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Kent State: What Happened and Why Paperback – November, 1971

3.9 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett Crest Books; First Edition edition (November 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0011CX0Q2
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,978,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Schaffer on June 26, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just finished this book, and I don't know what book some of the other reviewers on this page were reading, but Michener certainly doesn't exonerate the National Guard, as Ohio law did, nor does he make a case for or against the war in Vietnam, other than to quote those who do (or don't). His negative stance on the radical SDS is based on the actions of the organization itself, which at its best was irresponsible, at its worst was criminal.

This book was fascinating. How Michener and his staff managed to do such detailed and intricate research, and compose and have published a 500-page book barely a year after the event, is nothing short of incredible. It's only drawback, as others have mentioned, is that it was written so close to the incident that there is no real "distance" perspective, and it made me want to read more current books on the subject.

I was six years old when the Kent State incident occured. I always knew of it, of course, but knew only the barest details. I'm a conservative guy, and I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the brave men and women in the military, especially those in harm's way defending OUR freedoms. But after reading this book, even I was saying, "why did these guys open fire?" There certainly didn't seem to be any need to. Some students were throwing rocks and tear-gas cannisters back at the Guard, but most evidence shows that they weren't any closer than 40 or 50 yards away at the most. I concluded (as does Michener) that those who fired into the crowd were mostly scared, poorly trained kids, most that had never seen any kind of combat, and that thought they were in more danger than they actually were.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed Michener's narrative. However, it was written so soon after the tragedy that it does not adequately cover the totality of the event or put it in a historical perspective. Also, he treats the early investigations inconsequentially. I do not understand how the Scranton Commission could conclude that the shootings were "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable." Yet, Michener had a tendency to rationalize and find excuses for the conduct of the National Guard. He was much too forgiving.
I have read several of the major books on Kent State and I think that William A. Gordon's "Four Dead in Ohio" is the most comprehensive and rewarding. Gordon provides perspective and logical arguments, even if some of the questions cannot be completely answered.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book paints a portrait of the Kent State campus at the time of the shootings in May 1970. Tom Bates' book Rads is a good companion volume, which describes the Madison bombing which occurred three months later. Either book describes how irresponsible activism and reaction led to senseless violence and innocent people getting killed or wounded. Michener clearly chose sides when writing his account, but he gives a pretty complete picture of what happened, when, where and why. Some details of the National Guard's conduct were not available to him when he wrote the book. The Kent State incident was one of the turning points for the public perception of the war and of and for those who opposed it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. This book was published about a year after Kent State shootings. Author and other researchers went to Kent and interviewed major and minor participants and witnesses. If you want to know what was happening at Kent State and on college campuses in 1970, this book is a must. This is a definitive work -- 500+ pages -- on THREE DAYS of activities in Kent and at KSU. HIGHLY recommended for people wishing to go beyond Wikipedia and blogs concerning the KSU shootings. Thoughtful writing, insightful weaving of interviews and facts, and perspective. Remember, this was written in 1971, so history will date some of the perspective. But the facts and interviews are incredible if you are interested in the shootings and/or campus unrest and student radicalism of the late 60s and early 70s. How did we all make it through? I feel embarrassed I didn't know about this book until 2014, despite my interest in this subject matter and several trip to KSU to see for myself. Better late than never, I guess.
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I was there. I was a graduate student at the time and was interviewed by Michener in Ray's Place. He was cordial and engaging and one of th most prolific writers of our time. This book, written in 1971, remains one of the truest depiction of events and their impact on students, the faculty and administration and the town. Only a subsequent text, written in 1973, appropriately titled "The Truth About Kent State: A challenge to the American Conscience" by Peter Davies wherein he called for a reopening of all official information on what one Ohio National Guardsman called "the four murders at Kent State." A tragedy that did not need to happen. Sylvester T. DelCorso, Commandant of the National Guard and Governor James Rhodes will feel the flames of hell forever for their part in these killings.
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This historical non-fiction opus is obviously backed up with very thorough research. Mr. Michener employed a team of assistants. Several of them were local and, as I recall, students. The author's testimony-based report of the three-days preceding the May 4 fatalities seems to be meticulous, and well-supported with extensive back story.
Concise biographical portraits of the four slain students are provided for the reader in a timely, seamless way. Mr. Michener's development of multiple, true story lines affords the reader a well-informed view into actual events. His seasoned, expertly fictional history as a teller of great historical epics lends this journalistic account a dramatic tension and denouement that is rare in non-fiction.
I read this book for research. As an author writing a novel about that period--when I also was a college student--I find that Michener's treatment of those fatal shootings at Kent State in May 1970 has provided exactly the historical background I was looking for.
A few short weeks after this tragedy happened, I left Louisiana to spend the summer of 1970 selling dictionaries in Ohio. When I returned to Louisiana for fall semester at LSU, I was wearing an "OHIO" T-shirt. Now I know why. There was a lot going on there that represented the soul of student discontent during the Vietnam war. Michener's extensive study explains a lot about what I--and many others in college at that time--were feeling. As Graham Nash had sung. . ."Four dead in Ohio," James A. Michener went up there to that war-torn state and dug up the facts on, not only the events, but the ascertainable motivations and angst that must have moved Allison, Jeff, Sandy and Bill to be in the Taylor Hall parking lot that fateful day.
This historical work is a landmark of the Boomer generation's ongoing search for itself.
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