Kent State Tape Shows Order to Shoot

There are a lot of articles this weekend on the enhancement of a 1970 Kent State shooting audio recording, reporting new analysis provides evidence the Guards were ordered to shoot.

"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 tape was discovered in the library in 2007. Here's the recording released that year. Further analysis was performed this year by two experts. [More...]

The review was done by Stuart Allen and Tom Owen, two nationally respected forensic audio experts with decades of experience working with government and law enforcement agencies and private clients to decipher recorded information.

Allen is president and chief engineer of the Legal Services Group in Plainfield, N.J. Owen is president and CEO of Owl Investigations in Colonia, N.J. They donated their services because of the potential historical significance of the project.

Tom Owen was the tape expert I worked with during McVeigh. I spent days with him in New York analyzing audio and videos of the OKC bombing, like the security camera video the Government alleged showed McVeigh at a McDonalds 24 minutes before the Ryder truck was rented. (He was wearing different pants than those described by the employees at the body shop where the truck was rented.) He's very good.

Here's the latest version of the Kent State recording.

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    I was not going to (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Zorba on Sun May 09, 2010 at 03:43:03 PM EST
    comment on this, because it still, after forty years, upsets me and brings tears to my eyes.  I was a graduating senior in another Mid-Western university when the Kent State killings occurred, followed ten days later by the Jackson State killings.  I had been active in anti-war protests for quite awhile- nothing violent, no rocks thrown, but marches and demonstrations, yes.  It could have happened to any of us.  What got me really started in the anti-war movement was meeting and becoming friends with (three years earlier) a fellow student- an older student who was a Viet Nam veteran in a wheelchair, and active in Viet Nam Veterans Against the War.  The stories he told........That we could do these things to our fellow human beings across the sea, and that we could do these things to our own students and civilians who recognized the horrors perpetrated on the Viet Namese people (and to our own young men who were drafted into a war that they neither supported nor understood), that we could produce soldiers and Guardsmen who could do these things (and I am not blaming all members of the Armed Services for any of this, believe me.  There were the William Calleys over there, there were the Guardsmen and police here who could do such things, but there were also the Armed Services members who went because they were drafted, and just tried to do their jobs and get home alive)......and that there are still atrocities perpetrated on peoples of other countries, that we have learned nothing, nothing.  I'm sorry for rambling.  I still feel strongly about this, and everything that continues.  We have learned nothing, nothing.

    I'm glad you did comment (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by esmense on Sun May 09, 2010 at 04:57:17 PM EST
    My feelings about this are so overwhelming still, after all thse decades. It was such a momentous event, yet, the rush to downplay it, cover it over, minimizes its truth and significance was as terrible or worse than the event itself. This  nation seems unable to muster genuine moral outrage when circumstances cry out for it -- while the false and self-pitying fake outrage of smug, self-interested and incoherent people like the tea partiers is given outsized credence and attention. Did that (our inability to feel real moral outrage) start with Kent State? Or was it just that Kent State made me fully and undeniably aware of it?

    Kent State provided a brief, clear, undeniable glimpse at a reality that we try to obscure -- that as a nation we long ago committed to sacrificing our young (in needless war, through economic betrayal, with obscene drug laws, etc., etc, etc,) to protect profits (for a few powerful interests).

    The only outrage we feel about that is the outsized rage and fury unleashed if even a few of them try to stand up and shout "no."


    "Scare the Hell out of .. (none / 0) (#12)
    by jondee on Sun May 09, 2010 at 05:31:54 PM EST
    the American people", or words to that effect, were Vandenburg's words to Truman when it became obvious to Harry and his "wise men" that it would be too risky to attempt to scale down the post-WWII war economy that is still such an integral part of the transnational beast that was once a republic.

    Hence the hysteria, paranoia and corruption engendering put-up job which was the Cold War; which was the Domino Theory; which was the CIA's Murder Inc; which tore the country in half (to this day); which spawned Kent State..

    Those four students were just four more victims - of many, many - of the too big to fail..


    To quote Gen. Haig: (none / 0) (#15)
    by Donna Z on Sun May 09, 2010 at 06:33:25 PM EST
    There were lessons learned: "We learned to make better body armour, and smart bombs."

    That was from a conference on Vietnam and lessons learned held at the Kennedy Library a few years ago.


    As someone who hadn't yet been born (none / 0) (#24)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon May 10, 2010 at 11:56:25 AM EST
    I have to ask was Jackson St. widely known- because I've always used it as an example of the double standard between the coverage of white and black violence (the thesis that's commonly used is that black violence is only covered when African-American's are the perpetrators, or in modern times the victims of explicitly racist atttacks- hence Jackson St. in the 70s, or the rash of school shooting coverage in the 90s, where black-on-black school shootings were basically ignored).  

    To my recollection, there was (none / 0) (#25)
    by oculus on Mon May 10, 2010 at 12:00:18 PM EST
    not as much media coverage of Jackson State or Atlanta as of Kent State.

    No, JS wasn't covered (none / 0) (#26)
    by Zorba on Mon May 10, 2010 at 05:49:51 PM EST
    as much as Kent State. My friends in the Anti-War movement and I were very much aware of it, and we were upset at the time that it didn't get the coverage that Kent State did.  We always thought it was colored by the inherent racism of the times (which still, unfortunately, exists), and I still believe this.  

    ah, but that's exactly what you're doing: (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by cpinva on Mon May 10, 2010 at 05:05:40 AM EST
    Not meaning to be argumentative, but I see nothing new here other than a tape which they can't verify gives any command to fire.

    um, what, specifically, did you miss? the tape, verified nearly 40 years ago, as that made on 5-4-70, at kent state, of the actions of that particular event, have been re-analyzed, using state-of-the-art equipment.

    there is no question at all of the tape's bona fides, none, zero, nada. do i need to repeat that, for those who managed to miss it the first 300 times?

    what we have (and had then) is a case of multiple homocides, committed by multiple parties. murder has no statute of limitations, and jeopardy never attached. arrest, indict, and try all the remaining members of that guard unit, for first-degree murder. throw in conspiracy while you're at it. if the CO who gave the order is deceased, destroy his reputation publicly, and demand any benefits he/his family received be re-paid.

    oh, trash the then gov. too, just to be fair about it.

    bear in mind, orders to shoot unarmed civilians, who present no immediate threat to you, are illegal, period. following those orders is itself a crime, under the UCMJ.

    Again (none / 0) (#23)
    by CoralGables on Mon May 10, 2010 at 08:16:50 AM EST
    Even with the newest tape evaluation, there is still no evidence (as of yet) of an order to fire. If anything, the newest evidence appears to support the guardsmen (that acknowledged using their weapons) who testified that they started shooting spontaneously after initial gunshots and not by order.

    This newest evaluation helps prove they may have been a poorly trained guard unit, but I don't believe that has ever been in question.


    Is this correct? (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:03:04 PM EST

    No one paid any penalty for the police and National Guard killings at Kent State, Augusta or Jackson State. Eight of the Ohio guardsmen were eventually indicted by a grand jury, but in 1974 a US District Judge dismissed all charges against them, claiming the prosecution's case was too weak to put before a court.

    Why Would You Doubt It? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:13:52 PM EST
    Because it was written by "dirty" socialists?

    In May 2007, Alan Canfora, one of the injured protestors, demanded that the case be reopened, having found an audiotape in a Yale University government archive allegedly recording an order to fire ("Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!") just before the 13 second volley of shots.[32]
    Since discovering the tapes, Canfora has been trying to get authorities to reopen the case and use new technology to perform voice analysis.



    Just asking for confirmation as I did not (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:31:14 PM EST
    recall whether anyone was prosecuted for any of these terrible incidents.  

    Prosecuted, yes -- and whitewashed (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Cream City on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:39:53 PM EST
    to the everlasting shame of this country to this day.

    Ditto re the shootings ten days later at Jackson State, where hundreds of bullet holes still are to be seen in campus buildings today . . . even in (a women's) dorm room walls.


    OK (none / 0) (#9)
    by squeaky on Sun May 09, 2010 at 01:02:48 PM EST
    Although, not sure why you would not check yourself before casting doubt about a source. Not to mention that Andreas is a long time commenter here, who may have strong opinions but never, to my knowledge, has posted disinformation here.

    they didn't have the enhanced tape (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:12:05 PM EST
    From the news article link above:

    The Justice Department paid a Massachusetts acoustics firm, Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc., to scrutinize the recording in 1974 in support of the government's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prosecute eight Guardsmen for the shootings. That review, led by the company's chief scientist, James Barger, focused on the gunshot pattern and made no mention of a command readying the soldiers to fire.


    Using sophisticated software  initially developed for the KGB, the Soviet Union's national security agency, Allen weeded out extraneous noises - wind blowing across the microphone, and a low rumble from the tape recorder's motor and drive belt -- that obscured voices on the recording.

    He isolated individual words, first identifying them by their distinctive, spidery "waveform" traces on a computer screen, then boosting certain characteristics of the sound or slowing the playback to make out what was said. Owen independently corroborated Allen's work.

    For hours on Thursday, first in Allen's dim, equipment-packed lab in Plainfield and later in Owen's more spacious, equally high-tech shop in nearby Colonia, the two men pored over the crucial recording segment just before the gunfire. They looped each word, playing it over and over, tweaking various controls and listening intently until they agreed on its meaning.
    "That's clear as a bell," Owen said at one point as he and Allen replayed the phrase "Prepare to fire" on two large wall-mounted loudspeakers.

    They did have the testimony (none / 0) (#8)
    by Cream City on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:42:56 PM EST
    of Alan Canfora (reiterated in the recent videotape I linked here the other day) and others as to the otherwise inexplicable actions of at least a dozen of the Guardsmen, then in retreat, suddenly turning together all at once, clearly on an order -- and an order, as their actions also made clear, to shoot to kill.

    But such students' testimony was disregarded in the dismissal.  Dirty hippies, of course (although Canfora and every one of the students killed were good and even outstanding students -- and people).


    Also, (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:13:44 PM EST
    from the news article, the author of an exhaustive book on the shootings says:

    "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."

    FBI already said so, as I read (none / 0) (#6)
    by Cream City on Sun May 09, 2010 at 12:37:46 PM EST
    somewhere amid so much reading of so many books and articles and websites on Kent State.  The FBI investigation showed that the Guardsmen had lied in their trial testimony, but the trial was over by then (I wonder if it was rushed by the Ohio governor, himself implicated in this horror?).

    So I have wondered why there were not charges and trials for perjury, at least -- something, somehow, to punish those who shot down unarmed students, some going to class (including a ROTC student), killing so many and paralyzing one to this day as well as wounding so many others . . . and the psyches of my generation.  This event rent the societal fabric in so many ways still only patched over today.  Someone in the Guard ought to have paid.


    Avoid any occupation (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by jondee on Sun May 09, 2010 at 05:53:19 PM EST
    in which your livelihood depends upon being prepared to follow an order to commit murder.  

    Being there (none / 0) (#14)
    by Donna Z on Sun May 09, 2010 at 06:30:29 PM EST
    Yes, there was an order to shoot.

    My then boyfriend had just developed a roll of film, and thus his camera was freshly loaded. Standing on the hill by the architecture building, he was able to capture the scene unfolding. I've seen those pictures many times: the troops formed and knelt, Del Corso's arm goes up, the guns fire...and then they fired again. All in formation.

    After the roadblock was lifted, we headed for home. The roll was hidden in his mother's freezer until he could find a way to develop them. You see, every roll of film that was sent in to some commercial service came back as someone else's pictures. One of my friends received a children's birthday party. That being the case, my boyfriend waited for a private place. Eventually the pictures appeared in the red darkroom light; however, they have never been made public.


    We returned to Kent and our off-campus house, once things settled. On a near daily basis strange men roamed our neighborhood, asking about "a man in a yellow shirt." I don't think my boyfriend ever wore that shirt again. Fear. I think that May 4th made me understand about justice in America, or the lack there of. Those pictures would have turned our life into hell.

    Click, click, click....I've seen the order given.

    I don't know why I'm writing about this today. Maybe enough time has past, enough white wash has been applied to assure the authorities that they are safe, or maybe I'm just tired of government lies and liars who tell them.


    You and your ex-boyfriend (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Peter G on Sun May 09, 2010 at 09:31:10 PM EST
    have a duty to history to make those pictures available to historians, Donna.  You could contact those reporters for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who commissioned the new study of the tape, for example.  Just my opinion.  (That day was a powerful turning point in my life, too, just as Zorba and Esmense discuss in their earlier comments (@10-11).  I was a junior at a small Eastern college, but otherwise, their comments could be mine.)

    I agree (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Donna Z on Sun May 09, 2010 at 10:02:01 PM EST
    Although I haven't been in touch with him for a long time, I do know those who can reach him. It is time for those 24 pictures to go public. He's a good photographer with a fine telephoto lens.

    My mind's images of the day are still quite clear, but one thing totally freaked me out. I had a very good friend who was living with a good friend. She stopped by my place often to talk. Anyway, what she didn't say was that she was cheating. The other man was Jeffery Miller. When Jeff was shot his roommate ran home...maybe 10 min. away. Jeff was the only political among the four dead; Allison was much more of a flower child. The roommate rounded up all of the political evidence and burned it. A few minutes later the Feds arrived...they knew everything about Jeff...everything including his relationship with Nancy. I find that creepy.

    I don't know why I'm writing about this tonight except that in the back of my mind considering the new video, I too think it's time.  


    I've been sitting here (none / 0) (#18)
    by sj on Sun May 09, 2010 at 10:05:10 PM EST
    ...reading your comment.

    I've heard before about the child's birthday party pictures.

    That's a pretty heavy burden to carry for so long.


    Kent State photos (none / 0) (#27)
    by j mangels on Fri May 14, 2010 at 01:25:28 PM EST

    I'm John Mangels, the reporter for The Plain Dealer who wrote the story about the Kent State audio tape. I'd very much like to talk with you about the photographs you mention in your comment. Would you please contact me at 216-999-4842 or jmangels@plaind.com ?

    Thank you.


    Not meaning to be (none / 0) (#19)
    by CoralGables on Sun May 09, 2010 at 10:11:25 PM EST
    argumentative, but I see nothing new here other than a tape which they can't verify gives any command to fire.

    Not saying it's not there, but even after this most recent analysis there is still no proof showing the command was given.

    Even based on this new evidence, "Kent State Tape Shows Order to Shoot" sounds like an overhyped opening statement from a prosecutor.

    I've been thinking a good criminal (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Sun May 09, 2010 at 10:28:14 PM EST
    defense attorney would have a field day with this "enhancement."

    The Hard Hat Riot... (none / 0) (#21)
    by desertswine on Sun May 09, 2010 at 10:31:04 PM EST
    May 8, 1970, post Kent State.