Today marks the 41th anniversary of the murder of four antiwar protesters at the hands of Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University, but the full truth of this seminal event still is not known and may never be.
The major lingering question is whether the guardsmen, who fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, were ordered to open fire on the more than 1,000 people, who were protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia for the third straight day, or whether they believed that they were being fired on by a sniper, the story promoted by Ohio Governor James Rhodes but never confirmed.
Rhodes had ordered the guardsmen to the campus after the university's ROTC building was set afire and rocks were thrown at police and firemen.
That question may now be answered because an audio recording of the moments before the guardsmen opened fire with their M1 rifles has been professionally analyzed to try to determine if an order to fire is audible. It is.
The recording was made by a Kent State communications student who set the microphone of his reel-to-reel tape recorder on the windowsill of his dormitory room before he went outside to watch the protest.
The analysis shows that the apparent order for the guardsmen to fire, as well as passage of more than a minute between the last supposed pistol shot and the Guard's gunshots, raises doubts about a connection between the two events. This lends credence to the view that they did not believe they were being fired on but responded to an order to fire on the protesters.