a strong bias, but it provides the only detailed analysis of this long and important trial.

Michener, James. (1971). Kent State: What Happened and Why . New York: Random House and Reader's Digest Books. This is undoubtedly the most widely read book on May 4 because of Michener's reputation and the wide publicity it received. The book suffers from being produced so quickly, however, containing numerous factual errors.

Payne, J. Gregory (1981). Mayday: Kent State. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. The book provides a rather sketchy overview of the May 4 events, presents excerpts from letters written by participants in the events, and discusses the made-for-TV movie on May 4 to which Payne served as a consultant.

Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. (1970) Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Reprint edition by Arno Press. This remains the best single source for understanding the events of May 4. The report examines not only the shootings at Kent State but also the student movement of the sixties and the shootings at Jackson State University. Excellent photographs are included.

Stone, I. F. (1971). The Killings at Kent State: How Murder Went Unpunished. New York: Review Book. This is a rather sketchy book written with a strongly held viewpoint that the Guardsmen committed murder.

Taylor, Stuart Shuntlich, Richard McGovern, Patrick & Genther, Robert. (1971). Violence at Kent State, May 1 to 4, l970: The Student's Perspective. New York: College Notes and Texts, 1971. A study of the perceptions, feelings, attitudes, and reactions of Kent State students based upon a questionnaire sent to all Kent State students shortly after the shootings. Seven thousand students responded, and although this is not a random sample, it has the best data available about the views of Kent State students about May 4.

Tompkins, Phillip K. and Anderson, Elaine Vanden Bout. (l971). Communication Crisis at Kent State: A Case Study. New York: Gordon & Breach. This book presents a harsh analysis of the communications problems that permeated the University during May 1970.

Warren, Bill (Ed.) (1970). The Middle of the Country: The Events of May 4th As Seen by Students & Faculty at Kent State University . A hastily compiled set of essays put together by a Kent State University sophomore containing various reactions to the shootings by Kent State students and faculty members.

Best, James J. (1978). "Kent State: Answers and Questions" in Thomas R. Hensley and Jerry M. Lewis .) Kent State and May 4th: A Social Science Perspective . Dubuque, IA:

Haldeman, H.R. (1978). The Ends of Power. New York: Times Books.

McNamara, Robert. (1995). In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York: Times Books.

Norton, Mary Beth Katzman, David M. Escott, Paul D. Chudacoff, Howard P. Paterson, Thomas G. & Tuttle, William M. (1994). A People and a Nation: A History of the United

States. Fourth Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

1.In addition to the many books on the Kent State shootings, numerous reports, book chapters, and articles have been written. The most comprehensive and accurate commission investigation is The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest (1970) chaired by William W. Scranton. An excellent book chapter on the shootings is by James J. Best (1978). The most comprehensive bibliography on the shootings is in Bills (1988).

2. Professor Hensley, the co-author of this article, became aware of this reference to the Kent State shootings because his daughter, Sarah, was taking Advanced Placement United States History at Kent Roosevelt High School with Mr. Bruce Dzeda. We thank Mr. Dzeda for reading this article and offering his reactions, although he bears no responsibility for the ideas expressed in this article.

3. In addition to Guard officers and enlisted men, Governor James Rhodes was also a defendant in the civil trial and signed the statement.

PUBLISHED IN REVISED FORM BY THE OHIO COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES REVIEW, VOL 34, NUMBER 1 (SUMMER, 1998) PP. 9-21


How 13 Seconds Changed Kent State University Forever

Across the country, as Americans practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, graduation ceremonies are moving from grand auditoriums and campus greens to the virtual space. The commencement at Kent State University is likewise moving online, which normally wouldn’t be all that extraordinary. Except that this year, the school was set to commemorate 50 years since the last time graduation didn’t happen after National Guard troops fired upon a crowd on campus, killing four and wounding nine others.

For the past half-century, Kent State has been trying to live down those 13 seconds of bloodshed on Monday, May 4, 1970. Five days prior, President Richard Nixon publicly stated the Vietnam War had expanded into Cambodia, sparking unrest at college campuses nationwide, including at Kent State, a teacher’s college in Northeast Ohio that had a small, but particularly militant, chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. That Friday night, protestors broke windows and threw bottles at police cars. The next day, the ROTC building on campus was set ablaze arson was suspected, but nobody was ever apprehended. Local officials asked that the university close down, but Ohio Governor James Rhodes—who himself was running in a contested Republican primary for U.S. Senate—called in the National Guard.

A noon rally was set for Monday, May 4. National Guard troops fired tear gas at the crowd, which included some people throwing rocks at the soldiers, and appeared to be falling back before several Guardsmen, explained at the time as a moment of panic and fear for their lives, fired a total of 67 shots from M-1 rifles at the students—some protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and some just on their way to class. Four students, Jeff Miller, Allison Krause, Bill Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer, were killed and nine more were injured.

A student on a stretcher is wheeled to an ambulance after the National Guard opened fire on protesters. (Bettmann via Getty Images)

That evening, White House Press Secretary Ron Zeigler read a statement dictated by Nixon himself:

This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the Nation’s campuses—administrators, faculty, and students alike—to stand firmly for the right that exists in this country to dissent and just as firmly against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.

Three days after the shootings, a general student strike occurred across the country, with nearly 4 million people walking out of class. On May 14, at Jackson State College (now University) in Mississippi, National Guard troops and local law enforcement fired more than 150 shots into a dormitory—responding, they said, to sniper fire. (No evidence of sniper fire was ever found.) Phillip Gibbs, a student at Jackson State, and James Green, a high school student, were killed in the barrage.

The Kent State shooting remains a watershed moment in American history. It sparked a nationwide student strike shortly thereafter and reverberated throughout the final years of the Vietnam War and the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971, which lowered the voting age to 18. Folk rockers Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young quickly released a song about the shootings. The incident was also regarded as a seminal moment in the founding of the band Devo—many of whom were from the area founding member Jerry Casale was in the crowd during the shootings.

Protesters hold a sign referring to the Kent State Massacre during a student strike and protest against the Vietnam War on the National Mall in Washington, DC. (Stuart Lutz / Gado / Getty Images)

But for decades afterward, both the university and the town of Kent had a complicated relationship with the event. Civil and criminal cases resulting from the shootings wound their way through the courts in the 󈨊s, and the university sponsored commemorations for the first five years after the shootings but stopped—and then built a gym on part of the parking lot where students were wounded and killed. The university commissioned a sculpture by pop artist George Segal, then refused to display his creation, “Abraham and Isaac.” (It’s now at Princeton University.) The school even tried to rebrand itself as “Kent” because the next word in many people’s minds after “Kent State” was “shootings.”

“It was very contentious for a couple decades,” says Chic Canfora, a student activist on campus at the time of the shootings, who still lives in Northeast Ohio and has advocated for remembrance. “The university initially wanted to forget what happened and just make those of us who wanted to talk about it and heal and educate others about it to go away.”

But gradually, the university has come to understand its role in the healing process – and how the Kent State shootings fit into its mission as an educational institution. A museum on campus offers classroom space and displays artifacts related to the event, and incoming freshmen are required to read two books about the shootings: This We Know: A Chronology of the Shootings at Kent State by university professors Carol Barbato, Laura Davis and Mark Seeman and Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State, by two reporters who covered the shootings for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mike Roberts and Joe Eszterhas (yes, THAT Joe Eszterhas).

“It didn’t come easy and it didn’t happen overnight,” Canfora says.

“The dust of history is settling,” says her brother Alan Canfora, who was wounded at the shootings. “Time has been on our side, but the movement for truth and justice has been powerful and protracted. We’ve never given up, and now the university is fully embracing their educational duty.”

A Kent State University student hurls a tear gas canister back towards the National Guardsmen, who had been called to subdue an anti-war protest. When the air cleared, four students lay dead and several more were wounded. (Bettmann via Getty Images)

In the immediate aftermath and for years afterward, some held the idea that the students at Kent State got what they deserved. According to Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students for the incident just 11 percent blamed the guardsmen. In Kent State: What Happened and Why, author James Michener recounts the litany of rage-filled letters to local newspapers. “The National Guard made only one mistake,” one said. “They should have fired sooner and longer.” Why would the university want to venerate the victims?

“Middle America was not ready to accept the idea that American soldiers turned their guns on American citizens without having a good reason to do so,” Chic Canfora says.

Rhodes used a common deflection of the time, blaming external agents, comparing protesters to Brownshirts and communist agitators. (It’s worth noting that all 13 people killed or wounded in the shootings were Kent State students.)

Thomas Grace was a student at Kent State and friends with Alan Canfora. They were standing about 20 feet apart when the guardsmen opened fire.

“There was a sense at the time that everyone who was at a college campus in the 1970s was a pampered, spoiled kid,” says Grace, who was injured in the shootings and is now an assistant professor at Erie Community College near Buffalo. Grace notes that at the time, about 10 percent of students at Kent were military veterans, many using GI Bill benefits to attend what was then the second-largest college in Ohio.

But in addition to changing perceptions, the passage of time has also brought with it new information. Documents, once classified, become part of the public record, like a recording made by a student, which was turned over to the FBI and was found decades later at Yale University. A forensic analysis of the audio commissioned by the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed an apparent order to fire, refuting the long-held idea that a guardsman shot out of panic, leading other troops to also fire. And illustrator Derf Backderf, whose graphic novel about the shootings is due out this fall, believes even more was covered up.

“The story you think Kent State is not accurate,” says Backderf, who was a 10-year-old growing up nearby at the time of the shootings. “There are still revelations waiting to happen, and I don’t know if they will happen.”

Carol Cartwright was announced as Kent State president in 1990, the first woman to serve as president of any of Ohio’s state universities. Questions about the shootings, or Kent State’s role in remembering the incident, hadn’t come up at all during her recruitment and interview process, even though the university had just marked the 20th anniversary. That year, a memorial was dedicated on campus, and a formal apology was given by Ohio Governor Dick Celeste. In the university’s mind, it was an endpoint. Alan Canfora says just the opposite.

“That was really the beginning of the healing,” Canfora says, which Cartwright would soon find out herself. Early in her presidency, she issued an internal questionnaire about the university’s mission, organizational development and organizational culture. None of the questions pertained to the shootings—but a lot of the answers did.

“People wrote on the back of the page, in the margins that somebody needed to deal with May 4,” she says. “You really saw the angst over the perceived ambivalence about it. It was either ‘Own it or forget it and move on.’ We couldn’t forget it, so we went to work thinking how we own it in a scholarly way.”

Over time, the university addressed its role as “reluctant custodian of an indelible mark on the American landscape,” as president Beverly Warren said in a 2018 speech. The spots where each of the slain students fell were marked off as memorials. Taylor Hall became home to the May 4 Visitors Center with educational space and displays of artifacts related to the shootings. And the memorials have been planned with help and input from the university itself, as well as students and activists.

At a 2000 candlelight vigil, Russ Miller stands at the site where his brother, Jeffrey Miller, was killed by the Ohio National Guard in 1970. (David Maxwell / AFP via Getty Images)

As a student at Kent State, Rod Flauhaus helped plan commemorations of the shootings in the 1980s. Now, he’s the project manager for the 50th anniversary commemoration, which had been planned for the past two years. Before the pandemic shut down the nation, it was supposed to be celebrated on a grand scope.

On the schedule was a concert with David Crosby and guitarist Joe Walsh, who was a student at Kent during the shootings and knew some of the victims. Jane Fonda was supposed to speak as well. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to those plans—as well as in person learning, not just at Kent State, but at colleges across America—but a virtual commemoration is planned. The vision of a show of unity in the same spot where blood was spilled a half-century earlier won’t come to pass, but people who can’t be in Kent can take part from across the world.

“We’re at an interesting place,” Flauhaus says. “We’re transitioning from personal memory to history. For the first 50 years, so many people lived through this. It’s sometimes difficult but also sometimes eye-opening.


AP Was There: National Guard kills 4 students at Kent State

KENT, Ohio -- The Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students during a war protest at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Four students were killed, and nine others were injured. Not all of those hurt or killed were involved in the demonstration, which opposed the U.S. bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The confrontation, sometimes referred to as the May 4 massacre, was a defining moment for a nation sharply divided over the protracted war, in which more than 58,000 Americans died. It sparked a strike of 4 million students across the U.S., temporarily closing some 900 colleges and universities. The events also played a pivotal role, historians argue, in turning public opinion against the conflicts in Southeast Asia.

In the hours immediately after the shootings, reporters at the chaotic scene struggled to determine who had fired the shots and why. Among the theories was that Guard members shot after spotting a sniper, a theory later proved untrue.

Kent State’s campus, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of downtown Cleveland, will be still on the 50th anniversary Monday. An elaborate multi-day commemoration was canceled because of social distancing restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some events, activities and resources are being made available online.

Fifty years after the events, the AP is making some of its photos and a version of its text coverage from the time available.

An official of the Ohio Highway Patrol today disputed reports from the Ohio National Guard that a sniper was spotted by police helicopter before Guardsmen shot four Kent State University students to death Monday during an antiwar demonstration.

The university, ordered evacuated after the shooting, was virtually deserted this morning and under heavy police and military guard.

Earlier, fire destroyed a barn and several farm tractors in one corner of the campus, and fire officials said they believed the blaze was deliberately set.

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said after the shootings that, “At the approximate time of the firing on the campus, the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Today, a patrol official, Maj. D. E. Manly, said, “There is nothing on the log on the sighting.” Manly said if patrolmen in the helicopter circling the campus had seen a gunman it would have been recorded.

Guard officials claimed Monday and again today that the Guardsmen were returning the fire of a small caliber weapon in defense of their lives. A student crowd had surrounded some 30 Guardsmen and were throwing rocks and chunks of concrete at them.

The Justice Department and officials of the National Guard launched separate investigations of the gunfire outburst which took the lives of two girls and two young men.

Miss Allison Krause, 19, Pittsburgh, Pa. Miss Sandy Lee Scheuer, 20, Youngstown, Ohio Jeffrey G. Miller, 20, Plainview, N.Y., and William K. Schroeder, 19, Lorain, Ohio.

Portage County Coroner Dr. Robert Sybert said all four had been shot from the side, “left to right.” All died of a single bullet wound, he said.

Miss Krause was hit in the left shoulder, Miss Scheurer in the neck, Schroeder in the left underside of the chest and Miller in the head.

Dr. Sybert said the final autopsy report wouldn’t be completed for about a week.

Three students remained in critical condition today. One of them, Dean Kahler, of East Canton, Ohio, was paralyzed from the waist down, according to Paul Jacobs, administrator at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.

Eight other persons, including two guardsmen were hospitalized. One of the two guardsmen was treated for shock and the other had collapsed from exhaustion.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, called editorially for “an immediate investigation and prompt steps to prevent a recurrence of the most tragic campus violence ever in the United States.

“Many questions will have to be answered: Why were these people shot? Who shot first? How could these deaths have been avoided?

President Nixon deplored the campus deaths. In a White House statement, he said:

“This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.”

The campus and the City of Kent were sealed off following the shootings.

School officials ordered the faculty, staff and 19,000 students to leave. Classes were suspended indefinitely by University President Robert I. White.

Later, Portage County Prosecutor Ronald Kane, armed with a court injunction, officially closed the university until further notice.

Patrols of guardsmen and state patrolmen roamed the campus and blocked all entrances Monday night.

Businesses in the City of Kent and the approaches to the city were cordoned by police and guardsmen.

Nixon said that he would order a Justice Department investigation if the state so requested and Gov. James A. Rhodes then asked for the FBI to carry out an inquiry.

The governor had ordered the Ohio National Guard to the campus Saturday night following a demonstration by some 1,000 students during which the Army ROTC building was destroyed by fire.

Jerry Stoklas, 20, a campus newspaper photographer, said he witnessed the shootings from a rooftop.

He said about 400 students were harassing the guardsmen and “they turned and opened fire. I saw five people go down.”

Other witnesses said the demonstrators were pelting the guardsmen with rocks and chunks of concrete.

Stoklas said the troops had backed away, but the demonstrators followed. He said the guardsmen had “turned around several times, apparently trying to scare them.”

Sgt. Michael Delaney of the guard public relations staff said 20 to 30 rounds of MI rifle ammunition were fired.

“At the approximate time of the firing on the campus,” he added. “the Ohio Highway Patrol—via a helicopter—spotted a sniper on a nearby building.”

Some students contended the “sniper” actually was one of several student photographers atop Taylor Hall.

Guard spokesmen said 900 to 1,000 persons had been involved in the demonstration at the university’s Commons and that guardsmen had exhausted their tear gas supply in dispersing the crowd.

The state’s National Guard commander, Adj. Gen. Sylvester T. Del Corso, said the troops began firing from semiautomatic rifles after a rooftop sniper had shot at them.

Gene Williams, a member of the student newspaper staff, said he saw the troops turn “in unison, as if responding to a command,” and fire into the crowd.

Brig. Gen. Robert H. Canterbury, who was in direct command of the guard contingent on the campus, said no order was given to shoot.

“A military man always has the option to fire if he feels his life is in danger,” he said. “The crowd was moving in on the men on three sides.

“The shooting lasted about two or three seconds. Officers at the scene immediately called for a cease-fire.”

Canterbury said an investigation into the shooting would attempt to determine which guardsmen fired first, what others fired and actually hit students, and how many rounds of ammunition they expended.

The shooting climaxed student demonstration and disturbances on the campus and in the city that began Friday in the wake of President Nixon’s address to the nation Thursday night on sending U.S. troops into Cambodia.

About 500 students attended a peaceful demonstration on the campus at noon Friday but late that night about 500 persons, most of them students, went on a rampage downtown. Bonfires were set in the streets and several windows of stores and cars were broken.

About 1,000 students demonstrated on the campus Saturday night and some of them set fire to the ROTC building with railroad flares. That was when the National Guard, which had been on standby at Akron, was ordered to the city.

About 1,200 students staged a sit-in at a street intersection Sunday night in defiance of an emergency order from Rhodes banning any outdoor meetings in the city or on the campus. They were driven back to the campus by guardsmen with bayonets on their rifles.

Earlier Sunday night the guard used tear gas in breaking up a march on the campus by an estimated 1,500 students who were violating the governor’s emergency order.


KENT STATE JURY ACQUITS ALL, 10–2

CLEVELAND, Aug. 27 — A Federal jury exonerated today Gov. James A. Rhodes, the former president of Kent State University and 27 Ohio National Guardsmen from any responsibility in the shootings at Kent State in 1970.

By a vote of 10 to 2, the six‐man and, six‐woman jury found no grounds to hold the guardsmen, Mr. Rhodes and the former Kent State president, Robert I. White, personally and financially liable for the shootings.

At the outset of the trial, both sides agreed that a threefourths majority, or at least nine jurors, would be required for a verdict.

Four students were killed and nine wounded on May 4, 1970, when guardsmen fired into a crowd of students protesting the United States invasion of Cambodia.

The wounded students and the parents of the four who were killed sued the defendants for $46‐million in damages in 13 separate cases. The trial lasted 15 weeks.

The jurors announced that they had reached a verdict at 4:47 P.M., after more than 33 hours of deliberations that began last Friday.

The court clerk began reading the verdicts at 5:21 P.M., beginning with the case involving Arthur Krause, whose daughter, Allison, was among the four killed.

“We the jury find in favor of all the defendants and against the plaintiff,” the clerk read. There were moans and tears at the plaintiffs' table as verdicts for the remaining 12 plaintiffs came down the same way.

When the verdict for Dean Kahler, a Kent State student who was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shootings, was read, Mr. Krause exclaimed, “My God!”

Thomas Grace, a former student from Syracuse, N.Y., who was shot in the foot. yelled, “Murderers!” as the clerk continued to read the verdicts.

During the reading of the verdicts, three of the six women jurors cried. Two of them—one an accountant, the other a housewife—had voted in favor of the plaintiffs.

Judge Don J. Young, who presided over the civil damage suit in United States District Court, praised the jury for its work.

“Never has a jury been given a task so hard as the task given to you,” he said.

“You have done the task no other body in government could. You have been asked to plumb the depths of our civil government, and by your verdicts you have plumbed those depths.

“You are owed the gratitude of everyone in the courtroom, as well as all the people of this free land.”

Judge Young's comments brought another outburst from Mr. Grace. who yelled, “What freedom? This trial has been a sham in every way.”

Judge Young excused the jurors, and they were escorted from the courtroom under Federal guard. The judge also ordered United States marshals to escort the jurors to their homes.

Joseph Kelner, chief counsel for the plaintiffs, immediately asked the judge to set aside the verdict.

“This is a sad day in American justice,” he said. His clients applauded.

Mr. Kelner accused the judge of numerous trial errors and of suppression of evidence.

“The air is laden with the sorrow of those who lost their children and those whose bodies have been maimed,” he said. “The firing on unarmed students by armed men will go down in history as a travesty unless you set aside this verdict.”

Judge Young told Mr. Delmer to submit a written argument on the issue, and said that he would rule on it.

Defense attorneys praised the American system of jurisprudence.

One defense lawyer, Burt Fulton, praised the guardsmen as “very fine American young men.”

“The jury believed their stories,” he said.

The civil damage suit turned on the constitutional issues of freedom of assembly and the right to pursue life and liberty without excessive government force.

During the trial, lawyers for the victims argued that the guard shooting was willfull and indiscriminate and violated the students' civil right's to gather on the campus and protest the Vietnam war.

Defense lawyers argued that the guardsmen were called out by the civil authorities to protect life and property and were justified in the shooting because students were charging their ranks and putting the men in fear of their lives.

Students Are Named

The four students who were killed, and the family members who sued, were:

William Schroeder, 19 years old, son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Schroeder of Elyria.

Jeffrey Miller, 20, of Plainfield, N.Y., whose mother later became Mrs. Arthur Holstein of New York City.

Allison Krause, 18, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Krause of Pittsburgh.

Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, daugh ter of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Scheuer of Boardman, a Youngstown suburb.

Donald S. MacKenzie of Richboro, Pa.

James D. Russell of Hampstead, Md.

Robert F. Stamps of Cleveland. Joseph Lewis Jr. of Massillon. John R. Cleary of Scotia, N.Y. Dean Kahler of Kent.

Thomas Grace of Syracuse, N.Y.

Alan Canfora of Barberton.

Douglas A. Wrentmore of Hiram.

Governor's Reaction

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 27 (UPI)—Governor Rhodes said today that he could not feel relieved by the Kent State verdict “until the time for appeal has passed.”

Jurors exonerated him from any liability arising from his order sending National Guard troops onto the campus before the shootings.

“I had a duty to perform, and the least I could have done would be to perform my duty,” Mr. Rhodes said.



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