Friday, April 22, 2016

Howard Means's "67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence"

Howard Means is the author or coauthor of many books, including Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story, the first biography of Colin Powell and Louis Freeh’s bestselling memoir My FBI.

Means applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence, and reported the following:
Page 99 is more a pivot point in 67 Shots than a representative moment, but I do think it reveals, in Ford Madox Ford’s phrase, the “quality of the whole.” The famous 13-second, 67-shot barrage is over. On the other side of Blanket Hill, near the center of the Kent State campus, four students are dead, nine wounded. The wail of ambulances has replaced horrified screams. The action now has moved back to the Commons, where the confrontation began a little over half an hour earlier, at noon on Monday, May 4, 1970.

At the far end, near the burned-out ruins of the Army ROTC building, the National Guard has regrouped — more than a hundred men strong, most armed with M1 battle rifles, and now with blood in the air. At the other end are massed more than a thousand students. A hard core of twenty or so have large “X’s” hastily painted on their chests and backs and across their foreheads.

General Robert Canterbury, the Guard mission commander, has sent word up and down the line that if the students charge, Guardsmen are to fire in self-defense. In the hysteria of the moment, many students seem ready to do just that. As one remembered, “You felt like you were invincible because you were so angry about what happened.”

We pick up Page 99 here:
The math here gets truly appalling. If only the conveniently self-targeted students, stripped to the waist, had charged the Guard line, they would have been mowed down long before they reached the halfway point across the Commons. Gas masks were off. Sighting would have been easy and motivation strong. Had that first wave been followed by a second or third wave of students, sucked into the vortex of irrationality by the killing in front of them, the dead and wounded would, of course, had grown exponentially. The Guard had that .50-calibre machine gun, mounted and ready on a jeep. Even without new magazines for the Guardsmen who had emptied theirs on the other side of Blanket Hill, 70 or more M1s stood ready with 8 rounds to the magazines—560 of those long, skinny .30–06 projectiles leaving muzzles with 2,500 foot-pounds of energy, each one squeeze away from firing. Any students who survived that barrage were sure to be met by fixed bayonets as they descended on Guard lines.
How that second and potentially far worse crisis is narrowly averted is a complex tale involving multiple players, none more important or heroic than a crew-cut ex-Marine, geology professor Glenn Frank … but that gets us to Page 100.
Learn more about the book and author at Howard Means's website.

The Page 99 Test: Johnny Appleseed.

My Book, The Movie: 67 Shots.

Writers Read: Howard Means.

--Marshal Zeringue