John W. Simons, Personal Narrative
Remarks presented at program sponsored by United Christian Ministries, [no date]
I, John W. Simons, the Regimental Chaplain of the 107th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was in the Command Post at 1130 hours on May 3. At that time, Brig. Gen. Robert Canterbury entered the room in civilian dress. After greeting me, he told LTC Fassinger that the rally scheduled for noon would not be allowed. I expressed concern about getting the word to the students and a Kent State University person unknown to me said that they would use the campus radio to spread the word. Concern built up as the dispersed troops were gathered in. It was apparent to us that not many troops were on hand and the General headed for the door with myself and LTC Fassinger. Going down the hall, Gen. Canterbury said to me, "John, Del and I had a great time chasing these students around the other night, even throwing rocks back at them."
At the entrance to the Administration building, we gathered up a dozen drivers and other EM and went to the area. We arrived at 1140 and a few troops were stationed there, with some campus police. During the next ten minutes, other troops arrived and were put in position behind the rope. The students had gathered on the common near the bell, numbering about 500, with a larger group gathered around the edge of the common.
At noon a campus policeman announced or attempted to direct the students to disperse. His portable P.A. set on top of his car behind the line was ineffective. He was put in a jeep and drove towards the students ordering them to disperse. An object the size of a brick was bounced off the vehicle and he returned to the line.
Gas was then fired at the students, but the range was too long and it was ineffective. The troops then moved out under the direction of B.G. Canterbury. Concern had been expressed about the amount of gas on hand, the supply of which had been handed out. As the troops moved out, I moved with Cpt. Hinton to the center of the common where the troops split into two groups. A section of approximately 20 moved south up to a ridge and though the trees to the top, throwing gas and effectively dispersing the crowd. The larger body of troops moved up the hill off to the commons and turned behind Taylor hall. Shortly thereafter a line of troops appeared coming back from behind the hall and I heard a volley of shots, saw the line of standing troops coming down the hill led by B.G. Canterbury, now wearing a gas mask. The troops regrouped behind the line, with one man passing out as he came off the hill.
Cpt. Hinton and I were directed to take a count to the rounds fired and whether or not a man firing did so in the air or down. The first man I asked said he had fired and response to my "up or down"? question, he replied, "Right down the gulley". In all I found 17 rounds fired after checking approximately 35 men. At about the same time a photographer was chased through the section of the line I was checking, by few students and an adult.
Following the ammo check it was suggested that since we were not out of gas, if the students came down the hill, what alternative would we have but to fire. I immediately went to B.G. Canterbury and said, " There are other alternatives than fire if they come down." He replied, "We will give then the field. John." I then returned to trooping the line, talking with the troops, most of whom were visibly shaken. As reinforcements of men, gas, and shotguns arrived, the troops began to get their second breath. The students were given time to disperse with a five minute warning to do so.
A second trooper passed out and was taken from the field. Prior to the arrival of reinforcements, B.G. Canterbury instructed us to inform the men that they were not to fire unless physically touched by an officer and instructed to fire and what to fire on. I stayed on the field until 1600 hours when I went to the hospital in Ravenna to see Breckinridge and returned to Regimental Headquarters Cleveland.