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Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State

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Four Dead in Ohio is the first major reappraisal of the May 4, 1970 killings of four students at Kent State. The book is based on a 19-year investigation by William A. Gordon, a 1973 KSU graduate and an author whose relentless pursuit of answers earned him the reputation of being "the Boswell of Kent State." During his investigation, Gordon conducted over 200 formal interv Four Dead in Ohio is the first major reappraisal of the May 4, 1970 killings of four students at Kent State. The book is based on a 19-year investigation by William A. Gordon, a 1973 KSU graduate and an author whose relentless pursuit of answers earned him the reputation of being "the Boswell of Kent State." During his investigation, Gordon conducted over 200 formal interviews and spoke informally with each of the eight Ohio National Guardsmen who were criminally prosecuted, as well as many other key players in the drama (students, professors, White House and Justice Department officials, attorneys representing the various parties, the parents of the slain students, and various law enforcement officials). Gordon also attended the two major trials and unearthed both official and private documents in the archives at Yale, Kent State, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Nixon archives. The book also draws on the FBI's 8,000-page investigative file and other government records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Four Dead in Ohio re-examines the many different theories advanced for the shootings, as well as other unsolved mysteries of May 4. Gordon concluded: 1. There was no conspiracy among the enlisted Guardsmen, but there was probably a localized order to fire issued by one of the officers at the scene. 2. The Justice Department tried to convince a federal grand jury to indict the Guardsmen on conspiracy charges, but the grand jurors balked. Instead, the soldiers were charged with violating the victims' rights to due process. (They were subsequently acquitted by a federal judge.) 3. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover felt the victims deserved to be shot. 4. Hoover eagerly followed President Nixon's instructions to discredit accurate news reports that the shootings were unnecessary and the Guardsmen could be criminally charged. 5. Both the FBI and campus police covered up the actions of Terry Norman, a part-time Kent State student and undercover photographer who was initially suspected of firing the first shot. 6. The university prevented the public from learning that six of its police officers approached KSU administrators and alleged that their police chief was too drunk during the R.O.T.C. fire on May 2, 1970 to stop the arsonists. A subsequent university investigation determined that the fire could have been easily prevented if the police had done their job. The book also raises questions about why: 1. No student or Guardsmen indicted by the grand juries ever spent a day in jail as a result of the various criminal proceedings; 2. Several soldiers removed their identifying name tags; 3. A high school student, George Walter Harrington, who admitted to the FBI that he played an important role in the R.O.T.C. fire, was never prosecuted nor publicly identified before now; 4. The Nixon White House insisted on closely monitoring the progress of the FBI's investigation; 5. A student named Robert Freeman, who FBI files suggest was hit by shrapnel, was never identified as a possible 14th victim of the tragedy; and 6. A well-known sociology professor, just days after championing Kent State's few remaining radicals, did a bizarre 180 degree political turnaround and became an informant against the families of those killed.


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Four Dead in Ohio is the first major reappraisal of the May 4, 1970 killings of four students at Kent State. The book is based on a 19-year investigation by William A. Gordon, a 1973 KSU graduate and an author whose relentless pursuit of answers earned him the reputation of being "the Boswell of Kent State." During his investigation, Gordon conducted over 200 formal interv Four Dead in Ohio is the first major reappraisal of the May 4, 1970 killings of four students at Kent State. The book is based on a 19-year investigation by William A. Gordon, a 1973 KSU graduate and an author whose relentless pursuit of answers earned him the reputation of being "the Boswell of Kent State." During his investigation, Gordon conducted over 200 formal interviews and spoke informally with each of the eight Ohio National Guardsmen who were criminally prosecuted, as well as many other key players in the drama (students, professors, White House and Justice Department officials, attorneys representing the various parties, the parents of the slain students, and various law enforcement officials). Gordon also attended the two major trials and unearthed both official and private documents in the archives at Yale, Kent State, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Nixon archives. The book also draws on the FBI's 8,000-page investigative file and other government records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Four Dead in Ohio re-examines the many different theories advanced for the shootings, as well as other unsolved mysteries of May 4. Gordon concluded: 1. There was no conspiracy among the enlisted Guardsmen, but there was probably a localized order to fire issued by one of the officers at the scene. 2. The Justice Department tried to convince a federal grand jury to indict the Guardsmen on conspiracy charges, but the grand jurors balked. Instead, the soldiers were charged with violating the victims' rights to due process. (They were subsequently acquitted by a federal judge.) 3. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover felt the victims deserved to be shot. 4. Hoover eagerly followed President Nixon's instructions to discredit accurate news reports that the shootings were unnecessary and the Guardsmen could be criminally charged. 5. Both the FBI and campus police covered up the actions of Terry Norman, a part-time Kent State student and undercover photographer who was initially suspected of firing the first shot. 6. The university prevented the public from learning that six of its police officers approached KSU administrators and alleged that their police chief was too drunk during the R.O.T.C. fire on May 2, 1970 to stop the arsonists. A subsequent university investigation determined that the fire could have been easily prevented if the police had done their job. The book also raises questions about why: 1. No student or Guardsmen indicted by the grand juries ever spent a day in jail as a result of the various criminal proceedings; 2. Several soldiers removed their identifying name tags; 3. A high school student, George Walter Harrington, who admitted to the FBI that he played an important role in the R.O.T.C. fire, was never prosecuted nor publicly identified before now; 4. The Nixon White House insisted on closely monitoring the progress of the FBI's investigation; 5. A student named Robert Freeman, who FBI files suggest was hit by shrapnel, was never identified as a possible 14th victim of the tragedy; and 6. A well-known sociology professor, just days after championing Kent State's few remaining radicals, did a bizarre 180 degree political turnaround and became an informant against the families of those killed.

42 review for Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Smith

    Knowing very little about the Kent State shootings in 1970 I picked up this book at the library, it being one of the few I could find on the topic. It is disappointing. Maybe my expectation was inappropriate but the story of the shootings themselves is given very superficial treatment. The vast majority of the book is given over to the subsequent criminal and civil cases and the background to them. As a result one is not really much the wiser about the events themselves and crucially, there is lit Knowing very little about the Kent State shootings in 1970 I picked up this book at the library, it being one of the few I could find on the topic. It is disappointing. Maybe my expectation was inappropriate but the story of the shootings themselves is given very superficial treatment. The vast majority of the book is given over to the subsequent criminal and civil cases and the background to them. As a result one is not really much the wiser about the events themselves and crucially, there is little information on the victims (4 were killed) so one doesn't feel any connection to those killed or wounded. Maybe that wasn't the intent but it lessons the impact considerably, and it becomes an admittedly well written thesis on the legal processes after the event and that lacks emotion

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary H.

    Some interesting details but what most I think suspected to be true after so many years. May have relevant issues if unfamiliar with the event or the student uprisings.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Well-researched but has the same pitfalls as many self-published books. Mainly typos. At least this one had photographs.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carl Wells

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Balson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  8. 4 out of 5

    Judson

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adam Crown

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Umbaugh

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Murtha

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Perry

  13. 4 out of 5

    Annii

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hayden

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Croghan

  16. 4 out of 5

    James Willis

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wendi Sopher

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gilbert

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Douglas

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  22. 4 out of 5

    Crazycarl

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scuppers

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brad Sara

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annii Frazer

  27. 4 out of 5

    Randall Christopher

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charles T.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul Lindars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dixie Diamond

  31. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Andres

  32. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

  33. 4 out of 5

    ethan

  34. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  35. 4 out of 5

    Zach Poczik

  36. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  37. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  38. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Rubenstahl

  39. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  40. 5 out of 5

    Kara

  41. 5 out of 5

    John

  42. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Lewis

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