An announcement came from Nixon on April 30, 1970 that U.S. troops had expanded the war beyond VietNam's borders and invaded Cambodia. A hue and cry went up across the country, especially on college campuses, where the already fanning flames of anti-war sentiment became infernos of new and immeasurable intensity.
At Kent State University in Ohio, the R.O.T.C. building was burned on May 2nd, prompting then-Governor James A. Rhodes to over-react and send in the National Guard. He went to Kent State on May 3. Instead of using common sense and just containing the protesters, Rhodes began his own private war by promising to use "every force possible" to maintain order.
This type of wrongheaded testicular jousting by governors and local public officials throughout the '60s and '70s is precisely what created major disasters out of 1st Amendment-based disagreements with White House abuses of power.
Local businesses, not connected with the university, were summarily shut down as if under martial law. Patrons at a pizza restaurant that day were beaten by police for not leaving when ordered - despite the fact that they were eating at the time. Also on the 3rd two students, one a handicapped VietNam veteran, had been bayoneted by Guardsmen simply for flipping them off.
Why in the world were NG personnel even issued bayonets? A bigger question to pose should have been who ordered fixed bayonets on American soil?
The following day, May 4th, 1970 troops of the Ohio NG, in one of the most courageous military actions known to mankind, turned from a position of safety and unleashed a 13-second fusillade of small arms fire upon a group of several thousand demonstrators - with hundreds more students, faculty, staff and administrators simply going about their business, plus curious onlookers, in the line of fire.
For whatever reason, the "weekend warriors" were not issued rubber riot-suppression bullets, but standard combat-grade munitions. During seven years in the regular Army, I was issued live ammunition maybe three times, with the strictest of orders that any missing round had better be accompanied by a body. What were these clowns doing with hot ammo?
Can you imagine what 13 seconds under fire is like - especially when you're the target? And unarmed? In an open lawn area or parking lot?
The word "hell" comes to mind.
By the time these intrepid heroes who joined the Guard to stay out of VietNam (like one George W. Bush) stopped firing into the students who were protesting Nixon's escalation of the war onto Cambodian soil, 13 young human beings had fallen. By all accounts the nearest victim was about 60 yards from the troops, the furthest 700 yards.
Nine of those on the ground or moved to safety still carry scars, physical as well as emotional. There's also that inescapable chronic discomfort, the added bonus of a gunshot wound. At least one remains to this day paralyzed.
Every other person who was in the line of fire carries the emotional scars of being a target, and seeing somebody nearby cut down for no reason whatsoever.
These were the lucky ones.
Four students never got up again, never attended another class, never celebrated another birthday or Hanukkah or Christmas, never graduated - never got the chance to wed and have children.
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