Monday, October 18, 2010

Vindication for the Ohio National Guard

Here is a follow-up to the post from May on the shooting at Kent State following the burning of the ROTC building and general riots that took place in 1970.
A tape recording of the 1970 shooting deaths of four Kent State University students by Ohio National Guardsmen reveals the sound of pistol shots 70 seconds earlier, a newspaper reported Friday citing the work of a forensic audio expert.

The finding lends support to a theory that the guardsmen thought they were being shot at during a campus Vietnam War protest. Witnesses said at the time that an FBI informant monitoring the protest fired warning shots because he felt threatened.

The National Guard opened fire on student protesters on May 4, 1970, killing four and injuring nine others. Eight guardsmen were acquitted of federal civil rights charges four years later. Many believe the events contributed to the change in the public's attitude toward the war, which ended five years later.

The reel-to-reel audio recording was made by a Kent State student who placed a microphone at a windowsill in his dormitory, which overlooked the antiwar rally. He later turned the tape over to the FBI. A copy eventually wound up in a Yale University archive.
The next part of the story is why for so long the political establishment and the press would not investigate the whole story - and instead decided to smear and blame the men of the Ohio National Guard who were just defending themselves.
A crew from Cleveland's WKYC-TV filmed Norman running toward guardsmen and police and being chased by two men. One of the men yelled: "Hey, stop that man! I saw him shoot someone!" The crew recorded Norman handing a gun to a police officer, saying, "The guy tried to kill me." Norman later said he was referring to an assault that happened after the Guard shootings.

Former WKYC reporter Fred DeBrine and soundman Joe Butano have said they heard a Kent State police detective open the cylinder of Norman's gun and say: "Oh my God, he fired four times." The detective denied making the remark. A campus patrolman's report said the gun was fully loaded with no smell of burned powder.

DeBrine and Butano repeated their assertion this week, the Plain Dealer reported. The paper said Norman has remained elusive for decades and could not be reached for comment.
That is a story that a good reporter needs to work on. Hopefully, more will follow.

Hey, maybe Neil Young could write a song.

51 comments:

Outlaw Mike said...

4-0. Hippie assholes.

Outlaw Mike said...

Okay. I take that back. It was tragic. It's just that I absolutely, AB-SO-LU-TE-LY, despise anything to do with May 68 scum.

Byron said...

OM, the only scum was the media that reported it. The students were Americans who were exercising their civil liberties. I don't and never did agree with their position, but they had every right to say it.

Matt T said...

Just read through the Post article then the Cleveland Plain Dealer stories.  Plain Dealer, who broke the story, only discuss the discovery of supposed commands for the Guard to prepare to fire and efforts to reopen the legal case.

ewok40k said...

That shows the risks of using military for crowd control... Well, at least most large police departaments nowadays  do have a riot gear units to handle situation like that.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

It always amazes me that no one in the media ever heard the words "agent provoceteur".  Now who would gain by sending someone to fire a few shots after another fella got done whipping up a crowd? Add green troops with little training or time together dealing with a mob for real for the first time, what will history tell you is likely?

Of course you have to wait 40 years until the guardians of evidence which must never see the light of day pass on. Beware media with an ax to grind.

It isn't the brain addled hippies. It's the brain addlers.

Paulus Magnus said...

The problem of course is that the "agent provocateur" in this case was working for the FBI.

Outlaw Mike said...

Byron, you are right. I stand corrected (hope that's the correct expression).

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Working for the FBI?  Did Abby Hoffman tell you that?  Or maybe Bill Ayers?

C-dore 14 said...

Byron, Unfortunately the Kent State demonstrators moved from exercising their First Amendment Rights to public disorder when they burned down the ROTC building on Saturday night.  The problem, however, with these 60s/70s radicals is that they expected to have a "revolution" without anyone shooting back.

Salty Gator said...

I know but one Magnus, and that would be Ronaldus.  Paulie, with a comment like that, you are far from Magnus.

Salty Gator said...

Typical baby boomers.  They measure their contribution to the country (bitching, moaning, smoking dope and banging in the brush) as equal to that of their parents.  Thanks for the defecit, boomers, and for the decline of Pax Americana.

C-dore 14 said...

URR, Actually both the WaPo and Cleveland "Plain Dealer" articles state that Norman was being paid by the FBI for taking photos of the demonstrators and, although the statements are somewhat confused and contradictory, his shots may have been interpreted as sniper fire by the ONG.  So, although, technically, Paulus is correct it seems unlikely that Norman fired for any other reason than to protect himself.

However, all of this is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned beyond the major point of the discussion that shots were fired prior to the ONG opening fire on the demonstrators that day.  That's been a point always made in their defense.

James Michener's <span>Kent State</span> is an excellent book on the incident.

C-dore 14 said...

Salty...Hey, I'm a Boomer ;)  although the Naval Academy got most of the "self-entitlement" out of my system.

ewok40k said...

oh well, the law of the unforeseen consequences... the more factions are at the scene, and the more of them do have weapons, the higher chance someone will start shooting.
thank god at least the hippies hated weapons enough to not bring any to the party... otherwise it would have been even messier.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Pardon, but are the WAPO and CPD any more reliable or less biased than either of the gentlemen I mentioned? 

I do believe WAPO went front page with the story that Karl Rove called Bob Novak in a fit of anger to "out" Valerie Plame.  That was complete fabrication.  Absolute.  No real credibility with those two papers.  Especially in reporting anti-war protesters in 1970.

sid said...

Whoa Salty...Don't tar us all for the sins of the "cool kids," whose misdeeds have resonated since.

xformed said...

Boomer here, too.  in 72, 'twas not polite to raise the right hand and swear to defend The Constitution.

As in all cases, sweeping stereotypes have exceptions.  OTOH, for me and the other boomers around her, not near the enough exceptions that we can't buy into your assessment at a relatively high level of agreement.

xformed said...

Over @ LGF a few weeks back, when this was linked, a Lizard commented "so what will this change?"  I left a write up, about making sure history was recorded correctly, when truth emerged.  Sort of like how we all cheer when a person, who all along claimed innocence, is released from prison after DNA show they weren't lying, or finally, the real criminal is infact located...but how their line of reasoning would have left those people in jail, because..."what would it change?"  Tossed in the stigma held over the heads of the NG troppers all these years, who told the truth but were ignored and shamed.

sid said...

When I move to Chicago in about a year, I sure hope to have a chance to tell Bill Ayres what an asshole he is...

C-dore 14 said...

URR, Norman's story has been around for some time (believe that I first read it in Michener's book although I can't find my copy to confirm it) and his possible involvement with the FBI (and more accurately, the Akron Police) would be consistent with the way they operated at the time as would be his decision to seek protection from the police when he was being chased by the demonstrators.  

To be clear, I am not agreeing with PM's implication that he intentionally fired to provoke the ONG.  I think that ewok below is correct that the Guard's firing was the unintended consequence of it.

Also, just because something is in the WaPo doesn't mean it's a fabrication.  Occasionally they print the news.

ponsdorf said...

Ya know what... Myths don't get changed by history they get relegated to different comfort zone as needed.

Assume every (new) word about this event is proven beyond any reasonable doubt?

The NG guys may feel some sort of vindication, but the million (plus) or so 'Nam vets who were painted with that brush will not.

As you (et al) have noted this is not New News.

Southern Air Pirate said...

History is and will be who is able to write the quickest and establish the "facts" first. I mean every documentary about that time period, seems to show that it was only a bunch of middle class folks who were protesting the evils of their government. Their children were getting them out of the Ike prosperity and McCarthy fears, all into the age of Aquarius and hippe-dom. Where all we would need to do is just love and hug each other, turn back to living like we did back in the 1st century, and basically the world would be a happy place. That is the story and the media and progressives are sticking too it. Never mind the releases from former KGB, Stasi, and other communist spy agencies that stated the were paying groups like SDS and funneling money to them. Let us also not forget that some of the more vile urban terror groups that popped up in the US did so during that time period form 1967 till the early 1980's. Groups like the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, United Freedom Front; all terrorized college campuses, major cities, and others in the US. All of that paperwork according to the progressives were faked, or the people are liars, or the photos were photo-shopped.
If their feet were ultimately held to the fire in an interview some of the "New Left" folks have come out saying that it is alright for them to have committed those crimes because they were trying to "wake up America" or "bring the war home to the war mongers". Even today there are some of the ultra progressive and new leftists who feel as if they didn't go far enough and constantly trying to stir the pot. One could almost indirectly tie groups like ELF, ALF, the Unabomber, and even the more violent anti-abortionists to the New Lefts ideas that violence brought upon your oppressors will free you.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

My point, Commodore, is that because it is in WAPO (or Michener's book) does not mean it is fact.  You hit on a salient point.  No real evidence has ever been presented that Norman had links with the FBI.  Damned few link him to the Akron PD, either. Consistent or not with how LE officials were doing things then. 

A classmate of my Mother's was an ER nurse at Robinson Hospital, where the killed and wounded were taken.  She said that she treated at least one student who was wounded that had been hit with buckshot.  That fact was hushed up by Kent State officials to Hospital officials, because it was inconsistent with the headlines in NTY that the students had been killed by "Troops".  None of the Guardsmen had shotguns....

UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>My point, Commodore, is that because it is in WAPO (or Michener's book) does not mean it is fact.  You hit on a salient point.  No real evidence has ever been presented that Norman had links with the FBI.  Damned few link him to the Akron PD, either. Consistent or not with how LE officials were doing things then.   
 
A classmate of my Mother's was an ER nurse at Robinson Hospital, where the killed and wounded were taken.  She said that she treated at least one student who was wounded that had been hit with buckshot.  That fact was hushed up by Kent State officials and Hospital officials, because it was inconsistent with the headlines in NTY that the students had been killed by "Troops".  (Neither wanted to be painted as taking the Guardsmen's side by presenting contrary evidence.)  Of course, none of the Guardsmen had shotguns....</span>

Paulus Magnus said...

I wasn't implying that the firing was intentional and apologize if that implication came. Just pointing out in response to Grandpa Bluewater that if the shooter was an agent provocateur, they belonged to the FBI rather than the KGB or some other organization. 

Southern Air Pirate said...

I don't know what generation I am. Supposedly they tell me I am a Gen X'er, But some feel that I am a Gen Y'er. I just feel as if I am a generation behind myself.

That being said, though those students had a right to protest and walk out of thier classes over the "supposed" widening of the war in Vietnam. Remember, that Friday before, the Nixon Admin had admitted on the Friday evening news brief they had invaded Cambodia with the ARVN to attack VC supply lines in Cambodia that made up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was still two years before Linebacker and we still had the bombing pause (with only the reactive strikes authorized that both CTF77 and 7thAF did) going on. So there was a belief on some folks minds that Nixon the warmonger, who was part of the same administration that if the media at the time was to be beleived was willing to go to nuclear war over Korea, was looking at widening the war. Like I also mentioned up near the top, groups like SDS and others were not only funneling intel back to folks like the NVA, but they were also recieiving funding from the KGB and other communist spy agencies. A number of folks felt as if thier only way to be heard was via violence. Those are the folks that I fully believe should have thier rights limited.

C-dore 14 said...

You're correct about that just because something is in print (or in a blog) doesn't means it's true.  Of course the logical conclusion of that approach is not to believe anything unless you've witnessed it personally.

The Usual Suspect said...

These people did not believe that their actions had consequences.  They put themselves in a situation that was way beyond their control and comprehension.  Only in the United States of America could they engage in such behavior and not expect any consequences...it did not turn out as they planned.  Actions do have consequences. 

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Well, no.  In cases such as existed in 1970, the logical conclusion is to be extremely skeptical of events that were reported by people with an axe to grind. And skeptical as well of the "media" version that the Guardsmen fired into a crowd without any real provocation.

Those Ohio Guardsmen (and most in uniform) were villified as uncaring and bloodthirsty monsters on college campuses everywhere, and in Mister Young's ballad as well.  That they were deployed there in a LE role without a non-lethal means to enforce the law was extremely unwise, to be sure, but the circumstances surrounding the entire incident have been deliberately skewed to portray the demonstrators as innocent students peacefully protesting, and the Guardsmen as evil murderers.  Neither is true.

Here is what is likely:  Norman may have been in the employ of Akron PD for the purposes of photographing demonstrators.  What kind of character he was and whether he fired his pistol at Guardsmen or protestors is unknown.  But I believe it highly likely from other testimony that more than one demonstrator was armed, and one or more shotguns were discharged from behind the front row of "students", hitting several. 

It also seems likely that nothing of that negative nature was ever reported about the conduct of the protestors, out of sympathy for their cause or for not wanting to appear "establishment". 

The Guardsmen believed that they were being fired upon, and very likely were.  That such was never seriously investigated is typical of the coverage of this incident. 

Southern Air Pirate said...

URR,

The reason it wasn't seriously investigated was an early application of the "CNN Effect", where since the story being played out is that the evil, blood thirsty, Ohio Guardsmen (who were called out by the Governor at the request of both the Mayor of Kent and the Kent State President); played out well on the 5 o'clock national news. Let alone all the morning print media. Just like the 68 Chicago riots, Watts, and a few others in that time period from 67 on till 76. If you were a protestor, all you had to do was prove the evils of the Government (and democracy) by getting shot at or beaten down. The media showing those pictures of poor kids getting the Chicago/LA/Boston version of crowd control (mainly via boots, billy clubs, and tear gas) was perfect for the meme of the evils of our government.

So why investigate something we you know your going to loose the PR war? Why not take the cowards way out and just admit that it was the Guardman's fault and they were hearing things?

As to having less-then-lethal means to suppress the riot? What was there back then, but armored shields, rubber bullets, batons, water hoses, and tear/riot gas. There is no such thing as a "non-lethal weapon" any time you fire something at someone there is a chance you can kill someone. Hell even the vunder weapon taser is getting reviewed since it has been killing folks all over the age range with electrical shock induced heart issues. I would also add up that most of the NG around the nation were not trained in riot control methods effectively. The were supposed to be the force multipliers with the locals. It has only been in recent years with an increase of operations other then war, there has been an increase in training and development of less then lethal force. Kent State is part of the training programs, along with Chicago, Watts, Harvard, Seattle, DC, and LA.

ewok40k said...

BTW, who exactly had the "great" idea to send armed green NG troops to watch over student demonstrations? (I presume it was state governor, but dont know who it was at the time)  And what was his further career?

Southern Air Pirate said...

E40K,

The Governer at the time was Jim Rhodes. He served until he 1986 off and on as the Governor. The worst time that he had after the Kent State was in 1978 when 60 people in Ohio died from a major blizzard.
Using the National Guard here in the US is no different then using a force like the Carabinieri, Bundesgrenzschutz, Policja, when it comes to the need for riot control and extra police functions.

Casey Tompkins said...

Not only that, C-dore, the rioters attacked the firefighters and destroyed their hoses when they tried to stop the blaze.

I'm pretty sure that's not protected by the First Amendment, even if you include flag-burning. :)

Casey Tompkins said...

ARRRGHHGHGH.

Ewok, please understand, these were not just demonstrations in the sense of students marching & chanting. Riots had erupted, there was widespread property damage in town, and the ROTC building was burned down.

Who else would you send in?

Another generally unknown fact is that most of the Guardsmen had been on duty for nearly 48 hours, and were desperately short of sleep.

99.99% of the people in the world have a very poor idea of what happened that day.

Oddly enough -considering their reputation for bias- Wiki provides pretty decent coverage of what happened.

That said, the popular image of peaceful children gunned down by merciless mymidions is highly exaggerated.

ewok40k said...

Well, I am not used to the US version of riots,gunfire and burning and looting included -  in my neck of woods, even during martial law of 1981 worst things were throwing stones at Peoples Militia (police equivalent of the time), with water canons, tear gas and riot gear units of the Militia used to quell demonstrations. No looting ever happened , even if because there wasnt much to loot. 1956 and 1970 riots were much bloodier because army units including tanks were used, after that even communist state thought it would be wise to invest in riot gear. I guess in 1968 US police departaments were not equipped with those as well. So probably there was only NG available as large body of men to stop riots. Still, the decision backfired badly.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

SAP,

You make a good point about the PR war, and the goal of many of the protestors/demonstrators.

And you are also right about the lack of non-lethal available, but they did have shields and hoses, and teare gas.  That would have been preferable to the US Cal .30 M1, and the lesson was appropriately re-learned.

Mid Mom said...

Not unlike the Boston Massacre...

Alos said...

Hell's Angels are another option for crowd control.

C-dore 14 said...

Alos, The Rolling Stones tried that during their '69-'70 U.S. tour.  It didn't work out so well.

C-dore 14 said...

URR, You and I certainly agree on the conclusion that the ONG believed that they were being fired upon and returned fire.  Both my wife and I were students at the time (although there were very few demonstrations at the institution I attended) and remember the attitude of the populace to the military and other authority figures.

Some day I'll tell the story of how I was "welcomed home" from Vietnam.

C-dore 14 said...

Casey, Agree with you here.  Interestingly, except for the shootings, the Kent State riots weren't all that unusual for the time.  My late father-in-law was a Deputy Chief of the Berkeley, CA, Fire Department in the late 60s/early 70s and had plenty of stories to tell of being pelted with bricks and occasional sniper fire when they responded to demonstration-related arson at the Cal campus.  

My wife witnessed several demonstrations at UCLA (although her general approach was to get to another part of campus or back to the dorm when they started).  The most significant occurred after the Kent State shootings when several hundred demonstrators tried to storm the ROTC offices in the gym.  The campus police line held although they were forced to draw down on the crowd to disperse it.  Shortly afterwards the LAPD (an organization traditionally unconcerned with bad PR) was called in to clear the lower campus.  They did so with effective and non-lethal means.

C-dore 14 said...

ewok, Don't kid yourself.  Not all of the so-called Hippies hated weapons.  Several of them were committed radicals who were interested in "revolution".  Fortunately most of the people involved in these demonstrations lost interest once the military draft call went down.

Casey Tompkins said...

I agree there were a series of screw-ups which led to the shootings, but use of the National Guard during emergencies -both natural and civil- is quite common over here. Recall the Guard was also sent to New Orleans after Katrina to help keep order.

Andrewdb said...

LAPD unconcerned with bad PR?  Have you ever seen the LA Sherriffs?  During the 1992 riots my cousin, who used to keep the body book for LAPD, said he saw a crowd of rioters turn the corner, see the line of Sheriff Deputies (brown shirt and green pants - LAPD wears all dark blue), and immediately turn 180. 

C-dore 14 said...

Andrew, Agree with that.  Up north the Alameda County Sheriff's Dept. (AKA "The Blue Meanies") had a similar reputation.

ewok40k said...

Well, compared to the european fallout of 68 failed revolution (Red Brigades, RAF etc.) US ended realtively quiet... But in this case if there would be armed hostiles amongst the students, it would be much worse, with possibly troops dead and much more casualties in the students ranks. Most tragic thing is both sides were young people upholding what they felt was right - on one side students feeling their country was waging unjust war (which was not the case imho, but that was dominant feeling back then in the protesters ranks), on the other guardsmen trying to protect law and order.
The episode also underscores a very specific US law enforcement problem, namely the risk that any demonstration turns to riot, possibly with use of weapons. In countries where weapon possession is less common, it's okay to just use riot gear police/paramilitary. In the US such approach is risking bringing proverbial knife - or rather shield and baton -  to a gunfight. I

C-dore 14 said...

ewok, I think you have a somewhat idealized impression of the student protestors of the time.  I agree that there were some who passionately believed that the U.S was doing the wrong thing in Vietnam and were protesting to express that belief (a number of my wife's friends at the time fell into that category).  Others, as I mentioned above, were committed radicals who were out to overthrow our system of government by "any means necessary".  These groups sponsored arson and bombings and occasionally used bank robberies to finance their activities.  The vast majority, however, were "useful idiots" who participated because of self interest (didn't want to get drafted and have to go fight) or because "everyone was doing it".  Ironically, the peer pressure to fit in with the "counter-culture" was very strong on the campuses back then.  Some of my USNA classmates even bought wigs so they could fit in with the DC college crowd when they went on liberty.

Ultimately, the Nixon administration undercut college unrest through the reduced draft call-ups that resulted from "Vietnamization" of the war.  Although the levels of violence that resulted from US response to the '72 Easter Offensive far surpassed that of the '70 incursion into Cambodia that sparked the riots at Kent State and elsewhere, reaction on college campuses in '72 was relatively minor in comparison.

ewok40k said...

That is another thing we can learn from Nixon... decrease US ground involvement (and involved casualties) and the internal opposition goes down. But that goes against COIN theory of boots on the ground. Interesting conundrum.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

PM:  Your argument is specious, your thesis baseless, and frankly, vile. The fact that one is paid to photograph a demonstration or riot is not certification that any and all acts taken while nominally present to do so are authorized and directed by the agency paying for photographs. If that is indeed a fact.  

It could be the employment was sought as a cover. Or not.  There were plenty of "students" with low course loads and lower grades, who somehow had the means to be involved in virtually every publicly acknowledged demonstration, protest, and antiwar organization on campus at most universities,at the time. The wag who dubbed the SDS "students who don't study" had a basis in observation in the field. The absence of a j.o.b. was pretty much standard for the "student organizers".  The string, in this case, remains unpulled.

The soviet bloc had plenty of agents running operatives, based on what can be deduced from research in the brief period their archives were open, after the fall. Money being made, money being paid. Some, I think, to "campus organizers".

There was also zero interest in checking the situation out.  Agents provocateur are one of the oldest dirty tricks in the book. The bolsheviki fought dirty as a matter of policy, any serious student of them knows that.

The possibility is never discussed, never investigated, unthinkable in an orwellian sense. 
Your response was absolutely expected. Argumentation by specious reasoning and repeated allegation has always been the hallmark of the crowd favoring the "agrarian reformers". First "the enemy is the National Guard,...oh. Well...revise that to read the FBI."

Balderdash.

The verdict of history is not with your thesis, for those alert enough to read it clearly.
Wake up.

pk said...

i heard from a little bird once (i was overseas at the time) that the liberal uprising really took off coincident with
lyndon johnson restricting the draft rules which then changed a great many of the protesters draft status to a more exposed situation. 

c