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Kent State Shooting

Richard Nixon

Kent State Shooting: Richard Nixon was the 37th American President who served in office from January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974. One of the important events during his presidency was the Kent State Shooting.

Definition and Summary of the Kent State Shooting

Summary and definition: The Kent State Shooting occurred on May 4, l970 when the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators killing four and wounding nine Kent State students.

The students had gathered at a rally to protest against the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and the need to draft 150,000 more U.S. troops for an expansion of the war effort. The Kent State Shooting and its repercussions at home marked a significant turning point in the conduct of the war in Vietnam.

What was the Kent State Shooting? The Kent State Shooting happened when the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators and protestors, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students. 

Why did the Kent State Shooting happen? The Kent State Shooting happened during the protests and demonstrations following the announcement that President Nixon had extended the Vietnam War into Cambodia on April 30, 1970 and and the need to draft 150,000 more U.S. troops for an expansion of the Vietnam War effort..

When did the Kent State Shooting occur? The Kent State Shooting occurred on May 4, l970

Who was killed in the Kent State Shooting? The names of the students killed in the Kent State Shooting were Allison Krause, Sandra Lee Scheuer, Jeffrey Glenn Miller and William K. Schroeder.

Why was the Kent State Shooting important?
The Kent State Shooting was important and the tragedy had a significant effect on the American public and proved to be a turning point in the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The shootings resulted in anger and outrage, galvanizing anti-war demonstrations including protest rallies,  teach-ins and peace vigils across the campuses of America. The peaceful protests erupted into death and violence at the Kent State University when 4 students were killed by by National Guardsmen and this was followed by a similar incident on May 14, 1970 when two more students were killed by police at the all-black Jackson State University.

The deaths of American students  prompted a massive public outcry and a nationwide student strike. A wave of skepticism about the actions of the president and the US government swept the country. Richard Nixon had campaigned on a platform that included the claim of a 'secret plan' to end the Vietnam War and had introduced the policy known as Vietnamization to wind down the war. The invasion of Cambodia widened the "credibility gap" between what the government said and what it actually did.

Facts about Kent State Shooting
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Kent State Shooting.

On May 4, l970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine Kent State students.

The students were protesting against the escalation of the Vietnam War with the invasion of Cambodia and the need to draft 150,000 more U.S. soldiers for an expansion of the Vietnam War effort..

Background History to the Kent State Shooting: The anti-war movement had grown due to the horrific, unrelenting media coverage of the Vietnam War that included shocking scenes of the carnage. Opposition to the Vietnam War grew with the cover-up and the attempted whitewash of the horrific My Lai Massacre.

Background History to the Kent State Shooting: The psychological and political victory of the communist Tet Offensive, and the invasion of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, had severely damaged national confidence in the Vietnam war policies contradicting the optimistic claims by the U.S. government that the Vietnam War was all but over.

Background History to the Kent State Shooting: Opposition to the draft was intense and the Youth Movement had escalated in the mid-1960's as young people adopted the Hippie counterculture of love and peace and popularized the anti-establishment phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out".

America witnessed the return of Vietnam veterans and the shock of seeing so many of them severely disabled. Amputations and other crippling wounds were 300% higher than in WW2. A massive 10% of all  Americans who served in the Vietnam war ended up as casualties. The average age of the US troops killed in the conflict was just 23 years of age.

Background History to the Kent State Shooting: President Nixon had announced the policy of 'Vietnamization' on November 3, 1969, promising to gradually withdraw the United States combat troops in the Vietnam War by turning the fighting over to the Vietnamese.

The escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia was announced by President Nixon on national television and radio on April 30, l970. The news immediately prompted spontaneous protests the next day on college campuses across the United States. Kent State University called for another rally to start at noon on Monday, May 4, 1970.

On the evening of Friday May 1 Tensions were high in downtown Kent and escalated into violent confrontations between protestors and local police which included windows being broken, the lighting of bonfires and police cars being hit with bottles.  The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) building was set ablaze. The entire Kent police force was called out together with other officers from the county.

Leroy Satrom, the Kent Mayor, declared a state of emergency, called the office of Governor James Rhodes for assistance, and ordered all of the bars closed. The closure of the bars caused more problems, arrests were made and the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

On Saturday May 2, 1970, Mayor Satrom requested Governor Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard to Kent. The Ohio National Guard arrived in Kent at about 10pm and was soon involved in confrontations with the demonstrators and more tear gas was used to disperse the crowds.

On Sunday May 3, 1970, nearly 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the Kent State University campus. Governor James Rhodes attended a press conference in Kent strongly criticizing the protestors and warning that the full force of the law would be used to quell further disturbances. Governor Rhodes inflamed the situation and more confrontations occurred on Sunday night.

On Monday May 4, 1970, attempts were made to ban the rally at the Kent State University campus but by noon 3000 people were gathered on site. Of these it is believed that about 500 were core demonstrators, supported by about another 1000 "cheerleaders" with approximately 1500 bystanders.

General Robert Canterbury, the highest official of the Ohio National Guard, ordered the crowd to disperse from the Commons who responded with angry protests and some rock throwing. The 'Commons' was a large, grassy area in the middle of the campus and the traditional site for holding rallies and demonstrations at the university.

The crowd moved away from the Commons up Blanket Hill, and down the onto the Prentice Hall parking lot and the adjoining practice football field. They were followed by National Guardsmen and there were instances of rock throwing but no shots were fired by the Ohio National Guard.

The National Guardsmen retreated back up Blanket Hill. It was at this point the shooting occurred. As the Guardsmen reached the top of the hill they formed a skirmish line and 28 of the more than 70 National Guardsmen suddenly turned and fired their guns. It was at 12:24 p.m.

Many of the guardsmen fired into the air, but a few fired directly into the unarmed crowd. a thirteen second period between 61 and 67 shots were fired.

There was chaos and confusion when the shots were fired. Some of the students believed the National Guardsmen were firing into the air and stood staring, others were too shocked to react and others threw themselves to the ground in terror. As the students realized that people were lying bleeding on the ground many of the girls started screaming.

Some enraged students were ready to launch an all-out attack on the National Guard but were calmed down by University professors, led by geology professor Glenn Frank, who successfully pleaded with them not to escalate the violence.  Both the National Guard and the students left the area as the ambulances arrived to help in the wake of the shootings.

The entire campus was sealed off and a court injunction was issued ordering all students to leave the university and a 5pm curfew was declared in Kent.

Four Kent State students were killed and nine more people were injured. The names of those killed at the Kent State Shooting were Allison Krause, Sandra Lee Scheuer, Jeffrey Glenn Miller and William K. Schroeder.

Allison Krause of Pittsburgh was 19 years old. Allison Krause was shot in the left side of her body in the Prentice Hall parking lot at about 330 feet from the Guardsmen.

Sandra Lee Scheuer of Youngstown, Ohio was 20 years old. Sandra Scheuer was shot on the left front side of her neck in the Prentice Hall parking lot at about 390 feet from the Guardsmen.

William K. Schroeder of Lorain, Ohio was 19 years old. William Schroeder was shot in the left side of his back in the Prentice Hall parking lot at about 390 feet from the Guardsmen.

Jeffrey Glenn Miller of Plainsview, Long Island was 20 years old. Jeffrey Miller was shot in the mouth near the Prentice Hall parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the National Guard.

The nine other Kent State students who were wounded in the shooting were located either in the Prentice Hall parking lot or on the Blanket Hill area. The names of those injured in the shootings were Thomas Grace, Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Douglas Wrentmore, Alan Canfora, James Russell, Robert Stamps and Dean Kahler.

Thomas Grace was shot in the left ankle at the Kent State Shooting. Joseph Lewis was shot in the abdomen and left lower leg. John Cleary was shot in the chest. Alan Canfora was shot in the right wrist. Douglas Wrentmore was shot in the right knee. James Russell was struck in his right leg and on his forehead. Robert Stamps was shot in the back. Donald Mackenzie was shot in the neck. Dean Kahler was shot in the small of his back and was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

A photograph of Mary Vecchio, a 14 year old runaway visiting the campus, appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the country covering the Kent State Shooting. The photograph pictured the helpless, screaming girl over the body of Jeffery Miller. The photographer, John Filo, later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph which became a classic image of the Vietnam War and its repercussions at home.

The news of the Kent State shooting shocked the nation. Hundred of colleges and universities were closed across the U.S. for the summer. And the debate raged as to whether the Ohio National Guardsmen were justified in the Kent State shooting.

On Friday May 15, 1970 a similar tragedy occurred when police opened fire killing two students and injuring twelve at the all-black Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Mississippi.

Anti-war demonstrations continued and many Vietnam veterans threw away their military medals and ribbons, protesting against the continuance of the Vietnam War.

The National guardsmen who shot into the crowd claimed they did so in self-defense as they believed their lives were in danger. The Nixon administration appeared to blame the protesters for provoking the guardsmen and polls conducted at the time indicated that most of the American public also believed that the actions of the protestors were to blame.

On June 13, 1970, President Nixon established the Scranton Commission, officially known as the President's Commission on Campus unrest, to investigate the shooting. The Scranton Commission issued its findings in a September 1970 report, concluding that the shootings at Kent State were unjustified.

Regardless of who was to blame,  the Kent State Shooting marked a significant turning point in the conduct of the war in Vietnam. The Nixon administration was compelled to withdraw troops from Cambodia within a month of the invasion, and announced that the number of troop withdrawals from Vietnam would be increased.

Court cases went through several trials but weak case were brought against the guardsmen. The civil trial was appealed several times before it was settled out of court in 1979.

The victims and the families of the students killed received the collective sum of $675,000, paid for by the State of Ohio. The reparations came with a signed statement from the guardsmen in which they expressed their regret of the tragedy.

No official apology was ever issued for the Kent State Shooting.

The U.S. military involvement at the End of the Vietnam War came on 15 August 1973 with the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Vietnam

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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