Military men never lie?

Justin Stine

Around noon on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard was ordered to disperse the peaceful crowd of students gathered on the Commons behind Taylor Hall. Then, at 12:18 p .m., approximately six minutes before the guardsmen aimed and fired, they formed a V-shaped march and looked as if they were going to retreat back to the ruins of the ROTC building where they were stationed.

Just before they “retreated,” they formed a circle around each other. Witnesses say this meeting of guardsmen looked similar to a football huddle. One crucial question arises from this situation. And along with this question comes the idea of why I, and many others, think that there was a conspiracy at Kent State.

Author James Michener said it best when he put it this way: “When the Guard went into their huddle on the practice field, was there an order that they should fire when they reached the pagoda?” He goes on to say it would appear “They must have been ordered by some officer to assume this frightening and provocative position.”

Some members of the Guard claim there was no order to fire. They said they just followed the guardsman who fired the first shot. It’s impossible for that many men to act in unison and spontaneously turn around and fire 67 shots into the crowd of students in a matter of just 13 seconds. That is, it’s only impossible without a verbal order to fire, or a previously discussed consensus among the guardsmen to fire when they reached the pagoda.

The FBI investigation of the tragedy said there was indeed “some kind of rough verbal agreement” to fire at the students. According to the book The Truth About Kent State by Peter Davies, five members of Troop G eventually did admit firing into the crowd of students, but none of them was ever questioned as to who gave the order or why it was given. Nor have any of them been subject to cross-examination. With that being said, maybe the FBI and the White House are also both involved in this conspiracy?

Another interesting fact is apparent when Gen. Robert Canterbury testified to the Scranton Commission. In his testimony, he said that a “mob” of students was charging at the guardsmen and had come within “four or five yards.” First of all, photographs taken just seconds before the murders clearly disprove this statement, as no students are seen anywhere close to the proximity in which Canterbury described them to be. Secondly, the closest student killed was approximately 275 feet away from the Guard.

When Gen. S. T. del Corso was questioned about when a guardsman is able to fire his weapon, he said “only in self-defense, to protect the life of himself or another individual.” Both the FBI investigation and the report from the Scranton Commission concluded the lives of the guardsmen were not in danger, and therefore self-defense was not a reasonable justification for firing.

But I guess none of that matters. I guess the military never does anything wrong and it never makes any mistakes. As Davies said in his book, “If soldiers say they fired in self-defense, then they did, since military men never lie.”

Justin Stine is an electronic media productions major, the treasurer of the May 4 Task Force and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].