J. Ronald Snyder, Oral History
Recorded on November 1, 2007
Interviewed and Transcribed by Craig Simpson
[Interviewer]: Good morning. My name is Craig Simpson, and the date is November 1, 2007. We are conducting an oral history interview today for the May 4 Oral History Project, and could you please state your name?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Ronald Snyder.
[Interviewer]: Where were you born?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I was born in Ravenswood, West Virginia.
[Interviewer]: Did you grow up there?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: No, I came to Akron when I was about twelve years old.
[Interviewer]: How long did you stay in Akron?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Most of my life.
[Interviewer]: Where did you go to school?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I went to Akron South High School. Lakeview Elementary School in Akron. I went to a one-room school in West Virginia until I was in the sixth grade or thereabouts. And then following that I attended Kent State University for about I think around two years worth of credits, and then I transferred to Akron University.
[Interviewer]: What years were you at Kent State?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: As I recall, it was around '72 to around '76, for a time.
[Interviewer]: What was your major?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Criminal justice.
[Interviewer]: What year--just backing up a little--what year did you join the National Guard?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I think it was around April 10th, in 1956.
[Interviewer]: What interested you in joining the Guard?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, it was a couple of things. Number one, I come from a family who has a long history of military [service]. My dad had been in World War II. I had relatives that [were] in the Civil War. I had a Revolutionary War ancestor that was at Valley Forge and throughout the South in the Revolution. And everybody knew this, it was a patriotic kind of thing. And in 1956 there wasn't much going on, as far as wars or things of that nature, and it just seemed like a logical thing to do. I could do it on a part-time basis and at the same time go on with my life.
[Interviewer]: Speaking as somebody who's had no military background, could you maybe just briefly explain what the role of the Guard is?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, the role of the Guard basically is--well, it's a number of different things. Primarily, they're a source of manpower and training for the United States Army, or the Air Force if it happens to be the Air National Guard. They provide a unit already intact that can go to active duty with some additional training and become a combat-ready outfit, or perform whatever other duties it was--and in my case it was an infantry unit, which is the grunt soldier. The other aspect of the National Guard is that it's kind of like a state militia, at the beck-and-call of the governor of the particular state. They do everything from providing security during times of emergency, to providing help and assistance with regards to floods, fires--I think you've seen that just recently in California. The Guard was called upon also on the Mexican border. And, generally, whatever somebody tells them that they need them for. They're a ready source of personnel that has some training.
[Interviewer]: What rank did you ultimately rise to?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I started out as a private. And some years later I went to Officer Candidate School, and then on to Fort Benning, Georgia to the advanced officer training, and eventually to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for additional training. And I attained the rank of captain.
[Interviewer]: When was that approximately?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I'd have to look at the paperwork, but it was around 1967-68, something like that.
[Interviewer]: How old were you approximately?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I was under 30, I think, when I became promoted to captain.
[Interviewer]: How many men were under your command?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I believe, at any given time--during 1970, you're speaking of?--I might have had 180 men. I think we were pretty close to full-strength, and I believe 186 was the full-strength, 184 or 186. The organization would change occasionally, depending on the type of unit you were.
[Interviewer]: Again, speaking as somebody with no military experience, when you join the Guard, do you join by contract or are you in for life or do you have an option?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: No, you just--generally, it's a three-year enlistment, if you're an enlisted person. If you become an officer your term is indefinite, until such time as you resign. In 1970, many times people stayed in for an eight year obligation, because it was either that or you had to go to active duty.
[Interviewer]: Before we get to the events of May 4, 1970, I was thinking we could start with the truckers' strike. Were you involved in that?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yes.
[Interviewer]: When did that occur?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: That occurred probably--again, I'm operating without any notes, just strictly from memory. We came to Kent directly from the truckers' strike, and it was going on for maybe over a week, prior to the Kent State event. And then prior to that, in 1968, we spent a considerable amount of time in the Akron riots.
[Interviewer]: Would you like to talk about that at all, the Akron--what that involved, the Akron riots?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, the Akron riots was a racially-motivated riot. I--again, I was a Guard officer, and was a company commander actually. The riot got off the ground there in the area of Wooster Avenue. We got the call from the--I believe it was the governor's office, and the mayor had requested the Guard because they were unable to handle the events. And we went down and kind of took care of everything. Got the police supplemented with their duties. We provided--we took back the streets, so to speak. And that went on for, I don't know, ten days maybe. Something like that. And we packed up and went home.
During that course of time, there was a lot of tear gas used. We were fired on from the--by a group, at one time, from the area of the Akron Zoo while we were changing the guard. Just a lot of things. The usual riot stuff.
[Interviewer]: And then, in I guess it would have been in late April then, in 1970, was approximately the time of the truckers' strike.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yes.
[Interviewer]: Could you explain what that was about?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, it had to do with the truckers--the union, as I understand it--there had been threats and attempts to stop the freight from being delivered to the areas of the turnpike. This was our responsiblity. In the grand scheme of things, I just responded to what we were told to do, and that was to assist in keeping the transportation going, which we did. My job was to take a unit to the area of West Richfield, Ohio, and provide security for running convoys to the turnpike, which we did, and using various tactics we were always successful.
[Interviewer]: What kind of tactics?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, a lot of the truckers would go down to a tavern there in Richfield and try to get intelligence on when the convoys from the trucking companies would run, that kind of thing. And then they'd run and jump in their pickup trucks and try to harass the truckers and intimidate them, things of that nature. And we discovered that we could go down and surround the tavern and the trucks would run, and that worked for a while. Other than that, we would provide the convoys with armed jeeps with the convoys to prevent anything serious happening. And we were successful with that.
[Interviewer]: How much training had you and your unit had with regard to riot control?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, actually, quite a bit. This was something that always surprised me with the Kent State matter. They always tried to insinuate that the training was little or none, when in fact we'd had considerable training. We had, beginning back previous to the 1968 riots, starting around the time the Detroit riots had took place, the Guard really did extensive riot training. We learned to employ tear gas and other riot-control tactics. We practiced riot-control formations. Every one of our personnel that I'm aware of--now I'm speaking of Company C of the 145th Infantry--that was at Kent State had had at least six months of training on active duty. And aside from that, I think they received some training while on active duty--not much, I would expect. But we drilled about every other weekend or a minimum of once a month, dealing with some part of that training being riot-control training, whether it be employing the use of tear gas, safety matters, riot formations, things of this nature.
[Interviewer]: I was curious how heavy your equipment was that you wore when you would go into these situations?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I can tell you that the rifles weighed 9.5 lbs. You had some weight from the ammunition--not much. You had your uniform, and in some cases you might have the suspenders that hold up your belt. You had your gas mask, and you might have riot-control gases. Some of the troops carried 40-mm grenade-launchers. The amount of weight was not all that great because what we did, is we--the company executive officer, a lieutenant, would see that everybody's equipment was loaded onto the trucks and hauled to what they called the bivouac area, which is where the people would sleep, where they packed their sleeping bags and their other paraphernalia would go.
[Interviewer]: What was the status of your men right after the truckers' strike? Were they--was there just understandable fatigue or--?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, my evaluation, from a personal standpoint, is we had been on the detail for some time, but we'd had relief. People had been able to take showers. Sleep. There was apprehension of course, and we got the order to go to Kent, as I recall, in an afternoon, sometime in an afternoon, and we were to load everything up and move by convoy to Kent. I do not recall that we were extremely fatigued.
[Interviewer]: And when did you first go into Kent?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, we started toward Kent on the Akron Expressway in a vehicle convoy of trucks and jeeps and that kind of thing. I recall coming up over the hill in Brimfield approaching Route--what is today Tallmadge Road, I think it was called Route 18 then, and the sky, the atmosphere in the sky was a bright red. We could tell that something serious was going on, that was on fire.
[Interviewer]: Was this, some of this had been Saturday night, May 2nd, or Friday night, the 1st?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Was it Friday night that the Guard went to Kent?
[Interviewer]: I believe so, because Saturday night was the burning of the ROTC building.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Saturday night?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Okay. It was Saturday night.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: It was Saturday night. Because that was what we later found was causing the sky to light up this red color, and it was glowing very bright. It was kind of like something that you would see when they showed pictures of Baghdad after the bombing [laughs], although there was no noise, you understand, it was just a bright red glow. Embers. You could tell it was from a huge fire.
[Interviewer]: And what do you remember after that?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, we were given a location to go to, which was a school, I don't remember the name of the school. It was kind of across the street from the campus and down a sidestreet across [Route] 59 from Bowman Hall down in there. And the way we went there is we got off on State Route 43 and we went down into Kent, kind of around the main area of problems, because I believe there was already a Guard unit there. I don't recall who that unit was. And we went to the school, and from there we got our packs, got our sleeping bags, and actually I think that's where we stayed that night. Which would have been, like you say, a Saturday night. We received our mission while we were there--in other words, our assignment of what we should do. And that's pretty much it.
[Interviewer]: What was your mission?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I don't have a recollection right now of whether it was Saturday night or Sunday night. I know that there was a lot of problems on campus, and my unit, we went up to the campus in the area of what I believe--not Bowman Hall. It was the library at the time. Rockwell [Hall]. I'm sorry. You know, I'm going back 30-something years here, so--
[Interviewer]: Sure. Do the best you can.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah. And my unit's job was to seal off an influx of a lot of people that was either coming from the downtown area or the residential neighborhoods from going onto the campus. So I had perhaps as many as 60 men that was in formation to prevent people from moving onto the campus. And it was later that night also, I think, that the 107th Armored Cavalry was at Lincoln and Main, and there was helicopters and a lot of lights and that kind of thing.
[Interviewer]: What do you remember, just from that weekend before May 4, what the atmosphere was like on campus?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I have no idea. I was nowhere near there the week before.
[Interviewer]: No, no, that weekend. I'm sorry. That weekend, when you came in, what was the atmosphere like on campus?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, it seemed like everybody was angry [laughs].
[Interviewer]: The students, you mean?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah, when I say everybody, my contact was with the students. It certainly wasn't with the townspeople, as they later became referred to. My contact, and the troops that I commanded, their contract--contact was with mostly the students or people who said they were students. Later learned, accidentally, that there was a quite a few that was not students.
[Interviewer]: Of course we could talk about May 4 itself--what do you remember about that day?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I recall that day--actually at the time I lived in Stow, Ohio, and my jeep driver and what we called our RTO--Radio Telephone Operator--we had been at it for quite a while, and considering the truckers' strike and the KSU, and at Kent we hadn't been afforded any kind of showers. They just weren't available. On Monday, things seemed kind of quiet in the morning, and I ran home and the three of us showered at my house, and got everything, checked out gear, made a few phone calls, and I got back in the jeep and headed back to Kent, which is when I got a radio call to move my unit onto campus. And that would have been on pretty close to noon, maybe 11:30, maybe earlier. There is a record of all this, I just don't know where those records are.
[Interviewer]: And then what else happened after that?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I moved my unit onto campus, and I was directed by somebody, probably Major Jones, to--as you face Blanket Hill, my unit was on the left, and then there was a unit from the 107th Armored Cavalry, and there was a unit from A Company from the 145th Infantry. I can't speak to their location because, again, you're talking to a person who's remembering 30-some years back and I have not made it a point to remember those things.
[Interviewer]: Where were you in the chain of command?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I was in charge of the troopers from C Company.
[Interviewer]: From Company C?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: Okay. And then who was above you? There was Major Jones--
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Major Jones. I believe Colonel Fassinger was there. And, then there was General [pause]--
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Canterbury. General Canterbury. He came on the scene a little bit later. Now I had previous contact the night before with General Canterbury. He had asked me to take my company down to what, as I recall, was the Tri-Towers?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: And he gave me the assignment to remove the people from the Tri-Towers because they were tearing the place up.
[Interviewer]: This was the night before?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah. Setting fires and that kind of thing. And we marched down there in file, and when we'd seen what was going on inside from the exterior, we decided it was better to let whatever happen happen, because although it would have been an easy thing to extract everybody from there, people would have been hurt.
[Interviewer]: And what was--going back to May 4, right around noon--what was going through your mind as you were leading your men?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Only I was just waiting for a mission statement. What they wanted me to do, that was all. There wasn't anything that I'd seen that was insurmountable, anything like that. They proceeded to read the riot act, as it was known, that was the "cease and desist and remove yourself" kind of thing. It didn't appear to me that anybody was going to go anywhere, and it was just a foregone conclusion that eventually we were going to have to remove them, and probably with tear gas, which eventually we did.
[Interviewer]: What do you remember after that?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Um, let's see. I recall that eventually we got the order to move out, and my job was to take my unit up the hill between the architectural building and another building, I forget the name of it. Anyway, there was two buildings and there was a space between them--
[Interviewer]: Probably Taylor Hall and Stopher [Hall].
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Taylor. Yeah. And we did that. And we moved everybody before us, tear gassed them, and moved on up the hill. Took our position where we'd been assigned, and then I just awaited on further orders.
[Interviewer]: And then what happened?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, later, as I understand it, around 12:20, we heard gunfire. We seen a number of students running to--which at the time we didn't know where they were running to, but there's that sculpture?
[Interviewer]: Yes, in front of Taylor Hall.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: And then we--in fact we--there was kind of like a--if I remember right, it was kind of like a triangle out in front of us, and we were standing between the two halls, the company, and the gunfire occurred--
[Interviewer]: You said you "heard gunfire"?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yes.
[Interviewer]: Coming from--?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I'm not sure. Because the way the two halls was, it initially sounded like it was coming from the left, but it turned out it was coming from the right, probably because of the acoustics of the one building. If I remember right, I believe some stone was flying from the one building that got hit by some rounds.
Anyway, we see immediately that some students were hit. As I recall, I called for the ambulances at that time, because we had what we called a command post, I think it was down in front of the library or thereabouts, and we asked that they send the ambulances up. And then I kind of moved forward with a small squad or a couple men. In fact, if you look at the pictures, there was that young lady from Florida that was kneeling over one of the bodies.
[Interviewer]: Mary Ann Vecchio.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yes. And I could see right away that that fellow was dead. And I recall, to my left, somebody was hit. And I think it was a girl, but I can't be certain as I sit here. I just know from what I've seen or read.
Immediately to my right, which I never really ever had anybody explain to me, seemed to be a meeting of some fellows with armbands on, of three or four, that got right up in the corner of the one building and they're having this conversation. Which seemed odd to me. Meantime there's all this other stuff going on, with regards to people wounded, people running, people screaming, people crying. And it was at that time that, I think about the time the first ambulance rolled in, I think I decided at that time that I was going to pull back and see what was going on, because there was too much confusion going on there and they didn't need additional confusion. Some people asked to go by our line and I could see that they were simply trying to escape the area that they'd got caught in, and we let them go around the corner of I think the architectural building.
And then we pulled back to our original position, back by the burned-out ROTC building. I don't recall if I got an order to do that, or one of my troopers may have said to me, "A Company's pulled back," and I just thought that was the right thing to do rather than get cut off by a large group of people. You don't know those things, you have to play it by ear on the ground.
[Interviewer]: And then what happened afterwards? How long did you stay?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, we were there quite a while. It seemed like perhaps an hour or two. Following that, there was somebody arrested and put inside this metal device. I never quite understood that. This looked like a frame of some kind. That was handled by people other than my troops. My biggest concern there was to the safety of my men and to make sure that we were prepared for whatever else might come. I believe I asked for an inventory of tear gas because we threw a lot of tear gas on the initial move up the hill. And I think if you look at the pictures you'll see there was quite a bit, because the weather conditions that day was not exactly conducive to good tear gas dispersion, so you had to put a lot of it out there to be effective.
There was a point in time when General Canterbury came up, and I don't recall the exact words, but pretty much it was to the effect that if we had a huge assault on our position, was to fire. And I recall, I went down the line, checked every trooper's gun, make sure it was on safe, because I didn't want any accidents to happen. And I think the one Guardsman who wrote a small book about it, he even makes a reference to that. I just didn't want anything further to go on that wasn't necessary.
Following that, we went back to where I believe our tents were, which was down off of Summit Street, on the campus but down by Summit Street. And that was pretty much the end of the day.
[Interviewer]: Did you believe that there was any sniper fire?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, personally, I did not hear or see anything that would indicate that. But the one thing that kind of always threw me, in reading and hearing stories and one thing and another, we were always--we had what we called an intelligence officer, and his job was to gather up information and relay it to the line companies. And we had always heard a lot of stuff, from the information that was disseminated, that they were reported to have some machine guns over in such a location near Brady Lake or that there had been snipers and this kind of thing. None of it seemed to be verifiable. We were always aware of it and prepared to deal with it should it come up. But, I personally don't know of any incident that occurred that way. I'm sorry, my voice--
[Interviewer]: No, it's fine. Did you want to take a break?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: No, no, I'm okay. It's just I'm getting over throat problems here, and my knee problems [laughs].
[Interviewer]: I understand.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Okay.
[Interviewer]: I understand. So, when you said earlier, just a few minutes ago, that you heard gunfire, you meant that that was some of the Guardsmen?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: It must have been. But where I was at, initially it sounded like a few rounds being fired from my left, where the Guardsmen, I later learned, was on my right. So I have to assume that that was the acoustics of the situation.
[Interviewer]: Oh, okay.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: You see what I'm saying?
[Interviewer]: Yes, I understand what you're saying now.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: It sounded different to me. If I recall correctly, it was like a bang--I don't know, maybe there's a recording around, I don't know--sounded to me like a "bang bang" and then there was a barrage of fire. And from machine gun fire I have a ringing in my left ear, so I hear things differently out my left ear than I hear of my right ear, so that could have a play in it also. I don't think it was significant, it just seemed that way at the moment.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, the [Terry] Strubbe tape, which you mentioned before we started recording, it was the first time I had heard the gunfire, and I kind of know what you're talking about in terms of the acoustics, as far as that sounds.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: You had mentioned, because, it was interesting when you had mentioned that earlier, before we talked, you had mentioned just what was your reaction to the Strubbe tape?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, I had read in the paper to the effect that there was a command given: "Point. Shoot." I've never, I had sixteen years of military experience or thereabouts, I never, ever, ever heard a command even remotely similar to that being given.
[Interviewer]: What would the proper terminology have been at that time?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: "Ready. Aim. Fire." That would be a standard one.
[Interviewer]: Just like in the movies?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah, just like in the movies. And a group of other small commands, but all military kinds of commands that are clear, precise, that kind of thing. "Point, shoot" didn't make any sense to me at all. I couldn't imagine that, how that could be derived from anything, especially, as I later learned, it was the 107th Armored Cav, and people like that. These were all people who would never, in my opinion, ever say anything like that. And I knew specifically that Major Jones would have never ever said anything like that, or Captain Srp--that's S-r-p, I believe is the way. I just--it threw me. The only thing I could figure out was going on was somebody somehow was trying to put their personal interpretation in there.
Subsequent of 1970--what is that, 37 years?
[Interviewer]: Yes, 37.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: 37 years. My experience in dealing with people, there are no secrets. And it seemed like for all these years somebody's tried to make a conspiracy out of this thing. And I don't think I'm wrong in stating that had there been any secrets, they'd have crept out by now. It just doesn't make any sense that it would be any different. Now I don't know those troopers, you understand; I have no contact with them. But I can't imagine that a group of that number of people, somebody would have said something that would be different. Then, you know, even prior to the investigations, there was no big thing out there to get together and concoct a big story. That was untrue. Just didn't happen.
[Interviewer]: Going back to 1970, how long did you stay in Kent? Did you stay there for hours or days?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I believe we stayed in there at least for another day. And by that time they closed the campus down, and we loaded the troops up and went back to the Akron armory. Yeah.
[Interviewer]: You had mentioned that you had gone to Kent State as a student--
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yes.
[Interviewer]: --back in 1970, '72?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah, right around in that area there. I went there for several years as a part-time student.
[Interviewer]: Did you have any qualms or misgivings about going there as a student? Did you encounter any hostility or anything?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Oh, you always see little things. But, no, frankly I never paid any attention to that kind of thing. You heard teachers that sometimes would say things, and sometimes students that were still going there. It just never occurred to me one way or another. It never bothered me, never caused me any concern. But there again, I was a law enforcement officer carrying a gun. So that makes a big difference, you know? I just didn't see that anything like that was a threat.
[Interviewer]: What do you think the consequences were of the shootings at Kent State?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Well, to begin with, my personal feeling was it was a terrible accident. That's number one. Second thing would be, it was a terrible accident that received national attention to the national conscience. Okay?
Having said that, for some time it caused politicians perhaps to be a little more cautious. Um, see, how can I put this? You know, when you--the National Guard goes nowhere in civil matters unless a politican responsible signs a request. I'm sure that the mayor of Kent signed a request requesting the National Guard, saying that civil authorities had lost control basically, and was unable to handle the situation. Based on that, I'm certain that the governor of the state of Ohio--Rhodes--issued an order for the National Guard to help Kent. I think whether to go to a flood, to go to a riot, or a civil insurrection of any kind, you're going to have a request. If I would say that if there was anything that was disappointing, it was the fact that no politician stepped up and spoke up to take any responsibility. Because whenever you call upon an armed group with weapons and the ability to kill people, and say I need your help with this matter, and you send them there to do it, you take a certain responsibility. I personally did not observe anybody step forward and say, "Look, you know, we lost control of this thing. We needed help and we brought the National Guard in here. Period." It seemed that everybody went into a defensive posture--and I understand that, I mean, sometimes you gotta do that. But even subsequently, I never [saw] anybody really step forward and say, "You know, we needed them and they came in there; there was an accident that happened." Nobody ever wants to face up to the fact that--I don't believe for one moment, I would be shocked, if this was anything other than an accidental shooting. I just can't comprehend, after all these years and all these investigations, that this is anything other than an accidental shooting.
And I think the court trials brought that out. Even with regard to the settlement--there was all kinds of devious things went on with regard to these trials and the civil rights lawyers and everything--in the end, basically, and I'd have to read that release, it's been 37 years since I read it, or maybe 35 years since I read it, but basically we said we're really sorry this thing happened, and it's too bad. I think that's what it basically says. I really feel, I guess you could say, I feel bad that a more tender offering was[n't?] made to the families of these deceased students. I'm a father of four girls, I'm a stepfather of four boys, most of them with college educations, and I can't imagine--in fact currently, right now, I have a grandson at Kent State and a grandson at Akron University--I can't imagine picking up the phone and somebody said that my grandson was going between chemistry class and physics class and got shot and killed. That's terrible. But the way it all panned out, in my opinion, it allowed some of the wrong people to get control and not allow the expressions of grief to be expressed to these families. I feel bad about that. I think it's terrible. But it happened, and in my opinion it's an accidental shooting.
I don't think it's changed anything, quite frankly. It's caused a lot of books to be written. It's caused folks to be aware in the local area. But I can't imagine that in Birmingham, Alabama, if we would be back to a national anti-war demonstration of the kind at Kent State, that they wouldn't send the local National Guard unit out. Now I don't know what the procedures are anymore. But you certainly wouldn't send a hundred people out to quell a riot and not give them guns.
[Interviewer]: Do you think the standards for riot control changed as a result of this?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: I don't think so. I think they may have locked in the politicians that request this assistance a little more. I would certainly hope so. You ask people to do a certain job and then you don't take responsibility for it, I think that's bad. That's why we have the procedures set up that we do, that they sign a request. That's my thoughts on that.
[Interviewer]: Are there any other thoughts you'd like to share?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: No, that's pretty much what I feel. I'm kind of disappointed that people of so-called academic status would take such an aggressive stance to National Guardsmen doing their duty, doing what they had requested to be done. There's all kinds of slanderous things that's occurred. I'm sure there was a few so-called draft dodgers there. But they were trained. They made a conscious decision, rather than escape to Canada or to volunteer for the draft, to continue to take care of their families and their jobs and continue to serve--uh, serving in the National Guard, who at any moment, in those days, could be like the National Guard of today, and ordered to active duty and go to combat in Vietnam, as they do today in Baghdad and Afghanistan.
So, police agencies that we have--sure, they're better trained than they were in 1970, but under the circumstances, they don't have unlimited capabilities. You need manpower when it comes to controlling riots. If you look at the history of riots, and I have briefly, whether it be union riots or coal mine riots or what-have-you, in almost categorically every case, things go wrong. But in most of those circumstances somebody stepped up and took responsbility for it, but nobody did [in 1970]. It was very iffy when the National Guard in the 1970 incident with Kent State, that they were even going to have representation. The--
[Interviewer]: You mean legal representation?
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Yeah, legal representation. As I recall, it was only after many lawsuits had been delivered by the U.S. Marshall's service and other people, that finally somebody said, Hey, the State's gonna have to pony up a lawyer here. It was kind of a free-for-all. The guy that got in on what I consider to be the bottom-floor--and I'm not going to criticize his method of writing books or journalism--was James Michener. Mr. Michener at least showed up with a staff, quickly, and tried to get a story. Some people will say, Ah, he lost it all over, he didn't get the right story--that's only because they disagree with what he wrote down. And that's okay. Even I disagree with some of it. And I don't think he treated anybody unfairly.
There [are] forces at work socially any time you have one of these incidents--and this was a big incident. But if you have a neighborhood disagreement, there's certain social forces at work, and it's going to cause certain things to happen. But whenever these things happen you don't have a squad of psychiatrists show up and advise people trying to handle it, [saying], Well, this is what they're going to do next, or here's how you should do this. You have to respond.
[Interviewer]: Ron, thank you very much for speaking with me.
[J. Ronald Snyder]: Okay.