Kent State, Where Guardsmen Have a Blast

When Peace Protesters Get Violent, They get hurt (or killed).

Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of violence that resulted in the death of four students at Kent State University. On May 4th 1970 four people were killed and nine injured when members of the National Guard opened fire on a crowd of people who were engaging in illegal and violent behavior. It is unfortunate that this happened and it is easy to look back and blame the guardsmen for opening fire on the people. I certainly can not speak for them but I doubt I would have allowed my troops to do such a thing. I do know though, that if I felt that I or my soldiers were in danger, I would shoot to kill (since at that time only lethal means were provided to the soldiers).

The students at Kent State have no one to blame but themselves. They allowed their protest for peace to get violent. They engaged in behavior often seen in large crowds and some of them paid the price when soldiers, who are trained to kill, felt threatened. I have read reports that they heard gunfire and thought they were shot at by a sniper and given that peace protesters here are as peaceful as the members of the religion of Peace that could well be the case. In any event, the time line shows that starting on the 1st students gathered and set bonfires in the street. They also surrounded an ROTC building that was boarded up and scheduled for demolition and they burned it to the ground. The people who burned it down have never been arrested. During the days leading up to the shootings peaceful student protesters broke windows in town, threw beer bottles and rocks at police and acted so uncivilized that a state of emergency was declared and the presence of the guard was requested.

Police officers, firemen and soldiers who were there to keep order and put out the fires were pelted with rocks and other items thrown by those who protested the violence in Vietnam and the announced build-up of troops. There were also people who were protesting because a draft had been instituted and they were afraid they would be sent to fight for their country. The school tried to get things under control by sending out fliers saying that the protest had been canceled. Still, 2000 protesters arrived and they were told to disperse by the police and the guard troops. They, in their peaceful manner, again threw rocks and other items at the authorities. The request to disperse was a lawful one and the protesters disobeyed it and caused unrest by throwing items and causing injuries. Tear gas canisters were ineffective because of the weather and were picked up and thrown back at the guardsmen. The guard fixed bayonets and walked toward the crowd and the crowd ran to different areas.

When the guardsmen were regrouping they turned and fired at the students causing the injuries and deaths. The students, who only day earlier had claimed it was time to bring the war home (indicating that it was time to get violent here), were grouping to attack the guardsmen after the shootings but were persuaded not to do so by faculty. Obviously the students, who greatly outnumbered the soldiers, decided that rocks were no match for bullets.

The tragedy of this is not that four people were killed but that they were killed because they were either causing civil unrest or were there when their classmates caused it. These people died because instead of following the law and dispersing when they were told, they became violent and threw rocks at authorities and they burned down a building. They were responsible for what happened because they refused to follow the law.

A man who was a student then has released a recording he made that day in which it is claimed that you can hear the words “Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!” To me the words Right Here might be an indication that they thought they were being fired upon. FBI reports indicate an operative might have been in the crowd and fired a shot causing the response. In any event, the guardsmen were wrong because the command is “Ready, Aim, Fire.” There are people who want this case reopened and investigated especially since they now have this smoking gun (yes I meant that) evidence.

If you want to investigate a murder from that era, reopen the case of Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne. That was a murder. Kent State was an unfortunate event that led to the deaths of unruly students. Remember, if they had obeyed the law, the guard would not have been there.

So tomorrow we honor the bravery of those four guardsmen who faced an overwhelming number of people and were able to strike fear into the hearts of the not so peaceful protesters. As for these so called peaceful protesters, make sure you obey the law and no one will have to pull a Kent State on you.

Big Dog



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6 Responses to “Kent State, Where Guardsmen Have a Blast”

  1. Shimmy says:

    I appreciate your enthusiasm — and I, too, wish that Kent State wouldn’t have happened, because I don’t want anything to diminish our trust in those who serve in the military or police.

    But do your research. The historical record demonstrates that, yes, the rally was illegal. No one can doubt that.

    However, the rally was over when the National Guard fired. They shot into a crowd that was walking away.

    Most of all, remember that President Nixon’s Scranton Commission concluded: “The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”

    The historical record also shows that:

    1. The Guard opened fire on the campus common during lunch hour. Two students killed were not part of the demonstration: one was an ROTC member watching the demonstration (and walking away, because the demonstration was over); one was a student on her way to a Speech class to turn in a paper.

    2. Sergeant Lawrence Shafer, the National Guardsman who fired into Joseph Lewis’s abdomen, testified in court that he shot at Lewis because he was giving him the finger. More than 15 feet of Lewis’s intestines were removed in the surgery that saved his life.

    3. After the shooting, a National Guardsman attempted to plant a pistol on Jeffrey Miller’s dead body.

    4. The FBI’s investigation of the Kent State killings concluded: “we have some reason to believe that the claim by the National Guard that their lives were endangered by the students was fabricated subsequent to the event.”

    5. According to the FBI report, a Guardsman “admitted that his life was not in danger and that he fired indiscriminantly into the crowd. He further stated that the Guardsmen had gotten together after the shooting and decided to fabricate the story that they were in danger of serious bodily harm or death from the students.”

    6. In criminal court, students’ attorney Joseph Kelner asked Ohio National Guard Sergeant Leon Smith to put on the helmet and gas mask he was wearing May 4. While Smith was still on the witness stand, Kellner then threw a rock that hit Smith on his helmeted head. (Students throwing rocks were cited by the Guard as reason they feared for their lives.) Smith’s helmet was so effective that he did not flinch when the rock hit him. “What happened to the helmet when I struck you just now with the stone?” Kelner asked in court. Smith replied: “You just made a sound.”

    History can be beyond partisan politics. You and I might disagree on interpretations of historical events. But for the sake of your own credibility, you have to get your facts correct.

  2. Big Dog says:

    I appreciate your comment. The facts are not clear because there have been so many allegations. The crowd was moving back toward the guard when they were fired upon. Also, the rally was not over, the crowd had dispersed because the guard had marched with fixed bayonets.

    The grand jury did not indict any guardsman because there was not enough evidence that they willfully killed people. Yes, 2 people were killed who were walking to class but if the crowd was not returning to the guardsmen and had not thrown objects then no one would have been killed. It is also significat to note that if people were walking away then how did they get hit from the front?

    A lot about this is speculation. Many present have differing stories. I feel badly they died but I stand behind the military guys who had to be called in because the hooligans could not behave.

    My historical facts are accurate in the context that they are some of what has been presented.

    Like I said, they can reopen it when they reopen the murder by Ted Kennedy.

    Thanks for your perspective though. I appreciate other points of view.

  3. Big Dog says:

    It is rather like saying that yes, the man robbed the bank and was throwing stuff at the police but they should not have shot.

    I stated early I would not have done that unless I felt my men were in danger. Having said that, we do not really know what they were feeling or if there was another shot (or a firecracker). We do know if the people had not been breaking the law this would not have happened.

  4. Shimmy says:

    It’s relativism on a grand scale to be presented with an FBI report, a Presidential Commission report, and sworn jury testimony and call these matters of “speculation.”

    The historical record (see the documents above) shows the rally was over: the crowd had been dispersed, yes, and the students as a whole were walking away.

    I did not — and really could not — suggest that every single person in the crowd was facing away from the particular National Guard troop that fired. How could a lunchtime crowd on a common all be facing away from the National Guard?

    For those students who needed to go to class in Bowman Hall from the Prentice Hall parking lot, for instance, it would be necessary to face in the direction of the Guard because this was the direction the students would be walking. Students (and faculty, and office staff workers) were accustomed to demonstrations on campus (again, as the historical record shows). As such, they were accustomed to walking in, around, and among demonstrations just to go about their daily business. It should not come as a surprise, then, that some students still were facing (but not menacing) the Guard after the rally was over.

    These are facts, not speculation. The possibility of another shot, as you mentioned, or a firecracker, was part of press lore for a short time after the killings, but was discredited by the FBI and by President Nixon’s Scranton Commission. Most of the National Guard members at Kent State did the best they could. One contingent, Troop G, turned and fired into a dispersing crowd at lunchtime on a crowded common.

  5. Big Dog says:

    Certainly it was tragic, no doubt about it. I have read differing reports, including some of the things you mention. I have seen that most people decided not to protest and about 2000 decided to. They were abusive and assaulted the police, firefighters, and guardsmen. When the guardsmen fixed bayonets and marched toward the group they dispersed away from the Common and the guard got bottlenecked by the athletic field. They conversed about what to do and though they thought it would make it look like they were retreating, they went back the way they came. At one point they turned and started firing at the crowd that had dispersed but was moving back toward them.

    Now, I am sure there were 2000 different stories and all of them had some sort of truth based on perspective. It was horrible but once again, it would not have happened if the guard did not have to be called out to control unruly people.

    I am sure that most liberal colleges of the time were use to protests so the fact that these people were so unruly as to require a state of emergency declaration shows they were well above what was the norm for protests.

  6. BIG GUY says:

    I live in Kent, Ohio the bastion of liberalism in Ohio. Yesterday we had Tom Hayden and today Cindy Shame-ham who will lead a “Peace Rally” to the down town commons. How long must we endure the commie drivel handed out as truth by these folks. The students are only told one side of the story. Ask the firemen, who my brother was one of, about how the town went nuts during the riot. They cut the firehoses while he was in the ROTC building looking for anyone inside and nearly burned up trying to get out of the fire. With professor Juilo Pino and the rest of the radical campus leaders I wonder why anyone would send their kids here for “education”. Every year it’s the same old same old with the radicals hating America and stirring up emotions with the 60″s drivel.