mary ann vecchio

USA. Ohio. Kent. May 4, 1970. Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14 year-old student, kneels beside Jeffrey Milley who’d been shot by the National Guard. Though the photo that first circulated turned out to be manipulated, this is the original, un-doctored version. This picture won the Pulitzer Prize.

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University and involved the shooting of college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen fired into a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounded another nine—some marching against the Vietnam War and American invasion of Cambodia, some walking by or observing the protest from a distance. 

Guardsmen had on the previous day used tear gas to disperse protesters and, by May 4th, rallies were banned and classes resumed. But 2,000 people gathered in what quickly turned into confrontation. Tear gas and bayonets were met with rocks and verbal taunts, which were met with more than 60 rounds of gunfire. In 1974, all charges were dropped against eight of the Guardsmen involved. There were 28 guards who admitted to firing on top of the hill, 25 of these guards fired 55 rounds into the air and into the ground, 2 of the guards fired .45cal pistol shots, 2 into the crowd, and 3 into the air, one guard fired birdshot into the air. The guardsmen fired 61 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.

Photograph: John Filo/Getty