Nation: Kent State: Martyrdom That Shook the Country

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Whose orders? At week's end there was still no answer. Canterbury insisted that "no one gave an order." That statement strains credibility. By Canterbury's own count, 16 or 17 men fired 35 rounds. They started at virtually the same moment and stopped at the same moment. Many civilian spectators at the scene and some officials seeking to reconstruct the event are convinced that an order was given. And someone made the initial mistake of ordering live ammunition distributed to all the men and permitting them to load their rifles—a procedure that is contrary to regular Army practice in civil disturbances. Once weapons are loaded, says one Pentagon officer, "you have effectively lost control of that unit. You have given them the license to fire." The Ohio Guard officers contend that loaded weapons have a deterrent value. No doubt. But no one informed the demonstrators that the troops had live ammunition. Nor were any warning shots fired. Those facts, together with the totally inadequate tactical leadership of the group that felt it was entrapped, raise serious doubts about the Guards' professionalism—and about the wisdom of the decision to employ them.

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