How LIFE Magazine Covered the Kent State Shootings in 1970

“Ohio’- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. 50 years ago today -Monday May 4, 1970-I can tell you where I was at what I was doing. I was nine years old and my grandparents had taken me on my first trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. We were at the Hall of Fame that day and afterwards when we got to the car and had the radio on the reports were coming in on what was happening at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio- about an hour and a half from where I lived.

Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of fellow student Jeffrey Miller during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970. Four students were killed when Ohio National Guard troops fired at some 600 anti-war demonstrators. A cropped version of this image won the Pulitzer Prize.

Twenty-eight Ohio State National Guardsmen 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds into a mass of unarmed college students who were protesting against the bombing of Cambodia by the United States military. Four students were killed and none others were wounded. Not all the students who were shot were involved in the protest- some were just walking by-going to class and happened to be observers. Of the four killed the closest one to the guardsmen was 265 feet away from them- the rest were well over 300 feet away- a football field. The four killed were Jeffrey Miller 20, Allison Krause 19, William Schroeder  19 and Sandra Scheuer 20.


Neil Young wrote the song “Ohio” after seeing photographs of the massacre in Life Magazine. On May 21, 1970 less than three weeks after Kent State- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young went into the studio and recorded the song. “Ohio” was recorded live in just a few takes. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had a single on the charts at the time “Teach Your Children” but the record company rush released “Ohio” was a single- backed by Stephen Stills song to the war’s dead “The Cost Of Freedom.” Neil Young would later say in liner notes to his Decade compilation that the Kent State incident was ‘the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning” and that “David Crosby cried when we finished the take.” Crosby is the one you hear during the fade out of the song saying “Four, why did they die?” and “How many more?” The single would peak at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.


    • I was 9 but remember it very well. Very bad day- and a turning point event. It still makes me shake my head to think by 1970- that anyone supported the war.

    • I was almost your age. It’s actually not the war protest that I remember about this. It was the violence in the name of the government, turned against its own people; and responsibility never claimed. Other university towns across the country, including mine, were also experiencing deadly violence. We had the National Guard on patrol, and a city-wide curfew, and the threat of martial law. I can still say it was the scariest time in my life. No one knew when or how the violence would eventually subside. Kent State is a scab that will never heal, and probably shouldn’t.

  1. Along with slavery, the Vietnam War is a terrible stain on America’s history. A bit of trivia: Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders was a student at Kent State at the time, and knew one of the victims, who was the boyfriend of one of her friends.

    • my late friend- the musician/ artist Daniel Johnston had an art professor who had Chrissie in his classes at KSU. Said she was quite the independent individual even back then… In watching a few programs over the weekend on May 4, 1970- shocking to hear some of the personal stories. One young man afterwards went back to his home- the door was locked no one would answer- finally underneath the door a paper came out- saying we don’t want to ever see you again…heartbreaking. Early on I can at least understand some being supportive of the war- but by the late 60’s- only the brainwashed could have been… One girl said she went home- she was THERE- and her father said that they all should have been shot.. numbing…

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