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Tin soldiers and Nixon

May 2016

On 22 May 2016, I visited Kent State University, the site of the Kent State shootings where, on 4 May 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired upon unarmed students protesting President Nixon and the bombing campaign of Cambodia.  The campus has the May 4 Museum, a monument to the students who died and a self-guided walking tour of the shooting site.  I was inspired to write the following poem:


They sang about 4 dead

On a university campus in Ohio

Sixty-seven shots fired

At students protesting the Cambodian invasion

Free speech can have consequences

But death should never be one of them

All it took was 13 seconds

And 4 young voices were silenced forever

What began as a protest in near the Victory Bell in the Commons

 A grassy knoll in the centre of the campus

They were ordered to clear the Commons and refused

So Ohio National Guardsmen fixed bayonets and advanced

The students retreated up Blanket Hill, past Taylor Hall

The guardsmen followed and after reaching the Pagoda

Fired their rifles on the students gathered in the parking lot below

On that bright sunny day

Jeffrey Miller, Alison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Sheuer

Were killed

Joseph Lewis, Jr., John Cleary, Thomas Mark Grace, Alan Canafora, Dean Kahler, Alan Wrentmore, James Russell, Robert Stamps, Donald Scott MacKenzie were all wounded

While Miller and Krause were active participants in the protest

Scheuer and Schroeder, who was coincidentally a member of the campus ROTC Battalion,

Were simply walking from one class to their next when shot

A cruel twist of fate

Photos of the shooting were distributed across the world, including the photo of Mary Ann Vecchio

Kneeling over the lifeless body of Jeffrey Miller

Screaming out in horror at what she had just seen

Taken by Kent State photojournalism student John Filo

The haunting picture became an ingrained image in the anti-Vietnam movement

A movement that caused the only nationwide student strike in U.S. history

With over 4 million students protested and hundreds of American colleges and universities

Eight of the guardsmen were charged

But all charges were dismissed

A civil suit was launched

In the end, $675,000 was the value of 4 dead and 9 wounded

Thirty-seven years later, a long lost reel-to-reel tape surfaced

The only known audio-recording of the shooting

Recorded by Kent State Communications student Terry Strubbe

It clearly revealed that an order to fire had been given to the guardsmen

Now all that the dead left behind for their families

Are the photos and memories of their lives

Ones cut down too short

On a sunny day in May

Now a monument to the victims sits beside Taylor Hall, with individual monuments to each of the deceased

Placed at the spot where they fell that day in May

When 13 shots rang out

And the innocence of Kent State ended

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/tin-soldiers-and-nixon/

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