On May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio, 28 National Guardsmen fired their weapons at a group of anti-war protesters on the Kent State University campus, killing four students, wounding eight and paralyzing another of permanently. The tragedy was a turning point for a nation divided by the conflict in Vietnam and further galvanized the anti-war movement.
Two days earlier, on May 2, National Guard soldiers were called to Kent to quell student riots in protest against the Vietnam War and the American invasion of Cambodia. The following day, scattered demonstrations were dispersed by tear gas and, on May 4, classes resumed at Kent State University. By noon that day, despite the ban on rallies, some 2,000 people had gathered on campus. National Guard troops arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse, fired tear gas, and advanced against the students with bayonets attached to their rifles. Some demonstrators, refusing to give in, responded by throwing stones and verbally mocking the troops.
A few minutes later, without firing a warning shot, the guards fired more than 60 bullets at a group of protesters in a nearby parking lot, killing four and injuring nine. The closest victim was 20 meters away and the farthest was almost 250 meters away. After a period of disbelief, shock and first aid attempts, angry students gathered on a nearby slope and were again ordered to move by the guards. Faculty members were able to convince the group to disperse and further bloodshed was avoided.
The shooting led to demonstrations on university campuses across the country. The photographs of the massacre have become lasting images of the anti-war movement. In 1974, at the end of a criminal investigation, a federal court dropped all charges against eight Ohio National Guards for their role in the deaths of students in Kent State.