MAY 4, 1970: ORDER TO FIRE --




“Was there an order to fire? As to the crucial question, ‘When the Guard went into their huddle on the practice field, was an order given that they should fire when they reached the pagoda?’ …One photograph of the actual shooting shows General Canterbury, who has already passed the pagoda, turning around and storming back toward the troops who had done the firing, as if he were shouting…The same can be said for Colonel Fassinger, who would have had to give the order. And the well-known actions of Major Harry Jones…”
--James Michener, 1971, book: Kent State: What Happened and Why, p.361.


“Canterbury, Fassinger and Jones – the three ranking officers on the hill – all said no order to fire was given (p.273)…A few students and a few guardsmen claim to have heard something like an order to fire…”(p.275)
-- Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, 1970.


“Afterwards, it seemed, there was the greatest interest in passing the buck. Three major investigations were launched – by the US Justice Department, by the Ohio State Patrol (for use by the Portage County Grand Jury) and, later, by the Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest. Astoundingly, none of the investigations set out to grasp the most significant problem involved in the tragedy: the cause.”
--13 SECONDS, book by Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts, 1970.


“There were certainly extenuating circumstances which caused the Guard to resort to the use of firearms [at Kent State]…”
--J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, testimony to US Congress, November 19, 1970.


“As the Guardsmen reached the crest of Blanket Hill…the Guard was ordered to turn and face…Commands…such as, ‘if they charge, shoot them’ had previously been given…A number of Guardsmen stated they heard an order to fire and began firing.”
--“Charts of Movements and Shooting Incident, May 4, 1970”, by Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), 1970.


"We still do not know why the guardsmen let loose a hail of bullets at students hundreds of feet away. Consequently, we can do no more than what the Justice Department did -- 'speculate upon the possibilities' through an analysis of testimony, official reports, and research findings, using this material in conjunction with photographs to sift fact from fiction..."
--author Peter Davies, from his book: THE TRUTH ABOUT KENT STATE, 1973.


“The weight of the evidence indicates, however, that no command to fire was given, either by word or by gesture…the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable…Apparently no order to fire was given…”
--Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest”, 1970.


“The few moments immediately prior to the firing by the National Guard are shrouded in confusion and highly conflicting statements… …there was no initial order to fire…we do not know what started the shooting. We can only speculate on the possibilities.”
--US Justice Department Summary of FBI Reports, July, 1970.


“A team of Beacon Journal and other Knight Newspapers reporters spent two weeks investigating the case…The evidence they found prompts these conclusions:…The Guardsmen fired without orders to do so. Some aimed deliberately at students, others fired in panic or in follow-the leader style…Overwhelming evidence upholds the contentions of [General] Canterbury and Major Harry D. Jones, who was acting commander of the 145th and 107th [Ohio National Guard] troops on the hill, that there was no order to fire.”
--“Tragedy in Our Midst”, A Special Report by the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, May 24, 1970.   *NOTE: this hasty, erroneous report earned a Pulitzer Prize for the Akron Beacon Journal.


“Aside entirely from any questions of specific intent on the part of the Guardsmen or a predisposition to use their weapons, we do not know what started the shooting.”
--US Justice Department summary of FBI--US Justice Department summary of FBI investigation, July, 1970.


"...we [the FBI] have some reason to believe that the claim by the National Guard that their lives were endangered by the students was fabricated subsequent to the event...[a Guardsman] admitted that his life was not in danger and that he fired indiscriminately into the crowd. He further stated that the Guardsmen had gotten together after the shooting and decided to fabricate the story that they were in danger of serious bodily harm or death from the students...the guys have been saying that we got to get together and stick to the same story, that it was our lives or them, a matter of survival. I told them I would tell the truth and couldn't get in trouble that way...also, a chaplain of Troop G spoke with many members of the National Guard and stated that they were unable to explain to him why they fired their weapons."
--US Justice Department summary of FBI investigation, July, 1970.


"General Canterbury gave no order to fire...he was not yet ready to give any such order."
--Commission on KSU Violence, KSU report, Kent, 1971.


“One of the questions asked is whether or not an order to fire was given. We can find no statement which names any individual who commanded the troops to fire. Some enlisted men stated they heard an order to fire (FARRISS, MAAS, SHADE, SCHOLL, THOMAS)…no one could identify anyone near him as giving a command to fire, it is considered extremely doubtful if a command was given…it is doubtful if any of the troops would have fired if other fire had not preceded their shooting…no order to fire was given by anyone in command. This is based on the fact that the firing was sporadic and uncoordinated or controlled…Communistic elements fronted by the ACLU will attempt to exploit this incident to the maximum by contrived distortion of the facts.”
--Report of the Ohio National Guard Inspector General, J. Gordon Peltier, May 22, 1970.


“The primary cause of [civil court lawsuit action] action is against all of the defendants [Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes and Ohio National Guard Commanders and shooters] arises under [Federal law] 42 U.S.C. Section 1983…Killing or the infliction of serious bodily harm by a state official generally effects a deprivation of a constitutional right which is actionable under Section 1983…whenever state officials unjustifiably kill or injure they deprive the victim of life or liberty without due process of law because the victim was not tried before being punished…there is substantial authority that supervisory persons having responsibility for persons who use governmental force will be liable for negligence, as well as recklessness and unlawful orders, which leads to actionable killing and injury…We need to consider whether we can establish causation on the rhetoric theory through the testimony of persons who shot, gave orders…”
--“GENERAL LEGAL THEORY: written by a KSU victims’ families’ attorney, December 31, 1974.


“Obviously, a number of the Guardsmen are lying. If their claim to firing only 11 shots at the students is valid, how do they account for the fact that there were 15 wounds inflicted and, according to the FBI, there were 32 bullet holes in cars parked in the Prentice Hall parking lot? Most of the shooting was done by members of Troop G…”
--Hon. William S. Morehead of Pennsylvania, in the US House of Representatives, Thursday, July 22, 1971.


“The [Ohio National Guard investigation] report was prepared by J. Gordon Peltier…who was then inspector general of the Ohio National Guard. Peltier is a close friend and associate of Governor James A. Rhodes…Peltier had concluded: ‘It is doubtful that any of the troops would have fired if other [student sniper] fire had not preceded their shooting’…Among the contentions raised by the grand jury and missed by Peltier were: Two [National Guard] weapons were fired that no soldiers would admit firing; One of those weapons was fired five times but no one knows who pulled the trigger; In at least one instance, a box of ammunition was opened up and the men were told to help themselves without the required record-keeping; There was testimony from one armorer that, when ammunition was turned in and some men were short, ‘that the word went back to the men that they better find more ammunition or else they weren’t going to go home’, and that miscellaneous types of ammo, some privately purchased, some armor piercing, were turned in in order to make the count come out right…Peltier’s report was the sole basis for the national guard decision not to discipline any guardsmen for the May 4, 1970, shooting.”
----Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, article: “US Grand jurors find coverup in guard probe”, September 30, 1975.


"Most of the National Guardsmen who did fire their weapons do not specifically claim that they fired because their lives were in danger. Rather, they generally simply state in their narrative that they fired after they heard others fire or because, after the shooting began, they assumed an order to fire..."
--US Justice Department Summary of FBI Reports, July, 1970.


“Members of a federal grand jury which investigated the 1970 killings of four students at Kent State University criticized the official Ohio National Guard investigation as an incomplete coverup…General Sylvester Del Corso, Ohio adjutant general at the time of the shootings, denied the [Ohio National Guard] report was an attempted coverup…”
--Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, article: “US Grand jurors find coverup in guard probe”, September 30, 1975.


“…the shooting on May 4, 1970, was not a sudden reaction to a real or imagined danger…the Justice Department summary of the FBI investigation and the President’s Commission report contain numerous indications that the shooting was indeed a planned and deliberate act executed upon a pre-arranged signal. The shooting was the result of a conspiracy and the combined material presents an overwhelming indication to this effect…one thing is very clear. The shooting took place as the result of a decision or an order. It did not occur in panic or fear or self-defense…”
--Hon. William S. Morehead of Pennsylvania, in the US House of Representatives, Thursday, July 22, 1971.