DEAR ABBY: You recently published several letters on the Kent State killings that reflected your readers' prejudices, not the facts as determined by the official investigative bodies, particularly the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. Some of the myths your readers cling to cannot be adequately addressed in a short column, but I would, at least, like to set the record straight on a few points:
1. The anti-Vietnam War rally that the National Guard broke up at Kent State was peaceful until the Guard made what the President's Commission called a "highly questionable" decision to disperse the crowd. The President's Commission concluded: "There was no apparent impending violence. Only when the Guard attempted to disperse the rally did some students react violently."
2. Though the Guardsmen were subsequently subjected to some abuse, including some rock throwing, the notion that the Guardsmen had to fire because their lives were endangered by an uncontrollable mob was also disputed by every official investigation. The Justice Department concluded the shootings were "neither necessary nor proper." Similarly, the President's Commission concluded the killings were "unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable."
3. The students who were killed were not the same students who were responsible for the burning of the university's Army ROTC building or any other act of violence which occurred in the city of Kent the weekend before May 4, 1970.
4. On May 4, two of the four students who were killed had participated in the demonstration and may have at some point thrown rocks at the soldiers. The other two (an ROTC student and a coed carrying books to class) were strictly bystanders. The Justice Department concluded that because all four fatalities were located more than 300 feet from the firing soldiers, none were "in a position to pose even a remote danger to the National Guard at the time of the firing." -- WILLIAM A. GORDON, AUTHOR, "THE FOURTH OF MAY: KILLINGS AND COVER-UPS AT KENT STATE" (PROMETHEUS BOOKS, 1990)
DEAR MR. GORDON: Thank you for setting the record straight. I bought -- and read -- your book, a fascinating as well as factual account of what really took place at Kent State.