67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence by Howard Means
Da Capo Press: 4/12/16
eBook review copy; 288 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780306823794
67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence by Howard
Means is a very highly recommended balanced account of the shootings at
Kent State on May 4, 1970 when four students died.
May 2020 will mark a half a century since the shootings at Kent State.
The tragedy of that day and the events over the three preceding days
should be noted by us today. It is rather startling to me to accept that
some people are oblivious about what transpired in 1970.As Winston
Churchill said, "Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to
As Means summarizes it: "The times, the war, the ’60s, a growing generational divide, the Age of
Aquarius, and the Age of Hate all collided at Kent State University at
12:24 p.m. on May 4, 1970, and four flesh-and-blood human beings - sons
and daughters, brothers and sisters - did not survive the wreckage."
There were three days of protests by students before the shootings. On
Friday, May 1st, the day after President Nixon's address to the nation
where he said that the Vietnam War would not be winding down, but
instead would be expanded into Cambodia, a small group of antiwar
protestors staged a demonstration on the campus of Kent State. Later
that night, fueled by the 3.2 beer available to 18 year-olds at that
time, students instigated a riot in downtown Kent where businesses were
damaged. The citizens of the town were understandably upset and
concerned for their safety.
A small group of students were equally upset and continued their
protests. The ROTC building on campus was burned down the next day. The
small force of police available was unable to protect the firemen who
came to put out the fire. Students were throwing rocks at them and
attacking the hoses, so the firemen retreated. This led to the governor
calling in the Ohio National Guard. Once the National Guard was in full
force throughout the town, but especially on campus, a face-off seemed
Kent State was put under military control and a curfew was put into
effect. Helicopters were flying, spotlighting any student out, not
following the curfew. During the day, students were protesting, throwing
rocks, feces, bags of urine, etc. at the guardsmen, many of which were
their age. As the tensions mounted and everyone, guardsmen and students
were suffering from a lack of sleep, a confrontation was inevitable.
What was known to everyone is that a group of students were planning a
protest rally at noon on the commons on Monday, May 4th. Rather than an
anti-war rally, the protest became a protest against the National Guard
presence on campus. The result was, as described by Means in the
synopsis, "both unavoidable and preventable: unavoidable in that all the
discordant forces of a
turbulent decade flowed together on May 4, 1970, on one Ohio campus;
preventable in that every party to the tragedy made the wrong choices at
the wrong time in the wrong place."
"At midday on May 4, 1970, after three days of protests, several
thousand students and the Ohio National Guard faced off at opposite ends
of the grassy campus Commons at Kent State University. At noon, the
Guard moved out. Twenty-four minutes later, Guardsmen launched a
13-second, 67-shot barrage that left four students dead and nine
wounded, one paralyzed for life."
Means does an excellent job presenting and taking all the facts,
information, memories, viewpoints, and events of those few days in May
into account and places everything in the context of the times with
objectivity in an equitable manner. It is an even-handed overview of all
the details and events that led up to the shootings, and the aftermath.
There are extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy
of Da Capo Press for review