Kent May 4 Center


MAY 4, 1970: ORDER TO FIRE – OHIO NATIONAL GUARDSMEN

 

*includes handwritten statements, May 4, 1970, as written by shooters*

 

“Almost exactly at noon, the first tear-gas canister was fired at the crowd and the guardsmen stepped off in a skirmish line toward the students…The advance of the National Guard was directed by three senior officers: Brigadier General Canterbury, Lieutenant Colonel Fassinger and Major Jones. Men from three units constituted the total force: Companies A and C of the 145th Infantry Regiment and Troop G of the 107th Armored Cavalry. Company A, under the immediate command of Captain John E. Martin took the right flank. Company C, under Captain Ronald Snyder, was assigned the left flank. Troop G, commanded by Captain Raymond Srp, had the center. Four lieutenants completed the group of officers: Dwight Cline and Howard Fallon of Company A, William Herthneck of Company C, and Alexander Stevenson of Troop G. Ten officers and 103 enlisted men in all.”
--author Peter Davies, book: THE TRUTH ABOUT KENT STATE, 1973.

 

“At one point, Sergeant Pryor said, ‘If they rush us, shoot them’.
--Ohio National Guard SP4 James E. Pierce, Troop G, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.

 

“…a few seconds prior to the firing by the National Guard troops he thought he heard a command to fire. He stated that this order may have been, in fact, part of a longer order which was muffled by the roar of the crowd.”
--Major _____, S-3, C Company, 145th Infantry Regiment, Ohio National Guard, interview statement, May 10, 1970.

 

 

"Most people can remember where they were on Sept. 11, and some can remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was shot. But others will never forget what they were doing Monday, May 4, 1970. For Matthew McManus, a member of the National Guard, it’s a day he will never forget. He said it is a painful subject. 'It was a military operation, and we were following orders,' he said."
--article: "Many Remember May 4 in Different Ways", by Nancy Hopkins, Daily Kent Stater newspaper online, May 4, 2005.

 

 

“My unit for the most part refrained from firing. However several heard one of the commanders of the flank unit yell “Fire” and thought this meant them.”
--Lieutenant Howard Fallon, Ohio National Guard, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“Q) Did you hear a command or an order to fire?
A) I thought I did. I can’t say where from…
Q) Were you provoked into firing?
A) No.
Q) Why did you fire?
A) …Something had to be done…I also thought I heard the word 'fire' and I did hear the others fire.”
--Sgt. Robert D. James, Ohio National Guard, statement to Ohio Highway Patrol, June 9, 1970.

 

 

“On 4 May 1970, while participating with my Company (A Company) in the mission…on the campus of Kent State University. I thought I heard the command to ‘Fire’…The firing had started on my left flank."
--Sgt. Roger A. Maas, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“While participating with my unit…I heard the order to fire…Before I fired after the order to fire was given, firing started on my right…”
--SP4 James W. Farriss, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“…I heard firing on our right. I heard the order to fire…Approximately 1000 students were partiating at time of fireing.”
--SP4 Robert D. James, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“While acting with my unit I fired 2 rounds of 30 cal M1 over the crowd in warning after number of men fired and I hear the commaned to fire. I do not know who gave commaned.”
--PFC Richard R. Shade, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“We were retreating between Taylor and Johnson Hall. At this point an order was given to make an about face and address the crowd. A command was given to use bayonets and rifle stocks upon contact. The crowd was too far away for this to be considered…At this point the order to fire was given ‘Fire – above their heads.’ At this time I expended 1 round up into the air…students were on the ground (one had blood on his jacket); one was being carried away…
--Sgt. Lloyd W. Thomas, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“We began to move rapidly back the way we had come…the crowd starting towards us…We tried to stop them by kneeling on line and pretending to be ready to fire…At this time I heard a ‘command’ to ‘fire if they continue towards you’…I heard someone yell ‘fire over their heads’. At this point I heard rifle fire…there was a lot of firing going on…I noticed several people laying on the ground.”
--Sgt. Dale Sholl, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“On 4 May 70, 1215 hours, as Commanding Officer of Company A with approximately 30 troops were participating in an action to clear the campus of dissidents, when what appeared to sound like gunshots…Fourteen members of my unit, thinking that a command to fire had been given, fired several shots…I ordered them to cease fire….”
--Captain John E. Martin, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“…small arms fire broke out on our flank…The flank unit of which the majority were G Troop…took up kneeling positions and returned fire at onrushing students. The members of our unit for the most part refrained from firing. However, several heard one of the commanders of the flank unit [Troop G] yell ‘fire’…”
--Lieutenant Dwight G. Cline, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“…My unit for the most part refrained from firing. However, several heard one of the Commanders of the flank unit [Troop G] yell ‘fire’ and thought this meant them.”
--Lieutenant Howard R. Fallon, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

"When the firing happened, I felt I did not panic, held my ground, and obeyed my orders...I don't feel they were people but 'savage animals'."
--Sergeant James Pierce, Ohio National Guard, Troop G, handwritten statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“I thought I heard someone say, ‘Turn around and stand your ground’. At that point, everybody turned around…”
--Ohio National Guard SP4 Lloyd Thomas, Jr, Troop G, Federal Kent State lawsuit trial testimony, 1970.

 

 

“As a Guardsman who was present at Kent State, I cannot wholly dismiss the possibilities of a deadly collusion…I know others who welcomed the deadly confrontation.”
--letter to the editor by anonymous “GUARDSMAN”, Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, August 18, 1971.

 

 

“Ex-guardsman James E. Pierce testified that he had understood that guardsmen were planning to take a stand against student demonstrators who were closing in on the troops…’I know there was some intent we were going to stop and take a position against them’. Pierce also admitted he had made a [handwritten] statement to the guard immediately after the shootings in which he said: 'At one point, Sgt. Pryor said, "If they rush us, shoot them."'”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Plaintiffs contend sergeant fired nonissue pistol”, June 26, 1975.

 

 

“…Yesterday, a former guardsman said he heard an order before the gunfire broke out. Richard K. Love, 29, said he was among 70 or 80 guardsmen at the crest of a hill when he heard a shouted command: “Halt and turn”. He said he whirled around, heard gunfire and then fired his M-1 rifle into the air.”
--Cleveland Press newspaper article: "Guard threatened him, ex-KSU student tells jury”, June 17, 1975.

 

 

“In other testimony yesterday, Lloyd W. Thomas Jr., the third former guardsman to testify…said he also heard someone say, ‘Turn around and stand your ground’…”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: "KSU trial is told of changes in ex-guardsman’s account”, June 11, 1975.

 

 

“Members of the Ohio National Guard fired their rifles into a crowd of Kent State University students …immediately after being ordered to halt and turn toward the students, a guard sergeant said Monday in US District Court. Richard K. Love, 29, testified that he heard the order to stop moving and turn around after the guardsmen marched from a practice football field to the corner of Taylor Hall, where the shootings occurred on May 4, 1970. ‘I heard shots seconds after I had stopped and turned…I saw some guardsmen with their rifles in a level position’…Before the demonstration on May 4, Love said his orders from his superiors were to fire his weapon only ‘in protection of life or if ordered. We were told we could shoot if we felt we were in danger’.”
--Akron Beacon Journal newspaper article: “KSU firing came after halt order, National Guard sergeant says”, June 17, 1975.

 

 

“I remember sitting with [former Secretary of State] George Shultz in 1970 watching and listening to the film of the shooting at Kent State; stunned, the former Marine said ‘That was a salvo.’ From the sound, he knew an order had been given to fire at the students, and—a good administration soldier, but not one to march over cliffs—he would not accept explanations that the shooting had been sporadic.”
--William A. Safire [President Nixon's 1970 speechwriter], columnist, New York Times, October 11, 1986.

 

 

“One guardsman heard someone yell and believed he had been given an order to fire...Another thought he heard someone say ‘If they continue toward you, fire’.”
--US Justice Department Summary of FBI Reports, July, 1970.

 

 

“I was waiting for an order to shoot.”
--Private Paul Naujoks, Ohio National Guard, Akron Beacon Journal newspaper investigative report, May 24, 1970.

 

 

“On Monday May 4th, 1970…we had been ordered fire our weapons only on command, and we had our bayonets mounted. ..we moved up the hill…we proceeded across the softball field…We tried various facing movements…I was end man on the line…At one point Sgt. Pryor said ‘if they rush us shoot them’…to the right side of Taylor Hall…all of a sudden everyone was firing. I heard no distinct command…I assumed the command had been given and I fired…I saw everyone was shooting directly into them [students]…I then began firing into them—three more rounds—until I heard the command to ‘seize fire’...When the firing happened, I feel I did not panic, held my ground, and obeyed my orders. After the firing, I felt no remorse.”
--SP4 James Edward Pierce, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“In a pre-trial memo filed with the [Federal] court, the plaintiffs’ lawyers say [Ohio National Guard Sergeant] Pryor ‘told other guardsmen that they should shoot persons if certain circumstances occurred’. They further state that some guardsmen ‘agreed to shoot at or in the direction of persons on the campus’.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Ex-guardsman’s recall may be vital”, May 27, 1975.

 

 

“A former Kent State University black student leader indicated Tuesday that an Ohio National Guard officer may have signaled to troops moments before they turned and fired a volley into student demonstrators five years ago. Robert Pickett, a Newark, NJ lawyer who was vice president of the student body in May 1970, told a US District Court jury that he saw a guardsman in a soft cap [Major Harry Jones] motion with his hand to fellow guardsmen seconds before they turned and fired.”
--Akron Beacon Journal newspaper article: “Stage set for 2 key KSU witnesses”, June 18, 1975.

 

 

“The position was adopted, Canterbury told the Scranton Commission, in order ‘to discourage students’. He himself did not give any order to kneel [on the practice field] and he would not comment on the appropriateness of the tactic; his commanders, he said, informed him of its purpose. “
--Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“No officer on the hill that day has acknowledged giving an order to fire. Nor did General Canterbury give any order on the hill, any more than on the practice field, to kneel.”
--Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“…kind of eerie.”
--campus eyewitness, re: kneeling National Guard aiming at students on practice field, quoted by Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

"I personally was told by the Ohio National Guardsman who was standing outside Memorial Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon [May 3] that they were under orders to fire on the demonstrators and shoot to kill if they were attacked."
--campus eyewitness quoted by Commission on Kent State University Violence (CKSUV), KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“Do you know what the [National Guard] order was up at the president’s house? They turned around and they told them if they moved toward the [KSU] president’s house…they were gonna tell them [students] to disperse twice, if they don’t disperse, ‘fire’! They gave them orders to shoot over at the president’s house. They said, ‘fire’. They said, ‘shoot low’.”
--statement of "a member of the press", taped by student Steve Tichenal, May 3, 1970.

 

 

"I still think, my own opinion, that the National Guard is not that disciplined that they can turn around and fire at will. I believe that there was an order given for that."
--campus eyewitness quoted by Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

“A fearful student who stopped on her way to class to ask a National Guardsman whether he knew about the forthcoming rally and who said to him she didn’t know what to do was told, ‘If I were you, I would get off this campus’.”
-- Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“At Sunday noon, [KSU ROTC] Captain Donald Peters, Assistant Professor of Military Science, as reported by a student who went to South Hall to see if the ROTC cadre needed any help in cleaning up, said that, ‘a general in charge of the National Guard here’ had remarked to him, ‘If things continue the way they have been, there will definitely be people shot’.”
-- Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“Q) On that day [May 4, 1970], did you ever hear an order or a command to fire?
A) No.
Q) Would you have had to have heard such an order if it were given?
A) Not necessarily.
Q) Did you issue any order which could possibly have been mistaken by the troops as an order to fire?
A) No."
--Captain Raymond Srp, Ohio National Guard, Troop G, Ohio Highway Patrol interview, June 4, 1970.

 

 

“’I didn’t feel threatened’, said [Ohio National Guard Troop G] Captain Ray Srp, ‘and I was in the center of it’.”
--Akron Beacon Journal newspaper investigative report, May 24, 1970.

 

 

“Captain Raymond Srp, who led an Ohio National Guard troop that fired on Kent State University students May 4, 1970, said yesterday his men had not conspired in the shootings…11 of the 16 men under Srp’s command in Troop G admitted to FBI agents in an earlier investigation that they fired their weapons…The whole command was not mine up there’.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Captain denies Kent shooting plot”, January 30, 1974.

 

 

“Significantly, neither of the two unit commanders at the pagoda believed that their lives or the lives of their troops were in danger. Captain Srp, of G Troop, said, “I was right in the middle of it and felt no danger’. Captain Martin of Alpha Company [Company A] supported this opinion.”
--book: KENT STATE: WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY, by James Michener, 1971.

 

 

"All our witnesses, of whom we have more than a score, agree that the guard turned suddenly. 'They whirled', is the verb used by one of them. 'The men wheeled around', says another,"
--Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

"The front row of guardsmen, according to many witnesses, knelt almost in unison, while those behind remained standing; they fired almost together."
--Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.

 

 

“We were trying to get back down the hill…I heard shots, I turned around. Guard’s men began firing on both sides of me…I fired one shot directly into the air. I fired my second shot at the leg of a male student…and buleved to have hit to the left 3-5 ft hit the ground.”
--SP4 Ralph William Zoller, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“On Monday the 4th of May…while serving with my National Guard unit at Kent-State College Roits…We turned and moved very fast the way we came down to the soft ball field—but by the time we got up to the top of the hill we had over a thousand people doing all they could to prove to the student union thay could kill any thing that stood in their way from running the world the way they wanted it to be run…in such a manner that in Roman days thay put people to death. The troops and myself were still in a line type formation, all of a sudden I was on my knee’s and everyone was firing…by the time I fired the people had jumped and the ground head first, except for the one’s that was shot. I would shot sooner if I hadn’t froze to protect my life and company’s life’s…”
--SP4 William Earl Perkins, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“General Canterbury asked Chaplain Simons to talk to the men who had been on the firing line….The first guardsman Simon talked to said, ‘I fired right down the gulley.’ The chaplain noted, ‘There was hate on the guy’s face’…”
--from the book, 13 SECONDS, by Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts, 1970.

 

 

"There were a few Guardsmen who committed second-degree murder. They went there with premeditation--meaning intending to kill students. We (the commission) know about it."
--Joseph Rhodes, Jr., member of The President's Commission on Campus Unrest, Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, article: "2 Guardsmen Went to KSU Ready to Kill", November 30, 1970.

 

 

“Former Ohio National Guardsman William E. Perkins testified Monday that he was not provoked into shooting on the Kent State University campus…At the crest of a hill Perkins said he heard a shot and turned around and fired eight times because other men began firing.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Shots not provoked at KSU”, June 10, 1975.

 

 

“A second former Ohio National Guardsman has testified in US District Court that he saw no necessity to shoot students at Kent State University…James W. Farriss of North Lawrence testified Wednesday that at the time of the shooting he saw no rush of students toward the Guard and only saw three or four students some 50 feet from his position. ‘I saw no necessity for shooting straight ahead’.”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper article: “Ex-Guardsman saw no need to shoot at KSU”, June 12, 1975.

 

 

“During yesterday’s testimony, another former guardsman said he saw no reason for Guardsmen to fire at the students. Former private Richard Snyder of Smithville, Ohio…This was the questioning as posed by plaintiffs’ attorney Professor David Engdahl:
Q: Were you provoked into firing?
A: No.
Q: Had you ever felt the Guard’s positions were about to be overrun by the students?
A: At the time of the shooting, no. There was no need to fire.”
--Cleveland Press newspaper article: “Guardsman says he fired warning shot”, July 8, 1975.

 

 

“…we started to retreat to the top of the hill…When we got to the crest of the hill, I was running…The order was given to turn around, I turned…At this time, I was very frighten…That was when the fire started. I fired 2 shots in the air and one at the left leg of a student. After my last shot, the fire stoped. We moved down to our line of departcher. Then we tighten up the line and it was over.”
--SP4 James D. McGee, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“I was in the front line by Taylor Hall at the time of the firing, the man beside me had opened fire before me and then I started fireing. My first shot was over the heads of the crowd…and then fired into the crowd. I fired at one of the demonstrators [Joseph Lewis, Jr.,] and hit him…”
--Sgt. Lawrence A. Shafer, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“We were given the order to retreat slowly…They [students] followed becoming even more thrilled with the thought of defeating us…we reached the buildings at the top of the hill…At that point I heard gunfire to my left, looked and saw an officer firing and I drew my pistol. Dropped to cover and fired two shots into the mob…Then we proceeded back to our original position at the bottom of the hill.”
--Sergeant Barry W. Morris, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“On May 4 1970 we was order to stop a rally at the ROTC building…We was order to moved back on the hill at the top of the firing started and I was firing my 45 cal [pistol] in to the air. I didn’t hear a fire order but the men were fireing.”
--Sergeant Okey R. Flesher, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“I was about 25 feet from the North East end of the building. I fired 5 shots in the air…”
--Sergeant Dennis Breckenridge, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“Then the left flank started firing…I looked around real fast, seeing them coming, and fired one shot…Coming back down the hill, I was honestly in a complete daze. I couldn’t and can’t get the things that happened out of my mind. I know where I shot because only God can take lives and only by his order. I didn’t get the order from him to aim at any human…I just couldn’t shoot at them…I am what I am and only God can change me.”
--Sergeant W. James Case, Troop G, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.

 

 

“Today our company was involved in dispersing a riot which resulted in gunfire…during the skirmish, our troops used excellent judgment and control…While in a line formation, confusion, due to a quick job of coordination and a number of people directing, may have caused more fire than was necessary…”
--2nd Lieutenant Randall G. Leeper, Company A, Ohio National Guard, statement, May 4, 1970.