Blood of Isaac
an e-book by Charles A. Thomas
CHAPTER SIX: The Blood of Isaac.
Most of the National Guardsmen stood watch through the night against the phantoms that assailed them over their own radio net. “I got about five and a half hours’ sleep out of 72,” one told a reporter.484 For many of them, especially in the 2/107thACR (Armored Cavalry Regiment), this was the third time they had been called out in a month.485 Company C pf the 1/145th Infantry was finally relieved at three a.m. on the 4th. They pitched tents on a football practice 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 take the tents down and re-pitch them.486
The fourth of May dawned bright and sunny, with a stiff breeze rising that would neutralize the authorities’ weapon of choice: 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” -- changed at 1056 hours to the Commons.487
The same day broke over a nation blackened by a “bitter and ugly spirit” arisen in the wake of the Cambodian invasion and the cycle of protest and repression it had unleashed, “dividing the capital of the United States as it has not been divided since the days of the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy”488 Dr. James Allen, of the Office of Education, hand-carried a circular letter signed by the presidents of thirty-seven of the country’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.489 Nixon never saw it. John Ehrlichman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan intercepted Allen at the gate, telling him 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.490
Wall Street, one of a Republican president’s key constituencies, was profoundly nervous. One financial planner said 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.491
The National Student Association now had strike pledges from a hundred colleges, many of them already out, many with the approval of their administrations. The University of Maryland staged its own version of the Kent sitdown at Lincoln and Main, and it was also broken up by 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.492
But one of the functions of a presidential staff is to insulate the incumbent against bad news. H.R. Haldeman, perpetually upbeat if now increasingly nervous, played up the “positives”: Nixon was up three points in the polls. The chief of staff failed to pass on his growing fears that COSVN (Central Office, South Vietnam) did not exist. Nixon was making plans for an extended trip West, with speaking stops at Omaha and Santa Fe, his ultimate destination the western White House at San Clemente, California and another briefing from CINCPAC Admiral John McCain (which would bring events in an ironic full circle). When he returned to D.C., he would first make the all-important stop for an appearance at Stone Mountain, Georgia (“have PN [Pat Nixon] meet us in Ga. for Stone Mtn.”).493 The trip plans were already doomed by the chain of events even then rushing to their bloody climax in Ohio; instead of winging West at the end of the week, Nixon and his aides would be besieged in the White House by a hundred thousand demonstrators – and Nixon would be on the edge of a breakdown.
Bill Schroeder slept through his alarm on the last morning of his life. His roommate turned it off for him at seven. He finally got up at 8:15 and dressed in his orange bellbottom “Brian Jones pants” and the denim jacket his grandfather had given him. Then he stuck a yellow and a purple flower in either lapel. According to a housemate, “ he joked that the purple flower was his purple
Jeff Miller phoned his mother in Plainfield, NY, at around ten, to reassure her after whatever she might have heard about Kent State over the media. “Don’t worry, Ma,” he told her, “I’m not going to get hurt.”494 While he was on the phone to her, the government undercover agents were meeting at Perkins’ Pancake House to finalize plans for the confrontation that would kill Miller and Schroeder, and the two doomed women.
And the non-clandestine authorities held a final meeting of their own. Ever after, “public testimony and published account of this [meeting] are contradictory,”495 particularly regarding the order that no rallies would be permitted. General Canterbury would always fix the blame on KSU President White. “He asked President WHITE, ‘You do not want this rally to take place?’ President WHITE’S reply was, ‘No, it will be dangerous.’” (2, 33, 58) White told the FBI that “no request was made by any KSU official to General CANTERBURY to stop the rally scheduled for 12:00 noon, May 4, 1970.” (2, 33, 186) Public Safety Director Hershey thought there had been a “general consensus” prohibition. (2, 33, 182) During the presidential commission hearings that summer, Canterbury and White, under oath, continued to blame each other. After the hearings, Canterbury stated in a followup interview that, “he, Canterbury, directed his specific question to President White, ‘should the rally be permitted’? White’s reply was a firm ‘no’.”496
A significant number of students gathered at the Hub at ten to discuss the same rally, and yet no documentation survives about what was said. Steve Sharoff just managed to miss it, and yet he would recall “I have never seen anything travel so fast on this campus in my life. Everybody knew about it five minutes after that meeting was over. That is all you heard.”497
Also at ten, Elaine Wellin attended a meeting of the few remaining activists in on campus; the “real heavy political people” had left town.498 The universal question was “Who was doing the trashing?”, since the acts of vandalism were only providing pretexts for more official repression. A lot of them thought they knew, but didn’t want to say anything definite because one of the more obvious of the informers was present.
At 1030 hours, Canterbury met with his key subordinates, Majors Wallach and Jones. He told them that one or the other of them had to be with him on the Commons at noon. Wallach said, “Harry, I’ve had a pretty tough time. I am a bit tired. How about you going out?”499 Jones agreed, thereby saving the lives of dozens of students.
Allison and Barry had agreed to meet on the Commons at noon, to see what the rally was about. They were in a mood to demonstrate against the Guard’s occupation of the campus; they had been caught in the stampede after the bayonet attack at the Library and had been forced to take refuge in the Tri-Towers complex overnight. Allison stopped by the room of their best friend Bonnie Henry to see if she wanted to join them and became infuriated when she realized Bonnie was so terrified the Guard that she wouldn’t leave her room. She rumpled Bonnie’s hair and said, “I’m you friend; don’t be afraid.” (2, 19, npn [see Kenfour]). But Bonnie could not be persuaded to come out. So, realizing she might be late to meet Barry, Allison rushed off to her death.
Tom Grace was sitting in a Political Science class when a student announced there would be a rally on the Commons at noon. Grace had promised his girlfriend he would stay away from demonstrations. “Then I thought to myself, This is too momentous; it’s too important for me to stay away. Certainly I couldn’t see any harm in my going over just to watch.”500 His girlfriend would have the last word; Grace was about to get a considerable part of his foot blown off.
Canterbury now ordered Lt. Col. Charles Fassinger to call the Guardsmen on campus in from their patrols and array them on the Commons. In a move that struck every civilian present as ludicrous, part of the ONG order of battle was drawn up in a protective cordon around the ashes of the ROTC building. But in the main they formed a line on that side of the Commons which at a word could move forward to sweep the grassy quadrangle clear. As for the military necessity for their deployment, one of the General’s sergeants would remark, ten years later, “If the General had had his head out of his ass, he never would have put us in that situation… The whole thing was a farce.”501
Cambodia, Washington, New Haven, Langley – hundreds of seething campuses from coast to coast – now faded into the background. The moment of decision would come on a patch of green in the middle of the country.
After a session with his ROTC advisor and taking an exam in Tactics, Bill Schroeder met with his friend Gene Pekarick. They decided to skip lunch so they could see if anything was going to happen on the Commons. As they walked past some of the Guardsmen, Pekrarick said, “I hope none of those guys have itchy fingers.” “Don’t worry about it,” Schroeder reassured him, “They don’t even have clips in their rifles.”502
Someone was ringing the Victory Bell, usually tolled to celebrate sports triumphs. A modest crowd was gathering, most carrying books. Allison half-ran, half-walked across the front of it, looking for Barry. She paused long enough to say a few words to Jeff Miller; what they discussed will never be known. She finally found Barry on the far edge of it, at the end of Taylor Hall nearest to Johnson Hall. He noted that she was wearing blue jeans, “her favorite blue sneaks”, and a tan safari jacket open on a grey T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Kennedy”. In a second grim irony, she had pinned up her hair, “baring her neck”.
Sandy Scheuer, the fourth about to die – a light-hearted, some felt frivolous young woman – passed through the scene on her way to a class in the Speech and Music Center. She paused for a moment to see what was happening, found it uncompelling, and set out on her journey again.503
In justifying the order he was about to give, General Canterbury would tell the FBI three days later that “[t]he crowd seemed much more hostile than the crowd existing the previous Saturday… The Monday crowd seemed to consist primarily of extremely vociferous agitators.” (1, 1, 6). (Some accustomed to the General’s usual vocabulary level have been unkind enough to suggest he had help with his statement.) His characterization was contradicted by his own men in their testimony during the 1975 civil trial:
Defendant [First Sergeant] Myron Pryor agreed that in all fairness it was a peaceful assembly of a large number of people, and nothing was being thrown at the time. (Tr[anscript] 3179, Lines 1024, Vol. 14). Defendant [Sgt. Lloyd] Thomas described the crowd as just talking, waving flags, and doing some jeering (Tr. 2069, Lines 8-18, Vol. 19)… Ohio National Guard chaplain [Major John] Simons testified that the gathering appeared to be a ‘kind of picnic, festive atmosphere’ (Tr. 7714, Lines 4-15, Vol. 3310). National Guardsman [Sergeant] Michael Delaney testified that the crowd was really not doing much of anything. Some people were playing tennis on the tennis courts, and some people were walking across the campus (Tr. 8965, Lines 4-10, Vol. 35).504
A faculty witness asked, “It was spring and the kids were curious. How often had they seen battalions of soldiers before?”505 But there was a far more basic reason: “there people in the crowd Monday for the most part were students who had not taken any active part in previous demonstrations… most of the students on campus were angered by the actions of the National Guard” (5, 1, 254) Those actions – gas discharged near or into dormitories, curfews whose hours kept changing and the arrests that resulted, the bayonetings and clubbings – had done the impossible. Even the inert Kent State students had been driven to choose sides in the new civil war. Perhaps the campus tradition of apathy was so powerful that they couldn’t look threatening even when they were angry.
The university administrators either had no wish to avoid the confrontation or lacked the fortitude for a last sally into no man’s land with a white flag. Just as the battle was about to be joined, the three ranking KSU officials present went to lunch. As one unbelieving academic dean put it, “The Big Wheels – White…Matson… Roskens – should have been out there on their hands and knees if necessary, begging the kids and the Guardsmen not to kill each other.”506
As they did, just before noon, a former Guardsman, now a student, saw what he believed was the triggering act. The students had been chanting things like “Guards off campus,” “Pigs go home”, and “peace now”. “And the kids were really unenthusiastic, because they couldn’t even keep up a chant for more than a couple of seconds… they would have all left if the Guard had stayed where they were.”507 Many of them were killing time on the Commons because they were “waiting for their 1:00 p.m. class to begin”. (2, 7, 232)
But now a slender male student announced that the national student strike was on and called for Kent State to join it, drawing a loud roar of approval from the crowd. “It was at this point that a National Guard jeep moved into the center of the commons carrying a helmeted policeman who ordered us to disperse.”508 The campus cop, Harold Rice, used a bullhorn to issue the order over the crowd noise and the stiff breeze. “He said it in a very monotone voice,” according to one student, “We all thought it was funny, ‘cause it sounded like a robot; that one on ‘Lost in Space’, as a matter of fact.”509 And the crowd responded with laughter, jeers, and a chorus of “Fuck you!”
A few stones sailed out of its midst to bounce off the steel flanks of the jeep. Major Jones called the jeep in, explaining to Canterbury that it wasn’t accomplishing anything. The General replied, “Give them a few minutes to see if they will [disperse].” There was no reason for them to, according to a faculty member present. “Even after the order was given, the situation remained ambiguous. Many students felt that the officer who gave the request to leave was asking, not telling.” But Canterbury didn’t think he was asking. Seeing his superior was ready to give the fateful command, Jones suggested firing tear gas rather than sweeping the Commons. Canterbury replied, “Fine, Jones. Let’s get the M-79 [grenade launcher] up and fire some gas.” The first canisters fell short. Jones told the grenadier, “We have to move up.” But even at closer range, the gas was ineffective. The breeze was carrying it away as fast as the canisters spewed it out. A few students even ran out of the crowd, grabbed the canisters, and threw them back at the Guard.
The throng greeted these sallies with ironic cheers and applause. One of the Guardsmen thought, “It was almost like a carnival – a circus. I got the feeling that if I had a popcorn stand, I could have made a thousand dollars.” Drama major Ben Parsons grabbed one of the canisters, but it spewed gas in his face. “I… had to be carried away… [T]he National Guardsmen were laughing. It was just a game.” Girls leaned out of the dorm windows to toss down jars of Noxzema and Vaseline for the boys to smear on their exposed skin, for protection against the burning chemical. All the while, everyone present could glance to either side and see people playing tennis and basketball on the courts.
Himself not amused, General Canterbury ordered his men to advance and rive the demonstrators from the Commons. Charlie Company of the 1/145thInfantry would advance on the left with 36 men and Troop G, 2/107th Armored Cavalry, on the right with 60, reinforced by men from the 1/145th’s A Company. In other words, although the more active demonstrators were clustered around the Victory Bell to his left front, he was sending his strength against the relatively passive onlookers – like Allison, Barry, and Bill, and passersby like Sandy – to his right. No one has ever figured out why. He held 110 men in reserve. Each rifleman was ordered to load and lock a clip of eight rounds of .30 caliber ball ammunition into his semi-automatic, gas-operated M-1 rifle – a weapon which can discharge a bullet capable of penetrating twelve adult human bodies lined up front to back. When an anonymous faculty member pleaded with the General not to send his men across the field, not even Michener could resist quoting Canterbury’s reply: “These students are going to have to learn what law and order is all about.”
As the Guard moved out to attack it, the crowd emitted an almost good-natured mass groan of disbelief and derision. A few retreated up over the saddle of the hill beside Taylor Hall; most scattered off to the left or the right. “Everybody was laughing because the wind was blowing towards them [the Guard] and all the gas wasn’t getting to them [the students].” The Guardsmen walked all the way across the Commons without opposition, but not without distress. As Company C halted on the far margin of the quadrangle, “we halted momentarily, gasping for air. I personally could not breathe because of the gas mask. The lenses of the masks were steam up from the heat… I lifted the mask and took a deep breathe – of gas!”
Company C halted on a line between Taylor and Prentice Halls, where it could bar any attempt by the protestors to return to the Commons. Any tactical logic dictated that Troop G would have halted on the same line, between Taylor and Johnson Halls. Instead, it charged up over the saddle by Taylor Hall, down the reverse slope, across a road, and out onto a football practice field – where, had it faced a serious enemy, it could have been cut off and annihilated. The only conceivable objective of this sally was the pursuit of twelve defiant students who alone hung back to defy them with shied stones and insults, and their own tear gas canisters. Among them was Allison Krause. Driven before the soldiers through tear gas for two nights, left stranded in a strange dorm the night before, infuriated by the terror the Guard had inspired in her best friend, she now unleashed a blistering stream of invective against the militiamen. Standing beside her, Barbara Knapp was left paralyzed with fear. “I just can’t convey the feeling I had of just, you know, seeing these men come across the hill with rifles, with gas masks, and in uniform…” she testified that summer, “and I just kept thinking, you know, this isn’t happening, we are civilized in Ohio, this is nothappening.”
In pursuit of its prey, Troop G ignored the hundreds of students who had run away from them off the Commons, to re-coalesce around in the direction of Johnson Hall or on and around the Taylor Hall verandah. The senior enlisted man leading it, First Sergeant Pryor, testified that his men were not chasing a “crowd”, but “scattered” individuals – the “[s]tudents were moving backwards, sir, away from us.” The soldiers chased this “defiant dozen” across the field until they ran up against a chain-link fence. Their quarry had side-slipped the fence and now stood taunting them from the other side of it. A few of them threw stones. “I never saw anyone get hit – the Guardsmen were a half-football field away,” a female faculty member told federal agents,
The rocks looked like the small gravel that usually lines the side of a road…
Meanwhile the National Guard continued to shoot tear gas needlessly. The crowd was laughing each time they shot more. Someone said,“They’re going to use all their tear gas’… The crowd seemed more relaxed now. (2, 21, 461)
As these stubborn hecklers threw the gas canisters back at the soldiers, and the Guardsmen picked them up and threw them back yet again, a spectator jibed that it looked like “a tennis match”. Within days, the FBI would collect all the stones and other debris from the scene to assess its potential as deadly missiles. A commission investigator examined the Bureau’s photographs of this evidence and noted that “[t]he rocks were described as ranging from pebbles to 1”-2” in diameter.”
Major Jones seems to have been disturbed at Troop G’s absurd position (unable to advance and ashamed to retreat). The would-be predators looked more ridiculous with each passing minute, fox hunters reined in at the first fence. The Major finally left C Company and walked all the way out onto the practice field. This involved this short, wiry man, wearing a “soft cap” instead of a helmet and carrying only an unauthorized civilian .22 pistol and a polyester riot baton – passing alone and unmolested through what General Canterbury would later describe under oath as a raging mob, of what conservative eyewitnesses would tell the FBI was “five hundred radical students”. Canterbury seems to have been completely stymied, for Jones took command of the stranded contingent as soon as he reached it. First Sergeant Pryor and Captain Raymond Srp agreed that it was Jones who gave the command, at a quarter past noon, for a rank of these men to drop into a kneeling position and level their rifles at the handful of students still baiting them. “None of the students reacted.” They soldiers did not fire, nor could they have. “C Company would have been in the line of fire.”
Pryor discharged his .45 pistol into the air twice, with equal lack of effect. No one was afraid of them by now. Jones decided that there was nothing to do but retreat. He told Canterbury so, and the General replied, “That’s a good idea, Major. Let’s get the troops formed up into a wedge formation and move out.” At around 1220 hours, the formation left the practice field on the return march to the Commons. But as most of the soldiers moved out crisply, perhaps with relief, around a dozen of them hung back on the right flank of the new line of march. Michener has called this the “huddle”. In an early draft, he stated that
[P]eople working on this book had a brief opportunity to scan a secret report compiled by experts in a position to know, not the FBI,and it gave these details… As the troops moved back to Blanket Hill, someone among the Guards said, ‘If they charge us, shoot them.’
In published form, this becomes
[I]t was on the football field, when the students were being obnoxious and stones were drifting in, that some of the troops agreed among themselves, ‘We’ve taken enough of this crap. If they don’t stop pretty soon we’re going to let them have it.
To requote from the previous chapter, about “8 to 12” of the Guardsmen had discussed shooting some of the students late on the night of May 3rdor very early on the 4th in their bivouac area, and the ones who did fire “were the ones who had been talking about it the night before.” (2, 41, 32)
As the skirmish line moved off the practice field, re-crossed the road, and started up the hillside toward the Commons, the twelve men on the extreme right of it began looking back over their right shoulders – away from their objective, and from the hundreds of onlookers, and back at the twelve hecklers. These “dirty dozen” had drifted along behind them until they stopped to watch the retreat from the Prentice Hall parking lot. “The guard stated up the hill back toward the Commons. [Barbara Knapp] stated that several of the guardsmen looked toward the parking lot several times as they walked up the hill.” “The first time I observed, they almost stopped and looked around. The second time, they continued moving, they looked over their shoulders more as opposed to actually stopping and turning around.”
Some of the Guardsmen were at the end of themselves. They were starved for sleep, nerves frayed by constant anxiety when not cold fear during the wildcat truckers’ strike, many doubting the capabilities of their commanders, and continually inflamed by the forced feeding of panic disinformation. Now they had maneuvered constantly for thirty minutes wearing the suffocating gas masks. Some of them couldn’t get their glasses on beneath the masks and the plastic eyepieces were fogging over, adding the sickening dread of fighting an unseen enemy to their trials. Yet within seconds twelve of them would prove that they could see all too clearly.
While Major Jones was trailing the line, trying to keep it “dressed”, Jeff Miller ran up behind him and hit him in the back of the leg with half a brick. Jones would later claim that the brick hit him square on the holster and knocked the .22 Baretta pistol he had borrowed from Captain Snyder out of it and onto the ground. Jones bent over and picked it up, and this is why so many witnesses saw it in his hand. However, when the FBI interviewed him on May 11th, he admitted that “he may have instinctively drawn this weapon after being hit on the leg or in the stomach with a brick.” (1,2, 236) Actually, witnesses saw him draw the pistol and threaten people with it. “Occasionally he would draw a pistol and point it around at the demonstrators… I heard him say what I believe to be, ‘Come on, come on’ at the demonstrators.” (1, 11, 1358). “He then turned around with his gun in his hand moving it up and down in a warning fashion.” (1, 21, 481) “I was harassing this officer. I threw a stone at him and he pointed a .45-caliber pistol at me.” He was also making a “swinging motion” with his riot baton, “toward the student in an apparent attempt to scare him away.” (5, 1, NPN.) As the skirmish line mounted the hill and Jones passed Deli Moreland, he shouted at her, “Come one step closer, you bitch, and I’ll blow your head off.” “A short man on the end took out a revolver, waved it in my face, and dared any of us to do anything.” Or, as she told the FBI, “[S] observed one Guard with a revolver in hand as he attempted to ‘egg on’ the students. She claims she heard him daring the students to attack him.” (2, 26, 512) “Major Jones was limping badly and favored one leg.”
In pain, a staff officer stuck with a line command through his General’s incompetence, exposed to the burning tear gas without a mask, and fighting his own battle with fatigue, Jones was haunted by the same fear that had haunted him since the first order to disperse at noon: the students weren’t taking any of this seriously. He was right. In fact, the civilians were behaving as if the excitement were over for the day. A number of photographs show them walking obliquely across the back of the retreating soldiers, as if oblivious to their fear, exhaustion, and humiliated rage. Steve Titchenal, who had been picked up “wild sound” for the track of a friend’s film, had shut off his cassette recorder because “I was not expecting anything to happen at this time.” Student Bill Ling began to stow his photographic equipment in the trunk of his car for the same reason. Only one woman intuited what was about to happen and “started running around telling people not to follow because it looked like a trap.” (4, 9, 25)
Even the dozen hecklers had broken off their harassment and stood in and around the parking lot watching their enemy retreat. Jeff Miller was talking with a friend by the parking gate, 265 feet from the man who was about to put a bullet through his brain. Allison held hands with Barry by a Volkswagon covered with flower decals, 393 feet from her executioner. Robbie Stamps, still noshing on his lunch as he turned to leave the area, was 495 feet from the firing line.. Yet three days later General Canterbury would tell the FBI that at this instant hundreds of bloodthirsty radical students were virtually on top of his men, who were “virtually surrounded by hostile members of the crowd… The crowd had come to within ten to 12 feet of the flanks of the troops.” (1, 1, 7).
In 1975, student John Darnell testified to recalling it somewhat differently:
A. Were there any students following after the Guard?
Q. Not to my recollection.
A. Were there any students surging toward or advancing toward the Guard unit?
A. Did you see any rocks thrown at this time?
A. Mr. Darnell, did you see anything thrown at this time?
Darnell’s word against Canterbury’s? But there is physical evidence corroborating Darnell. Leaning out his dormitory window, student Chris Abell filmed the critical instant with his hand-held 8-mm. camera. The film is grainy and shot from a considerable distance. To the layman, it only gives the impression of a rush of vague motion. So the American Civil Liberties Union hired a CIA-trained photogrammetrist, Richard Johnson, to analyze the film frame by frame, over a period of two months, and then asked him under oath what it depicted:
A. Was there any movement on the part of those closest to the Guard?
Q. Yes. They were moving across the sidewalk and down the hill away from the Guard. In the shootings sequence, is there any pointing time at which a pronounced movement of persons occurred?
Q. Yes, sir… It is away from the Guard.
A. Could you detect in your analysis, could you detect any movement toward the Guard within 85 feet of the Pagoda?
Q. No, we could not.
A. …[W]as [there] any rush of persons toward the Guard in the opening minutes of the shooting sequence?
7. My opinion was that there was not.
As the Guard reached the crest of the hill, student Jim Nicols emerged from Taylor Hall, walking as if to cross the space between Troop G and the parking lot. One of the Guardsmen -- an acquaintance Nicols didn’t recognize then because of his gas mask – frantically waved him out of what would be, in seconds, the line of fire.
John Darnell caught a glimpse of “a girl I knew, Sandy Scheuer, and I waved and she said, ‘Hi’.”
Bobbi Moran, who had eaten a solitary lunch and was passing Prentice Hall looking for a tamp machine, thought she heard “firecrackers”. She smiled to herself and thought, “Who do they think they are scaring with that?” Guard Private Paul Navjoks heard the “firecrackers” too – then, “everything happened so fast, it was like a car wreck.”
First Sergeant Pryor whirled in a crouch and fired his .45 automatic pistol back down the hillside. He continued squeezing the trigger until his clip was empty. The dull boom of his first shot (unlike the higher-pitched, cracking report of the M-1 rifle) startled General Canterbury – who despite his repeated, sworn statements was not looking back at the “mob”, but straight ahead toward the Commons.
At Pryor’s first shot, the soldiers wheeled around to their right to face back down the slope – as a unit, without a single man turning counter-clockwise-- as if “there was some kind of order or a pre-arrangement from among them.” Some held their rifles at the hip and fired into the air or the ground. Others locked their rifle butts into their right shoulders and sighted, suggesting “they were trying to hit specific individuals, that is they were trying to ‘shoot to kill’.” Because these men took several seconds to lock on to their targets, their comrades fired before they did, causing the students to turn and flee or throw themselves flat on the ground. Thus all but three of the victims were shot in the side or the back.
But Pryor’s shot was not the only signal to fire. Major Jones gave a verbal order to turn and fire, as well as a hand signal with his riot baton. Jack Albright, an electrical contractor closest to the firing line, heard it clearly as “Turn around and fire three rounds!” Because of the muffling effect of their gas masks, the wind, and the crowd noise, his men heard it differently depending on where they were on the line, or as scattered words, “part of a longer order”. (1, 2, 225) Sergeant Sholl, who had heard a suggestion to fire a volley over the students’ heads while the formation was on the practice field, now heard it repeated as an order. Several others caught it as “warning shots” (1, 8, pp. 526 and 523, resp.), or firing over the students’ heads. (1,8, 530) Others only heard the word “Fire!” (1, 8, 120 and 419).
The following variations appear in the Guard’s After Action Report:
Sgt. Sholl: I heard someone yell ‘fire over their heads’.
Sgt. Lloyd Thomas: At this point the order was given, ‘Fire – over their heads’.
Lt. Dwight Cline: However several heard one of the Commanders of the flank unit yell, ‘fire’.
Lt. H. R. Fallon: However several heard one of the Commanders of the flank unit yell ‘fire’ and thought this ment [sic] them.
Sgt. Roger A. Maas: I thought I heard the command to ‘Fire’.
PFC Richard Shade: I heard the commaned [sic] to ‘Fire’.
A student too far away to hear the command saw the Major’s lips form it. (1, 9, 745). Simultaneously he gave the hand and arm signal with the riot baton which witnesses interpreted as a command to fire. (1, 11, 1356).
At 71 feet, Joseph Lewis, Jr. was the closest student to the Guard line. Because he was raising his middle finger to the Guard, Sergeant Raymond Shafer shot him in the groin, for “threatening his life”. (1, 1, 20). Lewis was hit again, in the leg, while or after falling to the ground. The friend talking to Jeff Miller “saw the right side of MILLER’s mouth explode outward with fragments of blood and skin.” (5, 1, npn.) The muzzle velocity at that range was so high that Miller wasn’t blown backwards, but rocked on his feet and then pitched face forward to the pavement. The other boy didn’t even know he’d been killed until he turned to say something to him. A girl, spattered with his blood, screamed, and Barry and Allison ducked down behind a parked car – too late. She said in a weak voice, “Barry, I’m hit.” She had gone white, but he could see no blood. He said, “No, no – “ “I’m hit,” she repeated. “At that moment I saw blood coming from under her arm and I screamed, ‘Get an ambulance! Get help!” The bullet had fragmented on the bone in her upper left arm and the diverging fragments had entered her torso as separate missiles. They tore through her left lung, spleen, stomach, duodenum, liver, and vena cava.
Sandy Scheuer had stopped to chat with her friend Ellis Berns just before the Guardsmen fired. At the sound of the shots, he grabbed her and hustled her across the parking lot. They threw themselves onto the ground; he felt her stiffen and then go limp. He saw that she had been hit in the neck. “The bleeding was bad because it was the vein, the artery, just spurting up. It was like water out of a hose.” Another student, Ben Parsons, ran to them as Berns screamed for help and together they carried her onto the grass and propped her head up. “I know she convulsed three times while I was giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” Berns recalled, “She was very white, but she hadn’t turned blue yet.” By the time student John Barilla arrived, she was dead, although Berns and Parsons were still trying to save her. “It was a sight Barilla would never forget; Ben’s tears falling on Sandy’s cheeks; Sandy’s books lying beside her.”
Gene Pekarick and Bill Schroeder had gotten separated in the first chaos when the Guard had moved out across the Commons. As the echoes of the volley died, Pekarick’s roommate asked him, “Do you know who they shot?” Pekarick, who had seen a gravely wounded woman lying on the ground, replied that he thought they had shot Allison. “No,” his roommate replied, “They shot your buddy.” Pekarick found Bill lying head downslope. He too had thrown himself on the ground when the volley erupted. The bullet had entered his back below the seventh rib, cut an upward swathe through his internal organs, and exited the right shoulder. He was dying, but clear-headed and conscious. In a weak voice, he asked, “Where’s an ambulance?”
Dean Kahler – a gangly, soft-spoken youth fresh from the Ohio farm country and his pacifist Church of the Brethren -- had also gotten separated from a friend, who was supposed to have been his guide through the alien world of campus demonstrations. Bewildered by the ebb and flow of the conflict, he decided to spurn it in favor of his one o’clock class. He was crossing the parking lot when the shots rang out and obeyed the universal impulse to go to ground.
A bullet tore into his right side just below his left armpit. Fragments lodged in his lung and one smashed his spine, just below the waist. ‘It was like a bee sting,’ he recalls, ‘I felt a tingling in my legs. I knew right away I’d lost the use of my legs. I couldn’t move them.’ He very nearly died. Part of his left lung was removed; his weight dropped to 120.
The would-be high school football coach would have to find another dream to chase. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Robbie Stamps had also concluded the excitement was over and was walking out of the scene, still nibbling on his lunch, when he was – in his own words –“shot in the ass”. Six other students received gunshot wounds of varying severity. All of them were standing still, talking or running away, or huddled on the ground when hit. One of them, Donald Scott MacKenzie, was hit at 730 feet by a bullet of such small caliber that two forensic experts independently concluded that it only could have come from a .22 caliber firearm. Major Jones was the only one on the scene with a .22. A line drawn from his position to Jeff Miller’s continues on until it intercepts MacKenzie’s.
The slide group on Sergeant Pryor’s .45 pistol locked in the rearmost position – a sign to the shooter that his clip is empty and he must replace it. (Witnesses had seen it recoil repeatedly in his hand, coincident with its booming reports.)
If Major Jones had decided to amplify on his warning to Jeff Miller by firing a shot over his head – the shot that carried on to hit MacKenzie – he must have been stunned to see the youth pitch forward, spurting blood from a head wound. He needed only scan the hillside and the parking lot for another second to see it littered with bleeding bodies. He rushed in front of the muzzles of the rifles, flailing at his men with his riot baton and shouting them to cease firing. Sgt. Raymond McManus threw his arms in the air, shouting, “For Christ’s sake, Almighty! If you are going to fire, fire into the air!” By now, Canterbury had turned all the way around, realized his men were shooting people down, and started grabbing some of them from behind to restrain them.
Not a single shot had been fired in the direction of the hundreds of students around Taylor Hall.
In tones of shock and disgust, Jones told Pryor to stop playing with his pistol and help him get the men back to the Commons. A minute later, word went out over the Guard radio: “1226. Message in the clear. Unitendified [sic] station reports two (2) students shot. Need ambulances.” Fourteen minutes later, the word reach Fort Hayes and the capital: “1240: LTC Spain to COL Rovio: During a mass rally at 12:00 noon, three students were wounded by gunfire. Source of the weapons fired – unknown at this time.”
The calculation, planning, manipulation, incitement were over. The harvest was in. Now all that remained was to see if it would, as Haldeman and Ehrlichman might put it, “play in Peoria” – if Middle America would not only accept, but affirm the deed from which God had deterred Abraham
ayed up the “positives”: Nixon was up three points in the polls. The chief of staff failed to pass on his growing fears that COSVN, the objective of the invasion, had never existed. The President was making plans for an extended trip west, speaking at Omaha and Santa Fe, and then flying on to San Clemente for a briefing with CINCPAC Admiral John McCain – thus bringing events full circle. On the swing back to D.C. they would make that all-important stop in Atlanta (“have PN [Pat Nixon] meet us in Ga. for Stone Mtn.”) Could he have but know that by Friday they would be besieged in the White House, surrounded by a sea of demonstrators – and that his President would be then be ty of Maryland restaged their own version of the sitdown at Lincoln and Main in Kent, and reaped the same harvest of tear gas on or over the edge of a nervous breakdown.
484 Furlong, “The guardsmen’s view..”, p. 69.
485 Davies Papers; transcript of CBS News interview with Guard chaplain John Simons, November 3, 1970.
486 Grant and Hill, p. 56.
487 Radio log, 1/145th Infantry, 4 May 1970.
488 James Reston, “A Confused Capital,” (column), New York Times, May 4, 1970.
489 Robert McFadden, “37 College Presidents Urge Nixon to Move for Prompt Peace,” New York Times, May 5, 1970, front page and p. 18.
490 Evans and Novak, Nixon in the White House, p. 276.
491 Richard F. Janssen, “Setback in Anti-Inflation Drive May Result From Reaction to Nixon Policy on Cambodia,” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 1970, p. 2.
492 McFadden, p. 18.
493 Haldeman (N), May 4, 1970, “1400 (2:00 P.M.)”.
493 Pekkanan, “A boy who was…”, p. 36.
494 Thomas Gallagher, “The Tragedy at Kent State,” Good Housekeeping, October 1970, p. 142.
495 Tompkins & Anderson, p. 36.
496 220-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 91; Folder: “Canterbury, Robert”, supplementary statement to Charles Stine.
497 Ibid., Box 92; Folder: “Sharoff, Steven”, August 3, 1970.
498 Henry Dezutter and Larry S. Finley, “Kent Was a Calm Campus,” Washington Star, May 6, 1970; statement attributed to activist Joanie Zimora.
499 ACLU depositions: Major Harry Jones.
500 “Coda: Kent State,” in Joan and Robert K. Morrison, From Camelot to Kent State: The Sixties Experience in the Words of Those Who Lived It. (New York; Times Books, 1987), p. 330.
501 John Dunphy interview with (former) Sergeant Larry Shafer, in “Guardsman Ends 10-Year Silence on KSU,” Akron Beacon-Journal, May 4, 1980.
502 Pekkanan, p. 37.
503 Gallagher, p. 142.
504 Krause v. Rhodes, testimony in 1975 trial summarized in the brief for the plaintiffs to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, p. 21.
505 Nora Sayre, “Kent State: Victims, Survivors, Heirs,” Ms. magazine, September 1975, p. 91.
506 Tompkins and Anderson, p. 42.
507 Ellen Glass, in “The View From Kent State: 11 Speak Out,” New York Times, May 11, 1970, front page and p. 23.
508 Taylor et. al., Violence at Kent State, p. 70. EMPHASIS ADDED.
509 220-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 92, Folder: “Woodring, James”, statement to Lloyd Ziff, August 5, 1970.
 220-CU-KST, sound tape 220-CU-22, actuality recording by Steven Titchenal.
 ACLU depositions: Jones.
 Davies Papers; pre-publication draft of Jerry Lewis, “A Study of the Kent State Incident Using Smelser’s Theory of Collective Behavior”, October 1970 (published in Sociological Inquiry, 42. 1972.).
 Jones’ deposition.
 Furlong, p. 69.
 Knight Report, p. A22.
 220-CU-KST, radio log, 1/145thInf, 4 May 1970.
 Michener, Kent State: What Happened and Why, p. 331.
 220-CU-3, sound track of newsfilm taken by unit from WKYC-TV, Cleveland; also, Titchenal tape.
 Grant and Hill, p. 77.
 Testimony before the Scranton Commission, August 1970, p. 496.
 Krause v. Rhodes, transcript, Volume 14, p. 3228.
 220-CU-22, Titchenal tape.
 220-CU-MF(Main File), Office Files of the Executive Director, Box 1, memorandum, Charles Stein to Matthew Byrne, Jr., “Rocks”, August 29, 1970.
 FBI Report, 1, no volume number, p. 1081statement by Timothy Carl Olecki. (This page was found loose in the Scranton files).
 Grant and Hill, p. 78.
 Krause v. Rhodes, transcript, testimony of Sp/4 James W. Ferris, Vol. 10, pp. 2315-16; testimony of S/Sgt. Barry W. Morris, Vol. 11, p. 2510; FBI Report: 2, Vol. 25, p. 269.
 ACLU depositions: Jones.
 220-CU-KST, radio log, 2/107thACR, 4 May 1970.
 Michener, “Kent State: Book File”, Box 39, Draft V-K. EMPHASIS ADDED.
 Michener, Kent State: What Happened and Why, p. 361.
 200-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 91, Folder: “Knapp,Barbara”, undated statement to Lloyd Ziff.
 Krause v. Rhodes, transcript, testimony of Howard Ruffner, Vol. 2, pp. 246-248.
 Knight Report, statements of Sgt. Dale Antram, Pvt. Paul Navjoks, and Pvt. Paul Zimmerman, p. A19.
 James Minard, quoted in “Kent State: Martyrdom That Shook the Country”, Time magazine, May 18, 1970, p. 13. Of the events that followed in seconds, Minard added, “He was holding his baton in the air, and the moment he dropped it, they fired.”
 Michener, “Kent State: Book File”, Box 39, Draft V-K.
 After-Action Report, statement of Lt. Ralph G. Tucker.
 Letter, Steven Titchenal to Charles Thomas, February 1978.
 Davies, The Truth About Kent State, pp. 52-55. Based on FBI measurements.
 Krause v. Rhodes, transcript, testimony of John Darnell, Vol. 5.
 Ibid., Vol. 38, pp. 9507-9551. EMPHASIS ADDED.
 Michener, “Kent State: Book File”, Box 39, Draft V-K.
 “I assumed they were shooting in the air” (editor’s note), Life magazine, May 15, 1970.
 Moran, “For someone who was there”, p. 5A.
 Knight Report, p. A19.
 “’It Was Murder’, Former Marine Who Saw It States”, Ravenna Record-Courier, May 8, 1970.
 220-CU-KST; Stewart’s statement.
 FBI Report, 5, Vol. 1, p. 153.
 Michener, “Kent State: Book Draft”, Box 39, Draft V-K.
 220-CU-KST,, Box 94A, Folder: “Staff Working Papers and Notes, “George Warren”.
 Gallagher, p. 144; also, Barry Levine, “Behind the scenes with a witness from Kent State”, Seventeen magazine, August 1970, pp. 156 and 158.
 Davies Papers; photocopy, Ohio Department of Health, death certificate, Allison B. Krause.
 Knight Report, p. A23.
 Gallagher, p. 144.
 Pekkanan, p. 37.
 “The Fifth Victim of Kent State,” Lifemagazine, October 16, 1970, pp. 42-45.
 220-CU-KST, Staff Working Papers and Notes, Box 94A, Folder: “MacIntyre-Straz.”, statement by Dr. Norman Rich September 24, 1970; Folder, “Working Papers and Notes, George Warren”, undated memo by Dr. Joseph Ewing.
 220-CU-KST, Witness File, Box 91, Folder: “Pennell, Larry”, undated statement to George Warren; FBI Report, 1, Vol. 3, p. 557 (also Pennell’s statement); Vol. 10, p. 101: Vol. 12, p. 1460.
 ACLU depositions: McManus.
 220-CU-KST, radio log, adjutant general, Fort Hayes, 4 May 1970.