04 May 2020

Kent State audiotape analysis - updated and reposted

A 40-year-old audio recording of the moments just before Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on antiwar protesters at Kent State University will finally be professionally analyzed to try to determine if -- as some claim -- an order to shoot is audible.

The recording was made on May 4, 1970, by Terry Strubbe, a KSU communications student who set the microphone of his reel-to-reel tape recorder on his dorm room windowsill, turned on the machine, and went outside to watch the unfolding protest.

The chilling 30-minute tape is the only known audio that captured sounds before the shootings, the 13-second fusillade and its chaotic aftermath. Four students were killed and nine wounded in the incident, which spawned numerous inquiries and crystallized American sentiment about the unpopular Vietnam War.

The question of why 28 Guardsmen pivoted, raised their rifles, pistols and shotguns and fired 67 times at the students is the central mystery from that bloody Monday long ago.
Further details at Cleveland.com.  Iconic photo credit

Update:  The analysis reveals that an order was given to fire:
"Guard!" says a male voice on the recording, which two forensic audio experts enhanced and evaluated at the request of The Plain Dealer. Several seconds pass. Then, "All right, prepare to fire!"

"Get down!" someone shouts urgently, presumably in the crowd. Finally, "Guard! . . . " followed two seconds later by a long, booming volley of gunshots. The entire spoken sequence lasts 17 seconds...

The order indicates that the gunshots were not spontaneous, or in response to sniper fire, as some have suggested over the years...

"This is a real game-changer," Gordon said Saturday of the new analysis. "If the results can be verified, it means the Guardsmen perjured themselves extensively at the trials."

Nor can it reveal why the order was given. Guardsmen reported being pelted by rocks as they headed up Blanket Hill and some said they feared for their safety, but the closest person in the crowd was 60 feet away and there is nothing on the tape to indicate what prompted the soldiers to reverse course, and for the ready-to-shoot command to go out.
Reposted from 2010.

11 comments:

  1. As someone who was in the Army not long afterward (I was in 1971-74), the question that I have never heard either asked, nor answered is why were those National Guardsmen given/allowed ammunition in that situation? When we (regulars) trained for Anti-Riot Duty, we used empty magazines in our M-16's. They should not have had ammunition for their rifles, period. You are otherwise just asking for trouble, as witness what happened at Kent State.

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    1. I was in the Army as well, a bit earlier than DaBris. I was a medic in a Dust-Off unit, never trained for riot duty. I would assume that when you are training for riot duty, there is no expectation that you would need to fire a weapon. When you are actually on riot duty, there is a chance you may need that weapon. There are few things more useless than a weapon that is not loaded. What do you do if you come under fire in a riot situation? Point your weapon and yell "BANG?" Or turn and run? Recall that 2 days previously there was a riot and the ROTC building was set ablaze. Firefighters and police were pelted with rocks as they tried to fight the fire and control the crowd. None of that remotely justifies the NG soldiers firing randomly at students who were peacefully protesting on May 4th.

      The tragedy at Kent State was a result of poorly trained and prepared soldiers, and unbelievably incompetent leadership on the ground.

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  2. Reminds me so much of the Boston Massacre

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  3. My understanding is that the May 4, 1970 protests at Kent State were about the presence of the National Guard on campus?

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    Replies
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

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    2. The stated issue of the planned protest was the US presence in Cambodia. The protest had been planned for several days. A lot of the people who caused the trouble over the previous weekend were not students.

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    3. Maybe it was just one person:

      https://www.npr.org/2020/05/04/849927436/looking-back-on-kent-state-university-shooting-5-decades-ago

      JOSEPH LEWIS JR: My main reason for participating in the noon rally was to object to the invasion and occupation of our campus by the Ohio National Guard.

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  4. We should also not forget that less than 2 weeks later, 2 students were killed, and several more injured, at Jackson State University when a few dozen police opened fire on a dormitory during a student protest/disturbance.

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    Replies
    1. A video about the Jackson State killings:

      https://youtu.be/-TwjxRvA7Xk

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  5. Here is a history of the events of May 2-4, 1970, from Kent State University. Worth a quick read, IMO.

    https://www.kent.edu/may-4-historical-accuracy

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