Kent State Shootings


In above Corbis photo, Mary Vecchio is seen running at the rightmost corner


John Paul Filo’s Pulizer Prize Winning Photo [altered photo, below left]



Sixty-seven rounds of ammunition were fired over 13 seconds. They killed four students, wounded nine others, resulting in one permanent paralysis. It was May 4th 1970. The scene was Kent State University in Ohio. Unpopularity of the Vietnam War was at its peak that spring, and with the invasion of Cambodia a week before, the tension was fever-pitch. The Ohio National Guard fired at students protesters.

Among the most potent images to emerge from the incident is this photo of 14-year-old runaway from Florida Mary Vecchio wailing over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of the slain students. John Filo was in the student photography lab when the shots rang out. He ran outside. “I didn’t react visually,” he recalled. “This girl came up and knelt over the body and let out a God-awful scream that made me click the camera.” Other photographers also captured the scene from other angles.

Filo’s photo reached AP via a small Ohio daily. The New York Times used it on the front cover, three columns wide. NBC’s Huntley Brinkley Report held the image on screen for seven seconds, in silence.  It would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

The bullets were supposed to be blanks, the shooters later testified that they used the real ones because they were in fear for their lives, which was doubtful based on their distance from the protesters. “Triggers were not pulled accidentally at Kent State”, Time magazine wrote.

The tragedy at Kent stateset off a nationwide student strike participated by no fewer than eight million students. Two thirds of colleges in New England closed. In California, Governor Ronald Reagan closed 121 colleges of the state education system. Hundreds of colleges and universities came to a standstill.

Vecchio was accused by Florida’s Governor Claude Kirk of being planted by the Communists. She later ran away from home again, sent to a juvenile home, and was arrested for loitering and marijuana possession. She later admitted that the picture “destroyed my life”. An editor had airbrushed the fence post above Ms. Vecchio’s head out of the photo in the 70s and the altered photo has been reprinted in many magazines since.

17 thoughts on “Kent State Shootings

  1. Vietnam. The Middle East. I wish this nightmare called the United (Corporations) of America would wake up already! War, violence, greed. Will the death rattle ever stop shaking?

    • Your ignorance is profound and wreckless, and reveals a grave lack of understanding and an underlying selfish smugness. THAT is the true death rattle of this nation. You may live here, but this is NOT your country.

    • Maybe if we get idiots like Obama out of office.

      We used to be a nation that prided ourselves on democracy. Now people like Obama and the 99% protesters are nothing but communist. It is sad that we simply can’t kick the communist/socialistic pigs out of the country and go back to have people work instead of live off the government.

      • Take off the FOX glasses and look at the reality of this nation and this world. And look up “communist,” first thing.

      • Are you loony? This was 1970? What does Obama have to do with this? This happened under a Republican Administration, Nixon!

  2. I was in college in Ohio in 1970 and the National Guard troops that were called to police the campuses were in some cases younger than the students. It was a tragedy, but you can not imagine the hostility and insults that these “students” threw along with anything in their hands at these guardsmen who were supposed to keep order. Countries and people make terrible mistakes, the difference is the U.S. keeps working at it. I invite all that find fault and pontificate on how terrible our nation is to search out any country that has done a better job of righting its wrongs, and please young anti-corporate wannabes what are you doing on Goggle, one of our most successful corporations.

    • This article is a good example of why guns should not be taken away from the people. What is to stop the National Guard from opening fire again.

      Yes we all make mistakes. This is obvious by Obama being re-elected. Sure give the guy a chance, but after 4 years and you still have a 10% unemployment rate… It’s time to move on; not go double or nothing.

      This shooting proves that the government will not always be the good guys with their guns. Disarming Americans today will just lead to more instances where the government starts believing that they are above the law.

      • Are you suggesting that Kent State would have worked out all right if the students had been able to FIRE BACK???? This is insane.

    • This was one wrong that was never righted. Much later, a report by the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest stated “that the action of the guardsmen had been ‘unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable’.” Guardsmen initially claimed they had been fired upon by a sniper. An FBI investigation found this to be a complete fabrication. [If they had actually been fired upon by a sniper is the best response to fire randomly into an armed, nonviolent group of students, the nearest of which was over 50 yards away, and one of those killed was a student walking to class 400 yards away.]

      Eight guardsmen were indicted but the charges were dismissed because “of a lack of evidence.” A civil lawsuit brought by the parents of the murdered students, and those who had been wounded, including one who suffered complete, permanent paralysis, was eventually settled for a token: $675,000 and an apology.

      Here is the important point. The Kent State massacre, as well as the less publicized Jackson State shooting two weeks later, were only extreme examples of the government of my county, and yours, the United States of America, attempting to turn dissent into treason.

      The Bush administration did the same thing during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. You supported the invasion, or you were un-American, at best. This label was applied to the Dixie Chicks, Tim Robbins, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many others who expressed opposition to the biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam.

      Marie, if your view is widespread, that any “mistake” the United States makes, whether it be violations of the Geneva Convention Agreements (torture, rendition, secret prisons, and all the rest); or the invasion of a country that had neither weapons of mass destruction, or anything to do with 9/11 (this is what Nazi Germany did – invade other countries for any reason, or for no reason); are justified because other nations sometimes behave even more poorly, may God help us.

      • Yes; there was a concerted campaign to demonize the protesters; could gunfire have been far behind? Our government and its agents must be held accountable for its actions, just as our citizens must be. And nonviolence must be met with nonviolence.

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