Americans are remembering The Kent State Massacre today. And well they should.
When those National Guard troops opened fire on the students the world went flip-flop for a lot of us. Above left, is a handbill passed out five days after the shootings, encouraging Americans to stop the war and to get us out of Cambodia. Many were concerned that Nixon was extending the war in Vietnam to another country, and more people would die. More would have to be drafted. The very idea of going into Cambodia inflamed way activists.
What most Americans didn't know (and I'd hazard to say don't know today) is that when when we went into Cambodia it was an attempt to win the war by taking out their command and control headquarters. It was common knowledge they hid just within Cambodia's borders knowing that we couldn't come across or we'd spark an international uproar. Nixon took a big chance when he announced the invasion of Cambodia on May 1st, 1970. He gave us the okay to go after them. The American public roared with indignation....fanned by anti-war protestors who saw this invasion as proof the war would never end.
My squad (we were Army combat engineers/demolition experts) went into Cambodia in April. We had been briefed and were attached to an element of Marines. The choppers took us up to the Cambodian border and dropped us off, and we humped into the interior. During the course of action on May 4th, we were ambushed and I lost my best friend. The next day I found out from a war correspondent what happened at Kent State University.
You cannot imagine how disillusioned I was. I was never Gung Ho. Just doing my job and trying to stay alive. But, when I thought I'd be involved in ending the war, I have to admit I was excited. I'll tell you how stupid I was. I thought I'd come home a hero for being involved in the Cambodian Campaign. Then all hell broke out in the states, and we were told to stop chasing the NVA and to go back into Vietnam. The damage was done all around. The public was pissed and we were mad. Mad that we didn't get to take our full shot at getting the NVA leaders. I was mad because I knew my friend died for no reason.
You cannot begin to understand what it was like, unless you were in Vietnam that year. Morale was already at an all time low. We were fragging our officers. We were smoking dope and mainlining H. The Army gave us "cross whites" (same same speed) when we were in the field to "stay alert." There was an underground contract on a Marine general among the people in his command. It was as close to hell on earth as you can imagine.
So when I hear people talking about those students that were murdered on May 4th, 1970, I have mixed feelings. They were in "the world" and I was in hell. Yes, four students died that day. So did 18 American soldiers and Marines in Cambodia who thought they were doing the right thing. Un-experienced National Guardsmen panicked and made everyone in the active military pay the price. We are still paying it today.
As It Stands, there's always more to the story, and that's true of what happened on May 4th, 1970.
images via Google