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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Witnessed: The Killings At Kent State

Aired May 4, 2014 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to this CNN special report WITNESSED: THE KILLINGS AT KENT STATE.

On May 4th, 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of students on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Some were part of a campus protest against the Vietnam War. Others were merely bystanders. Thirteen students were shot by the Guardsmen, four of them died.

Looking back, it's been suggested by some that something like the Kent State incident was bound to happen. Some anti-war demonstrations over the country were becoming increasingly violent. But live ammunition had never been used on a crowd of anti-war demonstrators until this day.

The shootings shocked the nation. Many have called it the moment the war came home. And for 44 years survivors of the Kent State tragedy have asked the simple question, "How could this have happened?"

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWD: No more war.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time has come for the finest (ph) government in the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The National Guard and other law enforcers are harassed by rock throwing and name calling, and at Kent State in Ohio, four students were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave this area immediately. Leave this area immediately.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not going to take over campus.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the smoke clears, the Guardsmen have fired 61 shots -- four students, two of them bystanders, are dead. Nine are wounded.

NIXON: And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.

ALAN CANFORA, FORMER STUDENT AT KENT STATE: When Nixon first was elected he said he had a secret plan to end the war. He announced that he was bringing some troops home. And we thought that was a good trend.

My name is Alan Canfora. I was 21-years-old. I was a junior here at Kent State. I was an experienced anti-war activist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anti-war demonstrators protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in mass marches, rallies and demonstrations.

LAURA DAVIS, FORMER STUDENT AT KENT STATE: I think the protest movement by 1970 it was very much a part of the culture.

My name is Laura Davis. I was 18 years old and a freshman at Kent State in May 4th of 1970.

DEAN KAHLER, FORMER STUDENT AT KENT STATE: I have very strong views about not just the war in Vietnam, but all wars. You know, we're human beings, we have something between our ears that most animals do not. And so we can make decisions. We can compromise. We can work out solutions to problems.

My name is Dean Kahler. I was a student at Kent State University in that May of 1970. I was 20 years old.

(MUSIC)

CARL BERNSTEIN, "WASHINGTON POST": The country was divided against the war or for the war. Other wars there had been great support for -- for World War II, even for Korea to a large extent. This was unheard of. The country had turned against a war.

(MUSIC)

BERNSTEIN: I think that Kent State is part of a much larger and hugely important part of our history.

(MUSIC)

BERNSTEIN: It represented how far the anti-war movement had come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The estimated 125,000 Manhattan marchers include students, housewives, beatniks, poets, doctors, businessmen, teachers, priests and nuns. Makeup and costumes were bizarre. Before the parade, mass draft card burning was urged.

BERNSTEIN: We'd never seen anything like this. And nor had we ever seen certainly in the streets in this country such great numbers of people demonstrating against the actions of their government -- every major city in America. In Washington by then, we had had dozens of demonstrations. We had at the "Washington Post", I was one of maybe a dozen reporters who almost specialized in coverage of these demonstrations. CAPT. RON SNYDER, NATIONAL GUARD: We'd been given the finger and shouted at and cussed at and be rated. We were mostly patriotic and military and we didn't know why it was turning that way.

I'm Captain Ron Snyder. I was company commander in the Ohio National Guard of C Company First Battalion 145th Infantry. I was 32 years old in 1970 at the Kent State incident. We did not really realize the dissident mood of Kent State University.

BERNSTEIN: The country was convulsed and had been now for a few years. And Nixon, meanwhile, believed that his ability to prosecute the war the way he wanted to, the freedom to really bomb freely as he wanted to, to use more aggressive and build up more forces was being constrained by the anti-war movement which he and Kissinger regarded the anti-war movement as subversive. In fact he uses that term in some of his utterances.

And so the antipathy of the White House to the anti-war movement was absolutely huge. And the anti-war movement toward the presidency of Richard Nixon was -- the antipathy was huge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nixon is definitely looking at students as the enemies in the country right now. We are going to have to go underground, you know? I think it looks pretty bad for us.

NIXON: Good evening, my fellow Americans.

DAVIS: I think most people, before Nixon gave his speech on April 30th, did believe his policy that he was going to bring the war to an end.

NIXON: I have concluded that the time has come for action. In cooperation with the Armed Forces of South Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian/Vietnam border.

DAVIS: When he came out instead on April 30th and said he sent troops into Cambodia, it very definitely was felt as a broken promise.

NIXON: This is not an invasion of Cambodia. The areas in which these attacks will be launched are completely occupied and controlled by North Vietnamese forces. Our purpose is not to occupy the areas. Once enemy forces are driven out of these sanctuaries and once their military supplies are destroyed, we will withdraw.

KAHLER: I remember walking back from the tavern that I was in where I watched the speech. And it was one of those times when you walk into a tavern and everybody's got their notebooks out, the TV's turned on and everybody's whispering and talking instead of the jukebox playing.

And then when Richard Nixon started speaking, I felt like I was in a class again. And when he talked about invading Cambodia, it just -- the whole place erupted and just people were angry.

CANFORA: When Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia, I was in my apartment on West Summit Street with my roommates and some of our friends. As soon as he made that announcement, we were very upset, very angry. People started cursing. And we started talking seriously.

We were very angry because six days earlier we had attended the funeral of the brother of one of our roommates here in Kent. He was killed in Vietnam -- 19 years old. We made a vow at that cemetery, that at our next opportunity we would take our own powerful anti-war actions in Kent to send a message to President Nixon to stop the war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIXON: I have concluded that the time has come for action.

CROWD: No more war. No more war.

(MUSIC)

NIXON: You know, you see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world -- going to the greatest universities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very hard to explain the young people today -- the rage that was felt about this war and about the conduct of the government.

CROWD: End the war, end the war, end the war.

CAROLE BARBATO, FORMER KENT STATE STUDENT: Just like 133 other college campus, Kent State went out in protests.

I'm Carole Barbato, in 1970 I was a junior at Kent State.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven young and earnest protesters burned draft cards on the steps of a Boston courthouse.

BARBATO: Mostly people were shocked when a Vietnam veteran ran burned his discharge papers and another student burned his draft card, which was shocking, you know, to this Midwest area.

JERRY LEWIS, FORMER PROFESSOR AT KENT STATE: The war was not ending and, in fact, it was spreading. And this, of course, affected every young man who had to deal with the draft. There were reports of casualties every night on television, and some people describe this as our first television war.

My name's jerry M. Lewis, I'm emeritus professor of sociology. On May 4th, I was a faculty marshal.

CHUCK AYERS, FORMER STUDENT AT KENT STATE: When Nixon went on TV and announced the invasion of Cambodia and it's like everything changed from that point on. Everything on campus felt different. That was Thursday night.

My name is Chuck Ayers, I was an art student at Kent State in 1970. Friday morning I heard that the students were going to bury the Constitution and went to that rally and took photographs.

DAVIS: Students burying the constitution symbolically said Nixon had murdered it, which was one of the common ideas about Nixon's relationship to the war at that time. It was an undeclared war because he hadn't consulted Congress.

CANFORA: Friday evening we went downtown. There were about 300 other anti-war, long-haired type people there on North Water Street. So we joined the crowd. We intended to be somewhat militant. Some windows were broken in the banks downtown Kent. We thought that was enough. It seemed to be the most significant anti-war action probably in the history of Kent.

LEROY SATROM, FORMER MAYOR OF KENT: I am distressed and appalled at the destruction within the city during the past eight hours. As mayor, I have declared an emergency exists and a curfew will be in effect at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 2nd, 1970.

CANFORA: The next evening there was a curfew in the town at 8:00 p.m. So everybody started going up to the campus and the natural gathering place was on the Kent State Commons which was right next to the ROTC building. The crowd grew from 300 to 2,000. And that's when the students started to assault the ROTC Building.

Then the police came, they fired tear gas and they chased us away. When we left the area the building was not on fire. We came back about a half hour later and the building was fully engulfed in flames. That building was burned after we were all departed from the area. The building was under the control of the police and the sheriff's department and to this day we don't know how that fire really did get started.

BARBATO: Nobody was ever charged with the burning of the ROTC building, although admittedly students did try to burn the building down. But it is still a mystery as to how it got fully engulfed in flames to this day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Kent State in Ohio, a campus that has known trouble before, the burning of the ROTC building prompts Ohio governor James Rhodes to call out the National Guard.

DAVIS: The governor was always ready to dispatch troops to college campuses. He was noted for that.

SNYDER: It was about 6:00 in the evening on Saturday. I was told we were going to deploy to Kent State. By this time it was getting pretty dark. And as we come up over the rise entering Portage County, the sky was lit up. I didn't know if it was the ROTC building. I didn't know if it was campus buildings. I didn't know if it was downtown Kent on fire.

I mean it was severe. It told me that the situation was much more serious than I had originally anticipated.

DOUG FULLER, FORMER KENT STATE STUDENT: It just seemed like it was overkill. You just couldn't turn around without bumping into another National Guardsman.

I didn't really object to that initially. I thought maybe this will help calm things down. My feeling was that they were there to kind of protect students, too.

My name's Doug Fuller. I was a student at Kent State in 1970. I was a sophomore at that time. I wasn't radical by any means. I wasn't downtown doing things I shouldn't have been doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 800 Guardsmen went on to the campus 400 more went into the city. So it was a total of about 1,200 National Guardsmen with jeeps, trucks and these armored vehicles that looked like tanks. So it was really like a military takeover of our campus and the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: nor Rhodes was in the primary election for the nomination for senate on Tuesday, May 5th. So, so many of us felt that this was just a political ploy on his part. He was running for senate using jobs and progress and law and order as his mantra for running.

JAMES RHODES, FORMER GOVERNOR OF OHIO: These people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize a community. They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. And I want to say that they're not going to take over campus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all how long do you expect to keep the guards on campus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll answer that. Until we get rid of them.

SNYDER: We have been given a lot of intelligence information, too, by both the police and whoever. It had been dispensed all the way down to our companies and that was basically that there was guns, explosives, I think the phrase they used outside agitators, people came to town to cause more problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For many students deeply opposed to the war, the National Guard was the living symbol of the military system they detested.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was angry that the guards were here and it was my campus, I have a right to be here. I felt like we'd been invaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that (inaudible) helicopters flying were around in and around the buildings, troops were marching in formation around the dormitories. People were, you know, driving their (inaudible) trucks with troops sitting in there, with their rifles in their hands. And it was just a beehive of activity.

AYERS: When you're 22 or 20 or 19, it's a pretty exhilarating thing to have happen where you essentially live.

CANFORA: Some people say a revolution is a festival of the oppressed. It is kind of an upbeat, fun thing, kind of festive as long as you're not being attacked by the law enforcement people.

KAHLER: But then after it got dark and people were gathered up there, everything changed. The mood changed. Students became very defensive, became worried, became frightened about what was going to happen next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By order of the governor, the National Guard will remain in the Kent community and campus until its leadership decides their departure is safe. Events have taken those decisions out of university hands.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Kent State in Ohio, a campus that has known trouble before, the burning of the ROTC building prompts Ohio Governor James Rhodes to call out the National Guard. There is no question that the students are obscene and mocking to the Guardsmen, and that rocks and many objects are thrown.

(MUSIC)

FULLER: That day was a gorgeous day. I knew there was a rally planned on campus, but quite frankly, I had a class at 1:00 and I wanted to eat lunch so I figured I'm not going to bother with a rally. But when I get outside the building, I saw the crowd of people standing there. So I started to listen.

DAVIS: People were in clusters at one end of an area on the campus called The Commons. And then 500 feet away at the other end of the commons and at the site where the ROTC building had burned, there was a row of 100 or so Guardsmen standing.

SNYDER: We moved up to the area of the burned-out ROTC building where we were told form a line. I encountered General Canterbury at the time, Major Jones. They had told me at that time that there was going to be a rally and it was illegal. If they did this, that we would probably have to disperse them.

CANFORA: I was carrying two black protest flags to symbolize my anger about the war situation but also about the death of my friend in Vietnam.

KAHLER: By the time noon came, it was almost 2,000 or 3,000 people there.

CANFORA: We were mainly chanting anti-war and anti-guard slogans.

CROWD: Pigs off campus. Pigs off campus. SNYDER: They were watching us, we were watching them. They were hurling insults, and every once in a while a rock or two -- nothing spectacular, nothing that would cause us to react.

AYERS: I thought this was going to be perfect for my photography class. Went out and saw the kids on the common and heard the bell and saw the guards sent out a jeep to tell everybody this is an illegal gathering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave this area immediately. Leave this area immediately.

AYERS: And that was the part that -- where I really started to get angry because it was on the campus. Nobody was doing anything but standing in a group.

SNYDER: General Canterbury said, "Ok, we're going to have to disperse them because it's an illegal assembly." With that I called my grenadiers forward and we fired teargas on to the hill and in front of them.

KAHLER: I never imagined that the National Guard would determine that they had to break up the crowd, that we were illegally on the hillside and that we needed to get out of there. And so I didn't like that. I thought, man, you guys aren't even giving us a chance.

CANFORA: I was about 150 away, 50 yards away from the National Guard. I was shouting at them, mostly anti-war slogans, but perhaps a few insults if I remember correctly.

I saw that they were aiming at me. They had their fingers on the triggers. I felt that my life was in danger, but still I thought it was unlikely that they would shoot. We all ran away back over the hill behind us. And we were very surprised to see the Guardsmen come over the hill and chase us.

KAHLER: And when they reached the top of the hill, being a farm boy and a country boy, I saw them wheel with their rifles and I knew what that intention was.

DAVIS: I saw them turn in unison, lift their rifles in unison and start to fire.

SNYDER: The first thing that I seen is what was later I perceived to be Jeffrey Miller running toward the Guardsmen. And I seen him hit right away. Seen where he fell.

KAHLER: Jumping on the ground, covering my head and praying that I wouldn't get hit. And I heard bullets hitting the ground around me. I'm thinking, why are they shooting at me? There's nobody around me. I'm almost a football field away from them. I couldn't imagine why they were shooting at me. Then I got shot.

CANFORA: I jumped behind a tree. It turned out that tree was the only tree in the direct line of fire. It was an oak tree. One guy was already standing up behind the tree. And I ducked behind him so that tree saved both of us because we could hear bullets hitting the tree, bullets zipping through the air and ripping through the grass. As I got behind the tree, I felt a bullet enter into my right wrist and it came out through the side. At that moment I felt a sense of disbelief. I couldn't believe that I'd been shot.

DAVIS: I immediately went into what I can only describe as a state of shock. I didn't move. I froze. And I was with a friend at that time, and she pulled me into the back of the door, people were holding open that door and we went into the building and into the lobby. I was clinging at her just sobbing and saying, why did they shoot? Why did they shoot?

SNYDER: I don't think it lasted more than 10 to 13 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooting stopped, the screaming stopped for a quick second, and then it started all over again. The screaming. Only this time it was more of a blood curdling scream because now people were getting up and they were seeing the blood streaming from Jeffrey Miller's body and the other students who were killed and the other students who were wounded were really bleeding profusely. Students were now gathering around me. And it seemed like forever. And finally got in an ambulance and was whisked off the campus.

SNYDER: I had no idea what happened. But I know it was over. I took a squad and I moved forward to check to see who was wounded, who wasn't and how many ambulances was needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came back over the hill. And there was a number of students injured and dead. The number of people including myself just formed circles around those people that were injured. There were students that I knew were dead and a whole bunch more that were wounded. I had no idea at that moment how many.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know the National Guard had bullets in their weapons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't really know. After I thought they were firing, I thought they were shooting blanks. And I got shot, then I knew they weren't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have three of these students are in ICU. Two are in surgery at the present time. Three were dead on arrival. One died after arrival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, let me ask you the fatalities were caused by gunshots, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

DEAN KAHLER, KENT STATE FRESHMAN, 1970: I was shot in the back just below the left shoulder blade. My legs got real tight, then they relaxed. And I couldn't feel anything. Because I reached down to tap my legs. I had injuries to my diaphragm and my vertebras and my spinal cord were damaged. ALAN CANFORA, KENT STATE JUNIOR, 1970: It was very painful, it was bloody. The bullet went in my wrist and out, it passed through my wrist. It was a very powerful bullet.

LAURA DAVIS, KENT STATE FRESHMAN, 1970: I came out of the building and walked up the access drive that Jeff Miller had fallen in. Jeff Miller is the person in the iconic photo. And I saw Jeff after he had been shot, and I don't remember the blood. I just remember seeing him lying face down on the pavement.

CAROLE BARBATOS, KENT STATE JUNIOR, 1970: A young man had a flag, and in extreme horror and frustration, just dipped it in Jeffrey's blood that was like a river. It was quite horrible. And was whipping it around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like the end of the world.

RUSS MILLER, JEFFREY MILLER'S BROTHER: My brother is Jeffrey Miller. My mom called my brother's apartment at Kent to find out, are you OK. One of his roommates answers the phone and just kind of matter of factly says, he's dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My childhood friend, Sandy Scheuer, was among those who were killed. She was on her way from her art class to her exam in music and speech. She was just absolutely the most amazing, charming young woman. She had a heart as big as anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember a girl who lived in my dorm coming up and telling me Allison had been shot. That turned out to be Allison Krause.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allison was an anti-war activist. That weekend she sent a telegram to President Nixon protesting the invasion of Cambodia.

DAVIS: I walked on a little bit further, and I saw a person that I would later know was Bill Schroeder, and Bill was alive. He'd been turned over on his back and his knees were propped up and I remember seeing his knees weaving back and forth. He was another one of the four students who would die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill was a psychology major. He was a ROTC cadet. He loved basketball. He loved the outdoors. He loved photography. I knew that something very grave had happened, but I didn't process in my mind that there were people who actually had died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw bullet holes in trees and signs and sculpture, and I saw them carting away bodies. We didn't know what to do exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were outraged, but we decided to go back down to the Commons and stand by the Victory Bell.

DOUG FULLER, KENT STATE FRESHMAN, 1970: A number of us, must have been a thousand, maybe more, came back over the hill and were stopped from going any further and sat down on the side of the hill. I remember at that time being so angry for what had happened, that if someone at that moment had said, let's rush them, them being the guard, let's do something, I probably would have followed along. I never in my whole life been that upset with anything.

DAVIS: Before too long, Glen Frank, who was the professor of my geology class that Allison was in, began pacing back and forth in front of these rows that we were sitting in. And he was crying. And I had never seen a grown man cry. What he was saying was that he believed that if we didn't leave, that we would be shot, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care if whether you've never listened to anyone before in your lives. I am begging you right now, if you don't disperse right now, they're going to move in and it can only be a slaughter. Would you please listen to me! Jesus Christ, I don't want to be a part of this!

JERRY LEWIS, KENT STATE FACULTY MARSHAL, 1970: I call it a prayer. I think he ends with the phrase Jesus Christ, I don't want to be part of this. And in many ways that's a prayer to the students saying, "Don't continue your protest."

RON SNYDER, OHIO NATIONAL GUARD, 1970: These two professors came out and met with the students and begged them, actually, to listen to them and to leave. And I think that that was very heroic, actually, because I'd been told by General Canterbury that if they rushed us, that we were authorized to shoot. And I didn't want any of that to happen.

RICHARD NIXON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I wonder what the facts are, I've asked for the facts. When I get them, I'll have something to say about it. But I do know that when you do have a situation of a crowd throwing rocks and the National Guard is called in, that there is always the chance that it will escalate into the kind of a tragedy that happened at Kent State. And if there's one thing I am personally committed to, it's this - I saw the pictures of those four youngsters the day after that tragedy. And I vowed then that we were going to find methods that would be more effective to deal with these problems of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were very popular students around the campus. They were well known. These weren't bums, as President Nixon said a few days before the shootings. Allison, Jeffrey, Sandy and Bill were all-American kids. They loved their country. They loved their families. And they didn't deserve to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Kent State tragedy remains one of the greatest murder mysteries in American history. There's a big question, did the National Guard commanders issue an order to fire? They've always denied that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) later on give highly contradictory accounts of why and where they fired. Some say there was a sniper but this was clearly not the case. Many claimed they were hit by rocks and bottles. Most said they fired because they heard others fire or because after the shooting began, they assumed an order to fire had been had been given, which they had not heard.

SNYDER: I talked with one guardsman who has passed away now, and he definitely felt his life was in danger. He thought that they were being rushed and they were going to be overrun. And when the shooting started, he fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shifted the blame. They said the shooters fired because their lives were in danger. That was their story on May 4th, 1970, immediately after the shootings and they've stuck by that story all these years.

KAHLER: I've got some hate mail. Let's call it what it is. What it was. The first card I opened up was a hate letter. It was actually a card. A very nice get well card. When I opened it up it said dear hippie communist radical. I hope by the time you read this, you are dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most were sorry anybody had to be hurt but felt the students had brought the trouble on themselves. By tearing up the downtown section, they forced officials to call in the National Guard.

LEWIS: The Scranton Commission came in. The president's commission on campus unrest, which pointed out that Sandy Scheuer who was on her way to class was over 130 yards away from the guard.

MILLER: This is a quote from the Scranton Commission Report. It says, "Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently no order to fire was given and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was perhaps the most visible and vocal protester that day, waving my black flag, shouting at the guard. So I really do believe that I became a target. I think other students as well, like Jeff Miller, Allison Krause.

MILLER: All the facts that have come out over the years have certainly confirmed that these were just kids that were just going to school and they just didn't like war and they just thought we shouldn't be in the war, and that was the only way they knew that they could say so. There was never a doubt in my mind that my brother was ever anything more than just a student that hated war.

DAVIS: My memories is a silent film playing and seeing that absolute synchronous motion that lifting of the rifles into position with a synchronous motion and then starting to shoot. Rationally, I don't think that synchronicity of movement could have been achieved without an order to fire.

GEN. ROBERT CANTERBURY, OHIO NATIONAL GUARD, 1970: We canvas all officers to determine whether anyone had given an order to fire. The answer was negative.

CANFORA: in 2006, after some significant research was conducted at Yale University, I secured a digital CD copy of a tape recording that was made on May 4th, 1970. A student named Terry Streube made a small reel-to-reel recording of the rally and ultimately the shooting. When I got that CD from Yale and I listened to it in 2006, I heard a verbal command which I thought was "Right here, get set, point, fire."

I challenged the news media and the government to verify whether or not that order to fire is on that recording.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do fully believe that the audiotape will be further analyzed and that we will have a good reliable documented transcript, but why that command was given I think will always be somewhat of a mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My hope is some day, somebody on their deathbed will speak or somebody will have written their thoughts and their views and what they were told, what they were told not to say, what they were told to say, what they were ordered to do at some point in time somewhere in the future, we will be able to find this information out. I may be dead by then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there are many secrets that survive more than a day or two and especially 44 years. Had there been anybody that gave an order to fire, I don't think any of that would have been kept secret.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No National Guardsmen, no public official is indicted and the case is to fester through the rest of the decade.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't understand May 4th without understanding what it was like to grow up in the '60s, because what it was like to grow up in the '60s tells you why none of those students left when they were told to leave. They were holding their ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kent State in some ways was the end of the '60s and certainly the beginning of the '70s, but with all that was going on, students today could not imagine what life was like back in those days. With Martin Luther King being assassinated, Bobby Kennedy being assassinated, with civil rights through the music of the '70s, there were just so many major social things occurring at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I talked to the people who are like Vietnam veterans and World War II veterans and things like that, and they will talk about a moment in time that changes absolutely everything. But when I walked out of that little office with my camera to take pictures of that, I was a completely different person than that person 30 minutes later. Nothing in my life was the same after that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Kent State University. I think in a small way, I helped Kent State University survive, as many of us did, by honoring and remembering the students in the spirit of what's on the memorial.

I think we have been looking forward to the day which is coming soon when we can say that we have destroyed the cover-up at Kent State, so for the sake of history, to prevent this type of an incident on another campus in the future here in America, I think we can say that we finally achieved that goal.

(MUSIC PLAYING) Four dead in Ohio, four dead in Ohio.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There were numerous investigations and court cases, both civil and criminal, in the years after the shootings. No guardsmen ever testified of hearing an order to fire at the students. That audiotape from May 4 with a possible command to fire was determined to be inconclusive and the Justice Department declined to reopen the investigation into those shootings.

The survivors however of the shootings continue to hope that one day, they will have answers about how and why this tragedy happened. I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for watching.