Blood of Isaac
an e-book by Charles A. Thomas
CHAPTER FIVE: FLOWERS AND BULLETS.
In those darkest hours after midnight, a single unexcited message reached the National Guard headquarters in Columbus from the occupation force at Kent: “Units moved in after students were dispersed and troops assisted police in removing the remainder and in doing so someone put an old WWII type building in the ROTC area on fire.”423 Things were only slightly more tense in the other domestic firebase at Yale. Shortly after 1:00 a.m., WYBC Radio broadcast an appeal for volunteers to come to Black Panther headquarters at 35 Sylvan Avenue, where a tip had been received that police were going to arrest one of their leaders. Within forty-five minutes, about 150 black and white youths had formed a human wall around the site – their only available weapon, non-violent resistance, since the Panthers had decided to meet the raid by unilaterally disarming – and stayed until dawn, “sipping coffee and talking quietly”. Throughout the predawn hours, the Panthers prowled on foot and Minister of Information Cappy Pinderhuges broadcast the word from his Volkswagon bus: “The only people who should be on the streets now are medics, marshals, and pigs. We are not now ready for this kind of confrontation with the pigs.”424
On the other side of the world, it was scorching daylight. The MACV public relations machine made the triumphal announcement that the invasion force in Cambodia was poised “to close a giant ring” around the invasion objective COSVN, “an elaborate, multistory underground installation”.425 And yet Haldeman noted on his ever-present legal pad that morning, under “Problems”: “military reports – COSVN not there.”426 Colonel David Hackworth, who had never believed in COSVN himself, was as his wont in the van of the attacking force when the ARVN seized a “huge cache of medical supplies”, worth half a million dollars. Familiar as he was with the larcenous habits of his allies, he had a medical advisory sergeant track the booty to the personal storehouses of General Do Cao Tri, the South Vietnamese who was supposed to have led the entire operation before he begged out on the basis of an adverse horoscope. The supplies wound up being put on the market for “drugstores and doctors and whomever else was willing to pay Tri’s price.”427
The sun rose on a perfect Sunday morning in New Haven, striking the statue of Abraham Pierson, Yale’s first president – who for the occasion wore a gas mask and held the leg of a female mannequin. One of the graffiti on the statue’s base read, “WE WAS HAD”. It could have been scrawled by any of the activists who had come to town hoping for a showdown with the Regime. “But it could also have been written by Attorney General Mitchell, the FBI, the US Army, or the governor of Connecticut, who had all misread and over-prepared for the most dramatic non-crisis in the recent history of US campus chaos.”428 The hour belonged to Yale President Brewster, who had courted the wroth of the Vice President by working with radicals like Tom Hayden and the Black Panthers to avert violence and had thrown the town open to activist youth who had come to New Haven to see for themselves. Now, in the parlance of the times, he blew it. With the Sunday editions of student newspapers at eleven major Eastern schools calling for the “entire academic community of this country to engage in a nation-wide university strike,”429 he asked Yale students and students across the nation to stay out of it.430 This would win him the praise of Yale alumni Reps.George Bush and Gerald Ford a week later, after which he would drop into obscurity. He had lost the chance to make Yale the leader of the national strike and thus the founder of “a new national campus, which will be kept open, now and for months to come, at all costs” to teach one lesson: “The war must be ended. The war must be ended now.”431
Meanwhile the leaders of the New Mobe arrived in the District of Columbia to spend a week at Barbara Bick’s home, attempting to organization the biggest antiwar demonstration in history within a week. As if that were not impossible enough, they were split from the beginning on the meaning and the direction the rally should take. Rennie Davis, another of the Chicago Seven, was convinced that the invasion of Cambodia had moved the ruling class in America to the brink of deserved destruction. All that was needed to push it over was the kind of public orgy of brutality that the Chicago police had conducted at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 – only this time in the nation’s capital and to the hundredth power. He seriously believed that the country would be under martial law by May 9th, the date of the rally, and that the national student strike would have shut down higher education by then. One more mass bloodletting and no one could deny what Amerika had become. Fred Halstead and the Quaker marshals rather saw the rally as the beginning of a long, non-violent re-education process – Davis’ forcible awakening, but without the shock – that would attempt nothing less than reversing the entire course of modern American history. Bloodshed could serve only the interests of the authorities. The two men and their factions never even approached compromise.432 (This is of course an over-simplification of the views of the two men, and based on Halstead’s account. The rally was due to fail because, in the eternal fashion of the left, there were as many mutually exclusive world-views and programs as there were leaders – or, for that matter, followers.) What neither could know was that the bloodshed would come long before Saturday.
The President called Haldeman from Camp David early, firing off orders for counterattacks on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the press, and of course the students – “never under est. value of turning the student thing to our advantage, esp. if they get rough.” But he never lost sight of the master plan, his Southern Strategy. He and his aides had been discussing an all-important trip to Atlanta for a month. Now he decided he would not be the one to make it. In the wake of the Cambodian incursion and the national student strike, his need to appeal to Southern militarism and authoritarianism would be all too obvious. But the trip had to be made – “doesn’t want to knock off Southern. need big name for Atlanta, shld be VP… doesn’t feel any prob. w/So. strategy.”433
He followed the phone call in from Camp David for a personal pep talk with his “attack group”. His mood was no longer combative; it was downright truculent. “[D]on’t worry about divisiveness. we’ve created division – drawn the sword. don’t take out – grind it hard.”434 (Haldeman translated this into his handwritten diary only as “P. … gave a great pep talk.”435). Speech writer William Satire had a remembrance of the “pep talk” that made Haldeman’s seem tame:
Don’t play a soft line. I don’t want to see any aid and comfort to anyone out there. The big game is to pull this off. It’s a bold move, imaginative, and it’s no more of this screwing around.
…[F]or people to go around squealing, undercutting the very purpose of the action, where good men are losing their lives – that’s beyond the pale. Hit ‘em in the gut. No defensiveness.436
Finally finishing, the President muttered, “Get some sleep tonight. It sometimes helps” – “in what we took to be a reference to his ‘bums’ slip when he was exhausted” – and departed. Haig took over, with a meandering discourse on what the group members could and could not use as p.r. lines. Haldeman, depressed and testy after the President’s “pep talk”, finally snapped, “It doesn’t mean tiddle-de-shit for you to read that in your secret cables, Al, when nobody knows it.” Then he clotheslined press aide Lyn Nofziger with a curt, “Let’s get the hell off that. If there’s a negative, make it once and drop it, and hit the positives.” And then he jumped on one of the congressional relations aides.437 His ill humor may have owed to his perception of the President’s condition, or just a realization that there weren’t too many “positives”, at least not on the Sunday television public affairs programming he had been monitoring. His notes suggest he was particularly jolt by Laird’s appearance on CBS: “[Illegible] – COSVN not where we thot -- Not in Fishhook. security may leak – warning COSVN gen’ls…enemy casualties disappointing – Most from air.” (This page of notes is headed, “we have to go on offensive against peaceniks.”)438
At Kent State, as that idyllic Sunday passed, the students and the Guardsmen came face to face in the light, and many of them could not see an enemy. The sun was warm enough for the coeds to finally leave their coats in the dorms. “[T]hey made a great hit with the guardsmen,”439 many of whom were their own age. Even the older Guardsmen looked too haggard and worn out to be menacing. But there were hints of malign beings cruising beneath the surface of the sunlit millpond. Early that morning, Bobby Franklin walked past the ashes of the ROTC building, now cordoned by soldiers, surveying the site with a broad grin. Campus “detective” Tom Kelly – the same whom Franklin had “welcomed” to the May 1st rally – glared at the shaggy youth and promised, “We’ll get you.” And a young filmmaker told friends Perkins’ Pancake House that a Guard officer had threatened to attack him for shooting footage of armored personnel carriers. The officer had the same premeditative message: “We’re going to get some of these creeps.” All that was needed was someone to mobilize that ill will. And at 7:15 a.m., the Governor’s Mansion had called trying to locate General del Corso. At 8:35 a.m., the Guard command post on campus was notified that Governor James Rhodes would arrive in town at ten.440
Rhodes went straight from the airport to a closed-door meeting with local officials, at the firehouse. He ordered that no record be kept of it. He then announced that “he was going to assume full charge of the situation”. County prosecutor Ronald Kane urged that the university be closed. “The Governor said, no, that was exactly what they wanted.” He explained that “they” were “people going around from campus to campus and it was a conspiracy or plan or whatever to shut down the universities of the country and to cause ultimately chaos, and that he was not going to bow to such.” Rhodes said he would keep an armed guard in each classroom if necessary: “he said he didn’t want to see any two students walking together.”441
That was Rhodes’ restrained side. As soon as the meeting was opened to the public and the press, he remembered that he was “two days away from a primary test that could end his political career”.442 “At that minute Jim Rhoads [sic] changed completely. He became a candidate for the United States Senate.”443 Shouting, punctuating phrases and sometimes each individual word by pounding on the podium with his fist, he declared war in the even as his President was telling his aides to “hit ‘em in the gut” in the White House:
The same group that we’re dealing with here today, and there’s three or four of them – they have only one thing in mind; that is, to destroy higher education in Ohio… They’re going to reach their goal for the simple reason that you cannot continue to set fires to buildings that are worth five and ten million dollars…444
We’re going to eradicate the problem. We’re not going to treat the symptoms…
[T]hese people just move from one campus to the other, and terrorize the community. They’re worse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America.
Nor did the tone moderate during the question-and-answer that followed. “The next phase that we have encountered elsewhere is where they start sniping,” Colonel Charles Chiaramonte of the OSHP announced, “They can expect us to return fire.” After US Attorney Robert Krupansky was introduced, Rhodes stepped on his remarks with, “When the technique of the Weathermen and the SDS and the Student Mobilization Committee, when this is employed and firebombing and violence, and let me also say that death is not going to stand in their way to answer their purpose.” When a reporter asked General del Corso how long the Guard was going to stay on campus, Rhodes interrupted again: “Well, I’ll answer that – until we get rid of ‘em.” A reporter asked Rhodes what size radical organization the authorities was facing. He replied that, “we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant revolutionary group ever assembled in America.” He summed up the situation he was creating with an ironically correct, “No one is safe in Portage County. It’s just that simple. No one is safe.”445
As soon as the press conference ended, Kane took Rhodes by the elbow and steered him toward the men’s room. KSU/VP Roskens told Matson’s assistant John Huffman, “You’d better get in there and see what they’re doing.” But Kane turned Huffman back at the door with a curt, “This is private.”446 It did not remain so. Three days later – forty-eight hours after the fatal shooting – Kane began to insist, and would never cease insisting, that once alone with Rhodes, he had urged that the university should be closed; it was a “keg of dynamite [sic] that could blow at any minute. I wanted those kids out of town.” And he would never cease to insist that it was Rhodes who insisted that the university remain open, because closing it would play into the hands of the radicals.447 John McElroy, speaking for a Rhodes who disappeared from view after the murders, claimed that Kane had never made any such recommendation.448
Joining in the scramble to avoid blame after the fact, “Guard sources” would also assert that the ONG had not been consulted before Rhodes decided that all assemblies on campus must be banned, affecting some surprise at the idea since such were “protected by the Constitution”. They added the jolting tidbit that “Rhodes also promised to investigate all faculty members who advised or agreed with student dissenters and to see to it that ‘they would never teach again’.”449 A national newsweekly found the Kane/Guard version more credible, concluding of Rhodes, “Without consulting top guard officials or the university administration, he reportedly ordered that all campus assemblies – peaceful or otherwise – be broken up and said the troops would remain on campus twelve months a year if necessary.”450
Rhodes visited the blackened plot that had been the ROTC building and had himself photographed there, then headed for the airport. Hearing that President White’s plane, bringing him back from an out-of-town conference, was due at 11:45 a.m., he had his own flight held up. He took White on a walk down the runway, with Colonel Chiaramonte trailing along. According to White’s sworn testimony, Rhodes had dire tidings for him: “You have been invaded by four or five hundred of… he said something like the ‘worst kind’ or something like that.”451 Rhodes assured White that “radicals” planned to close Kent State452 and that “foreign riffraff” had invaded the campus. (1, 11, 1272)
Morning turned into afternoon on the campus and the mood only mellowed. According to a Guard sergeant, the students actually perceived the soldiers as a kind of “buffer zone” between them and the brutal local authorities. “We were protecting buildings, things were pretty secure, and they could go ahead and have their demonstrations or their meetings without the harassment you might get from, you know, the civil law enforcement.”453 Allison Krause and Barry Levine, wandering through this “county fair” scene, had an encounter with one Guardsman that started out as the opposite of what the President and the Governor wanted. The soldier was standing at his post with a flower sticking out of the muzzle of his M-1 rifle. This formed the basis for a congenial trilogue, until one of the man’s officers came by. He did not appreciate the flower and told Meyers so:
Officer: Doesn’t your Division have target practice next week, Meyers?
Meyers: Yes, sir.
Officer: Are you going there with that silly flower?
Meyers: No, sir.
Officer: Then what is it doing in your rifle barrel?
Meyers: It was a gift, sir.
Officer: Do you always accept gifts, Meyers?
Meyers: No, sir.
Officer: Then why did you accept this one?
Meyers: [No answer.]
Officer [holding out his hand]: What are you going to do with it, Meyers?
[Meyers fumbles with the flower.]
Officer [grabbing the flower]: That’s better, Meyers. Now straighten up and start acting like a soldier and forget all this peace stuff.
As the officer started to throw the flower away, Krause grabbed it from him. He flicked her a contemptuous glance and began to stride off heroically. “What’s the matter with peace?” she shouted after him, “Flowers are better than bullets!”454 It was a brave, perhaps foolhardy, thing to shout out, particularly on this campus. You never knew who was listening.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, the nation’s leading pediatrician, along with several antiwar activists and clergymen, sat down on the sidewalk in front of the White House that afternoon and conducted a prayer service to protest the invasion. US Park Policemen approached them and asked them if they had they had given the required fifteen days’ notice. They replied that this would have been impossible, since the invasion had begun only three days ago. They were arrested.455
Major Harry Jones was in the Guard’s makeshift operations center when Robert Matson entered and asked his help in composing a circular letter that would advise the University community of the Guard’s authority. Jones begged off, since as a staff officer, and he could not issue command orders, much less devise policy. But now he was curious and asked brother officer Major Arthur E. Wallach about what the Guard’s “op[erational] plan” had to say about crowd control. They consulted the plan and interpreted as meaning that “five or more is a crowd and, in a riotous condition, will be dispersed.”456
But Wallach was still uncertain and went off to consult with “the General”. When he gave his deposition five years later, he claimed that he could not remember whether this general was del Corso or Robert Canterbury. Jones has suggested that it was more probably del Corso. Wallach returned about an hour later and told Jones that all crowds were to be dispersed. So around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m., Jones went up to the third floor of the administration building to relay this interpretation to Matson and Hufffman. Matson’s assistant David Ambler remembers it differently. He claims he received a call from an unidentified Guard officer who told him that the governor’s remarks at the press conference meant that “any gathering of a group of ten or more individuals in the City of Kent or on the KSU campus was forbidden.” (2, 33, npn.)
The University did its part to shatter the uneasy peace that had come with the Sunday sunrise by issuing the Matson-Frisina Letter in the late afternoon. One student recalled that the fact that the Letter’s authors were even identified “literally blew my mind because neither one of these people was trusted much at all.”457 Matson’s administration of his own “police state” through the Office of Student Affairs has been discussed above. Frank Frisina was the student body president who had campaigned by issuing anti-SDS leaflets warning of such “outside agitators”. When in 1967, the Daily Kent Stater had printed a few letters questioning America’s presence in Vietnam, Frisina spread the word that the newspaper was in league with the Kent Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the communists to undermine the free world.458 The Letter stated that the governor “through the National Guard” was now in legal control of KSU and the town and had the power to arrest.459 As anyone had the right to expect, it encouraged all to come forward with information about “participants in the violence and disruptive actions of this weekend.” As the foremost chronicler of these events put it, “the only accurate information in this document are the curfew hours.”460
As the letter was circulating, President White’s office announced that “[b]y order of the governor, the National Guard will remain in the Kent community and campus until its leadership decides their departure is safe. Events have taken these decisions out of University hands.”461 Two scholars who have treated the incident(s) as the result of massive communications failures assess this as “an inaccurate and misleading position”: “The guard was beginning to think of withdrawing. The Guard had no interested in ‘running’ the University… It was as if the University was attempting to force responsibility onto the governor and the Guard.”462 The University provided copies of this gracious grant of untrammeled authority not just to the Guard commanders, but to each company as well. Meanwhile the city police – and perhaps others – were flooding the Guard radio net with rumors:
1254. 12 s.d.s. people including Marion Johnson at Lincoln and Main
1309. . “56” reports ROTC building is on fire.
1740. Campus police checked fire at building # 13, false alarm…
Q. The following is a list of 82 reports:
1. Foot movement downtown unusual for Sunday p.m.
2. Kent police advises threat to Lincoln Building be given high priority.
3. Known militants from Cleveland checked in at 1500 hrs., making contact in town.463
As officialdom in and out of Academe seemed disposed to allow or even encourage more violence, the only force that even tried to preserve the Sunday truce was the faculty, and a very small minority of that. A couple dozen professors decided to make an urgent appeal to President White to remove the Guard from the campus immediately. Some of them left to try to find him, and some of those who remained behind wrote a draft of that appeal. Others present refused to sign it. The twenty-three who did became the subject of a special FBI dossier and an intensive investigation. The draft letter said in part:
The appearance of armed troops on the campus of Kent State University is an appalling sight… Here and now we repudiate the inflammatory inaccuracies expressed by Governor problem can be solved so long as the campus is under martial law. 464
Their eloquence was bootless. White could not be found, or according to others, could be.
Matson was at the operations post. Matson says White was consulted by him about the situation; he thinks Roskins [sic] may have talked to the President. (In his interview with me, White indicated that he was not consulted about the front campus situation and Roskins said that he did not talk to White.)465
Then the shadows began to lengthen and the light to fail. Perhaps an atavistic fear of the dark made everyone more tense. The Guardsmen got more officious. Bobbi Moran felt the terror of the previous night’s tear gassing turning to resentment. She had had to listen to the clacking of the ONG armor’s treads on the street outside even when she was in church. That afternoon,
I was asked to produce my student ID more than a dozen times by dusk. When I stood still, I was told to ‘move along’. Soldiers herded mein different, often conflicting directions. At one point, when I paused to talk with two girl friends I met on campus, I was ordered to ‘break it up or face arrest under martial law.’ Apparently any group of three or more students constituted an illegal gathering.466
The commuter students were returning for the resumption of classes in the morning. One of them was briefed on the weekend’s events by fellow New Yorker Jeff Miller: “JEFF told me the police knew someone was going to burn the ROTC building.” (1, 9, 860). Miller would never divulge where he got his information. In eighteen hours he would be lying face down by a parking gate with his blood and brains flowing across the pavement.
As evening fell, senior ROTC scholarship student Bill Schroeder phoned his parents in Lorain, Ohio. He had been torn between his doubts about the Vietnam War and his sense of duty toward the Army that had paid for his education. He told his mother that he planned to use the disturbances as an excuse to stay indoors and study.467 Toward the end, a cryptic, premonitory note crept into their dialogue. “Will you stand by me no matter what I do?” he asked. His mother said that she would. “I can see that you are fighting for composure,” he went on. “Not really,” she replied. “I told him that this time you know for yourself what is right for you.”468
By evening, the arrogance of the occupiers had turned Bobbi Moran into a revolutionary, on the serious, college freshman level:
After dark, I pretended to be a member of the French Resistance and left my dorm after curfew to go see Randy. Dodging the ubiquitous searchlights of the helicopters and sneaking past patrols of soldiers, often on my belly, I made it to his apartment.
I joined Randy and his roommates on the roof of the building, where they were having a marvelous time throwing cherry-bomb firecrackers at thepassing helicopters.
Since the choppers were well out of reach, the point of the game was to let the firecrackers explode in the air, then hide before the searchlight would wheel around and focus on us.
During this time, Jeff Miller, a shaggy-haired 20-year-old psychology major, left his house next door to go to a sit-in protest on campus. As he passed by, Jeff waved.469
Rita Rubin, a junior, learned that the helicopters were equipped with more than searchlights. She and two male students were walking toward Lincoln and Summit to investigate the rumor of a sit-down demonstration at Prentice Gate when they heard traffic over the police band radio they were carrying about its dispersal. As they ran for a friend’s apartment, one of the aerial searchlights caught them and tear gas canisters rained down on them. “The gas spread quickly and even our cat Juniper and our dog Noah had tear-streaked faces from it.”470
Like a hyperactive fungus, the rumors spread more quickly the darker it got:
7:45. A member of the National Guard found the makings of a firebomb consisting of a rope with two bottles under the bushes at the KSU police building.
8 p.m. Five gallons of kerosene was [sic] found on the Administration building.
8:45 p.m. Demonstrators marching on campus.
9:03 p.m. Word via radio to close town.
9:52 p.m. Possible arms in library.471
The Guard’s brutal sweep of the campus the night before had not intimidated the students. It was only a new reason to protest, and one much closer than Cambodia. (One is entitled to wonder yet again if it was more important to make the point against the demonstrators in Kent than capture COSVN in Cambodia.) As on the night before, “it was very easy at this time to have a rally because the curfew restricted everyone to campus and it was very easy then to gather a large crowd,” (5, 1, 126) especially since the commuter students had returned.
The protest traced the same path as the night before. Students gathered on the Commons near Taylor Hall. It was supposed to be a silent vigil, but “[t]here was considerable talking and telling” and soon the Guard formed up to protect the ashes of the ROTC Building. The crowd moved out of the area because those in it “did not want any confrontation with the National Guard”. (6, 1, 53) When it reached the vicinity of Dunbar Hall, “the helicopters were hovering overhead and the National Guard threw tear gas, dispersing the crowd momentarily.” (5, 1, 64). When it re-formed and started to pick up more supporters around the populous Tri-Towers dorms, “the Guard then moved in and dispersed the crowd using tear gas.” Some of the ONG officers may have done an after-action analysis of the previous night’s “action”; this time, everywhere the protestors turned, the Guard was there to meet them. Blocked at every point on campus, the crowd began to drift toward the Prentice Gate and the way downtown, but was “cut off by a National Guard tank at the first red light.” (5, 1, 160) “[T]he crowd was beginning to thin out since some of the spectators were beginning to fear violence might occur and about 100 students sat down in front of the library on the street.” (6, 2, 349)
Major Harry Jones, at that point the senior ONG officer present, read it the Ohio Riot Act, and told the demonstrators to disperse. When they didn’t clear the street immediately, they were hit with another barrage of tear gas. They broke into two errant groups, one seemingly headed for President White’s house. But campus police chief Donald Schwartzmiller, who had already been told that the “students planned to burn additional buildings that evening”, was now informed that this contingent was merely a diversion, and that the second group “would set fire to the other buildings near the ROTC building.”472 Actually the students just drifted around campus for a while and by ten o’clock wound up sitting on that same stretch of street again. But the scene was radically different. Now they were bracketed by the police lined up along Lincoln and the Guard in front of the Library. (5, 1, npn.) Available student film shows the students seemingly oblivious to the threat, smiling broadly, waving and making peace signs for the camera, and in doing some necking.473 One young man exhorted them to rush the cops and soldiers, “but he was told by several people to shut up or they would hand him over to the police.” (6, 1, pp. 53-54) Major Jones told the chief sheriff’s deputy “that the students were causing no harm by sitting in the streets and for the time being he was just going to, quote, ‘Babysit them’, unquote.”474 A main source of tension continued to be the helicopter constantly hovering overhead and playing its searchlight on the crowd. The surveillance-shy KSU students “felt someone in the helicopter might be photographing the group. The kids turned their backs and covered their faces.” (5, 1, 284)
The students asked to speak to President White and Mayor Satrom. An individual who has never been identified assured them over a loudspeaker that both these officials would speak to them if they would clear the street by moving onto a nearby lawn. “Everyone agreed with this and started clearing the streets and moving back onto the campus.” (6, 2, 12.)
As at each crucial juncture, there is some disagreement about what happened next.
The witness just quoted added that “[f]or some unknown reason one of the Guardsmen threw tear gas into the crowd as it was moving back”. A student threw the canister back at them and they responded with a volley of gas. Another stated that right after the unknown announced that Satrom and White would see the demonstrators, a voice came over the loudspeaker announcing, “Your curfew has been changed to 11 p.m. Everyone has five minutes to clear the area” (5, 1, 46). and then fired the gas barrage. According to a third and fourth, a fraternity man from the Tau Kappa Epsilon house across the street was heckling the Guard. When one of the soldiers ordered him back inside, he refused to go and was felled by a rifle butt stroke just below his right knee. This brought his brothers out en masse to jeer the Guard, which responded by lobbing gas grenades onto their porch. (6, 1, 137) “The wind began blowing the tear gas into the peaceful crowd” (5, 1, 45) which had just evacuated the street. (The Guard’s radio log reports the message, “peaceful means won’t work. Ridiculous demands.”) As the order to disperse was given, a student standing near the ONG “heard a clicking sound, as if they were taking the safety off their rifles.” (5, 1, 347). But there were no gunshots, for now. A student slow to get up raised his eyes to see
[t]he National Guard was coming directly at him. One of the Guardsmen with a bayonet leveled at him said ‘I told you to get up’…. He got up as quickly as possible, however, he felt some pain in his lower right side in the back. (6, 1, 54)
Escape was impossible for some; the soldiers drove them right up against the Library wall. “I was still confident they would not touch us,” a female student recalled, “Then I saw their faces. There was hate, and it was coming towards me in the form of swinging rifle butts and bayonets.”475 When she tried to escape by crawling in a Library window, she was received bayonet wounds in the leg and stomach. Another coed “heard the command, ‘Charge and get them’… The Guard… jumped on students who were actually trying to get out of the way.” (2, 20, 346) A girl went down, clubbed over the head by a rifle butt. “[Her] boyfriend, who threw himself over her to protect her, was stuck in the back with a bayonet, and he ran off yelling and holding his back. He was also bleeding from the leg.” (2, 34, 415)
The wounded youth collapsed in the street after running a short distance. At first the Guardsmen would not let anyone come to his aid (as they would vainly try to keep students from Jeff Miller’s corpse the next day). Eventually they allowed some of the students to carry him to a house on Lincoln. (2, 20, 205-206). There a veteran pinched the wound shut until an ambulance arrived. Another student accompanied the victim on the stretcher until he was loaded onto the ambulance. He then turned to a nearby Guardsman and asked, “Did you find the murderer?” The soldier replied, “I’d just as soon shoot you as look at you, so get the hell out.”(2 ,31, 98)
One of the Guard accosted a student photographer and told him that if he took any pictures, “the camera is mine and I will break it into a million pieces.” The student’s companion suspected “the threat came because our photographer had taken a picture of a guardsman while he ran his bayonet into the back of a student”.476 Jamie Haynes found out that being a woman and Secretary of the Young Republicans conveyed no immunity. Seeing the camera around her neck, one of the soldiers “stuck a bayonet in my throat and said, ‘Get rid of that camera – now!” She decided to go back to her dorm. On her way, one of the Guardsmen told her to get inside and added, “Don’t come out till we’re gone. There is going to be trouble and shooting, and someone is bound to be killed.”477
Where blacks were concerned, the soldiers were not inclined to be so polite. Non-student Michael Cook was driving his student girlfriend off campus when the Guard halted his car and ordered him out. Before he could comply, one of them thrust his bayonet through the car window and into his upper left arm. “You stabbed me!” Cook observed. “You’re lucky you’re not dead,” his assailant replied. (2, 39, 158) Black student leader Bob Pickett was searching for two “sisters” he had been protecting and had lost in the stampede, when he got too close to an ONG formation.
[T]wo Guardsmen came out… They told me to halt, said, ’Where are you going, boy?’ Turn around, nigger, or we will kick your ass’… they cocked a rifle at me and placed it to my head… The officer cocked his .45 and placed it to the other temple of my head. Then they told me that I had better move, and you better believe, I moved.478
Meanwhile WKNT manager Bob Carpenter was at the microphone, filling the night air with lurid fantasy:
About an hour and a half ago about 1000 students mobbed up to the Commons area, just where they burned the ROTC building last night…
They broke in, they’re in the library… Others continue in the Main Street area, and one report said that they were setting to numerous things in the area downtown…
The other group is reportedly over around the new construction site, the Tri-Towers and the Student Union. The group over there, one group is reportedly gotten into the heating tunnels… If they do, they have access to all of the underneath of some of the major buildings on the campus.479
Now the general who would command the troops on the fateful morrow got a chance to display his capacity. General Robert Canterbury told Captain Ronald Snyder to take several platoons of Charlie Compnay and make mass arrests of the students driven from the library area and stranded in the Tri-Towers dormitory complex. Snyder asked Canterbury how he should proceed. Canterbury replied that this was Snyder’s responsibility. “Do you have buses to haul them out with?” the captain asked. “We’ll get buses – they’ll be right up,” Canterbury replied, “but I want you to make those arrests… You’re just going to have to do it, Snyder.” “Well, General, are you prepared to take the responsibility for whatever goes wrong?” Canterbury “thought about that for a while” and conceded, “Well, maybe it isn’t such a good idea.”480
At 11:49 p.m., the command center advised “o.k. to pull out men. Area secure.”481 At midnight, Canterbury consulted with Majors Jones and Wallach at the CP. They told him they had met with Matson, who had asked if any assemblies would be permitted tomorrow. They told him there would not be.482 And yet now, another day of protests was virtually assured. Now “the students… felt that they had been double-crossed on Sunday evening when diligent efforts had been made to keep the demonstration peaceful.” (5, 1, pp. 47-50) “[T]he students were incensed because they felt the police had lied to them and set a trap for them.”(5, 1, 127). One would almost think that whoever was in charge of the official response was deliberately pushing the students toward violence, however unpromising such a strategy might be on this particular campus.
Hitchhiking on I-80 East in 1971, a Kent State student was picked up by a motorist who identified himself as a former member of one of the Guard units that had been committed to the KSU campus that weekend. Of some of his fellow troopers as of the night of Sunday May 3-4, 1970, the driver said,
While they were nursing their bruises they began to think of what they would have to face tomorrow and how or what they were going to do about it… about 8 to 12 of the men were talking about how they were fed up with the harassment and the rock-throwing and it was about time to end it. These individuals began to make some plans for the next day if they students continued to throw rocks…some of the guards were really serious about using their guns.
According to this ex-Guardsman, these dozen or so soldiers – whom the other troopers in the bivouac thought were “crazy” to talk this way – would prove willing to give their words flesh on the morrow.
[H]e said that the men who shot into the crowd were the ones who had been talking about it the night before. He said that these men were proud of what they had done. He said that after the shooting, all of the men decided to keep their mouth shut as to who shot where so as not to expose these men who hit people.(2, 41, 32)
Throughout that longest night in Kent State’s brief history, the metaphor was inescapable The clatter of armored treads, the silhouettes of hostile soldiers looming out of the smoke, the hacking blades of the helicopters overhead as they played their searchlights on the civilians cowering in their dwellings – Vietnam had come home. Did would-be Second Lieutenant Bill Schroeder intuite somehow that he would not have to go as far as ‘Nam to be shot in the back by American soldiers? He leaned out of his lower bunk bed and called up softly to his roommate, “I’m scared, Louie.” “These were the last words Lou Cusella would hear his roommate speak. Less than twenty-four hours later, Cusella would be asked to identify Bill’s body at the hospital.”483
And thus America’s darkest day began.
CHAPTER SIX: The Blood of Isaac.
Most of the Guardsmen stood watch through the night against the phantoms that assailed them over the radio net. “I got about five and a half hour’s sleep out of 72,” one of them told a reporter. For many of them, particularly the 107th ACR (Armored Cavalry Regiment), this was the third time they had been called out in a month. Company C, 1/145th Infantry, was finally relieved at three a.m. on the 4th. They pitched their tents on a practice football field, crawled into them and fell asleep immediately, hoping they would not be awakened until noon. Within an hour, an officer roused them, told them their tents were not aligned properly, and made them strike the tents and re-pitch them. Dawn came bright and breezy – and the old hands realized that the stiff breeze might neutralize the authorities’ main weapon: tear gas. At 0745 hours (7:45 a.m.), Guard headquarters on campus reported nothing but a “rumor from students passing area – may be setting up rally 0800-1200 today near burned ROTC building” – the site changed at 10:56 to the Commons.
The same day broke behind the lowering front of a “bitter and ugly spirit” raised by the Cambodian invasion and the cycle of defiance and repression it had triggered, “dividing the capital of the United States as it has not been divided since the days of the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.” Dr. James Allen, of the US Office of Education, hand-carried a circular letter signed by the presidents of 37 of the nation’s foremost colleges and universities to the White House. It warned President Nixon of the “incalculable dangers of an unprecedented alienation of America’s youth” and called for an immediate end to the enlarged war. Allen never reached Nixon. Domestic advisors Ehrlichman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan barred his way, telling him that the college presidents were being presumptuous and arrogant. “This is not the way you treat a President,” Moynihan sniffed. “This is not the way you keep a campus quiet,” Allen replied.
Wall Street, at the end of its optimism after eighteen months of the Nixon Recession, was actually edging toward panic by May 4th. One financial planner said that the invasion “hit us like an explosion and we’re still sorting through the bricks.”
[O]ne administration economist grumbles in gallows humor [that the invasion] ‘could mean Pierre Rinfret is right.’ Mr. Rinfret, a private New York economist who recently met with President Nixon, said last week that if the Cambodian situation worsens, ‘you are witnessing the destruction of the American economy as we know it’
The National Student Association now had strike pledges from a hundred colleges, many of them already out, many with the approval of their administrators. The University of Maryland restaged their own version of the sitdown at Lincoln and Main in Kent, and reaped the same harvest of tear gas and bayonets. At Berkeley, an Army truck and an American flag went up in flames, the latter while it was being run up the pole. At Texas/Austin, so did an effigy of President Nixon. Fire bombs landed on two buildings at the University of Wisconsin, a center for weapons research.
But one of the functions of a presidential staff is to insulate the incumbent against bad news. H.R. Haldeman,
423 220-CU-KST, radio logs, adjutant general (AG), Fort Hayes, 3 May 1970, 0345 hrs.
424 John Danton, “New Haven Panthers Preached Calm,” New York Times, May 4, 1970, p. 43.
425 Terence Smith, “Allied Search in Cambodia Yields Few Signs of Foe,” New York Times, May 3, 1970, front page and p. 2
426 Haldeman (N), May 3, 1970.
427 Col. David H. Hackworth and Julie Sherman, About Face. (New York; Simon & Schuster, 1989), p. 733.
428 John H. Jessup, “Yale Proves Dissent Doesn’t Have to Turn Out That Way,” Life magazine, May 15, 1970, p. 39.
429 Michael T. Kaufmannn, “Campus Unrest Over War Spreads with Strike Call,” New York Times, May 4, 1970, front page and p. 10.
430 Homer Bigart, “Guard Is Leaving Calm New Haven in Wake of Rally,” New York Times, May 4, 1970, front page and p. 3.
431 “News and Comment,” New Yorker magazine, May 16, 1970, p. 35.
432 Fred Halstead, Out Now! A Participant’s Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War. (Monad Press/Anchor Foundation, Inc., 1978), pp. 547 et. seq.
433 Haldeman (N), May 3, 1970, “phone – CD.” EMPHASIS ADDED. Yet this is the only line of the four that appears in the journal; none of it appears in the published Diaries.
434 Ibid., “P. mtg w/ Attack group.” Does not appear in (J) or (P); but in (J), Haldeman identifies them as “our whole group – attack, speech, & Congl.”
435 Haldeman (J), Sunday, May 3, 1970, p. 33.
436 William Safire, Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House. (Garden City; Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1975), p. 190.
437 Ibid., p. 90.
438 Haldeman (N), May 3, 1970, “News – CBS”. Not in (J) or (P). EMPHASIS IN ORIGINAL.
439 Michener, Kent State, p. 255.
440 220-CU-KST, radio log, 1/145, 3 May 1970, 0715 and 0835 hrs. resp.
441 ACLU depositions: Sgt. Michael Delaney.
442 Joe Eszterhas, “Ohio Honors Its Dead”, Rolling Stone, June 10, 1971.
443 Michener, “Kent State: Book File,” Box 40, Draft IV-V.
444 The university, which owned the building, assessed its value at $ 53,000. Davies Papers; letter, Brig,. Gen. T.H. Tackaberry, U.S. Army, to Henry V. Wells, September 11, 1970.
445 220-CU-KST, Sound tape 220-CU-KST, tape recording of the governor’s press conference, May 3, 1970.
446 Michener, “Kent State: Book File”, Box 40, Draft VI-I.
447 John de Groot, “Rhodes Nixed KSU Closure,” Akron Beacon-Journal, May 6, 1970, front page and A6.
448 Lacy McCrary, “Rhodes Didn’t Block KSU Closing…But…” Akron Beacon-Journal, May 8, 1970.
449 Abe Zaidan, “Rhodes Took Full Control at KSU, Guard Charges,” Akron Beacon-Journal, May 8, 1970, p. A2.
450 “My God! They’re Killing Us!” Newsweek, May 18, 1970, p. 31.
451 Transcript, Krause v. Rhodes, testimony of Robert White, pp. 8731-32.
452 220-CU-KST, Box 92, Witness File, Folder: “White, Robert”, statement to James Strazzella, August 7, 11, and 14, 1970.
453 Furlong, “The guardsmen’s view”, p. 68.
454 Barry Levine, Flowers and Bullets, unpublished ms. now in the possession of the Krause family.
455 David E. Rosenbaum, “Dr. Spock Seized in Capital Rally,” New York Times, May 4, 1970, p. 9.
456 ACLU depositions: Major Harry Jones. EMPHASIS ADDED.
457 220-CU-KST, Box 90, Folder: “Subpoenas Issued”, undated statement by William Slocum to Lloyd Ziff.
458 Heineman, Campus Wars, p. 180.
459 220-CU-MF (Main File), Box 29, Xerox copy of circular letter from Robert Matson and Frank Frisina, “A Special Letter to the University Community,” May 3, 1970.
460 Peter Davies, The Truth About Kent State: The Challenge to the American Conscience. (New York; Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1973), p. 24.
461 220-CU-MF, Background Materials, Box 29, Xerox copy of President White’s statement, May 3, 1970. EMPHASIS ADDED.
462 Tompkins and Anderson,
463 220-CU-KST, radio log, 1/145th, 3 MAY 1970. There was another ROTC building on campus, belonging to the Air Force.
464 220-CU-MF, Background Materials, Box 29, Xerox copy, “A Statement Issued by the 23 Concerned Faculty,” May 3, 1970. This was to become a key document in the FBI’s “inquisition” of the faculty that summer (see Charles Thomas, Kenfour.)
465 220-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 91; Folder: “Matson, Robert”, statement to James Strazzella, August 14, 1970. EMPHASIS ADDED.
466 Moran, “For Someone Who Was There…”, p. 4A.
467 John Pekkanan, “A boy who was just ‘there watching it and making up his mind,” Life magazine, May 15, 1970, p. 36.
468 Davies Papers; draft minutes of a roundtable discussion among parents of the four students killed at Kent State, held in Cleveland, October 9, 1971, p. 7.
469 Moran, p. 5A.
470 Rita Rubin, untitled article in Bill Warren (ed.), The Middle of the Country, p. 45.
471 “Kent Police Logs Tell a Dramatic Story,” Ravenna Record-Courier, May 4, 1970. EMPHASIS ADDED.
472 220-CU-KST, Schwartzmiller’s statement.
473 National Archives; Audiovisual Division; Film 220-CU-2: outtakes of student hand-held 8 mm. film not used in the compilation film shown at the presidential commission hearings.
474 220-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 91; Folder: “Hegedus, Joseph”, undated memo from Chief Deputy Walter Moore to Sheriff Joseph Hegedus, re “Kent Disturbance”.
475 Methodist Archives; Kent State Fund; Minority Report of the Kent State Commission on [the] Violence of May 1970, p. 125.
476 Michener, “Kent State: Book File,” Box 46, statement by John Hayes, undated.
477 Ibid., statement by Jamie Haynes, undated.
478 220-CU-MF, transcript of hearings held by the commission in Kent, August 19, 1970, testimony of Robert Pickett, pp. 197-198.
479 National Archives; Audiovisual Division; Sound Recording 220-1B, Cut 4.
480 Grant and Hill, I Was There, interview with James Ronald Snyder, p. 56.
481 1/145th radio log, 3 May 1970.
482 ACLU depositions; Robert Canterbury.
483 “The Survivors: Lou Cusella,” in J. Gregory Payne, Mayday: Kent State. (Dubuque; Kendall-Hunt, 1981), p. 100.