On May 4, 1970, the realities of the Vietnam War reached Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
Students were protesting the war as a result of President Nixon’s declaration of the United States’ intention to attack Viet Cong. More than 1,000 protestors and demonstrators were at the university campus.
According to Kent State, the protests started peacefully. However, once the young protestors clashed with the police, violence ensued.
The National Guard was called in on May 2.
Although the university attempted to ban it, a large rally was held on May 4 at noon.
Approximately 3,000 people attended the demonstration and filled the commons area. The National Guard dispatched about 100 armed guardsmen. When the demonstrators were ordered to disperse, they began throwing rocks at the National Guard.
The protestors moved toward Blanket Hill. As things escalated, 28 guardsmen fired into the crowd.
Between 61 and 67 shots were fired within a 13-second span.
Four students were shot dead and nine others were injured.
The students killed were Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder, and Sandra Scheuer.
The tragedy triggered a nationwide student strike. Hundreds of universities and colleges closed. Kent State University was closed for six weeks.
Many questions still surround the shootings. Should the National Guard have been called to the university? Why did the guardsmen fire into the crowd?
The nation was shocked by the events of May 4. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young even recorded a song about the tragedy.
Even today, the actions of the National Guard are hotly debated.
An audio recording of the incident, called the Terry Strubbe recording, was originally taken in a Kent State dorm room. This audio file has been analyzed by experts to determine the timeline of events.
Forensic audio experts Stuart Allen and Tom Owen insist that the words “Prepare to fire” were uttered by someone in the National Guard right before the shootings. The FBI analysis of the digitized copy of the tape did not agree with their findings.
To learn more about the events that took place, visit the Kent State website.
Tragedies resulting in the loss of innocent life have been happening for decades. It is not a new occurrence, but one we, as a society, must find a way to stop.