MAY 4, 1970: ORDER TO FIRE –
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY WITNESSES
“Rick Levinger, a freshman from New York City, said he was to the rear of the firing guardsmen. He said he saw ’20 to 30 guardsmen walking away from the students, then suddenly turn around at them and open up’. Levinger insisted he heard one officer issue an order to fire. ‘I saw those guys turn and get on their knees after I heard the officer order them to fire’."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Troops Lost All Their Cool”, by Joseph Eszterhas, May 5, 1970.
“’So when the Guard retreated, I followed them and found a position near the pagoda. I was the closest person to the Guard and I heard an officer give the order, ‘Turn around and fire three rounds’. He yelled so loud I could hear it very plainly’…’The story has never appeared in any public record. Could it be that the investigators haven’t wanted to believe that an order was given?’”
--KSU electrician “Jack Albrecht”, quoted in book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.
“Several students said they saw guardsmen taunt the students before the shooting, pointing rifles at them and saying, ‘Come on, come on’…'I saw about eight or nine of them hold their rifles out and say, “Come on, come on!"'."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Troops Lost All Their Cool”, by Joseph Eszterhas, May 5, 1970.
“’It [shooting] was done with precision, as if on command,’ said Paul Schlemmer, Sports Information Director of the University, who witnessed the incident.”
--The Daily Times newspaper, Niles Ohio, May 5, 1970.
“Said the wife of one Guardsman: ‘My husband is no murderer. He was afraid. He was sure 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. [General] Canterbury insisted that ‘no one gave an order’. That statement strains credibility. By Canterbury’s own account, 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.”
--Time Magazine, article, “Kent State, Martyrdom that shook the country”, May 18, 1970.
"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. It was not scattered. They all waited and they all pointed their rifles at the same time. It looked like a firing squad'."
--KSU journalism professor Charles Brill, Time Magazine, May 18, 1970.
“What happened at the pagoda seemed to be planned. They sure didn’t look like panicky men…They didn’t react as if there were a sniper. It was nothing but murder’.”
--KSU student Bill Montgomery, a Vietnam veteran, quoted in book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.
“’I wound up not more than two feet away from them [Guardsmen] as they came charging up the hill, and they were furious. I was in the middle of them fifty seconds before they fired. A short man on the end took out a revolver, waved it in my face and dared any of us to do anything. It was my most vivid memory of the day’.”
--KSU student Debi Moreland quoted in book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.
“Brian Fisher, another witness to the Guard’s climb to the pagoda, recalls that a girl near him was yelling at the soldiers when one of them , ‘a left-handed fellow’ turned toward the girl and shouted at her: ‘Come one step nearer, you bitch, and I’ll blow your head off’.”
--book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.
"…Concerning the actual shooting, he was positioned near the fourth or fifth pillar on the right front side of Taylor Hall…he observed the members of the Guard as they suddenly spun around toward the crowd. The crowd reacted by turning tail and running…some Guard members seemed to aim their weapons up in the air, others pointed them toward the ground, while still others pointed weapons straight out toward the group confronting them. It took but a fraction of a second before the Guard fired their weapons. He was of the opinion they all fired at the same time and did not recall any shots being fired before the volley. He said the ONG following the shooting just stood in the area, regrouped and marched away…"
--statement to FBI by KSU student Richard ______, freshman, Berea, Ohio, Manchester Hall dorm resident, May 21, 1970.
"As the Guardsmen got adjacent with Taylor Hall, a loose formation of Guardsmen formed nearest Taylor Hall…this formation consisted of about 18-21 men. They then turned as a group and then five dropped to one knee and fired a volley of shots into the crowd in front of Taylor Hall and out from the front of Taylor Hall. At this time, I was about 70 feet from the group that fired and to the rear and side of the Guardsmen. I saw people in the crowd falling and one individual reeling. The Guardsmen then moved down the hill back into the Commons and returned to the area where they originally came from…"
--Martin _____, signed statement, May 10, 1970, teaching fellow in KSU English Department, resided at Allerton Apartments, Kent, with wife and child.
""I then moved to the Conference Room of Taylor Hall where I looked out the southeast window toward the practice field. I then saw the Guard march down to the practice field…I could see that numerous students who had been dispersed came back and stood on the southeast side of Taylor Hall and watched the National Guardsmen down on the football field…after about seven minutes, the…National Guardsmen marched back up the hill in a northwesterly direction between Taylor Hall and Johnson Hall dispersing the students both to their right and left. A little before they got to the southwest corner of Taylor Hall, the Guardsmen stopped, turned around and started firing in an easterly direction…I do recall looking at the guns to check their point of aim and it appeared that some were aiming high, others low and some directly at the students. I believe each of the Guardsmen fired several shots over a period of perhaps 15 to 20 seconds."
--statement by Diana ____, Kent, Ohio, 20 years old, KSU junior, Home Economics major, clerk-typist for Dean Flower at KSU College of Fine and Professional Arts, signed statement, May 10, 1970.
"…I observed the Guard in a line on the football field…a short time later, they were moving up the hill in front of Taylor Hall…I then observed the Guard wheel around and face Prentice Hall…guardsmen knelt down and pointed their guns in my direction. An instant later, I heard a popping sound, like caps, which got louder…I dove to the ground in the area of the junction of Midway Drive and the Prentice Hall parking lot. While on the ground, I observed a girl who seemed to be running toward me appear to be yanked into the air, then fall to the ground."
--Richard A. ________, of Diagonal Rd., Kent, OH, KSU student, signed statement May 11, 1970.
"The Guardsmen continued up the small hill to the top and stopped at the concrete umbrella. They turned and fired into the crowd. The Guardsmen were not being surrounded and were not being pelted with rocks. There was no shot before their volley and there were no warning shots fired. They were on a hill about 25 feet higher than the level of the parking lot. The shots were fired directly into the crowd. When the firing started, people were dropping to the ground or turning and running...About four or five seconds elapsed after the shooting stopped before people started to get up. It was then I noticed that very few car windows in the parking lot were intact. The people got up and tried to help the wounded. It seemed like there were dead and wounded all over. One boy was holding a rag over one girl's throat, only there wasn't much of her throat left. Another boy was lying face down in a pool of his own blood."
--Michael S. ______, of Hudson, Ohio, KSU sophomore, Arts and Sciences, interviewed May 13, 1970, furnished a copy of his letter written May 5, 1970, previously mailed to President Nixon, Governor Rhodes, Congressman James Stanton, and John Huffman, Assistant to the KSU President.
“Another witness yesterday, Alan Canfora, who was wounded in the right wrist, characterized the shootings as ‘planned murder’. ‘I saw a small group of guardsmen out of the whole group of guardsmen turn simultaneously and fire on the crowd of students’, Canfora said. ‘I don’t think that happened by accident’.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Sergeant fired first shots at students, witness says”, June 24, 1975.
“…Mr. Montgomery said yesterday, guardsmen moved up a campus knoll known as Blanket Hill. ‘One man [Ohio National Guard Sergeant Myron Pryor] lagged behind, carrying a .45 pistol…I saw him tap some guardsmen on the back—two, three, four—with his right hand. He was close behind them…Then he turned and he fired with the .45 pistol in his left hand. Almost simultaneously, the men in front of him, those with whom he had communicated, turned and fired with rifles, downhill toward the students’.”
--Harry Montgomery testimony, Federal Court, as noted in New York Times newspaper article: “Kent State Witness Reiterates Testimony on Fatal Shooting”, June 5, 1975.
“A witness in the Kent State University civil damages trial yesterday became the second to testify that he saw a sergeant in the Ohio National Guard tap fellow guardsmen on their backs moments before they turned and fired on students…Charles J. Deegan, a former Kent State student, also said he saw the sergeant [Myron Pryor] take aim and fire his pistol, which he was holding in his left hand, three times…Deegan said he saw the sergeant ‘tapping people on their helmets and shoulders, putting them in line’. As the guardsmen reached the top of the hill where they turned and fired, Deegan said, ‘I heard someone call “Form up” and then some Guardsmen turned...’.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article, “Sergeant fired first shots at students, witness says”, June 24, 1975.
"The Justice Department summary reveals that 'no verbal warning was given to the students immediately prior to the time the Guardsmen fired.' Canfora states, 'It is clear there was a verbal order to fire. The well-coordinated actions of these triggermen seemed quite planned and executed like a firing squad upon orders to shoot'."
--article: "Kent State Thirty Years Later", by Mac Lojowsky, The Humanist magazine, July, 2000.
"...inevitably one or more of the several 1970 Ohio National Guard Troop G triggermen still living in Northeast Ohio will come forward and admit exactly which National Guard officer gave the verbal command to shoot and kill unarmed students under the noonday sun at Kent State in 1970. This is the ultimate truth we seek. And only the truth can free these triggermen from the awesome burden of history while the blood of our martyrs remains on their hands."
--Alan Canfora, Director, Kent May 4 Center, Cleveland Free Times, May 17, 2006.
“They got almost to the top of the hill, and just like on command, like one movement, they turned and started shooting…people got up right away and started yelling ‘Murder!’.”
--John Dienert, KSU student eyewitness, Akron Beacon Journal newspaper investigative report, May 24, 1970.