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Richard Nixon couldn’t sleep. Four days after the Kent State shootings, the president sat in the sitting room off the Lincoln Bedroom listening to a Rachmaninoff concerto on his record player.
With dawn still two hours away, Nixon gazed into the darkness where protestors were already gathering around the Washington Monument. The massive demonstration against the Vietnam War and the bloodshed at Kent State planned for later in the day had turned the White House into a fortress. Two rings of city buses parked bumper to bumper encircled the mansion, and the 82nd Airborne was stationed in the adjacent Executive Office Building.
Already on high alert, a Secret Service agent was startled when he noticed a shadowy figure in jacket and tie wandering outside the White House at 4:35 a.m. “Searchlight is on the lawn!” he radioed, using Nixon’s codename.
The agent grew even more alarmed when the president asked for his limousine and departed the White House in order to talk to the antiwar protestors. What followed was one of the most bizarre episodes in presidential history, one emblematic of an increasingly erratic president leading a country on edge.
READ MORE: Kent State Shootings: A Timeline of the Tragedy
The Days After Kent State
After Nixon awoke from a nap on May 4, 1970, Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman told the president the stunning news that the Ohio National Guard had opened fire on an antiwar demonstration at Kent State University, leaving four students dead and nine injured. Nixon’s April 30 announcement of the American invasion of Cambodia to target suspected North Vietnamese havens had roiled college campuses across the country.
The anger grew even further the following day when the president was caught on tape on a visit to the Pentagon calling the protestors “bums blowing up campuses.”
Haldeman wrote in his journal that Nixon was “very disturbed” by the Kent State shootings, but he noted that the president was mainly preoccupied by the incident’s political ramifications. Nixon had long sought to crush the antiwar movement on college campuses, which he believed was the work of “outside agitators,” and Haldeman reported the president was “hoping rioters had provoked the shooting.”
READ MORE: How Nixon's Invasion of Cambodia Triggered a Check on Presidential Power
LISTEN: Nixon Responds to the Kent State Shootings
Nixon Holds Press Conference, Talks to Students
As student strikes spread across the country and tension mounted, Nixon faced the most important press conference of his presidency on the night of May 8. According to Haldeman, advisors “feared the president would either be too belligerent and non-understanding of the dissenters or would be too forgiving and thus lose strength and presidential leadership.” To many, Nixon struck the right tone. Haldeman wrote the “whole press conference was masterful.” The president agreed.
Deep into the night, an ebullient Nixon made 50 phone calls, talking to everybody from National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger to Reverend Billy Graham. “He’s just completely wired. He thinks he’s done a great job and that he knocked it out of the ballpark,” says Howard Means, author of 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence. Unable to sleep, Nixon summoned his valet and made his nocturnal escape from the White House and directed his limousine to the Lincoln Memorial.
Nixon Speaks to Student Protestors at the Lincoln Memorial
The students gathered at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial may have thought they were dreaming when they saw the buttoned-up man they had come to the capital to protest scale the memorial’s steps and engage them in conversation. Nixon later said his goal was to “lift them a bit out of the miserable intellectual wasteland in which they now wander aimlessly around.”
Along with sprinkling in awkward small talk on topics ranging from the virtues of visiting the Siberian city of Novosibirsk to the Syracuse University football team, the president told the antiwar activists that his ultimate goal wasn’t to enter Cambodia but leave Vietnam.
“I know that probably most of you think I’m an S.O.B., but I want you to know that I understand just how you feel,” he said. Nixon spent nearly an hour talking to the students before visiting the U.S. Capitol and having breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel in what Haldeman called “the weirdest day so far.”
Richard Nixon's Presidency Is Transformed
Along with his press conference, events in New York City on May 8 had also bolstered Nixon’s mood. Cheered on by Wall Street traders, construction workers had attacked antiwar protestors and forcibly raised the American flag flying over City Hall that had been lowered to half-mast to honor the four dead Kent State students. Peter Brennan, the union chief who organized the “Hard Hat Riot” and another massive counter-protest 12 days later, received a congratulatory call from Nixon and an invitation to the White House where he presented the president with a hard hat of his own. Nixon never forgot the support, and he named Brennan Secretary of Labor at the start of his second term.
A Gallup poll in the wake of the shootings found that 58 percent of Americans blamed the students for the deaths at Kent State, while only 11 percent blamed the National Guard. Means says Nixon saw a political opportunity to consolidate his hold on the “silent majority” and tie Democrats to the unpopular radicals. “In the short-term, Kent State re-energized the antiwar movement. It also radicalized the Democratic Party, which then nominated George McGovern, who loses in a landslide in 1972.”
While the Kent State shootings helped propel Nixon to a second term, they may have also set in motion events that led to his eventual resignation. In his book The Ends of Power, Haldeman writes that the Kent State shootings “marked a turning point for Nixon, a beginning of his downhill slide toward Watergate.”
Nixon had been dismayed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, could not find any evidence that “outside agitators” provoked the National Guard to open fire or that foreign groups were funding antiwar protests.
“The Republican Party’s messaging was it was ‘outside agitators,’ and that is what Hoover could not deliver to Nixon,” Means says. “If you look at the FBI interviews, they have their marching orders to look for ‘outside agitators,’ and they just weren’t there.
“Nixon lost faith in the FBI and began to employ his own primary army of intelligence experts,” Means says. That surveillance force, the so-called “plumbers,” orchestrated the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters that led to the Watergate scandal and caused Nixon to resign the presidency.
Uncovering the Kent State Cover-Up
When Ohio National Guardsmen fired sixty-seven gun shots in thirteen seconds at Kent State University (KSU) on May 4, 1970, they murdered four unarmed, protesting college students and wounded nine others. For forty-two years, the United States government has held the position that Kent State was a tragic and unfortunate incident occurring at a noontime antiwar rally on an American college campus. In 2010, compelling forensic evidence emerged showing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) were the lead agencies in managing Kent State government operations, including the cover-up. At Kent State, lawful protest was pushed into the realm of massacre as the US federal government, the state of Ohio, and the Ohio National Guard (ONG) executed their plans to silence antiwar protest in America.
The new evidence threatens much more than the accuracy of accounts of the Kent State massacre in history books. As a result of this successful, ongoing Kent State government cover-up, American protesters today are at much greater risk than they realize, with no real guarantees or protections offered by the US First Amendment rights to protest and assemble. This chapter intends to expose the lies of the state in order to uncensor the “unhistory” of the Kent State massacre, while also aiming toward justice and healing, as censoring the past impacts our perspectives in the present.
The killing of protesters at Kent State changed the minds of many Americans about the role of the US in the Vietnam War. Following this massacre, there was an unparalleled national response: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed across America in a student strike of more than four million. Young people across the nation had strong suspicions the Kent State massacre was planned to subvert any further protests arising from the announcement that the already controversial war in Vietnam had expanded into Cambodia.
Yet instead of attempting to learn the truth at Kent State, the US government took complete control of the narrative in the press and ensuing lawsuits. Over the next ten years, authorities claimed there had not been a command-to-fire at Kent State, that the ONG had been under attack, and that their gunfire had been prompted by the “sound of sniper fire.” Instead of investigating Kent State, the American leadership obstructed justice, obscured accountability, tampered with evidence, and buried the truth. The result of these efforts has been a very complicated government cover-up that has remained intact for more than forty years.1
The hidden truth finally began to emerge at the fortieth anniversary of the Kent State massacre in May 2010, through the investigative journalism of John Mangels, science writer at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, whose findings supported the long-held suspicion that the four dead in Ohio were intentionally murdered at Kent State University by the US government.
Mangels commissioned forensic evidence expert Stuart Allen to professionally analyze a tape recording made from a Kent State student’s dormitory window ledge on May 4, 1970, forever capturing the crowd and battle sounds from before, during, and after the fusillade.2 For the first time since that fateful day, journalists and concerned Americans were finally able to hear the devastating soundtrack of the US government murdering Kent State students as they protested against the Vietnam War.
The cassette tape—provided to Mangels by the Yale University Library, Kent State Collection, and housed all these years in a box of evidence admitted into lawsuits led by attorney Joseph Kelner in his representation of the Kent State victims—was called the “Strubbe tape” after Terry Strubbe, the student who made the recording by placing a microphone attached to a personal recorder on his dormitory window ledge. This tape surfaced when Alan Canfora, a student protester wounded at Kent State, and researcher Bob Johnson dug through Yale library’s collection and found a CD copy of the tape recording from the day of the shootings. Paying ten dollars for a duplicate, Canfora then listened to it and immediately knew he probably held the only recording that might provide proof of an order to shoot. Three years after the tape was found, the Plain Dealer commendably hired two qualified forensic audio scientists to examine the tape.
But it is really the two pieces of groundbreaking evidence Allen uncovered that illuminate and provide a completely new perspective into the Kent State massacre.
First, Allen heard and verified the Kent State command-to-fire spoken at noon on May 4, 1970. The command-to-fire has been a point of contention, with authorities stating under oath and to media for forty years that “no order to fire was given at Kent State,” that “the Guard felt under attack from the students,” and that “the Guard reacted to sniper fire.”3 Yet Allen’s verified forensic evidence of the Kent State command-to-fire directly conflicts with guardsmen testimony that they acted in self-defense.
The government claim—that guardsmen were under attack at the time of the ONG barrage of bullets—has long been suspect, as there is nothing in photographic or video records to support the “under attack” excuse. Rather, from more than a football field away, the Kent State student protesters swore, raised their middle fingers, and threw pebbles and stones and empty tear gas canisters, mostly as a response to their campus being turned into a battlefield with over 2,000 troops and military equipment strewn across the Kent State University campus.
Then at 12:24 p.m., the ONG fired armor-piercing bullets at scattering students in a parking lot—again, from more than a football field away. Responding with armor-piercing bullets, as Kent State students held a peaceful rally and protested unarmed on their campus, was the US government’s choice of action.
The identification of the “commander” responsible for the Kent State command-to-fire on unarmed students has not yet been ascertained. This key question will be answered when American leadership decides to share the truth of what happened, especially as the Kent State battle was under US government direction. Until then, the voice ordering the command-to-fire in the Kent State Strubbe tape will remain unknown.
The other major piece of Kent State evidence identified in Allen’s analysis was the “sound of sniper fire” recorded on the tape. These sounds point to Terry Norman, FBI informant and provocateur, who was believed to have fired his low-caliber pistol four times, just seventy seconds before the command-to-fire.
Mangels wrote in the Plain Dealer, “Norman was photographing protestors that day for the FBI and carried a loaded .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model . . . five-shot revolver in a holster under his coat for protection. Though he denied discharging his pistol, he previously has been accused of triggering the Guard shootings by firing to warn away angry demonstrators, which the soldiers mistook for sniper fire.”4
Video footage and still photography have recorded the minutes following the “sound of sniper fire,” showing Terry Norman sprinting across the Kent State commons, meeting up with Kent Police and the ONG. In this visual evidence, Norman immediately yet casually hands off his pistol to authorities and the recipients of the pistol show no surprise as Norman hands them his gun.5
The “sound of sniper fire” is a key element of the Kent State cover-up and is also referred to by authorities in the Nation editorial, “Kent State: The Politics of Manslaughter,” from May 18, 1970:
“The murders occurred on May 4. Two days earlier, [Ohio National Guard Adjutant General] Del Corso had issued a statement that sniper fire would be met by gunfire from his men. After the massacre, Del Corso and his subordinates declared that sniper fire had triggered the fusillade.6
Yet the Kent State “sound of sniper fire” remains key, according to White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, who noted President Richard Nixon’s reaction to Kent State in the Oval Office on May 4, 1970:
“Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman told him [of the killings] late in the afternoon. But at two o’clock Haldeman jotted on his ever-present legal pad “keep P. filled in on Kent State.” In his daily journal Haldeman expanded on the President’s reaction: “He very disturbed. Afraid his decision set it off . . . then kept after me all day for more facts. Hoping rioters had provoked the shootings— but no real evidence that they did .” Even after he had left for the day, Nixon called Haldeman back and among others issued one ringing command: “need to get out story of sniper.”7
In a May 5, 1970, article in the New York Times, President Nixon commented on violence at Kent State:
This should remind us all once again that when dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy. It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation’s campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strong against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.8
President Nixon’s comment regarding dissent turning to violence obfuscated and laid full blame on student protesters for creating violence at Kent State. Yet at the rally occurring on May 4th, student protester violence amounted to swearing, throwing small rocks, and volleying back tear gas canisters, while the gun-toting soldiers of the ONG declared the peace rally illegal, brutally herded the students over large distances on campus, filled the air with tear gas, and even threw rocks at students. Twenty minutes into the protest demonstration, a troop of National Guard marched up a hill away from the students, turned to face the students in unison, and fired.
The violence at Kent State came from the National Guardsmen, not protesting students. On May 4, 1970, the US government delivered its deadly message to Kent State students and the world: if you protest in America against the wars of the Pentagon and the Department of Defense, the US government will stop at nothing to silence you.
Participating American militia colluded at Kent State to organize and fight this battle against American student protesters, most of them too young to vote but old enough to fight in the Vietnam War.9 And from new evidence exposed forty years after the massacre, numerous elements point directly to the FBI and COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) as lead agencies managing the government operation of the Kent State massacre, including the cover-up, but also with a firm hand in some of the lead-up.
Prior to the announcement of the Cambodian incursion, the ONG arrived in the Kent area acting in a federalized role as the Cleveland-Akron labor wildcat strikes were winding down. The ONG continued in the federalized role at Kent State, ostensibly to protect the campus and as a reaction to the burning of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) building. Ohio Governor James “Jim” Rhodes claimed the burning of the ROTC building on the Kent State University campus was his reason for “calling in the guard,” yet in this picture of the burning building, the ONG are clearly standing before the flames as the building burns.10
From eyewitness accounts, the burning of the ROTC building at Kent State was completed by undercover law enforcement determined to make sure it could become the symbol needed to support the Kent State war on student protest.11
According to Dr. Elaine Wellin, an eyewitness to the many events at Kent State leading up to and including May 4th, there were uniformed and plain-clothes officers potentially involved in managing the burning of the ROTC building. Wellin was in close proximity to the building just prior to the burning and saw a person with a walkie-talkie about three feet from her telling someone on the other end of the communication that they should not send down the fire truck as the ROTC building was not on fire yet.12
A memo to COINTELPRO director William C. Sullivan ordered a full investigation into the “fire bombing of the ROTC building.” But only days after the Kent State massacre, every weapon that was fired was destroyed, and all other weapons used at Kent State were gathered by top ONG officers, placed with other weapons and shipped to Europe for use by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so no weapons used at Kent could be traced.
From these pieces of evidence, it becomes clearer that the US government coordinated this battle against student protest on the Kent State campus. Using the playbook from the Huston Plan, which refers to protesting students as the “New Left,” the US government employed provocateurs, staged incidents, and enlisted political leaders to attack and lay full blame on the students. On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, the US government fully negated every student response as they criminalized the First Amendment rights to protest and assemble.13
The cover-up adds tremendous complexity to an already complicated event, making it nearly impossible to fairly try the Kent State massacre in the American justice system. This imposed “establishment” view that Kent State was about “civil rights”—and not about murder or attempted murder—led to a legal settlement on the basis of civil rights lost, with the US government consistently refusing to address the death of four students and the wounding of nine.14
Even more disheartening, efforts to maintain the US government cover-up at Kent State recently went into overdrive in April 2012, when President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) formally announced a refusal to open a new probe into the wrongs of Kent State, continuing the tired 1970 tactic of referring to Kent State as a civil rights matter.15
The April 2012 DOJ letters of response also included a full admission that, in 1979, after reaching the Kent State civil rights settlement, the FBI Cleveland office destroyed what they considered a key piece of evidence: the original tape recording made by Terry Strubbe on his dormitory window ledge. In a case involving homicides, the FBI’s illegal destruction of evidence exposes their belief to be “above the law,” ignoring the obvious fact that four students were killed on May 4, 1970. As the statute of limitations never lapses for murder, the FBI’s actions went against every law of evidence. The laws clearly state that evidence may not be destroyed in homicides, even when the murders are perpetrated by the US government.
The destruction of the original Strubbe tape also shows the FBI’s intention to obstruct justice: the 2012 DOJ letters on Kent State claim that, because the original Strubbe tape was intentionally destroyed, the copy examined by Allen cannot be compared to the original or authenticated. However the original Strubbe tape, destroyed by the DOJ, was never admitted into evidence.
The tape examined by Stuart Allen, however, is a one-to-one copy of the Kent State Strubbe tape admitted into evidence in Kent State legal proceedings by Joseph Kelner, the lawyer representing the victims of Kent State. Once an article has been admitted into evidence, the article is considered authentic evidentiary material.
Worse than this new smokescreen on the provenance of the Kent State Strubbe tape and FBI efforts to destroy evidence is that the DOJ has wholly ignored or refuted the tremendous body of forensic evidence work accomplished by Allen, and verified by forensic expert Tom Owen.16 If the US Department of Justice really wanted to learn the truth about what happened at Kent State and was open to understanding the new evidence, DOJ efforts would include organizing an impartial examination of Allen’s analysis and contacting him to present his examination of the Kent State Strubbe tape. None of this has happened.
Instead, those seeking justice through a reexamination of the Kent State historical record based on new evidence have been left out in the cold. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, involved in Kent State from the very beginning as a Cleveland city council person, asked important questions in a letter to the DOJ on April 24, 2012, titled, “Analysis of Audio Record of Kent State Shooting Leaves Discrepancies and Key Questions Unaddressed”:
“While I appreciate the response from the Justice Department, ultimately, they fail to examine key questions and discrepancies. It is well known that an FBI informant, Terry Norman, was on the campus. That FBI informant was carrying a gun. Eyewitnesses testified that they saw Mr. Norman brandish that weapon. Two experts in forensic audio, who have previously testified in court regarding audio forensics, found gunshots in their analysis of the audio recording. Did an FBI informant discharge a firearm at Kent State? Did an FBI informant precipitate the shootings?
Who and what events led to the violent encounter that resulted in four students dead and nine others injured? What do the FBI files show about their informant? Was he ever debriefed? Has he been questioned to compare his statement of events with new analysis? How, specifically, did the DOJ analyze the tape? How does this compare to previous analysis conducted by independent sources that reached a different conclusion? The DOJ suggested noises heard in the recording resulted from a door opening and closing. What tests were used to make that determination? Was an independent agency consulted in the process?
For more than a year, I have pushed for an analysis of the Strubbe tape because Kent State represented a tragedy of immense proportions. The Kent State shooting challenged the sensibilities of an entire generation of Americans. This issue is too important to ignore. We must demand a full explanation of the events.17
Concerned Americans may join Congressman Kucinich in demanding answers to these questions and in insisting on an independent, impartial organization—in other words, not the FBI—to get to the bottom of this.
The FBI’s cloudy involvement includes questions about Terry Norman’s relationship to the FBI, addressed in Mangels’s article, “Kent State Shootings: Does Former Informant Hold the Key to the May 4th Mystery?”:
“Whether due to miscommunication, embarrassment or an attempted cover-up, the FBI initially denied any involvement with Norman as an informant.
“Mr. Norman was not working for the FBI on May 4, 1970, nor has he ever been in any way connected with this Bureau,” director J. Edgar Hoover declared to Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook in an August 1970 letter.
Three years later, Hoover’s successor, Clarence Kelley, was forced to correct the record. The director acknowledged that the FBI had paid Norman $125 for expenses incurred when, at the bureau’s encouragement, Norman infiltrated a meeting of Nazi and white power sympathizers in Virginia a month before the Kent State shootings.18
Even more telling, Norman’s pistol disappeared from a police evidence locker and was completely retooled to make sure that the weapon—used to create the “sound of sniper fire” on May 4—would not show signs of use. Indeed, every “investigation” into Kent State shows that the FBI tampered, withheld, and destroyed evidence, bringing into question government involvement in both the premeditated and post-massacre efforts at Kent State. In examining all inquiries into Kent State, an accurate investigation has never occurred, as the groups involved in the wrongs of Kent State have been investigating themselves.19
The Kent State students never had a chance against the armed will of the US government in its aim to fight wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos back in 1970. Further, the First Amendment rights to protest and assemble have shown to be only vacuous platitudes. Forty-two years later, the Obama administration echoes the original drone of the US government denying the murder of protesters, pointing only to civil rights lost. When bullets were fired on May 4th at Kent State, US government military action against antiwar protesters on domestic soil changed from a civil rights breach to acts of murder and attempted murder.
Congressman Kucinich, in an interview with Pacifica Radio after his exchanges with DOJ by May of 2012, said,
There are some lingering questions that could change the way that history looks at what happened at Kent State. And I think that we owe it to the present generation of Americans, the generation of Americans that came of age during Kent, the students on campus, we owe it to the Guardsmen, who it was said opened fire without any provocation what so ever … we have to get to the truth.20
As long as American leadership fails to consider killing protesters a homicidal action and not just about civil rights lost, there is little safety for American protesters today, leaving the door wide open for more needless and unnecessary bloodshed and possibly the killing of American protesters again. This forty-two-year refusal to acknowledge the death of four students relates to current US government practices toward protest and protesters in America, as witnessed at Occupy Wall Street over the past year. When will it ever become legal to protest and assemble in America again? Will American leadership cross the line to kill American protesters again?21
In a rare editorial addressing this issue, journalist Stephen Rosenfeld of AlterNet wrote,
“History never exactly repeats itself. But its currents are never far from the present. As today’s protesters and police employ bolder tactics, the Kent State and Jackson State anniversaries should remind us that deadly mistakes can and do happen. It is the government’s responsibility to wield proportionate force, not to over-arm police and place them in a position where they could panic with deadly results.22
Though forty-two years have passed, the lessons of Kent State have not yet been learned.
No More Kent States
In 2010, the United Kingdom acknowledged the wrongs of Bloody Sunday, also setting an example for the US government to learn the important lessons of protest and the First Amendment.23 In January 1972, during “Bloody Sunday,” British paratroopers shot and killed fourteen protesters most of the demonstrators were shot in the back as they ran to save themselves.24
Thirty-eight years after the Bloody Sunday protest, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized before Parliament, formally acknowledging the wrongful murder of protesters and apologized for the government.25 The healing in Britain has begun. Considering the striking similarity in events where protesters were murdered by the state, let’s examine the wrongs of Kent State, begin to heal this core American wound, and make a very important, humane course correction for America. When will it become legal to protest in America?
President Obama, the Department of Justice, and the US government as a whole must take a fresh look at Stuart Allen’s findings in the Kent State Strubbe tape. The new Kent State evidence is compelling, clearly showing how US covert intelligence took the lead in creating this massacre and in putting together the ensuing cover-up.
As the United States has refused to examine the new evidence or consider the plight of American protest in 2012, the Kent State Truth Tribunal formally requested the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague consider justice at Kent State. 26
Who benefited the most from the murder of student protesters at Kent State? Who was really behind the Kent State massacre? There is really only one US agency that clearly benefited from killing student antiwar protesters at Kent State: the Department of Defense.
Since 1970 through 2012, the military-industrial-cyber complex strongly associated with the Department of Defense and covert US government agencies have actively promoted never-ending wars with enormous unaccounted-for budgets as they increase restrictions on American protest. These aims of the Pentagon are evidenced today in the USA PATRIOT Act, the further civil rights–limiting National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and new war technologies like CIA drones.
Probing the dark and buried questions of the Kent State massacre is only a beginning step to shine much-needed light on the United States military and to illuminate how the Pentagon has subverted American trust and safety, as it endeavors to quell domestic protest against war at any cost since at least 1970.
LAUREL KRAUSE a writer and truth seeker dedicated to raising awareness about ocean protection, safe renewable energy, and truth at Kent State. She publishes a blog on these topics at Mendo Coast Current. She is the cofounder and director of the Kent State Truth Tribunal. Before spearheading efforts for justice for her sister Allison Krause, who was killed at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, Laurel worked at technology start-ups in Silicon Valley.
MICKEY HUFF is the director of Project Censored and professor of social science and history at Diablo Valley College. He did his graduate work in history on historical interpretations of the Kent State shootings and has been actively researching the topic more since his testimony to the Kent State Truth Tribunal in New York City in 2010.
1. For more background on Kent State and the many conflicting interpretations, see Scott L. Bills, Kent State/May 4: Echoes Through a Decade (Kent OH: Kent State University Press, 1982). Of particular interest for background on this chapter, see Peter Davies, “The Burning Question: A Government Cover-up?,” in Kent State/May 4, 150–60. For a full account of Davies’s work, see The Truth About Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973). For a listing of other works see Selected Bibliography on the Events of May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, http://dept.kent.edu/30yearmay4/source/bib.htm.
2. John Mangels, “New Analysis of 40-Year-Old Recording of Kent State Shootings Reveals that Ohio Guard was Given an Order to Prepare to Fire,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), May 9, 2010, updated April 23, 2012, http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/05/new_analysis_of_40-year-old_re.html Interview with Stuart Allen analyzing new evidence who said of the efforts, “It’s about setting history right.” See the footage “Kent State Shootings Case Remains Closed,” CNN, added April 29, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2012/04/29/justice-department-will-not-reopen-kent-state-shootings-case.cnn.
3. Submitted for the Congressional Record by Representative Dennis Kucinich, “Truth Emerging in Kent State Cold Case Homicide,” by Laurel Krause, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r111%3AE14DE0-0019%3A. For a brief introduction on the history and emerging historiography of the Kent State shootings, see Mickey S. Huff, “Healing Old Wounds: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Conflicts Over Historical Interpretations of the Kent State Shootings, 1977–1990,” master’s thesis, Youngstown State University, December 1999, http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi?acc_num=ysu999620326.
For the official government report, see The Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1970), also known as the Scranton Commission. It should be noted that the Scranton Commission stated in their conclusion between pages 287 and 290 that the shootings were “unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable” but criminal wrongdoing was never established through the courts and no one was ever held accountable for the shootings. Also, it should be noted, that the interpretation that the guard was ordered to fire conflicts with Davies’s interpretation, in note 1 here, that even though he believes there was a series of cover-ups by the government, he has not attributed malice. For more on the Kent State cover-ups early on, see I. F. Stone, “Fabricated Evidence in the Kent State Killings,” New York Review of Books, December 3, 1970, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1970/dec/03/fabricated-evidence-in-the-kent-state-killings.
4. Mangels, “Kent State Tape Indicates Altercation and Pistol Fire Preceded National Guard Shootings (audio),” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), October 8, 2010, http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2010/10/analysis_of_kent_state_audio_t.html.
6. Editorial, “Kent State: The Politics of Manslaughter,” Nation, April 30, 2009 [May 18, 1970], http://www.thenation.com/article/kent-state-politics-manslaughter.
7. Charles A. Thomas, Kenfour: Notes On An Investigation (e-book), http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/4may70/kenfour3.
9. Voting age was twenty-one at this time, until the passage of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1971, which lowered the voting age to eighteen, partially in response to Vietnam War protests as youth under twenty-one could be drafted without the right to vote.
10. It should also be noted, that Rhodes was running for election the Tuesday following the Kent shootings on a law and order ticket.
11. “My Personal Testimony ROTC Burning May 2 1970 Kent State,” YouTube, April 28, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ppBkB4caY0&feature=youtu.be Freedom of Information Act, FBI, Kent State Shooting, File Number 98-46479, part 7 of 8 (1970), http://vault.fbi.gov/kent-state-shooting/kent-state-shooting-part-07-of-08/view.
12. The Project Censored Show on The Morning Mix, “May 4th and the Kent State Shootings in the 42nd Year,” Pacifica Radio, KPFA, 94.1FM, May 4, 2012 live at 8:00 a.m., archived online at http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/80293 and http://dl.dropbox.com/u/42635027/20120504-Fri0800.mp3. For Wellin on ROTC, see recording at 28:45.
Show description: The May 4th Kent State Shootings 42 Years Later: Justice Still Not Served with Congressman Dennis Kucinich commenting on the DOJ’s recent refusal to reopen the case despite new evidence of a Kent State command-to-fire and the ‘sound of sniper fire’ leading to the National Guard firing live ammunition at unarmed college students May 4, 1970 Dr. Elaine Wellin, Kent State eyewitness shares seeing undercover agents at the ROTC fire in the days before, provocateurs in staging the rallies at Kent, and at Kent State on May 4th we’ll hear from investigator and forensic evidence expert Stuart Allen regarding his audio analysis of the Kent State Strubbe tape from May 4th revealing the command-to-fire and the ‘sound of sniper fire’ seventy seconds before and we hear from Kent State Truth Tribunal director Laurel Krause, the sister of slain student Allison, about her efforts for justice at Kent State and recent letter to President Obama..
Also see Peter Davies’ testimony about agents provocateurs and the ROTC fire cited in note 1, “The Burning Question: A Government Cover-up?,” in Kent State/May 4, 150–60.
15. Mangels, “Justice Department Won’t Reopen Probe of 1970 Kent State Shootings,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), April 24, 2012, http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2012/04/justice_department_wont_re-ope.html and kainah, “Obama Justice Dept.: No Justice for Kent State,” Daily Kos, May 2, 2012, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/02/1086726/-Justice-Dept-No-Justice-for-Kent-State.
17. Letters between the Department of Justice and Representative Dennis Kucinich, archived at the Congressman’s website, April 20 and April 24 of 2012, http://kucinich.house.gov/uploadedfiles/kent_state_response_from_doj.pdf and http://kucinich.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=292306.
18. Mangels, “Kent State Shootings: Does Former Informant Hold the Key to the May 4 Mystery?,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), December 19, 2010, http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2010/12/kent_state_shootings_does_form.html.
19. Freedom of Information Act, FBI.
20. The Project Censored Show on The Morning Mix, “May 4th and the Kent State Shootings in the 42nd Year.”
Hard Hat Presented to President Nixon after Kent State Riots
In April 1970, President Richard Nixon announced his plan to send ground groups to Cambodia to attack Communist sanctuaries and central headquarters. This apparent expansion of the Vietnam War detonated an explosion of antiwar activity. The public was still unaware that Nixon had been secretly bombing Cambodia since mid-March 1969—an escalation of a covert bombing campaign started by Johnson in 1965.
Antiwar activity escalated to a national crisis when the National Guard was called in and four students were shot at a protest at Kent State University in Ohio. News of the shootings rocked the nation. Many were outraged, but the outrage took different forms. According to a Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans blamed the students for the violence at Kent State. President Nixon appeared to agree. In response to the shootings he said, “When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy.”
New York City Mayor John Lindsay flew the American flag at half mast after the Kent State shootings. Construction workers protested his decision by rioting in the city on May 7 and 8. A bystander remarked that he could feel the polarization. Nixon later thanked rioters for their public demonstration of support. This hat was presented to President Nixon.
Kent State Massacre: The Shootings Changed the Country
Joe Lewis was just 18 when he was shot twice by the Ohio National Guard on his college campus.
A freshman at Kent State University in Ohio, Lewis had saved money working at the post office during high school to pay for his first year of college. He loved the freedom college afforded, and in 1970, the campus was abuzz with the “excitement of being on the cusp of a new world,” he said.
Lewis grew up on images of the civil rights protests and the Vietnam War and took part in anti-war protests when he got to the campus.
But in May, things escalated and then turned tragic.
Vehemently opposed to President Richard Nixon’s escalation of the war into Cambodia, students at Kent State began protesting. On Friday, May 1, students demonstrated on campus and throughout the town of Kent. The next day, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps building on campus was set on fire — how the blaze started remains up for debate — and by the evening, Gov.Jim Rhodes, who was running for the Senate, called in the National Guard. That Sunday, in a press conference, the governor called the students “the worst type of people that we harbor in America.”
By Monday, May 4, things reached a boiling point, and students weren’t just protesting the war anymore but also the armed guards stationed on their campus with military-grade weapons. Lewis was among the estimated 2,000 people who gathered that afternoon in a demonstration beset by the “toxic waters of the 60s flowing together in one place,” according to historian Howard Means, who wrote a book on the incident, Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence.”
“You had this combination of naive students, a politically ambitious governor, and a laissez-faire administration all deeply complicated by terrible leadership in the National Guard,” Means said. As the National Guard ordered Lewis and his fellow students to disperse, they refused. The guardsmen used tear gas, but it proved largely useless because of the wind, and students threw rocks. While this was all happening, the important school administrators were out to lunch, Means said.
Then, the guardsmen, at least 60 yards from most of the students protesting, started firing. In 13 seconds, 61 to 67 shots were fired. Lewis was hit twice, four students were killed, eight others were injured, one of whom was permanently paralyzed, and the course of history was altered.
“I remember stopping, and there was absolute stillness,” Lewis said of the moments after the shots. “Then, screaming and wailing and chaos. I didn’t lose consciousness, I was in a state of shock.”
Richard Nixon and Conspiracy in the Kent Shootings
In the midst of the Viet-nam conflict, President Richard Nixon appeared on national television on April 30, 1970 to announce the expansion of the Vietnam War by an invasion into Cambodia. On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed students at Kent State University who were protesting the presence of the National Guard on their campus. The shootings left four dead and nine wounded. This tragedy, now known as ‘Kent State,’ is no more than a blip on the screen of our collective memory an event so fleeting it no longer seems to matter. Yet the political and psychological agendas it exposed are still with us and are relevant today.
Kent State’ was a public execution and a secret ceremony in the sense that its deeper meaning lie hidden to most observers. ‘Kent State’ did not happen in a vacuum—it was part of a series of events planned around certain days to elicit certain responses and reactions. Those who remember the events of May 1970 and who were against the war in Vietnam are quick to blame Nixon for the shootings in-deed, his abuses at Watergate and efforts to cover up earlier abuses are cited as evidence that he was responsible. If we delve deeper into the facts of “Kent State’ as well as Nixon’s background, what will we find?
Sacrificed as an Example
Nixon said when he was elected President in 1968 that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. He also may have had a secret plan to end the rioting taking place on college campuses nationwide.
The popular and oft repeated words used to describe what happened that spring day at Kent State University are that, “It was a tragic accident.” This article will show that Kent State wasn’t an accident at all. Four young people were killed as in a sacrifice of war at Kent State that day—two protesters and two passersby: Allison Krause, Jeffery Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. Why were they sacrificed?
The shootings provided a solution to the anti-war protests, sometimes violent, that were rocking the nation’s campuses and confounding the Nixon Administration’s efforts to cope with them. The ultimate goal of the Kent State shootings was to safeguard the expanding Vietnam War—another kind of sacrifice—and its accompanying commercial interests.
Having student protesters shot publicly served an ancient sacrificial purpose—bloodletting must accompany ‘magical’ solutions. The seeking of magical ritual solutions is a typical group fantasy pursued by leaders, sometimes timed to coincide with important satanic festivals, or even astrologically timed, as Ronald Reagan did when he employed psychics. Psycho historian Daniel Dervin writes in his book Enactments: American Models and Psychohistorical Models: “[The] group fantasy delegate becomes embroiled in sacrificial agendas as the hunt for magical solutions is turned up.” The ‘magical’ solution that was chosen to end student unrest and violent protest on the nation’s college campuses was the ritualized killing of some students to set an example for the rest of the nation.
New Haven’s Near Miss
Nixon was bombing Cambodia for months before he announced it on national TV on April 30, 1970—a carefully staged manipulation planned to coincide with the demonstrations against the Black Panther trials in New Haven, Connecticut. According to Edwin Hoyt in The Nixons: An American Family, what happened at Kent State was purportedly originally to have occurred in New Haven. Connecticut, a hotbed of radical activity and a natural choice considering Nixon’s disdain for his enemy, the ‘Eastern establishment,’ which had rejected him for law school and failed to hire him as a lawyer after graduation. Former New Haven Police Chief James Ahern writes in Police in Trouble, “Nixon… knew he would be announcing the invasion of Cambodia at the very time that thou-sands of radicals were converging on New Haven … his advisors fully expected this combination of events to explode into ‘war’ in New Haven.”
Had Nixon’s original plan succeeded, protesters in New Haven would have been killed by gunfire on May 1, 1970. Ahern continues, “We may wonder whether there are forces moving behind history that make certain events necessary … we may wonder whether it was inevitable that sometime in the spring of 1970 … the surging of the student protest movement would finally be halted by a hail of bullets.” What kind of plans did the Nixon Administration have for New Haven?
The President had a strike force of 3,500 infantry and para-troopers that would serve as a threat and a provocation to the demonstrators gathered on New Haven’s famous patch of green.
In Washington, Pentagon civilian officials studied blow-up maps of the streets of New Haven. Intelligence pinpointed the whereabouts of high profile radicals like Bobby Seale. According to Ahern. “there was a persistent rumor among radicals that the government had hatched a grand plot to trap every extreme leftist in the country on the New Haven Green and ‘mow them down.'”
William Ruckleshaus of the Nixon strike force and Assistant Attorney General, who was present in New Haven at the time, said in an interview, “We hoped the situation would explode … Cambodia added fuel to (he fire.” “Nixon and Agnew wanted to have one University blow, so the country would turn against the Universities… and they wanted it to be Yale,” according to Republican Yale alumni in Washington. There was a bombing that May Day weekend at Yale’s Ingall’s skating rink that almost killed hundreds of people. Police Chief Ahern was sure the Nixon administration had something to do with it.
Hillary Rodham, future first lady and Yale law student, was out on the New Haven Green during those tense days, coordinating marshals and helping the demonstrators avoid being gassed. If Nixon and the establishment’s original plan had succeeded, Hillary Rodham, by a simple twist of fate, could have been cut down in the prime of her life by the sadistically aimed shots that claimed the lives of her fellows just a few days later. Due to the noble leadership of Police Chief James Ahern and Connecticut Governor Dempsey, the strike force, the need for which was fueled by wild rumors and innuendo from the White House, was called off 36 hours before May Day, May 1 st.
Violators at Kent State
Survivors of extreme abuse describe three main elements: the spell, the rite, and the condition of the performer, according to psycho-historical writer Gail Carr Feldman. The “spell” includes incantations or chanting, using special words in a prescribed way. At Kent State, the spell was the chanting of cadence by the National Guard. The “rite” means practicing the magic in a formal and defined ritual situation. At Kent State the rite was the riot control maneuvers of the National Guard, which included the use of tear gas and marching. The “condition of the performer” involves purification rites and taboos in order to invest the ceremony with sanctity and holiness, including bloodletting in a ritual sacrifice. At Kent State the condition of the performer was effected by the killing of four students in front of onlookers, recorded and displayed publicly by the world media.
“Throughout history, adults have used masks, corpses, and public executions to terrorize children, deter them, and keep them in line,” says Journal of Psychohistory editor Lloyd de Mause. The events of May 1-4 1970 in Kent, Ohio share common features with ritual abuse: The street rioting and bonfires by students and agent provocateurs in downtown Kent: the burning ROTC building the otherworldly (monster-looking) gas masks worn by National Guardsmen: the photographed sneak attack on unsuspecting students and multiple simultaneous perpetrators—young or less powerful victims the ritualistic marching in circles by National Guardsmen after the killing the code of silence by the guardsmen the use of rumor, innuendo and slander to fan the flames of hate: and the blame and vilification of the victims, as reported by James Michener.
Nixon may have found an all-too-willing accomplice to realize his villainous deed in the person of Governor James Rhodes of Ohio. Rho-des, who according to Life magazine (2 May, 1969) had connections to organized crime and the Mafia, was almost chosen as Nixon’s running mate in 1968. Rhodes had “a history of doing dirty work for Nixon,” according to Hal Dorland, Washington insider and former member of the Committee to Investigate Assassinations. Governor Rhodes gave an inflammatory, hate-filled press conference at Kent the day after the burning of ROTC (3 May 1970), one day before the shootings, when he prophesied that the National Guard would “eradicate” and “get rid” of the bad elements on the campus, using “every weapon possible” against those he referred to as “worse than the brown shirts, night riders and vigilantes.”(Yale Archives)
Seabury Ford, chairman of the Republican Party in Portage County. Ohio (coincidentally an ex-member of Company G, the guard unit who did the firing), declared that the National Guard “should have shot all troublemakers.” According to I.E. Stone in The Killings at Kent State, on May 7, 1970, shortly after the killings, Nixon’s closest aide H.R. Haldeman wrote: “We’re in a war now. When people don’t shape up they’ve got to go. Our people have no fear—someone must be made an example … even Kent State showed people are fed [up] to the teeth with rioting kids.”
Nixon Acts Out His Rage
Young Richard Nixon was often the victim of his father Frank’s hot temper. On one occasion Frank [Nixon] took offense at the actions of a crowd and threatened to “paste” [kill] somebody. (Hoyt) When Nixon referred to the ‘great silent majority’ in his speech on November 3, 1969. according to Nixon biographer Herbert Parmet, he was referring to his status in his own child-hood home, where he was not allowed to express his feelings and was thus regulated to the status of a non-person. Hannah Nixon, Richard’s mother, considered the very expression of strong emotions to be illegitimate. “She would retreat into a closet to pray. [Nixon] was scared stiff to talk about the past because it ran against the Quaker religion.” reports Dr. Hutschnecker, Nixon’s psychiatrist.
The support Nixon claimed he received from the ‘silent majority” was in itself a fabrication and a lie. Alexander Butterfield. who first revealed the existence of the White House taping system, recently testi-fied that the thousands of telegrams and phone calls to the Nixon White House said to have been received from the “silent majority’ in support of the Vietnam War was another lie. Nixon’s so-called silent majority remained silent, until they were able to symbolically act out their feelings by supporting the Kent State shoot-ings. So Nixon unleashed his rage on the ‘bums’—student protesters—just as his father had unleashed his anger at him and his brothers in a passive-aggressive way. Just as he encouraged America in his Inaugural speech to “lower our voices.” the violent silent majority, themselves children of violent homes, acted in conscious and unconscious collusion and approval to the shootings.
Nixon may have identified with the young people he referred to as ‘bums’—for that is what his father used to call him and his brothers when in a rage, explains Nixon biographer Dr. David Abrahamsen. “Nixon’s constant preoccupation with subversives was really a striving towards discovering his own unconscious mind with its subversive, anti-social and criminal tendencies,” writes Abrahamsen. Nixon’s father, Frank Nixon, writes Jonathen Ailken, was like the student protesters Nixon hated so much—a noisy, anti-establishment agitator, a “rabble-rouser” and union organizer in Columbus, Ohio.
Nixon may have associated the protesters with his father and acted out his rage upon the projected targets. As Ailken writes, ‘The destruction of these enemies was an effort to destroy the enemy deep within himself.” For Nixon, the domestic political enemies were a personification of the ‘enemy within’—i.e. himself. Jeb Magruder of Nixon’s staff said that the administration’s willingness to engage in illegal acts was directly related to the illegal actions of radicals and anti-war demonstrators, with whom Nixon secretly identified. Nixon attached himself to the ways he learned at home: the use of terror and intimidation to control others. The culmination of these actions led Nixon to Watergate and his demise as President.
According to Nixon biographer Fawn Brodie. the basic emotional issues that run through Nixon’s life are the impact of death, the delight in punishment, the failure to love, and the theme of fratricide. Nixon did not want the United States to be a “helpless, pitiful giant,” as he stated in his Cambodia invasion speech of April 30, 1970. Nixon also did not want to be a helpless giant, person-ally, in relation to the anti-war protesters. Nixon’s famous two-handed ‘V sign purportedly meant not ‘peace’ but the earlier WWII connotation, victory over enemies. This time the enemies were in his own country: the Vietnam war protesters.
Nixon’s Cambodia invasion speech is riddled with “I” statements, and with the repeated use of the words “humiliation” and “defeat”—revealing that the invasion of Cambodia was as much about his own personal issues as it was about foreign policy. “Nixon’s announcement of the Cambodian invasion was not only intended to create the outrage that it did on the nation’s campuses, it was intended to create a violent confrontation with the anti-war movement,” claims Thomas Lough, former faculty member al Kent State. Nixon might have eliminated all bellicosity from the Cambodia speech and stuck to a straightforward low-key description of the operation. Instead, he made it seem like a decision equivalent to Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon.
What did Nixon expect would be the outcome of his announcement? According to Lough, Nixon stated on April 29, 1970, ‘The campuses are really going to blow after this speech” and he requested his daughter Julie to come home from college. The expected result—chaos and alarm— was played out at Kent State and around the country as young people poured into the streets to register their protest at the invasion.
On May 1, 1970, after a briefing at the Pentagon the morning after his Cambodia invasion speech, Nixon lashed out at the “bums” who were “blowing up campuses and burning books.” “The screaming and loud demonstrating of the protesters triggered his pent-up rage at a father who shouted so loud at his sons that he could be heard throughout the whole neighborhood,” writes Brodie. Brodie writes that Nixon’s father punished his sons savagely, in the heat of ill temper. “The son when grown, punished too, but coldly, calculatingly, often secretly, and always … through the agency of someone else.”
“You had to be pretty sneaky to avoid punishment,” said Nixon of himself as a child. The loud yelling of student protesters may have triggered Nixon’s rage at a father who screamed at him and his brothers, making him feel defeated, humiliated, and silenced. When asked by the press shortly after the Kent State shootings how best to open up meaningful communication with the college-age generation, Nixon replied, “It is not easy. Sometimes they, as you know, talk so loudly that it is difficult to be heard…”
Nixon’s propensity for strange and illegal activities is shown in his behavior at college. At Whittier College in 1929. Nixon founded an alternative men’s society called the Orthogonian Society, along with Dr. Albert Upton. The Orthogonians. or ‘straight shooters’ as they were known, had as their mascot a wild boar—favorite hunting game of the British. College fraternity initiation rites also included shackled hands and blindfolded victims being subjected to extreme deprivation and fear—common torture tactics done in the name of fun. According to Haldeman. young Nixon created the initiation ceremony, which involved digging up the corpse of a dead boar and eating its raw meat on the spot.
Also found in Nixon’s past are the illegal acts of burglary and wiretapping. According to Brodie, in June 1936. Nixon joined in a break-in of the Dean’s office at Duke University to take a look at the grades.
Government as Agitator and Arsonist
There was a gap of 24 hours between calling off the strike force in New Haven and calling the National Guard to Kent State, the second of three fallback positions pinpointed. That was enough time for Ohio to ready for action. “Kent State was chosen as the site on very short notice … this would mean that an FBI man would have been flown up to Kent Slate just before the shooting,” says Hal Dorland. The evi-dence points to the government as provocateur and arsonist in the burning of the ROTC building at Kent State University on May 2, 1970.
On the evening of May 1, rioting ensued in the town of Kent and the National Guard was called. This riot may have been aided in part by government provocateurs—some of those arrested either worked for the FBI and police, or subsequently identified others who were later arrested. One student who incited to riot from the rooftop of a house on Main Street was the son of a policeman. According to William Gordon in Four Dead in Ohio, there were at least two people involved in the rioting known to have worked for the government, one of whose name was the same as the President of the United States: Richard Nixon.
The National Guard was called Friday. May 1 st, onto the Kent State campus due to the rioting in downtown Kent Friday night yet. the burning of the ROTC building on campus Saturday. May 2nd is given as the official reason The National Guard was called. To complete the scenario, the ROTC building needed to burn.
On May 1. 1970. Nixon made his famous reference to student protesters as ‘bums and arsonists’ at a Pentagon brief-ing. His complaint became a prophecy fulfilled the ROTC building at Kent State burned down ihe next day. “There had to be Pentagon approval for the government to burn its own [ROTC] building.” says Richard Jaworski, former high school teacher of slain student Allison Krause. Jaworski surmises that burning the ROTC was one of the topics at that Pentagon meeting, and that was why the topic of arson was on Nixon’s mind. He was telling the public that those who burn buildings are bums, and he was building his case against the ‘bums’ in case any were shot.
On the Kent State campus on Saturday, May 2. various persons tried to set the ROTC shack on fire but were unable to do so. “Someone said they tried to light the curtains on fire with a ‘Zippo’ lighter,” says Ruth Gibson, a campus radical who was at the scene. “It didn’t work.” Accord-ing to Charles Thomas in Kent Four. FBI agents with two-way radios were seen and heard in the darkness saying, “The kids are having a hard time getting the shack on fire.” Kent Slate campus police finally drove the protesters away and surrounded the building. After protester Ruth Gibson and others fled to the other side of campus, they were shocked to see the ROTC build-ing engulfed in flames in the distance. According to witnesses, it was a professional-looking job with flames shooting up through the middle of the building.
The burning of the ROTC building at Kent State remains an official enigma no one was ever convicted for its destruction. Students reported seeing many new faces on campus that day people who looked like students asking for directions to various dormitories. The appearance of unknown people, ‘outside agitators,’ on the campus that day lends credence to the theory that the agitators were government provocateurs who had entered the campus to help riot and ensure the ROTC build-ing would burn.
Storm Troopers off the Right
By Friday, May 8, 1970, the country seemed to be on the verge of a civil war. The student movement, inflamed by the slayings at Kent State, went on its last rampage demonstrations occurred at half of all colleges and universities in the country, twenty-six of which were marked by brutal clashes between students and police. Julie Nixon, unable to empathize with her peers, and perhaps planning her own consolidation of power, pre-dicted on May 4, 1970 that because of the student rebellion the “right wing will take over.” (National Archives) “Julie [Nixon] was totally devoted to her father, she was like a boy—a cold fish,” according to Dr. Hutschnecker.
Julie’s eerie prophecy was fulfilled when Nixon’s own ‘storm troopers of the New Order,’ the construction workers—came out to do his bidding. May 8, 1970 in New York City has been compared to Germany’s ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ in 1933, when Hitler’s storm troopers attacked the Jews. The “hard-hats” surged onto Broadway Avenue in Manhattan and attacked anyone who looked “subversive” to them. (Newsweek, 25 May 1970) The “hard-hats” disrupted city-sponsored memorial activities for the four students killed by the National Guard at Kent State. Seventy persons were clubbed, punched, and beaten. An elderly woman shouted at a hard-hat to stop attacking someone. She was knocked to he ground and spat on by a hard-hat. Police looked the other way. Nixon, photographed wearing a hard hat. congratulated the organizer of the riot. William Brcnnan. inviting him and other ‘hard hats’ to the White House on May 26, 1970 for their “very successful parade” in New York, which Nixon said had been “for the country.” (National Archives: The Nixon Papers)
The LOSS off a sanctuary
The phrase “denial to the enemy of access to a sanctuary” was one of Nixon’s key stated goals in Cambodia. According to Frank Mankiewicz in Perfectly Clear, “Denial of access to a sanctuary” came to mean not only enemy strongholds of soldiers, but came to include destroying homes of civilians. The goal of clearing out all the sanctuaries also came to mean for Nixon destroying the concept of the university campus as a sanctuary. College campuses had previously been considered off limits to a state agency such as the National Guard, and especially off-limits as regards shooting weapons at civilians.
The recurring theme of denying sanctuary was repeated in a press conference given by Ohio Governor James Rhodes in Kent. Ohio on May 3. 1970, the day before the shootings. “There is no place, there is no sanctuary, no place off limits … it is over with in the Stale of Ohio.” In comparison, in the White House’s Summary of the President’s Report on Cambodia, one result of the Cambodian bombing operation was that: “…we have destroyed the psychological security of his sanctuaries forever we have dam-aged his armies and destroyed his plans—and we have not a damn thing to apologize for.”
Speaking of his planned raid on Cambodia. Nixon asked of his advisors, “Could we take out all the sanctuaries’.'” In his Memoirs, Nixon wrote, “Knock them all out so that they can’t be used against us again. Ever.” The Cambodia invasion was termed ‘Operation Total Victory’ (emphasis added] by H.R. Haldcman. Nixon’s closest aid. Haldeman wrote in his diary on May 3, 1970, the day before the Kent State shootings, indicating it was not just Cambodia on his mind but student protesters, “We’ve created division—drawn the sword, don’t take it out—grind it hard…We have to go on [the] offensive against peaceniks.” (National Archives)
The loss of a sanctuary was a familiar theme in Nixon’s child-hood, because he never felt safety or approval in his own family. “He begged for approval from his mother.” states Dr. Hutschnecker, but he never got it. The reason Nixon came off so poorly on television was that the ‘eye’ of the camera represented, to him. the disapproving eye of his mother. After appearing on TV, his mother would tell him he did a “terrible job.” Nixon grew up so deprived of love that he found displays of affection foreign and nauseating. He wrote of his mother, Hannah Nixon. “She never indulged in the present-day custom, which I find nauseating, of hugging and kissing her children or others for whom she had affection … she could communicate far more than others could with a lot of sloppy talk and even more sloppy kissing and hug-ging. I can never remember her saying to any of us. ‘I love you’—she didn’t have to!”
As Chrystine Oksana writes in the ritual abuse recovery book, Safe Passage to Healing, “Violator’s need for power may be insatiable. It likely stems from unmet emotional needs for secu-rity, which were denied them in childhood, probably by their own families…. Rage and hate are discharged through violence, sadistic attacks on a victim … killings of animals, children, or adults.”
When he was six or seven years old, young Richard was caught swimming in the irrigation ditch near his home, which his father had forbidden. As Brodie writes. Frank Nixon hurled Richard in the water again and again shouting “Do you like water? Have some more of it!” Nixon may well have thought his father was trying to drown him.
The onset of multiple personality disorder is between birth and eight years old and is the result of the prolonged stress of having one’s life threatened. The use of near drowning has been used as a tactic for creating multiple personalities. Nixon’s mother was not much help in protecting him. When in a rage, Frank Nixon would wield butcher’s knives and cleavers, and even a gun. Hannah Nixon would say to her husband Frank, “It’s all right to use that to scare somebody with, but don’t fire it at anybody.”
Ohio Governor Rhodes went on to threaten more losses of sanctuaries. After the shootings of May 4, 1970, he went on the radio declaring that if there was any further trouble at Kent State, he would close down the University and turn the grounds into a mental institution. Yet the government took refuge behind the sanctuary of ‘law and order,’ and blamed the students for their own deaths.
Sexualized Rage of the Haters Middle
America both despised and envied the sexual freedom enjoyed by the young proclivities they also practiced, but secretly and hypocritically. “The students … have no one but themselves lo blame for the tragedy of May 4th … We, the people of Ohio saw with our own eyes, on television, the hordes of filthy hippies throwing rocks and shouting obscenities at the National Guardsmen … we saw the stinking long-haired freaks bashing in downtown store windows and destroying the property of oth-ers,” wrote an anonymous writer to the parents of a slain student signed only: ‘The People of Ohio.”(Yale Archives, Kent State Collection) The hater’s repressed sexuality is projected onto the ‘”dirty” hippies, thus sexualizing the trauma reenactment. “They ought to be horse-whipped,” was a common reaction in Kent, Ohio, especially of the women, to the lifestyle of the students.
Dr. Ronald Roskens, Vice President for Administration at Kent State University 1969-1970. served the Nixon Administration’s propagandist purposes by appearing on televi-sion talk shows at the behest of John Ehr-lichman and Jeb Magruder, members of Nix-on’s inner circle. (National Archives) Kent State University was aptly rewarded for its complicity in the shootings in the Fall of 1970 by receiving a $20,000 federal justice study grant for a new law-enforcement center, and since 1970 many more foundation stones have been laid. Ron Roskens was later rewarded by the Republican Bush Administration by being appointed lo head the Agency for International Development, a cover for CIA activities. Roskens received this post after having been fired as Chancellor of the University of Nebraska for inviting young men to his state home for alleged sexual purposes. On his board of “chancellor’s advisory committee” was the infamous Larry King—tied to a child abuse, Satanism, and ritual abuse cult that involved the upper echelon of Nebraskan society, according to former state Senator John W. DeCamp in his book The Franklin Cover-up.
Sex was the main topic on J. Edgar Hoo-ver’s mind when he met with top-ranking officials of the Justice Department to discuss a federal probe of the shootings at Kent State. “At its end, Hoover took over and talked about only one topic: his belief that one of the coeds had been sexually promiscuous.” Hoover’s own sexuality, which included sex with young males and secret transvestitism, was hidden to the outside world at the time.
Evidence of sexual abuse existed in the home Richard Nixon grew up in: Nixon’s parents tried to raise his younger brother Arthur as a girl. They dressed him as a girl and gave him a girl’s haircut. Cross-dressing a child or verbally denigrating a child’s gender is ‘gender attack’—a form of sexual abuse, accord-ing to sexual abuse author Wendy Malt/. Witnessing such abuse in the home would have made Nixon unsure of his masculinity, and caused him to prove it through extreme violence expressed in a secretive or deceptive way. Frank Nixon, (Nixon’s father) was known to be sexually aggressive, jealous of his wife, and ‘hot.’ Writer Jessamyn West, who was a friend of the family, remembers visiting the Nixons as a small child and sleeping in the same bed as Hannah and Frank Nixon. “These were the days when families worried more about food and less about Freud,” was the only comment biographer Edwin Hoyt gave to that arrangement.
Nixon exhibited several common characteristics of abuse survivors, among them: high-risk-taking behavior, a lack of proper boundaries, living in a created fantasy world, being promiscuous or having an aversion to sex, suicidal tendencies, extreme rage, an inability to trust, solemnity, rigidly controlled body movements, and existing in a state of hypervigilance. (Roth)
‘It Speaks as a Dragon’
The typical reaction of many Americans to the Kent State shootings was that ‘they should have killed 400 instead of four.” At the same time, people insisted the incident was either an accident or self-defense. State officials in Columbus. Ohio, received 13.000 letters in the two months after the ‘accidental’ shootings, saying that more students should have been shot. Therefore, was it referred to as an accident simply to avoid responsibility for premeditated murder? If 400 should have been shot, would that be 400 accidentally shot? If the shooting was an ‘accident,’ why is it claimed that 400 should have been shot? Claiming two incompatible opinions simultaneously might indicate that the person making the claims is mentally splitting (a defense mechanism), is lying, or both. Splitting is “distorting truth because of a desire for order, closure, and control”—an evidence of immaturity.
Nixon requested daily reports of the FBI investigation into the shootings, and he could depend on America to view the shootings—through their ever-present lens of denial—as an accident. Four dead and nine wounded in a thirteen-second barrage of firepower are an awful lot for an accident. “Military personnel fire only upon command—especially in a riot control situation,” states former Army Sergeant Leroy Howard. A command to fire would have been the most likely scenario to describe what happened at Kent State—when the National Guard wheeled in unison and at once all fired their weapons together. Immediately after the shootings, students spontaneously ‘sat down’ on the field in protest of the killings, and were threatened with mass slaughter by a machine-gun mounted on a jeep if they did not disperse. Would the ensuing mass slaughter have been an accident as well?
Daniel Ellsberg, former special assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense, claims that the American government has been lying about its civilian targets since WWII’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which were civilian centers labeled for the public as military targets. Americans extend their habit of mental dissociation, splitting, and denial to the dragon-like aspect of their government because it provides them with an idol to worship, and a never-ending source of material good things. American selective attention is also apparent in the fact that both Presidents Nixon and Johnson campaigned as ‘peace candidates’ yet escalated the Vietnam War once they took office.
“[The conspiracy to kill students] went much higher—all the way to the top in New York City,” claims Hal Dorland of the Kent State shootings. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller paid an unpublicized condolence visit to the parents of slain Kent State student and New York native, Jeffrey Miller, on May 10, 1970. Jeff Miller’s mother suspects Rockefeller was either feeling guilty for the deaths or was on a spying mission for Nixon. In addition, an individual with ties to the FBI offered a million dollar bribe, to be provided by the Rockefeller-funded Ford Foundation, to the parents of slain student Allison Krause to not pursue plans to have a major motion picture made about Kent State, because such a project would have sparked more inquiry into the shootings.
Rare Letter to Bereaved: President Nixon's Response to the Kent State Shooting
Nineteen-year-old William Schroeder died shot in the back, with a textbook in his hand, on his way from one Kent State University class to the next. He had stopped for a moment to observe the peaceful student demonstration against the expansion of the profoundly divisive Vietnam War into Cambodia but the moment was at 12:24 p.m. on May 4th, just as several Ohio National Guardsmen, dropped to their knees and fired off sixty-seven shots in thirteen seconds. Schroeder was almost four hundred feet away and apparently fleeing when struck down.
President Nixon, publicly, referred to the Kent State University protesters as &ldquobums.&rdquo He never, in public, offered a word of sympathy for Kent State&rsquos dead and wounded. This rare autograph letter, in private, was the best &ndash or the only thing, he felt - he could do.
Nixon, perhaps, wrote those last lines thinking of other young men cut down in all their youth and promise: his two beloved brothers &ndash one younger, one older &ndash and much later, the assassinations of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy which, many believe, paved the way for his march to the presidency.
Excessively Rare Nixon Autograph Letter to the Parents of Student Killed at Kent State Anti-War Demonstration. Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, May 6. [Three of four letters postmarked May 8, 1970.] To Mr. and Mrs. William K. Schroeder, Sr., in Lorain, Ohio. With a typewritten transmittal envelope.
“Four Dead in Ohio”
That evening I would learn about the bloodshed at Kent State from Walter Cronkite, just as I had so many other tragedies.
“Some people here believe the Guard, under the pressure of a rock-throwing attack, fired its weapons indiscriminately, killing four people,” CBS News correspondent Ike Pappas reported from the scene.
The protests began after President Richard Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia. Students rallied on campus over the next four days, at one point setting the ROTC building on fire and rioting in downtown Kent.
The Ohio National Guard was called in, and school officials banned a rally planned for May 4th due to the potential for more violence.
But the students still gathered as planned. After repeated warnings to disperse, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd. Eventually, more than seventy troops advanced on the students. Tensions escalated, and twenty-eight guardsmen fired their weapons into the crowd of demonstrators.
The next day the graphic image of a tormented teenage girl screaming in horror as she crouched beside the fallen body of a Kent State student who had just been shot, would appear on the front page of every newspaper. This seminal photo by John Filo would forever define that event for me and countless other baby boomers.
We learned the name of the kneeling girl with the neckerchief was Mary Ann Vecchio. The fallen student was 20 years old Jeffrey Miller. At 14, the anguished girl was remarkably close to my own age.
Seared forever into my consciousness, this haunting image now joined those other iconic black and white photographs that defined my childhood. A grimacing Lee Harvey Oswald grasping his belly after being shot live on TV by Jack Ruby. A fatally wounded Robert Kennedy staring wide-eyed as he lay sprawled on the floor of a hotel kitchen, his head in a pool of blood from a gunshot.
Baptized at an early age by senseless bloodshed, violence, and guns would chase me my whole life.
But this tragic event felt different. Now it wasn’t just our leaders being shot. They were coming for ordinary Americans. We too were in danger and we couldn’t count on our government to protect us. They were the shooters now.
These fallen students, teenagers were only a few years older than I was. If it could happen to them…
Now they were killing kids. Kids like me.
Kids who like me had grown up watching Howdy Doody, played with Barbies, read MAD magazine and dotted their faces with Clearasil. Kids who had been traumatized by the events in Dallas. And Memphis. And in Los Angeles. Immobilized in our living rooms watching traumas unfold on television plunged us into collective electronic mourning.
These were kids whose fathers were ex-GIs who had fought in the Greatest War and were providing their children the post-war American Dream whose mothers joined the PTA, baked Betty Crocker Cake’s from a mix and curled their hair with a Toni Home Permanent.
These kids played war in their suburban back yards certain that the good guy always won, that right was always on our side. Just like me. These boys and girls at the anti-war rally were the last generation to celebrate war as children with their toys guns in the streets and backyards fighting Nazis, and their toy soldiers acting out the American wat story with bags of olive green soldiers redeemable with a dime and a cereal box top from Kelloggs.
These kids grew up like me believing in American exceptionalism. It was an act of faith like reciting the pledge of allegiance. Before being disillusioned by Vietnam we believed in the beaches of Normandy.
But the answers of 1945 dissolved so quickly into the nagging questions of 1965, when these same children began to come of age. They came to doubt their country. The Great Society wasn’t so great after all. Vietnam was immoral.
These children of the suburbs who had once taken the American story to heart in movie theaters, on TV, and in backyards now felt deeply betrayed by the media image makers and our government. It had always been a matter of faith and the loss of that faith was wrenching. Betrayal by our country morphed into disbelief.
Now unbelievably, they were killing these kids. Kids like me.
In that moment at a little past high noon on an ordinary Monday in May the unthinkable became real. Surely though this was an aberration, an extraordinary, isolated moment in history during a tumultuous time.
In 1970, my 15-year-old mind could never have imagined a time when school shootings would become part of our culture.
But now the exception has become the norm. The killing of school children has become commonplace.
Thirteen Seconds – The Kent State Shootings – A Look Back
Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts reported on the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State University for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They immediately began working on this book. Thirteen Seconds was originally published just months later, in fall 1970. Impressively, it still stands as one of the best narrative accounts of those tragic events.
Nearly 50 years later, the two authors looked back on the events and their reporting for a preface to a new paperback edition …
Nearly a half century after its publication, I’m still proud of the fact that Thirteen Seconds dared to speak the unspeakable: That Richard Nixon, allied with Ohio Governor James Rhodes and Ohio National Guard Director Sylvester Del Corso, helped cause the deaths of four innocent young people.
Through the use of inflammatory and demagogic words, President Nixon and his Ohio allies created a national climate of division and hatred, culminating in murder. Nixon and his allies didn’t actually pull the triggers of the Guardsmen’s weapons, but they might as well have.
The official history of the events at Kent State—James A. Michener’s Kent State: What Happened and Why—was the Nixon’s administration’s whitewash, written by a man with close ties to the Republican Party and the Nixon administration. The book was an obscene attempt to put the blame for the deaths on the victims themselves: the dead kids. I am proud that thanks to the very existence of Thirteen Seconds, that attempt failed. In a one-hour interview on the Today Show, Michael D. Roberts and I (with the legendary political pundit I. F. Stone) confronted James Michener and decimated him.
One of the great lessons of the horror at Kent State is that inflammatory political rhetoric, divisive and polarizing propaganda, can lead to violence and death.
I think it is worthwhile to keep that lesson in mind.
— Joe Eszterhas, August 2012
Michael D. Roberts:
The killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 by the Ohio National Guard was in a way the final, awful act of a tumultuous decade. Not since the Civil War, a hundred years before, had America found itself so torn and divided as it was in the 1960s, a decade full of acrimony, one generation pitted against another over civil rights and the war in Vietnam. It was the incursion into Cambodia in the spring of 1970 by U.S. forces that caused a demonstration that lead to the violence at Kent State. The deaths of those four students stunned a nation that never thought its youth to be at risk at home.
This book was written in the four months following the shootings and published that fall. Joe Eszterhas and I arrived on campus shortly after the shootings, and then spent days covering the tragedy for The Plain Dealer, the Cleveland newspaper for which we both were reporters.
It was an unpleasant task in many ways. First, the newspaper had failed to cover the story over the previous weekend when the tension was mounting in the city of Kent and a confrontation with the Ohio National Guard was forming. This meant that the paper was unprepared to cover what would be one of the tragic moments in history. (This was one of the factors that motivated us to stick with the story and write it as a book.)
Second, the emotion and agony surrounding the event gave one pause as to the course of the nation.
One could draw many parallels between America today and the polarization of the nation in 1970. The big difference would be the degree and the direction of that polarization. The Vietnam War divided the country not only politically, but also generationally. The draft would send thousands of young men to their deaths, and the contempt young people felt for older and conservative leaders was matched only by the bewilderment of older adults toward what they saw as a growing unruly and undisciplined element undermining society. These attitudes were noticeable as we set out to document what had happened over those few days in Kent. Neither side trusted our intentions in telling this story.
The collective experience Joe and I possessed played an important role in how we approached the story. Joe, only 25 years old, had a deep understanding of the youth culture of the time, and I—by virtue of covering the Vietnam War for a year—had some insights into the National Guard’s actions that day.
We divided the book between us, each responsible for certain chapters and personae. The hardest thing was spending hours with the parents of those killed and feeling their loss and pain. They could not understand why their children died on a campus seemingly remote from the turmoil that gripped the county. It was precisely that, the middle-class nature of the school, that added to the national shock.
Over the years, that fateful day has been revisited in seminars, articles, memorials, investigations, and government inquiries. In that time, no major revelation has come to light that would alter the facts in this book. True, many theories abound, some conspiratorial in nature, but nothing has been proven to support these theories of exactly what caused the Guard to shoot.
I believe that the first guardsman who fired from the hill on that day knows what caused him to shoot. Only he can answer why he chose to do so, and it is unlikely we will ever have that answer.
Over the years, Kent State remained with me in one way or another, too. The most ironic was my discovery, years later, that my father’s cousin, Major General Elvy B. Roberts, was the commander of the Cambodian Incursion in 1970 that indirectly resulted in the shootings at Kent.
President Nixon personally asked Roberts to lead the assault after a Vietnamese general, chosen to lead the operation as a symbol of the “Vietnamization” of the war, refused the assignment because his fortune teller predicted his death.
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Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign, announced by President Nixon on April 30. Others were not at the protest, and had been observing from a distance. A number of conspiracy theories surround the episode, with some believing the shooting was ordered and some suggesting the guardsmen themselves could have been shot at and were simply retaliating. Jenny Deason Copeland details her theory that Nixon was in direct control of the event and the research she used to shed light on that theory in her book, which forms the backbone of the two author events.
Born in Tiffin, Ohio as the second eldest to a family of four girls, Jenny graduated from Toledo University, with honors and began a now 38 year career in telecommunications. She is an author, historian, and owner of Crazy Red Head Publishing. Jenny has published two children's' books, "New Shoes for Elizabeth" and "A MouseKeeper Christmas The Beginning."
KSU Students Meet With President Nixon
On May 6, 1970, President Richard Nixon met with six students from Kent State University, just a couple of days after the shootings at the university on May 4.
The six students, who later held a news conference on Capitol Hill, said they had driven to Washington, D.C., on their own initiative, with no expectation of seeing the president. All six said they favored complete withdrawal from Vietnam.
The six students were Thomas E. Brumbach, a Navy veteran and 24‐year‐old sophomore from Mantua, Ohio Richard Cutler, 23, a senior from Kent, Ohio Donald S. Grant, 22, a senior from Ridgewood, New Jersey R. Dean Powell, an Army reservist and 24‐year‐old graduate student from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio Samuel H. Trego, 24, a senior from North Hampton, Ohio and Daniel G. Tretinik, 21, a senior from Wickliffe, Ohio.
This page contains both an audio file of the press conference that followed the meeting in the White House with President Nixon and a recent video interview with KSU alumnus Don Grant.
AUDIO OF 1970 PRESS CONFERENCE:
VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH DON GRANT
Below is a video interview with Don Grant, conducted by the Richard Nixon Foundation, where he recounts that meeting with President Richard Nixon and members of his staff.