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Kent State Remembered: When Ohio National Guard Murdered 4 in cold blood

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Remember Kent State Ohio

Watch his Speech:
Mario Savio: Sproul Hall Steps
December 2, 1964

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious,
makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even
passively take part,
and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels,
upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.
And you've got to indicate to the people who run it,
to the people who own it,
that unless you're free,
the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

VIDEO SLIDESHOW: Four Dead in Ohio

IMAGES w/Music: Ohio - Neil Young Cover


On May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University in Ohio were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen at an on-campus march to protest Nixon's invasion of Cambodia five days earlier. Those of us who remember Kent State first hand (I was in first grade, the daughter and granddaughter of KSU professors) know the "order to fire" did not come from some commander. The contempt for the life of the "dirty f**king hippies" came from Ohio Governor Rhodes, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon.

In 1970, the Vietnam war was going horribly wrong, the public that was waking up incredibly quickly, and the President and his administration's reaction was not only to stay the course but to dig in their heels and question the patriotism of anyone who did not go along.

We do not need anyone to tell us that
there is an "Iraq-Vietnam Link." The "Vietnamization" of this war
is happening before our eyes.


Published on Monday, May 7, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
The Lethal Media Silence on Kent State's Smoking Guns
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

The 1970 killings by National Guardsmen of four students
during a peaceful anti-war demonstration at Kent State University
have now been shown to be cold-blooded, premeditated official murder.
But the definitive proof of this monumental historic reality
is not, apparently, worthy of significant analysis or comment
in today's mainstream media..

After 37 years of official denial and cover-up, tape-recorded evidence, that has existed for decades and has been in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has finally been made public.

It proves what "conspiracy theorists" have argued since 1970---that there was a direct military order leading to the unprovoked assassination of unarmed students. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents show collusion between Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes and the FBI that aimed to terrorize anti-war demonstrators and their protests that were raging throughout the nation.

It is difficult to overstate the political and cultural impact of the killing of the four Kent State students and wounding of nine more on May 4, 1970. The nation's campuses were on fire over Richard Nixon's illegal invasion of Cambodia. Scores of universities were ripped apart by mass demonstrations and student strikes. The ROTC building at Kent burned down. The vast majority of American college campuses were closed in the aftermath, either by student strikes or official edicts.

Nixon was elected president in 1968 claiming to have a "secret plan" to end the war in Southeast Asia. But the revelation that he was in fact escalating it with the illegal bombing of what had been a peaceful non-combatant nation was more than Americans could bear.

As the ferocity of the opposition spread deep into the grassroots, Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, shot back in a series of speeches. He referred to student demonstrators as Nazi "brownshirts" and suggested that college administrators and law enforcement should "act accordingly."

On May 3, 1970---the day before National Guardsmen under his purview opened fire at Kent State--Rhodes echoed Agnew's remarks by referring to student demonstrators as "the strongest, well-trained militant revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America … They're worse than the brownshirts and the Communist element and the night riders and the vigilantes. They are the worst type of people that we harbor in America…."

Rhodes told a reporter that the Ohio National Guard would remain at Kent State "until we get rid of them" referring to a demographic group that was overwhelmingly white, middle class and in college.

The next day, Rhodes, the administration and the FBI sent those students a lethal message.

Rhodes was the perfect messenger. Bumbling and mediocre, with a long history of underworld involvement, Rhodes was a devoted admirer of Nixon, and of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Public records reveal that Rhodes was a virtual stooge for the FBI because of the agency's files tying Rhodes directly to organized crime.

When Kent's ROTC building was torched on May 2 under suspicious circumstances (student protestors couldn't get it to light until a mysterious "biker" showed up with a canister of gasoline) it provided the perfect cover for Rhodes to dispatch the National Guard.

But contrary to law, they were supplied with live ammunition. On May 4, in the presence of a peaceful, unthreatening rally, the Guard was strung along a ridge 100 yards from the bulk of the protestors. Earlier, rocks and insults had been hurled at the Guard. But not one of the numerous investigations and court proceedings involving what happened next has ever contended any of the students were armed, or that the Guard was under threat of physical harm at the time of the shooting.

For 37 years the official cover story has been that a mysterious shot rang out and the young Guardsmen panicked, firing directly into the "mob" of students.

This week, that cover story was definitively proven to be a lie.

Prior to the shooting, a student named Terry Strubbe put a microphone at the window of his dorm, which overlooked the rally. According to the Associated Press, the 20-second tape is filled with "screaming anti-war protectors followed by the sound of gunfire."

But in an amplified version of the tape, a Guard officer is also heard shouting "Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!"

The sound of gunshots follow the word "Point." Four students soon lay dead. Two days later, two more would die at Jackson State University, as police fired without provocation into a dorm.

Strubbe gave a copy of the Kent tape to the FBI soon after the shooting (he has kept the original in a safe deposit box). Eight Guardsmen were later tried for civil rights violations, and acquitted. Neither their officers, nor Nixon, nor Agnew, nor Rhodes, nor the FBI, were ever brought to trial. But massive volumes of research---including an epic study by James A. Michener and William Gordon's Four Dead in Ohio---strongly imply an explicit conspiracy to intimidate the national anti-war movement.

After 37 years, Strubbe's tape got its first widespread public perusal last week. Six months ago, Alan Canfora, 58, one of the nine wounded Kent students, learned it had been given to Yale University's archives. Last week he played it to a group of students and reporters at a small university theater.

The fact that the Guard got direct orders to set, aim and shoot flies directly in the face of the official cover story that they were responding in panic to a random shot fired at them, or that they were defending themselves from some kind of student attack.

In fact, it seems highly likely no shot ever rang out prior to the order to fire. Nor could the Guard, who killed a student as much as 900 feet away from the rally, say they were under any serious attack from the students.

The Kent State killings are now prominently featured in virtually every history book of the United States used in American schools. The accounts often include the famous photo of an anguished Mary Ann Vecchio crying for help next to the dead body of student protestor Jeffrey Miller. (They were 265 feet away from where the shot that killed Miller was fired.) Rendered into song by Neil Young's classic "Ohio," there are few more definitive moments in the history of this nation.

But meaningful analysis of the implications of this tape has been mysteriously missing from the American media. The Associated Press did carry a widely-runstory about the surfacing of this evidence, as did National Public Radio. But the Columbus Dispatch, in Ohio's capital, buried the report on page A-5 under the innocuous headline "Victim shares audio tape of Kent State shootings." Virtually absent from the major US media has been a concerted examination of the fact that the keystone in this monumental American saga has been re-set.

For we now know that a premeditated, unprovoked order was indeed given to National Guardsmen to fire live ammunition at peaceful, unarmed American students, killing four of them. The illegal order to arm the Guard with live ammunition in the first place could only have come from the governor of Ohio. The very loud, very public nod to shoot some "brown shirt" students somewhere in order to chill the massive student uprising against the Southeast Asian war was spewed all over the national media by the second-highest official in US government.

Now the magnitude of Kent State's impact on American politics and culture, already immense, has been significantly deepened.

Alan Canfora intends to use this tape to re-open investigations into what happened at Kent State 37 years ago.

But the media's apparent unconcern about confirmation
of the official order to carry out these killings may bear a simple message:
that we should be prepared for them to happen again.

Victims of the National Guard:

The news that Richard Nixon was sending troops to Cambodia caused a chain of protests
in the U.S. colleges. At Kent State the protest seemed more violent, some students even
throwing rocks. In consequence, The Ohio National Guard was called to calm things down,
but the events got out of hand and they started shooting. Some of the victims were simply
walking to school. The photo shows 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body
of Jeffrey Miller who had been shot by the Ohio National Guard moments earlier.

Opposition to the United States involvement in Vietnam led to several domestic
confrontations between antiwar demonstrators and government troops. National Guard
troops stunned the nation when they shot into a crowd of protesters during a 1970
demonstration at Ohio’s Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine.

A peace demonstrator protesting United States involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975)
taunts military police during a confrontation in front of the Pentagon. Demonstrations against
the war took place in major cities and on many college campuses across the United States
during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Historical find here.. A collection of Photographs at Kent State ...


Chuck Ayers, Photographs, May 1-4, 1970
Prepared by Dyani Scheuerman, January 17, 2003
1 slim document case, .16 cubic feet, 12th floor
Biographical Note
Chuck Ayers (1947 - ) graduated from Kent State University with a degree in graphic design. While studying there, he drew cartoons for the Daily Kent Stater and the Akron Beacon Journal, where he later became editorial cartoonist. Ayers created the popular comic strip "Crankshaft" with Tom Batiuk. In 2000, Ayers and Batiuk created a "Crankshaft" Comic Strip Thirtieth Anniversary Story Arc about the KSU shootings, the originals of which are now part of the May 4 Collection. He has taught cartooning for Kent State University and the University of Akron. In 1986, Ayers received a first place award for editorial cartoons from the Ohio Associated Press.

Scope and Content

This collection contains photographs taken on the Kent State University campus on May 1-4, 1970, as well as a book of cartoons related to KSU that were originally published in the Daily Kent Stater and Akron Beacon Journal. The photos include images of student speakers, student protestors, national guard personnel and vehicles, various campus locations, and some episodes of confrontation between students and guardsmen. The captions below were provided by Ayers. The book contains both satirical representations of everyday campus life and more serious interpretations of the events occuring on May 4, as well as a cartoon which was nominated for the Pulitzer and appeared in numerous papers nationwide.

Ayers has kindly donated to the Kent State University Archives whatever property and literary rights he possesses in this collection of photographs.

 May 4 Collection -- Box 189
Folder -- Contents

Note: After viewing a photograph below, click on your browser's "BACK" button to return to this inventory list

   1. Photograph: [Speakers at Victory Bell, 5/1, ~ noon]
   2. Photograph: [View of crowd at Victory Bell, 5/1, ~ 12:15 PM]
   3. Photograph: [Speakers, 5/1, ~12:15-1:00 PM]
   4. Photograph: [Speakers, 5/1, ~12:15-1:00 PM]
   5. Photograph: [Speakers, 5/1, ~12:15-1:00 PM]
   6. Photograph: [Trucks and jeeps in old stadium parking lot, 5/3, ~10:00 AM]
   7. Photograph: [Ohio National Guard vehicles at University School, 5/3, ~10:00 AM]
   8. Photograph: [Roadblock at Satterfield Hall, looking west on Summit St., 5/3, ~10:00 AM]
   9. Photograph: [Roadblock at Satterfield Hall, looking west on Summit St., 5/3, ~10:00 AM]
  10. Photograph: ["My first view of ROTC remains," 5/3, ~10:30 AM]
  11. Photograph: [On Commons near ROTC, old art building at right, 5/3, ~10:30 AM]
  12. Photograph: [Sign for Campus Day, 5/3, 10:30 AM]
  13. Photograph: [Guard near old art building, 5/3, ~10:30 AM]
  14. Photograph: [Front of ROTC remains, 5/3, ~11:00 AM]
  15. Photograph: [Front of ROTC remains, 5/3, ~11:00 AM]
  16. Photograph: [Crowd gathers near ROTC remains, 5/3, ~11:30-noon]
  17. Photograph: [Hilltop Drive, Administration Building, 5/3, ~12:30-1:00 PM]
  18. Photograph: [ONG vehicle in front of Administration Building, 5/3, ~12:30-1:00 PM]
  19. Photograph: [Students and guardsmen, Hilltop Dr., looking toward front campus, 5/3, ~12:30-1:00 PM]
  20. Photograph: [ONG vehicles in lot behind Wills Gym, 5/4, ~8:30 AM]
  21. Photograph: [ONG vehicles in lot behind Wills Gym, 5/4, ~8:30 AM]
  22. Photograph: [ONG vehicles in lot behind Wills Gym, 5/4, ~8:30 AM]
  23. Photograph: [Guardsmen reading Plain Dealer in lot behind Wills Gym, 5/4, ~8:30 AM]
  24. Photograph: [ONG vehicles in lot behind Wills Gym, 5/4, ~8:30 AM]
  25. Photograph: [Jeep parked across street from Heating Plant, 5/4, ~9:00 AM]
  26. Photograph: [ROTC remains, "chilly morning," 5/4, ~9:00 AM]
  27. Photograph: ["On my way to a midterm in Nixson Hall," remains of shed on campus, 5/4, ~9:45 AM]
  28. Photograph: [Remains of shed on campus, 5/4, ~9:45 AM]
  29. Photograph: ["1st photo after hearing Victory Bell," 5/4, noon]
  30. Photograph: ["My 1st photo of gathering on Commons," 5/4, noon]
  31. Photograph: [ONG gathering at ROTC, 5/4, noon]
  32. Photograph: [Students viewing rally on Student Activities Building roof, 5/4, noon]
  33. Photograph: [Jeep crosses Commons with announcement, 5/4, ~12:05 PM]
  34. Photograph: [Crowd at Victory Bell, 5/4, ~12:05 PM]
  35. Photograph: [Jeep on Commons making announcement, 5/4, ~12:05 PM]
  36. Photograph: [First teargas canisters fired, 5/4, ~12:10 PM]
  37. Photograph: [Throwing back a teargas canister, 5/4, ~12:10 PM]
  38. Photograph: [Lull in teargas, crowd on hill, 5/4, ~12:15 PM]
  39. Photograph: ["My 1st photo as guardsmen begin to don gas masks," 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  40. Photograph: [Guardsmen with gas masks, 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  41. Photograph: ["I moved near the guardsmen as they prepared to advance," 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  42. Photograph: [ONG begins advance across Commons, 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  43. Photograph: [Confrontation between student and three guardsmen in SAB parking lot, 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  44. Photograph: [Guardsmen at extreme left same as in #43, 5/4, 12:15 PM]
  45. Photograph: [ONG continues its advance, students now across hill top, 5/4, 12:15-12:20 PM]
  46. Photograph: ["My 1st photo after following guard over hilltop," practice football field, 5/4, 12:20 PM]
  47. Photograph: [Guardsmen kneel and aim into Prentice parking lot, 5/4, 12:20 PM]
  48. Photograph: [Students in Prentice lot, 5/4, 12:20 PM]
  49. Photograph: [Guardsmen leaving practice field on way to Pagoda, 5/4, 12:25 PM]
  50. Photograph: [Jeff Miller in street, Dean Kahler on grass beyond street to right of Miller, 5/4, ~12:30-12:35 PM]
  51. Photograph: [Outside Stater office, 5/4, 12:45 PM]
  52. Photograph: [Outside Taylor Hall, looking toward Johnson Hall, Stopher Hall, and Student Activities Building, 5/4, 12:45 PM]
  53. Photograph: [Red Cross banner hung on small tower of Student Activities Building, 5/4, 1:00 PM]
  54. Photograph: [Outside Taylor Hall, 5/4, 1:00 PM]
  55. Photographs: [Copies of #47 and #48, which when placed together create a rough panoramic view, with note from Ayers]
  56. Negatives: May 1-4, 1970
  57. Book: Chuck Takes a Look at KSU, 1971


Eyewitness: Howard Ruffner
Introduction by Howard Ruffner

In 1970 I was a second year student at Kent State University (KSU).  My major was broadcast communications.  Prior to attending Kent State I spent  nearly four years in the Air Force where I learned photography.

At KSU I wanted to continue creating photographs so I joined the staffs  of the university newspaper and yearbook.   This was exactly what I wanted.   This gave me a lot of freedom to photograph a wide variety campus life.  After about a year, I applied to be the editor of the yearbook, which covers  university activities  from spring through  the following fall. I had just been told that  I would be the editor for the 1971 book, the Chestnut  Burr, the week before the students were killed on May 4, 1970. The campus was very quiet that spring;  there had been no rallies or protest about the Vietnam war and the quarter was  almost over.

The first rally occurred on May 1, the day after President Nixon announced that the United States would invade  Cambodia.  Over that weekend, several protests took place on campus. The National Guard was brought in and tensions began to rise almost immediately.

On May 4, I arrived at the journalism office about 10:00 a.m.  The editor of the newspaper handed me the phone and said someone from LIFE Magazine in Chicago wanted some pictures and that I should talk to them.  I agreed to provide LIFE photographs from the weekend and to cover any events that took place that day.  After the victory bell rang to gather students for a rally on the commons, I grabbed my cameras and began taking pictures as I walked through the crowd and down behind the National Guard.  Shortly afterward the guard ordered the students to disperse the area because all gatherings were illegal.

In a few minutes the guard began shooting tear gas cannisters into the crowd.  Many students began running to nearby dorms and classrooms, while others just headed across campus away from the guard.  I followed the guard with their fixed bayonets, taking pictures of protestors throwing tearing gas back at the guard and then running with their hands over their faces.

As the guard moved around both sides of the Journalism building many of us thought their action was over, and we followed around the building to see what  happened to the guard.  They had trapped themselves on a practice football field with a chain link fence behind them and on both sides and students regathering in front of them.  Several guards knelt and pointed their rifles while the leaders discussed their next move.  Their tactic was to directly confront the students in facing them and cross up the hill in front of Taylor Hall, the Journalism School.

I followed the guards from the side and behind without taking any pictures because nothing was happening except for their march.  When they reached the highest point on the hill, the last row of guardsmen turned, kneeled and began shooting at students.  I was about 80 feet in front of the guard when the firing began.  I believed their were shooting  blanks and did not feel I had anything to fear.  I took a photo of the guard just after they turned and then decided to grab my camera bag and kneel down.

After a few seconds I looked up and heard  people shouting "Oh my God, they�re shooting real bullets, people are dying." I began taking pictures again, this time of the slain unarmed students in front of me and beside me.  As I walked down the hill I spotted Jeffrey Miller lying in the street, his headband laying on one side and a stream of blood flowing down the street .  I began taking pictures as a young girl kneeled over the body with a look of dismay and then horror. I continued taking pictures as the news of spread that students had been shot and that some of them were dead.

Shortly afterward the school was closed and I shipped my film to LIFE Magazine in New York.  A few days later I received a call from LIFE telling me that one of my photos had been choosen for the cover.

As a witness to this tragedy, I will never forget what I experienced. No one could believe that the guard had opened fire on unarmed students and killed them.  Some of these kids were friends of the students who were shot.  I saw their faces and I could feel their pain, and I took their pictures so that no one would ever forget what happened at Kent State and the trauma that it caused for our nation.

More links to photos at the Kent State Library Archive:



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