On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen were on the Kent State college campus to maintain order during a student protest against the Vietnam War. For a still unknown reason, the National Guard suddenly fired upon the already dispersing crowd of student protesters, killing four and wounding nine others.
Nixon Promises Peace in Vietnam
During the 1968 U.S. presidential campaign, candidate Richard Nixon ran with a platform that promised "peace with honor" for the Vietnam War. Longing for an honorable end to the war, Americans voted Nixon into office and then watched and waited for Nixon to fulfill his campaign promise.
Until the end of April 1970, Nixon seemed to be doing just that. However, on April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced during a television speech to the nation that American forces had invaded Cambodia.
Although Nixon stated in his speech that the invasion was a defensive response to the aggression of North Vietnamese into Cambodia and that this action was meant to quicken the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, many Americans saw this new invasion as an expansion or lengthening of the Vietnam War.
In response to Nixon's announcement of a new invasion, students across the United States began to protest.
Students Begin a ProtestProtests by students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio began on May 1, 1970. At noon, students held a protest rally on campus and later that night rioters built a bonfire and threw beer bottles at police off campus. The mayor declared a state of emergency and asked the governor for help. The governor sent in the Ohio National Guard.
On May 2, 1970, during a protest near the ROTC building on campus, someone set fire to the abandoned building. The National Guard entered the campus and used tear gas to control the crowd.
During the evening of May 3, 1970, another protest rally was held on campus which was again dispersed by the National Guard.
All of these protests led up to the deadly interaction between Kent State students and the National Guard on May 4, 1970 which is known as the Kent State Shootings or the Kent State Massacre.
The Kent State ShootingsOn May 4, 1970, another student rally was scheduled for noon at the Commons on the Kent State University campus. Before the rally began, the National Guard ordered those congregated to disperse. Since the students refused to leave, the National Guard attempted to use tear gas on the crowd.
Because of the shifting wind, the tear gas was ineffective at moving the crowd of students. The National Guard then advanced upon the crowd, with bayonets attached to their rifles. This scattered the crowd. After dispersing the crowd, the National Guardsmen stood around for about ten minutes and then turned around and began to retrace their steps.
For an unknown reason, during their retreat, nearly a dozen National Guardsmen suddenly turned around and began firing at the still scattered students. In 13 seconds, 67 bullets were fired. Some claim that there was a verbal order to fire. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded. Some of the students who were shot were not even part of the rally, but were just walking to their next class.
The Kent State massacre angered many and incited additional protests at schools across the country.
The four students who were killed were Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder. The nine wounded students were Alan Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald MacKenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Douglas Wrentmore.