Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WITNESSED: The Killings at Kent State

I know I do not always get my post in on the correct day, but the story remains the same. I just watched this CNN special "WITNESSED: The Killings at Kent State" and it brought back a lot of memories. I am certain if you were anywhere near your teenage years or above in 1970 you remember the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s with the events at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

It is hard to believe it has already been more than forty-four years since the Ohio National Guard killed four Kent State students on Blanket Hill on the campus of Kent State University. It all started five days earlier when President Nixon announced his invasion of Cambodia and the ramping up of the Vietnam War.

Many people felt let down because Nixon had said he was going to de-escalate in Vietnam and Cambodia. Instead, he makes the announcement how he is going to escalate the war and bring in more American troops to advance on areas along the Vietnam and Cambodia borders. I like this chart he showed on a nationally televised presentation. It shows just how far we have come in forty-four years of television graphics and technology:

What happened when Nixon made that statement about advancing instead of de-escalating it made the divide we all ready had between the Vietnam supporters and the antiwar movement.

The students at Kent State University were just the tip of the iceberg of students all over the country who were outraged when Nixon called them "Bums" in an article in the New York Times shortly before the end of April. Students and antiwar supporters all over the country were outraged and incensed at that event. It was starting to throw fuel on the fire of the divide it was happening in the country.

There is always been a debate about whether or not an order was given to the Ohio National Guard to fire upon the students. According to the special, a recently enhanced recording shows the Guards were ordered to open fire on unarmed, innocent, fleeing students. Four students like dead and nine more were injured. One of those students was shot in the back and remains paralyzed to this day. O will get back to them later.

In an interesting epilogue on the video this statement occurs:

The 28 national guardsmen who fired their weapons signed a declaration of regret for the incidents of May 4th, 1970 …  but have never apologized for their actions.

I find it interesting how only sixty-seven rounds were fired and it has caused a debate to this day about how the event should have unfolded peacefully.

At no time in history has a branch of the United States military fired on innocent civilians with live ammunition.

The four students killed were Allison Krause, William Schroeder, was shot in the back; Sandy Schreuer, had been walking to class, and Michael Miller shown in this iconic, Pulitzer prize-winning photograph as Mary Ann Vecchio screamed for help over his dead body:

Click on the image to make it larger:

I remember watching Walter Cronkite tell us on the news that night about the terrible massacre on the Kent State campus in Kent, Ohio. I had never even heard of Kent, Ohio before. That shows you how naïve I was to my world outside of Worthington, Minnesota.

The thing that was so disturbing to me about Nixon ramping up the war and sending more troops in was he won election in 1968 telling us he was going to end the Vietnam War. He was lying to us way back then. He had no intention of stopping the war and withdrawing our troops.

As always, I look forward to your comments. I specially look forward to your comments if you will remember that time and how it affected your friends and family and especially you.




Mike Patrick said...

My daughter will be a freshman at Kent next fall. While visiting the campus with her last fall, we walked the area of the shootings. It was very moving for me even though I was only 3 at the time it happened. It brought up emotions I rarely have felt and certainly didn't expect. My thoughts went to what the parents of these kids must have felt knowing the troops that should be protecting our country had fired upon their own citizens and how in another life it could easily have been my child. It must have been devastating with a huge feeling of betrayal. What a sad time in our nation's history. Great post Mike.

Cathy Judge said...

The good old Military Industrial Complex at work. Economics again being a driving force. Very difficult times then. People chanting "Peace not War". Had to stand behind our friends who fought in Vietnam and were treated so poorly upon their return. The Kent State massacre should never have happened. It certainly reflected the sad state of affairs in our nation at the time and the big divide between the government and a large segment of the population. An ultimate betrayal, no doubt. Through every tragedy, there is a lesson learned so the same mistake doesn't happen again. Can we count on that? Well written blog, Mike Patrick!

Jean B said...

Another great blog, Mike! As a para at school, and working with students in a 9th grade American History Class, we just recently studied the Nixon years. I have been in this class for a number of years, yet every time we study these things I get an ache in my heart! THAT is why we study history!

Victoria said...


What a chilling day that was. I was close to tears reading your blog and remembering the events. It was a trying time for me, as a military brat, who wanted to support our troops (when the rest of the world was vilifying them) and as an anti-war liberal, even then.

The events at Kent State propelled me into campaigning for McGovern before I was even able to vote. It caused a rift between my dad and myself, but he came to see over time that this was who I was and it wasn't just a flash in the pan ideal. Politically, we will never agree but we now do so, respectfully.

Love your blog!

Hugs, Victoria

Lynn Clark said...

I cannot help but notice some of the parallels that exist between the peace movement of the 70's and the occupy movement of today. Young people trying to find a way to achieve a more just society.

That the happenings at Kent State do not still provoke a sense of moral outrage dumbfounds me. But then again, this country has never learned from its mistakes.

The current trend to re-write history by some to make the protestors at Kent State out to be hooligans and no good hippies does a disservice to the deaths that occurred at the hands of National Guardsmen who never apologized and were never held accountable for their actions.

Thanks for reminding us all about this tragic event in our history, Mike. I know it changed my outlook on war and protest forever. I was proud to be among the millions who marched in San Francisco before the invasion of Iraq.

History will continue to repeat itself if we do not commit to a peaceful society.

Colleen said...

So many feelings and memories come racing back on this horrendous event … with brothers in the military and in Vietnam it was a truly heart wrenching time for all of us — with a map on my kitchen wall trying to keep track of where my brothers were at any given time was a constant remainder of the history that was being made.

By the grace of God all of my brothers — all seven survived their military duty over the years and returned to American soil. They carry those memories and burdens to this day and will until the day they die.

Leon Rupert said...

I remember the day when this happened. I had just gotten to my very first assignment after basic training in the Air Force. After we got off work that day we all sat in the Day Room watching the communal TV. We were all just fixed on it not beleiving what we saw.

We all had all kinds of speculations as to how much it would affect us on active duty. For at least a week after that happened we were glued to the TV watching the 6 PM news after work. It was a horrible, horrible incident. We were even briefed by our commanders to not say anything to news people if we were asked while off base.

angmag55 said...

I remember Kent State and the horror I felt that day and the outrage that we would use our National Guard in this manner! I felt so bad for the Family and Friends of those who were killed and wounded and wondered where does it stop! I fear History repeating itself again today or any day in the future because it seems like we never ever learn from the past and have a habit of repeating this History over again and again!

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