Kent State Shootings

Published: 1970
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
KEN2000050303 - 3 MAY 2000 - KENT, OHIO, USA: Students dive to the ground as the Guard fires on faculty and students, May 4, 1970 to protest the war in Vietnam. cc/Photo courtesy of Kent State University Archives HO UPI

Unknown Speaker: "A group of young people, mostly boys, we can determine the university student, were milling around the downtown area in Kent, where there is a collection of bars and night clubs, where most of the younger crowd frequent. At first they were simply milling around; not really unruly or disorderly. The crowd got larger, and then the violence broke out at about midnight."

Announcer: The place, Kent State University in Ohio. If you were there on May 4th, you would have seen a campus filled with Ohio National Guard units, called into quell student rioting, which began as a protest against the use of U.S. forces in Cambodia.

The guardsmen had been ordered onto the campus after the University's ROTC building had been burned to the ground in the second night of disruption by antiwar students.

So there you are, if a student, you're one of about 600 in a large grassy plain in the middle of campus. If you are a national guardsman, you are a part of the 100 on that same grassy plain. You would just disperse some students with teargas. Your rifle is loaded with real bullets. You stand side by side, walking up a hill. Suddenly a student throws a rock, then another. They are shouting. Then just as suddenly you turn to face the crowd, a skirmish line is formed. You lift your rifle and for about 30 seconds only, the sounds of shooting and screaming fill the air.

Unknown Speaker: "Suddenly, they turned around, got underneath, as if they were ordered to, they did it all together, aimed. And personally, I was standing there saying, they're not going to shoot, they can't do that. If they are going to shoot, it's going to be blank."

Unknown Speaker: "The shots were definitely coming my way, because when a bullet passes your head, it makes a crack. I hit the ground behind the curve, looking over. I saw a student hit, he stumbled and failed, to where he was running towards the car. Another student tried to pull him behind the car, bullets were coming through the windows of the car.

"As this student fell behind the car, I saw another student go down, next to the curb, on the far side of the automobile, maybe 25 or 30 yards from where I was lying. It was maybe 25, 30, 35 seconds of sporadic firing.

"The firing stopped. I lay there maybe 10 or 15 seconds. I got up, I saw four or five students lying around the lot. By this time, it was like mass hysteria. Students were crying, they were screaming for ambulances. I heard some girl screaming, 'They didn't have blank, they didn't have blank,' no, they didn't?."

Announcer: When it was over, four students lay dead, 11 wounded, two guards had been hospitalized. Some criticize the National Guard, but their leaders defended their action.

Unknown Speaker: "I think that the guardsmen were provoked beyond reason. I believe that we used every conceivable effort to get the people to disperse and to move, long before the formation moved up to the hill. And we regret this as much as anyone, that people were killed and wounded. We even regret the fact that it was necessary to be here."

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