At War with War
(TIME, May 18, 1970) -- With an almost manic abruptness, the nation seemed, as Yeats once wrote, "all changed, changed utterly." With the killing of four Kent State University students by Ohio National Guardsmen last week, dissent against the U.S. venture into Cambodia suddenly coalesced into a nationwide student strike. Across the country 441 colleges and universities were affected, many of them shut down entirely. Antiwar fever, which President Richard Nixon had skillfully reduced to a tolerable level last fall, surged upward again to a point unequaled since Lyndon Johnson was driven from the White House. The military advantage to be gained in Cambodia seemed more and more dubious, and Nixon found that he had probably sacrificed what he himself once claimed was crucial to achieving an acceptable settlement: wide domestic support, or at least acquiescence, for his policies. Now it is the opposition that has gained strength.
Both the eruption of protest and the reaction to it mocked Nixon's still unfulfilled promise to lead the nation "forward together." Not only were there rending, sometimes bloody clashes between peace demonstrators and pace officers, but a scattering of vicious brawls set citizen against citizen as well.
Morale Destroyed. Not long ago, the Administration was considered an artful, managerial mechanism, oiled with serenity, unanimity and self-confidence. Now it showed symptoms of severe internal distress. Interior Secretary Walter Hickel's letter of criticism to the President and the abrupt resignation of two young Administration staffers were among the most tangible signs of strain. There were also hints of basic disagreement in the Cabinet over the Cambodian decision -- hints that Nixon declined to deny at a hastily called press conference. On Capitol Hill dissension increased daily.
The President had carefully calculated the diplomatic and military hazards of invading the Cambodian sanctuaries. But the more important risk involved the response at home -- and in that crucial area he has proved to be dangerously wrong. Nixon, to be sure, could not have foreseen the Kent State shootings. But he was sadly slow in recognizing their impact. After the four students were gunned down, he found no reason to censure the Guardsmen. All he could bring himself to say was: "When dissent turns to violence, it invites tragedy." That much was obvious. It seemed equally clear that even if the Cambodian expedition should accomplish more than now appears likely, it has already destroyed far more American resources of morale and cohesion than any North Vietnamese supplies could be worth.
Conciliation. By the end of the most searing week of his presidency, Nixon had grown elaborately conciliatory. Six Kent State students who drove to Washington on the spur of the moment to talk with Ohio Congressmen were taken to the White House to see Presidential Adviser John Ehrlichman. Learning of their presence, Nixon invited them into the oval office the next morning for an hour's conversation. Later he conferred with eight university presidents who had previously advised him on higher-education policy. Most of the men, including Harvard's Nathan Pusey and William Friday of the University of North Carolina, arrived battle-weary from their troubled campuses. After the conference, Nixon named one of the educators, Alexander Heard of Vanderbilt, as a special adviser on student affairs. At the same time the President pointedly refused to see 37 other college presidents, including Princeton's Robert F. Goheen, Notre Dame's Theodore Hesburgh and Columbia's Andrew Cordier, who petitioned for an end to American involvement in Indochina.
At his televised press conference on the eve of the Washington demonstration, the President looked understandably weary and nervous. Outside the White House gates, students were already gathering. They filled the warm evening with the refrain of the John Lenon mantra: "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Inside, the President told the press and the nation: "Those who protest want peace. I know that what I have done will accomplish the goals that they want. I agree with everything they are trying to accomplish."
Nixon was trying his best to reconstruct consensus, to show that if he was not embittered by the protest movement, neither was he cowed. He also attempted to display flexibility. He was not about to muzzle anyone, he said, but he counseled his subordinates that "when the action is hot, keep the rhetoric cool." He defended the Cambodia decision anew, but he also added that the troops would be coming out faster than anticipated. While not withdrawing from his tactical rationale for the Cambodian venture, Nixon gave an impression that was very different from the belligerent patriotism with which he announced the foray.
Singular Odyssey. Before dawn the next morning, Nixon impulsively wakened his valet and set off with a clutch of Secret Service men for the Lincoln Memorial, where he talked for an hour with a group of drowsy but astonished demonstrators. His discussion rambled over the sights of the world that he had seen -- Mexico City, the Moscow ballet, the cities of India. When the conversation turned to the war, Nixon told the students: "I know you think we are a bunch of so and so's." He said to them, the President recalled Chamberlain was the greatest man living and that Winston Churchill was a madman. It was not until years later that I realized that Churchill was right." He confessed afterwards: "I doubt if that got over."
Before he left, Nixon said: "I know you want to get the war over. Sure you came here to demonstrate and shout your slogans on the ellipse. That's all right. Just keep it peaceful. Have a good time in Washington, and don't go away bitter."
The singular odyssey went on. Nixon and his small contingent wandered through the capital, then drove to the Mayflower Hotel for a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs -- his first restaurant meal in Washington since he assumed power. Then he withdrew to his study in the Executive Office Building to sit out the day of protest.
Considering the potential for disorder, the assembly could have been a disaster. Instead, the main rally was something of a letdown. So much passion had been expended during the preceding week, so much of the verbiage was repetitive, so much of the canned rally routine was familiar, that boredom and the hot sun (90 degrees by midafternoon) were able to distract from the main business at hand. Some of the less inhibited youngsters stripped and went wading in the nearby Reflecting Pool.
Coretta King, David Dellinger, Benjamin Spock and other matriarchs and patriarchs of the movement were there, along with newer personalities like Jane Fonda. Their audience was made up primarily of the instant army of the young, the mobile children who received basic protest training in the late '60s, who can travel light and fast for the peace movement and for their own enjoyment. Some 100,000 of them were there on the Ellipse just south of the White House.
The day was peaceful for the most part. The inevitable sprinkling of troublemakers managed to create some problems for the police, but the more than 6,000 regular troops and militiamen who were being held in readiness had little to do.
One of the few touches of originality was the display of the Yippie flag (marijuana leaves against a red star on a background). If the rally had a somewhat stale quality, it was not without significance. Despite the frustrations of the peace movement, its troops are still willing to turn out, to follow the script, to attempt to wear down its adversaries. Certainly the Administration took the event seriously. Government staffers went among the crowd chatting with youngsters, inviting some of them back to their offices to meet their superiors. Even Attorney General John Mitchell, with his distaste for dissenters, entertained a group of demonstrators. Later the Justice Department was the target of a paint-throwing attack.
Washington was only the temporary focus of an uprising that touched every part of the U.S., from Bowdoin College in Maine to the University of Miami, from the now familiar volatility of such campuses as Harvard and Berkeley, to more conservative enclaves. At the University of Nebraska in the heart of "Nixon country," students occupied the ROTC headquarters. The University of Arizona, like many other U.S. campuses, had its first taste ever of student activism. Manhattan's Finch College, Tricia Nixon's alma mater, went on strike. At California's Whittier College, 30% of the student body angrily protested the policies of Richard Nixon, its most famous graduate. At the Duke University Law School, Alumnus Nixon's portrait was removed from the wall of the moot courtroom and stored away.
Dada Contrast. All through the restive winter and early spring, the campus atmosphere had been heavy with intimations of bomb plots, and sometimes with actual whiffs of black powder. Last week's actions suddenly changed much of that mood. For one thing, dissent broadened so abruptly that in most places the far-left fringes were simply overwhelmed. At a Columbia University rally, Kent State Student Fred Kirsch was loudly applauded when he told a crowd of 3,000: "Look, I read Jerry Rubin's book. I talked about violent overthrow myself. But when those rifle bullets cracked past my head, I suddenly realized you can't fight pigs with bricks. Whatever we do, it's got to be peaceful."
Despite that caution, enough destructive urge remained on scores of campuses to stir dangerous action. Fire-bombings seemed to be the favorite tactic of extremists: ROTC facilities were their frequent targets. Occasionally violence spilled off the campus in a familiar pattern of window breaking, traffic disruption and other random harassment -- the same type of activity that preceded the Kent State tragedy.
At the University of Wisconsin, 83 students were arrested after 20 major fire-bombings. Governor Warren Knowles called out 2,100 National Guardsmen to cope with the violence. As elsewhere, though, there was a sort of Dada contrast between incendiary violence and collegiate laguor: couples walking hand in hand, playing tennis, spinning Frisbees, sailing across Lake Mendota. After one of many confrontations with the National Guard, a student shrugged nervously: "Well, I just threw my first rock." The atmosphere was entirely different at Grinnell College in Iowa. When protesters broke a window by accident, they collected $14.39 to replace it.
New Coalescence. At the University of New Mexico, dissenting students fought with "straights" over whether the flag should be lowered to half-staff to honor the Kent State dead. Three of the dissenters came away with knife wounds. One confrontation at U.C.L.A. was often something of an absurdist frolic, with students advancing on and retreating from the police -- the "blue meanies" -- in a sort of Keystone Kops ballet. Police would chase kids frantically past heedless couples smooching on benches. When one shift of police went off duty, the students shouted: "Manana, pigs!" A cop would smile and wave goodbye.
On far more campuses, though, tens of thousands of moderate students brought a new seriousness coupled with a kind of wounded pride to the revived antiwar movement. Said Ted Gup, of the National Lobby Committee: "We're not bums and we don't like to be called bums. We'd like to show Mr. Nixon that we can work within the system."
The new coalescence of the young represented a movement from the left back toward the center, toward the principle of effecting change within the system. And the almost awesome pervasiveness of the student uprising, with its new sense of outrage, imparted, for the moment, a truculent confidence.
The confidence derived partly from the fact that the young no longer saw themselves confronting a monolithic Establishment. At dozens of campuses, university presidents supported student demands for an end to the Cambodian venture and a withdrawal from Indochina. Oberlin College President Robert Carr simply canceled final exams, gave all his students credit for their courses and turned over the campus to antiwar planning. James Farmer, Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, spoke out in support of the students. The defeat of G. Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court persuaded many that the system could be responsive to protest. Nor was the anger of so many Washington legislators lost on the young. They realized that for the moment at least it was Richard Nixon who looked isolated.
With that in mind, clean-cut, often freshly barbered students in ties and jackets swarmed over Capitol Hill, visiting sympathetic Congressmen, obtaining audiences with willing members of the Administration. Illinois Republican Charles Percy told one group: "A lot of candidates this fall will be more attentive if they know that there are going to be thousands of young people out working for or against them."
In New Haven, Yale seniors began organizing a "counter- commencement," planning to have nearly 1,000 members of the graduating class wear suits and ties to commencement and donate their $8 cap-and-gown fees to a fund for the benefit of antiwar candidates. A group called Action for Peace collected 60,000 signatures in the New York City area in two days to support a Senate amendment to curtail the Indochina war; the group began mailing petitions to high schools and colleges across the country for more signatures. Williams College students began organizing "Pause for Peace," a national work stoppage set for May 27 between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Williams students are asking alumni to spread the protest. Some 400 faculty members from four western Massachusetts campuses have voted to invite Spiro Agnew to speak at their campuses; they reason that once the Vice President arrives, he can be indicted for crossing state lines to incite a riot would surely break out if Agnew came to visit. Another student movement would have the young boycott soft drinks for the duration of the war -- "You've got a lot to live," the motto goes, "and Pepsi's got a lot to lose." When Indiana's Senator Birch Bayh addressed a delegation of 1,000 students on Capitol Hill, he said: "We can make this system responsive from within instead of trying to destroy it from without." The students reacted with a standing ovation.
Exercising Muscle. Even at Berkeley, which had witnessed three weeks of promiscuous "trashing" (random destruction) and cop-baiting, students rallied behind a faculty-student committee intent on raising protest above rampage and turning the vast resources of the university against the war. At a rally of 15,000 in the university's Hearst Greek Theater, talk of militance and confrontation was booed. Chicago Seven Defendant Tom Hayden turned up and tried to blend the war, the Black Panthers and the Kent State murders into one rhetorical attack on the U.S. His audience was not moved. Berkeley Law Professor Frank Newman received more sympathy when he recommended action to pass state antiwar laws and congressional measures to cut off funds for the Cambodian war.
The Berkeley crowd enthusiastically applauded U.C.L.A. Law Professor Michael Tigar when he said: "We must confront the President and force him to withdraw from Vietnam and leave the people there to determine their own fate. In the course of history, genocide and imperialism will be stopped. We have to decide whether you and I will liberate this country from the inside or whether it will be liberated from abroad." More than ever, there was a feeling among the dissidents that they formed a coherent bloc capable of exercising political muscle.
Last week's sentiment was not confined to the leftist young. Peter Winnen, 27, a Kent State junior and an Army veteran of Khe Sanh, appeared at a Cleveland rally. "I saw enough violence, blood and death and I vowed, 'never again, never again.' What I saw on campus was the same thing again. Now I must protest. I'm not a leftist, but I can't go any further. I'll do damn near anything to stop the war now." The League of Women Voters, holding a convention in Washington, departed from nonpartisanship to hold an antiwar rally on the steps of the Capitol.
Almost as if the new emphasis on peaceful protest and political action cloaked a new danger from the left, reaction from the right was quick and angry. Some of the worst counterviolence of last week was organized in Manhattan by helmeted construction workers, who assaulted student demonstrators in the Wall Street area. More than 200 workers bearing American flags, cheering and singing the Star-Spangled Banner, set upon student demonstrators with fists and lead pipes, sending at least 20 to the hospital. New York's Mayor John Lindsay had ordered the city hall flag lowered to half-staff in memory of the Kent State dead. The workers demanded that it be raised to the top again. While Lindsay spent part of the day addressing antiwar rallies elsewhere in the city, the flag was hoisted to the top of the flagstaff after police reported that they could not (or would not) defend the building against the workers. As the construction men withdrew down Wall Street, they were showered with tickertape like returning astronauts. In Seattle, members of a vigilante group called HELP (Help Eliminate Lawless Protest) were reported to have set upon students with clubs.
Rising Reaction. There were other signs of anger against the gathering protest. At Northwestern University, a student waved an upside-down American flag, urging some 2,500 others to strike. A hefty man in work clothes tried to grab the flag, shouting: "That's my flag! I fought for it! You have no right to it!" The students began arguing with him. "To hell with your movement," the man responded. "There are millions of people like me. We're fed up with your movement. You're forcing us into it. We'll have to kill you. All I can see is a lot of kids blowing a chance I never had." It was not an isolated sentiment.
Nixon's Silent Majority may be bewildered and unenthusiastic about Cambodia, but the demonstrations are moving its members to rally behind the President. Many of them argue that "the President knows all the facts -- he must know what he is doing." Even more of them express frank hostility toward the students. Says a Chicago ad salesman: "I'm getting to feel like I'd actually enjoy going out and shooting some of these people. I'm just so god-damned mad. They're trying to destroy everything I've worked for -- for myself, my wife and my children."
Nixon's Insulation. During the 1968 presidential campaign. Richard Nixon said: "We must listen to the voices of dissent because the protester may have something to say worth listening to. If we dismiss dissent as coming from 'rebels without a cause,' we will soon find ourselves becoming leaders without an effect. By its neglect, by its insensitivity, by its arrogance, our present leadership has caused an unprecedented chasm to develop in our society."
Much of Nixon's present trouble stems from not heeding his own warning. Like Lyndon Johnson before him, he has tended to shut himself away even from many in his Administration and listen almost exclusively to John Mitchell and to White House Aides John Ehrlichman and Robert Haldeman. "They encourage his anger," says one disaffected White House staffer. "They tell him he is right and everybody else is wrong."
Before the Black Panther rally at New Haven two weeks ago, the Army's domestic intelligence network, which monitors the protest movement, concluded that no federal troops would be needed at the demonstration. Richard Kleindienst, Deputy Attorney General, ignored the decision and ordered up 4,000 of them. A recommendation from the same intelligence unit saying that federal forces would not be required in Washington last Saturday was simply dropped from the Pentagon briefing prepared for White House officials.
"Nixon gets very little firsthand," says a former White House staff member. "He doesn't read the papers raw very much." Observes TIME's Washington Bureau Chief Hugh Sidey: "There is about Nixon's presidency the feeling of theater. When the performance is over and the lights go out, there is an eerie nothingness -- no heart, no feeling of movement or national momentum."
All through the week reports surfaced that communications within the Administration are only somewhat better than Nixon's relations with the young. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird admitted to reporters that he had not even been aware that the U.S. had made four, not three air strikes over North Vietnam. The raids were styled "reinforced protective reaction" -- a phrase which itself represents a style of noncommunication.
As the Pentagon tried to paper over that lapse, it also had to contend with stories that Laird, like Secretary of State William Rogers, had opposed the Cambodia decision. Laird denied it as vigorously as he could, and his denial was technically accurate. In fact, Laird had serious reservations about the move. Rather than disagree directly, he stressed arguments about the negative political repercussions that would follow. All along Laird has been particularly sensitive to the opposition's mood -- more so, it seems, than has the President.
Rogers was put in a position that was at best embarrassing and at worst untenable. Last week portions of Rogers' April 23 testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee were leaked to the press. In that appearance, less than a week before Nixon ordered Americans into Cambodia, Roger stated flatly: "We recognize that if we get involved in Cambodia with our ground forces, our whole program is defeated." Then he added: "I think the one lesson that the war in Vietnam has taught us is that if you are going to fight a war of this kind satisfactorily, you need public support and congressional support." After the Cambodian attack became known, Democratic Representative Clarence Long said: "If I were Rogers, I would resign."
Henry Kissinger was also said to have dissented and took pains to deny the rumor. Last week a group of Kissinger's old Harvard colleagues, including Edwin Reischaur and Adam Yarmolinsky, told him in effect that unless the Administration's policies change, or Kissinger resigns, he will not be welcome back at Harvard. Kissinger listened to the message, then told his friends quietly: "I want you to understand that I hear you."
Congressional Conflict. The distinction between Congress' power to declare war and the President's ability to wage war on his own has been a historic source of controversy. By one count, U.S. Presidents ordered undeclared acts of war 149 times up to World War II. The list begins with the hostilities between France and the U.S. in 1798; as another example, Thomas Jefferson informed Congress months after he had ordered small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean in 1801 to protect U.S. shipping from the Barbary states.
Even so, Nixon's failure to advise Congress before he decided upon the Cambodian mission seemed a gratuitous affront. Led by William Fulbright, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee immediately requested a meeting with the President. Nixon responded by inviting the committee over to the White House late one afternoon last week; but he also issued invitations to the less prestigious, less dovish House Foreign Affairs Committee, and scheduled an earlier meeting with the House and Senate Armed Services committees as well. Fulbright and other Senators such as Vermont's George Aiken had planned a confrontation. Nixon deftly transformed it into a routine briefing.
Operation Talk. The growing antiwar factions on Capitol Hill began searching for legislative leverage to exert on the President. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has reported Charles Mathias resolution to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and is bringing it to the Senate floor this week. Oregon's Mark Hatfield and South Dakota's George McGovern are pushing for an amendment that would cut off military authorizations for Cambodia immediately, and for South Vietnam by the end of 1970. Chances for that measure seem slim. More likely to pass next week is an amendment that would cut off funds for the Cambodian mission by July 1 -- which is precisely when the President promised the troops would be out of Cambodia anyway.
Antiwar members of the House tried last week to force the President out of Cambodia with legislation. They fought for a series of amendments to the military procurement authorization bill, but were easily defeated, and the week of planned congressional confrontation on constitutional issues dissolved in bitter argument. Yet there was no doubt that the President had badly damaged his standing with Congress. In one exercise of ineptitude, the White House allowed Senate Republican Leader Hugh Scott to pledge, on assurance from the Administration, that bombing of North Vietnam would not be resumed. Next morning the bombings were in the headlines. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield is now making no pretense, as he did under Lyndon Johnson, that he supports the war. He is actively searching for the legislative means to attack the President.
Richard Nixon can ill afford such alienation either in Washington or in the rest of the nation -- a fact that he now seems to realize. For months, the President did nothing to tone down Spiro Agnew's divisive statements. After Nixon's meeting last week with the eight college presidents, the word went out that Agnew would be sedated. Nixon promptly denied it, as he had to in order to avoid humiliating the man he has praised so handsomely in the past. Agnew also insisted that he was not to be "muzzled." Nonetheless, in a speech at Boise, Idaho, Agnew excised some harsh phrases about "choleric young intellectuals" and "tired, embittered elders" that had appeared in his advance text. He was similarly subdued when he dedicated a Confederate monument at Stone Mountain, Ga.
At all levels, the Administration is now engaged in what might be termed Operation Talk. Herb Klein, Nixon's communications director, sent out the word last week that officials were to appear on as many television programs as possible. Cabinet officers and White House aides were inviting meetings with groups of students, faculty members and others. Tricia Nixon had two Finch College demonstrators into the White House for a chat. The press conference, only the second this year, and Nixon's sunrise socializing were part of the same Administration tactic.
It is to Nixon's credit that he sought to avoid the impression that he was withdrawing from the criticism aimed at him. During last fall's Nov. 15 march on Washington, he studiously ignored his tormentors. Last week's conciliatory gestures may help a little; at least they will not increase the damage done by the Administration's recent polemics of polarization.
Perhaps, too, the spasms of protest will relax as summer disperses the students, as the troops come out of Cambodia and as the U.S. force levels in South Vietnam continue to decline. Most Americans still want to believe in their President. Nonetheless, apprehension persists that the substance, if not the appearance, ofleadership is absent from the White House. Says Correspondent Sidey: "The presidency as a positive force is a concept which has escaped Nixon. His Administration has an aura of negativism." For many citizens weary of tumult, negativism may be enough. But if last week showed anything, it showed that the part of the nation which demands more than negativism cannot be silenced for long.
Kent State: Martyrdom That Shook the Country
It took half a century to transform Kent State from an obscure teachers college into the second largest university in Ohio, with 21,000 students and an impressive array of modern buildings on its main campus. But it took less than ten terrifying seconds last week to convert the traditionally conformist campus into a bloodstained symbol of the rising student rebellion against the Nixon Administration and the war in Southeast Asia. When National Guardsmen fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians, killing four students, the bullets wounded the nation.
Paradoxically, the turn toward violence at Kent State was not inspired by the war or politics. The first rocks thrown in anger were hurled through the muggy Friday night of May 1 by beery students who could not resist the urge to dance on a Kent street. Hundreds of students were drinking at the bull-and-beer spots that flourish in most college towns. Spirits were light. A crowd swarmed into the warm night, blocking busy North Water Street, responding to the rock beat.
"Get Out". One irate motorist gunned his car's engine as if to drive through the dancers. Some students climbed atop the car, jumped on it, then led a chant: "One-two-three-four, we don't want your war!" A drunk on a balcony hurled a bottle into the street -- and suddenly the mood turned ugly. Students smashed the car's windows, set fires in trash cans, began to bash storefronts. Police were called, Kent Mayor LeRoy Satrom had ordered a curfew, but few students were aware of it. Police stormed into bars after midnight, turning up the lights, shouting "Get out!" Some 2,000 more students, many of whom had been watching the Knicks-Lakers basketball game on TV, were forced into the street. Police and sheriff's deputies pushed the youths back toward the campus, then fired tear gas to disperse them.
Saturday began quietly. Black student leaders, who had been demanding the admission next year of 5,000 more blacks to Kent State (it now has about 600), and leaders of the mounting antiwar sentiment on campus talked of joining forces. They got administrative approval to hold a rally that evening on the ten- acre Commons at the center of the campus. There, despite the presence of faculty members and student marshals, militant war protesters managed to take complete charge of a crowd of about 800, many still smarting from the conflict of the night before. They disrupted a dance in one university hall, then attacked the one-story Army ROTC building facing the Commons. They smashed windows and threw lighted railroad flares inside. The building caught fire. When firemen arrived, students threw rocks at them and cut their hoses with machetes until police interceded with tear gas. Without bothering to consult Kent State authorities, Mayor Satrom asked for help from the National Guard. Governor James Rhodes, still engaged in his tough -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- campaign for the Senate nomination, quickly ordered Guardsmen transferred from points of tension in a Teamster strike elsewhere in Ohio.
Within an hour, about 500 Guardsmen, already weary from three nights of duty, arrived with fully loaded M-1 semiautomatic rifles, pistols and tear gas. They were in time to help police block the students from charging into the downtown area. Students reacted by dousing trees with gasoline, then setting them afire. Order was restored before midnight. On Sunday, Governor Rhodes arrived in Kent. He made no attempt to seek the advice of Kent State President Robert I. White and told newsmen that campus troublemakers were "worse than Brown Shirts and Communists and vigilantes -- they're the worst type of people that we harbor in America." He refused to close the campus, as Portage County Prosecutor Ronald Kane pleaded; instead, he declared a state of emergency an banned all demonstrations on the campus. Late that night, about 500 students defied the order and staged a sitdown on one of Kent's busiest intersections. Guardsmen, their number now grown to 900, moved into the face of a rock barrage to arrest 150 students.
"Our Campus". On Monday, the campus seemed to calm down. In the bright sunshine, tired young Guardsmen flirted with leggy coeds under the tall oaks and maples. Classes continued throughout the morning. But the ban against mass assemblies was still in effect, and some students decided to test it again. "We just couldn't believe they could tell us to leave," said one. "This is our campus." At high noon, youngsters began ringing the school's Victory Bell, normally used to celebrate a football triumph but rarely heard of late. About 1,000 students, some nervous but many joking, gathered on the Commons. Another 2,000 ringed the walks and buildings to watch.
From their staging area near the burned-out ROTC building, officers in two Jeeps rolled across the grass to address the students with bullhorns: "Evacuate the Commons area. You have no right to assemble." Back came shouts of "Pigs off campus! We don't want your war." Students raised middle fingers. The Jeeps pulled back. Two skirmish lines of Guardsmen, wearing helmets and gas masks, stepped away from the staging area and began firing tear-gas canisters at the crowd. The Guardsmen moved about 100 yards toward the assembly and fired gas again. A few students picked up canisters and threw them back, but they fell short of the troops. The mists of stinging gas split the crowd. Some students fled toward Johnson Hall, a men's dormitory, and were blocked by the L-shaped building. Others ran between Johnson and nearby Taylor Hall.
Leaderless. A formation of fewer than 100 Guardsmen -- a mixed group including men from the 107th Armored Cavalry Regiment based in neighboring Ravenna, and others from a Wooster company of the 145th Infantry Regiment -- pursued fleeing students between the two buildings. The troopers soon found themselves facing a fence and flanked by rock-throwing students, who rarely got close enough to hit anyone. Occasionally one managed to toss a gas canister back near the troops, while delighted spectators, watching from the hilltop, windows of buildings and the roof of another men's dorm, cheered. Many demonstrators were laughing.
Then the outnumbered and partially encircled contingent of Guardsmen ran out of tear gas. Suddenly they seemed frightened. They began retreating up the hill toward Taylor Hall, most of them walking backward to keep their eyes on the threatening students below. The crowd on the hilltop consisted almost entirely of onlookers rather than rock throwers. The tight circle of retreating Guardsmen contained officers and noncoms from both regiments, but no single designated leader. With them in civilian clothes was Brigadier General Robert Canterbury, the ranking officer on the campus, who said later: "I was there -- but I was not in command of any unit." Some of the troops held their rifles pointed skyward. Several times a few of them turned, pointed their M-1s threateningly at the crowd, and continued their retreat.
When the compact formation reached the top of the hill, some Guardsmen knelt quickly and aimed at the students who were hurling rocks from below. A handful of demonstrators kept moving toward the troops. Other Guardsmen stood behind the kneeling troops, pointing their rifles down the hill. A few aimed over the students' heads. Several witnesses later claimed that an officer brought his baton down in a sweeping signal. Said Jim Minard, a sophomore from Warren, Ohio: "I was harassing this officer, I threw a stone at him, and he pointed a .45-caliber pistol at me. He was brandishing a swagger stick. He turned away. He was holding his baton in the air, and the moment he dropped it, they fired." Within seconds, a sickening staccato of rifle fire signaled the transformation of a once-placid campus into the site of an historic American tragedy.
Like a Firing Squad. "They are shooting blanks -- they are shooting blanks," thought Kent State Journalism Professor Charles Brill, who nevertheless crouched behind a pillar. "Then I heard a chipping sound and a ping, and I thought, 'My God, this is for real.'" An Army veteran who saw action in Korea, Brill was certain that the Guardsmen had not fired randomly out of individual panic. "They were organized," he said. "It was not scattered. They all waited and they all pointed their rifles at the same time. It looked like a firing squad." The shooting stopped -- as if on signal. Minutes later, the Guardsmen assumed parade-rest positions, apparently to signal the crowd that the fusillade would not be resumed unless the Guardsmen were threatened again. "I felt like I'd just had an order to clean up a latrine," recalled one Guardsman in the firing unit. "You do what you're told to do."
The campus was suddenly still. Horrified students flung themselves to the ground, ran for cover behind buildings and parked cars, or just stood stunned. Then screams broke out. "My God, they're killing us!" one girl cried. They were. A river of blood ran from the head of one boy, saturating his school books. One youth held a cloth against the abdomen of another, futilely trying to check the bleeding. Guardsmen made no move to help the victims. The troops were still both frightened and threatening. After ambulances had taken away the dead and wounded, more students gathered. Geology Professor Glenn Frank, an ex-Marine, ran up to talk to officers. He came back sobbing. "If we don't get out of here right now," he reported, "the Guard is going to clear us out any way they can -- they mean any way."
In that brief volley, four young people -- none of whom was a protest leader or even radical -- were killed. Ten students were wounded, three seriously. One ofthem, Dean Kahler of Canton, Ohio, is paralyzed below his waist by a spinal wound.
WILLIAM K. SCHROEDER, 19, a psychology major from Lorain, Ohio, was the second-ranking student in Kent State's Army ROTC unit. A friend recalled that he was "angry and upset" that the ROTC building had been burned down. A former Eagle Scout, high school basketball and track stand-out, he was the image of the clean-cut, academically conscientious Middle American boy. He apparently was only a spectator at the monday rally. Even so, he illustrates the fact that youth's sentiment is shifting too rapidly to permit any student to be neatly tabbed. "My son was very opposed to the Vietnam War," said William Schroeder's mother, "and his feelings against the war were growing."
SANDRA LEE SCHEUER, 20, a junior from Youngstown, Ohio, was walking to a class in speech therapy (her major) when she was caught in the Guardsmen's fire. A bubbly girl and an honor student. Sandy seemed too gregarious and full of laughter to take much interest in politics or protest. Although she sympathized with the peace movement, she did not join her college friends when they went to work for Senator Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign. "Sandy lived for what everyone else lived for -- to find someone to love and someone who loved her," said her best friend, Eileen Feldman.
JEFFREY GLENN MILLER, 20, a transfer student from Michigan State, where he found fraternity life a lot of "adolescent nonsense," was no militant activist either. But he did call his mother in Plainview, N.Y., to say that he felt he had to join the demonstrations. He wore his hair long, liked bell-bottoms, love beads and rock music. A psychology major, he was, according to acquaintances, "a great believer in love." "I know it sounds like a mother," said Mrs. Elaine Miller, "but Jeff didn't want to go to war, not because he'd be hurt, but because he might have to hurt someone else."
ALLISON KRAUSE, 19, a quiet, almond-eyed beauty, was more of a listener than a talker: she never preached about her deeply held views. She opposed the war, and with her boy friend Barry Levine, was among the spectators caught in the rifle shoot. An honor student interested in the history of art, she believed in protest but not in violence. She had placed a flower in a Guardsman's rifle at Kent State and said softly: "Flowers are better than bullets." "Is dissent a crime?" asked Allison Krause's father. "Is this a reason for killing her? Have we come to such a state in this country that a young girl has to be shot because she disagrees deeply with the actions of her Government?"
Multiple investigations at federal and state levels are under way to determine why anyone was killed at Kent State. Far worse disorders have been controlled at other campuses without fatalities. Many of the students had obviously committed lawless acts during that long weekend. Apparently they thought that they could do so with impunity.
General Canterbury and his superior, Ohio Adjutant General Sylvester Del Corso, at first sought refuge in a flimsy excuse for uncontrolled gunfire. They said that their men had been fired upon by a sniper. By the end of the week, even Del Corso conceded that there was no evidence of any such attack.
A more plausible explanation was fear that bordered on panic. "Each man made the judgment on his own that his life was in danger," said Canterbury. "I felt, that I could have been killed out there." A number of the men believed that the crowd was going to engulf them, perhaps take away their loaded weapons and turn the M-1s on the troopers. Some had been hurt by thrown objects -- but none seriously enough to require hospitalization. Though the units had served in riot situations before, most of the lower-ranking enlisted men had no war experience. The Guardsmen at Kent had apparently not paid much attention to whatever training they had been given. "Some in my platoon," said one of the troopers, "have never handled a rifle and hardly know how to load it." Some of the younger men had enlisted in the Guard to avoid regular military service and the hazards of Viet Nam. Said the wife of one Guardsman: "My husband is no murderer. He was afraid. He was sure that they were going to be overrun by those kids. He was under orders -- that's why he did it. He said so."
Whose orders? At week's end there was still no answer. Canterbury insisted that "no one gave an order." That statement strains credibility. By Canterbury's own count, 16 or 17 men fired 35 rounds. They started at virtually the same moment and stopped at the same moment. Many civilian spectators at the scene and some officials seeking to reconstruct the event are convinced that an order was given. And someone made the initial mistake of ordering live ammunition distributed to all the men and permitting them to load their rifles -- a procedure that is contrary to regular Army practice in civil disturbances. Once weapons are loaded, says one Pentagon officer, "you have effectively lost control of that unit. You have given them the license to fire." The Ohio Guard officers contend that loaded weapons have a deterrent value. No doubt. But no one informed the demonstrators that the troops had live ammunition. Nor were any warning shots fired. Those facts, together with the totally inadequate tactical leadership of the group that felt it was entrapped raise serious doubts about the Guards' professionalism -- and about the wisdom of the decision to employ them.
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