The Plain Dealer
May 3, 2010
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.
Some of the soldiers, who had been pelted by rocks before the shooting, said students were advancing on them and they feared for their lives, although the presidential commission that investigated the event found that the leading edge of the crowd was at least 60 feet away.
A few students and Guardsmen claimed they heard something that sounded like an order to fire, but most of the men who acknowledged using their weapons later testified they acted spontaneously. The presidential commission, while acknowledging that the facts were in “bitter dispute,” reported that “the weight of evidence” indicated no such firing command was given, either verbally or by gesture.