Fifty years ago today at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard gunned down four students and wounded nine more during a demonstration against the invasion of Cambodia. The tragedy inspired Neil Young to write the epic social commentary "Ohio" for his band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. (Video below.)
Above is the Isley Brothers's masterful and moving medley of "Ohio" and Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun" from their 1971 album Givin' It Back.
If you don't know, now you know.
From John Lombardi's coverage of the Kent State Massacre in Rolling Stone's June 11th, 1970 issue:
“A lot of the Guards were young and they looked scared,” [24-year-old Howard] Ruffner remembers, and then some kid with a black flag was down in front of them trying to get the students to charge. “Kill the pigs! The pigggs!!” he was screaming and the gas blew in clouds. But this time the students were picking up the canisters and throwing them back, and it didn’t even matter that the gas wasn’t having much effect, was in fact blowing up and over the heads of the combatants in the strong wind and back toward the football field where it managed to burn the eyes and lungs of some people who wanted nothing to do with any of this, including a blind student and his girlfriend who were crawling along the Spring grass in panic, digging at their tearing eyes and vomiting. A lot of kids who had just been standing around watching began to yell then, and everything got louder.
The Guards had run out of tear gas and were retreating up the hill, to the left of Taylor Hall, when some of the students began to throw rocks. “They were pretty small and I didn’t see any-body get hit bad … mostly in the feet,” Ruffner says, but the cries had now be-come “Pigs off campus!” and “Fuck the pigs!” and then one Guardsman stopped running. He turned, picked up a rock and threw it back. For a moment it was silent and the Guards reached the top of the hill, near the Wishing Well. Quickly, they turned, it looked like a maneuver to Ruffner, and four of them dropped in a line, others were kneeling and some were standing, like a Revolutionary War tableaux. They were pointing their rifles up in the air, down at the ground, and some straight ahead. People were yelling “It’s only blanks!” but then an explosion seemed to crack the rifle barrels, the sound lasting a long time, 35 rounds going off at once, and bodies were falling all around.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Ruffner remembers. “I dropped down on top of my cameras up near Taylor. When I looked up, a lot of people were crying and the Guards were marching away, down toward the Commons. I saw this one kid [Jeffrey Glean Miller, 20] lying on his face in the road and there was a lot of blood. There was no question that he was dead. A girl was screaming.”
And for a look back: "How 13 Seconds Changed Kent State University Forever" (Smithsonian)