John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: August, 2020

A Time of Rage: Part Two

Part Two, The National Attitude

How could volunteer citizen-soldiers deliberately shoot thirteen American college students on the campus of their university? If you did not live through the upheavals of the 1960s, you cannot imagine how divided our country had become by 1970.

Beginning in 1963, “baby boomers” reached college age and by 1967, they flooded every grade level making the college population a significant part of American society. They were unlike the smaller, docile classes of “Depression born” or “War babies.” These boomers made demands for radical changes that these institutions had not experienced before and were ill equipped to understand.

It began with freedom of expression and racial equality. Dress codes, appearance codes, types of organizations permitted on campus and acceptable behavior were challenged.

Even though the Supreme Court had declared segregation and “separate but equal” null and void in 1954, it had taken ten years for an effective Civil Rights Act to be passed and for segregated colleges in the South and “lily white” mainstream universities in the North to open their doors to black students. Once they gained admission, African Americans also demanded a greater voice, a greater presence, and the creation of programs that focused on issues important to them. Other issues followed pertaining to sexual liberation and gender equality.

But the greatest anger and protests were reserved for that “damn war” in Viet Nam. Protests erupted on colleges across the nation from Berkley to Columbia. Administrators reacted by attempting to crush them and restore order, first with campus guards, then by summoning local police, then escalating to include state police and finally, national guard troops. Radical students countered with their own escalated upheavals. They seized offices and buildings daring police and troops to come and get them. Some of the riots ended peacefully after demands over real or imagined injustices were met. Others ended in assaults using tear gas, Billy clubs and brutality. Hate was the winner.

 I graduated in 1965 when most college campuses remained as dormant and politically uninteresting as they had been since World War II. “Better dead than Red” and the question of defending the islands of Quemoy and Matsu, a divided Berlin, Cuba and the missile showdown with the USSR were major debatable issues. Only President John Kennedy’s assassination darkened our days, but that was a national tragedy that united us in sorrow.

 I was five years out of college in 1970, married with a six-month old daughter. We lived in Middle Village, Queens, a mostly conservative, Irish-Italian-Catholic and Jewish community of attached one-family brick houses. I worked as a cargo surveyor for an independent firm based on Park Row across from City Hall Park. My biggest concern was how to make ends meet on one salary now that my wife had stopped teaching after the birth of our daughter.

I had also joined the New York National Guard in 1965 to avoid the draft. My unit was based in an armory in Hempstead, Long Island. My commitment to serve for six years. However, my outfit had been federalized because of a mail strike and, in return for this short spell on active duty, my commitment was reduced by one year. Even though my military obligation ended in 1970, I still related to the shootings in Ohio.

 Fortunately, our unit had never been activated to deal with student or racial unrest, but following the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, we underwent riot-control training.

Because Hempstead was a town with a sizable African-American population, local politicians wanted to keep this training quiet. Instead of practicing in the open equipment area behind the armory, we were trucked to a Naval Reserve site in trendy Sands Point on the so called “Gold Coast” of Long Island for training. We constructed streets and intersections using sticks and tape. One third of the fellows stripped to their tee shirts and played the rioters. The rest of us, in full gear including gas masks, fixed bayonets to our M1 rifles formed “V” shaped skirmish lines and marched in a slow cadence toward the rioters.

 Perhaps it was because we were one unit. Perhaps we didn’t know what to do and there were no professional policemen to guide us, but we were unsuccessful in moving the rioters who simply sat down. Tempers flared as officers and sergeants became impatient. One lieutenant struck a “rioter” in the face with the butt of a rifle to get him to move. Rather than having the desired effect, the “rioters” became enraged and the lieutenant had to be removed before a real mutiny ensued.

Two other things struck me that day. The first involved our location, the Naval Reserve Center fronted onto Middle Neck Road, the main thoroughfare that cut through Sands Point. It was a gorgeous sunny day and young male and female Sands Point residents parked their Corvettes, Thunderbirds and Mustang convertibles along the road. Having these preppy, pretty, wealthy children observe us as they relaxed on the hoods of their cars with their backs against the windshields made a weird experience weirder.

The second was troubling. On one occasion, I found myself at the point of the V. Wearing a gas mask limited my field of vision preventing me from seeing the soldier on either side of me, not even their protruding rifles and bayonets. This gave me the nagging feeling of being all alone. To my horror, I realized I would have been petrified if this were the real thing!

It was unfathomable to consider that if this were a real riot, those in command would issue live ammunition to ill trained and undisciplined troops like us.

We returned to the trucks for the ride back to the armory. As our two and one-half ton trucks headed south on Port Washington Boulevard, residents looked at us quizzically wondering what this troop movement was all about.

Part Three, Black Friday

New York City

Violent demonstrations spread throughout the land as radio and television broadcast the news about the shootings. The news on Wednesday included stories of students leaving their schools to take their rage into the hearts of the cities; their aim, to block traffic and disrupt business. Faculty members and administrators gave students tacit approval to boycott classes for the remainder of the week.

On Thursday, May 7th, thousands of students from New York City and suburban colleges joined two massive protests, one at Battery Park, the other on Wall Street. They ultimately merged at the Sub Treasury Building at the corner of Wall, Broad and Nassau Streets, the heart of the financial district. Plans were made to escalate the protests on Friday, blocking highways, bridges and tunnels.

Mayor Lindsay ordered the flag on City Hall and all other municipal buildings lowered to half-staff. He asked the school chancellor to close all city schools on Friday, May 8th, declaring it: “A Day of Reflection.”

The student protestors had captured the sympathy of the press and city government. Newspapers, television and radio depicted the story of student outrage. Lindsay chose municipal guilt and mourning.

Friday morning, I followed my usual routine, walking south along Park Row from the Chambers Street subway station and past City Hall. I sensed an ominous difference. Construction workers had gathered at City Hall Park. They loitered there talking, smoking and drinking coffee. “Funny,” I thought. “Shouldn’t they be at work?”

When I reached the office, I mentioned this to my boss, Don Lamont.

He replied, “You know John, I came from the PATH Station and I saw the same thing by the World Trade Center construction site. I didn’t see anyone working. Instead the men were milling around at ground level.”

“Don, do you mind if I don’t go on any surveys today? I have a funny feeling this is related to the scheduled protests and I want to go out on the street to see what happens.”

“Okay, but for God’s sake, don’t get hurt.” I promised him I would be careful as I left the office.

A Time of Rage: Part One


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santana 1869 -1952

I wrote the original version of A Time of Rage in 2003 to leave a record of that time in my life when I personally witnessed events that would sorely test our domestic tranquility to the point that the situation was close to being in doubt.

America was being consumed by hate, strife, conflict and rage. The war in Viet Nam was the prime mover, but racial turmoil exacerbated our national fear and loathing. The assassination of Martin Luther King set inner cities a blaze throughout America as his voice of non-violence was superseded by madness and wanton destruction.

It seemed our perceived national identity had been lost.

Viet Nam ended our innocence. We went to war based on a “Bright and Shining Lie;” a lie so fundamental that it wasn’t only deceitful, it was a crime. Both President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon knew and understood that this was a war we could not win. Still LBJ had our Navy formulate the Gulf of Tonkin incident to commit what turned out to be over 500,000 of our youth and our national treasure to a lost cause. Nixon persisted in continuing it.

A revolution had been set in motion and in the spring of 1970, Nixon knowingly or unwittingly, stoked the flames bringing our country to the brink by sending our troops into neutral Cambodia thereby expanding the war.

My purpose for re-publishing this piece now is that I believe our country is once again going down a similar path.

When I wrote: ”A Time of Rage”  my goal was to report it without taking sides.

Being a life-long conservative, my reactive side was to blame the left. However, I sought to leave  my opinion aside and tell it like it was as objectively as I could. So here it is my take on that time and my part in it without edit except for style.

Part One, The Shootings

Kent State University, Kent Ohio

          It was the photograph that told the story in a way that words could never explain. On Tuesday, May 5, 1970 The New York Times front page headline read:

4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops

      But it was John File’s iconic photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a fourteen-year-old runaway, totally distraught, screaming as she knelt over the body of Jeffrey Glen Miller, killed by .30 caliber bullets fired by Ohio National Guard soldiers’ M1 rifles. The explanation: The Guard had returned fire after being shot at by a sniper.

There was no sniper.

Twelve casualties, four of them dead: Glen Miller, 20, from Plainview, Long Island; Allison Krauss, 19, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sandra Lee Schreder, 20, from Youngstown, Ohio, and William K. Schroeder, 19, from Lorain, Ohio.    

Trouble first began on Saturday and the initial story appeared below the fold on Page 5 of The New York Times on Sunday, May 3, 1970. The lead story, at the top of the page, reported that Columbia University had decided to suspend classes for one day on Monday to protest the incursion by United States military forces into Cambodia. This related story originated with the Associated Press:

A fire, deliberately set, had destroyed a one-story wooden

ROTC building at Kent State University in central Ohio.

Students cut hoses and threw rocks, hampering firemen

from fighting the fire. Earlier that day 2,000 students

from the university had clashed with police in the town

of Kent.

This was not an isolated incident of protest. Four days earlier, President Richard M. Nixon addressed the nation explaining the scope and reasons for the Cambodian invasion. Prominent  statesmen such as former Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, and politicians including Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, supported the President’s actions. But student protestors reacted angrily following Nixon’s speech. Radical student leaders-initiated violence at Stanford University but, because of the time difference, the news of their rock-throwing protest didn’t make the East Coast papers until Friday’s editions. The Times reported:

The Times banner headline that morning was about the war, not the protests:



Colleges were in turmoil. Before Nixon’s speech, Ohio State students had already clashed with more than 500 Ohio National Guard troops and state police over the war and civil rights issues. The news story stated that, in the melee, the Guardsmen had fired tear gas while the police fired shotguns, though no pellet wounds were reported. One hundred protestors were arrested and 13 were injured.

But the biggest concern for public safety that weekend was in New Haven, Connecticut, where 20,000 people were expected on Saturday to protest the murder trial of the Black Panther’s national chairman, Bobby Seale. Seale, and eight other Black Panthers, were accused of the torture and murder of Alex Rackley, a 24-year-old Panther. Connecticut’s governor, John Dempsey, was so concerned whether the state police and the national guard could maintain order that he telegraphed attorney general John Mitchell to request federal troops. Mitchell dispatched elements of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg and elements of the 2nd Marine Division from Camp Lejeune to federal facilities close to New Haven. However, these soldiers were not needed as only about half of the anticipated 20,000 protestors rallied on Saturday and the organizers decided to end their protests, so they could instead support Seale’s call for a nationwide protest of Nixon’s expanded war.

The organizers were mindful of the rage that was building over the Cambodian incursion. That weekend, protests spread to additional colleges and universities including Princeton, Maryland, Cincinnati, Temple and Rutgers. President Nixon responded by calling the student radicals, “bums,” in a speech given at the Pentagon.

Sunday was relatively quiet. The Times did find enough interest in the wire service piece about Kent State to dispatch their own reporter, John Kifner, to expand the details of the AP report. His story appeared on Page 11 on Monday, May 4th under the headline:



Third Straight Night of

Unrest at Kent State

Kifner reported that trouble began Friday evening when 1,000 students marched in protest joined by an equal number of young people from downtown Kent who had been drinking at local bars with names like Pirate’s Alley and J B’s. The mob tore down billboards, benches and fences to build a bonfire on the main street, smashed the windows of banks, shops and an armed forces recruiting station before being stopped by city and state police.

Ohio’s governor, James A. Rhodes, dispatched 600 national guardsmen who had already been activated to control a wildcat Teamsters strike in Cleveland. The guardsmen arrived Saturday night and prevented students from storming the home of university president, Robert I. White. Police accompanying the soldiers fired tear gas driving back the students and dispersing the crowd. Kifner ended his article by observing that the campus was quiet on Sunday.

Despite a planned noon rally on Monday being banned, students began to gather on the Commons to continue their protests. Removal of the national guard was added to their grievances. Shortly before noon, General Robert Canterbury decided to disperse the demonstrators. When the order shouted by a state trooper through a bullhorn had little effect, Canterbury ordered his men to lock and load their weapons and to don their gas masks. Tear gas was fired onto the Common as the guardsmen began to advance in a skirmish line. The crowd gave ground as the line of soldiers advanced down Blanket Hill and onto the football practice field. Here they found themselves in what amounted to a box canyon as the field was surrounded by fences. Isolated and scared, they reformed the skirmish line and retraced their steps back up Blanket Hill.

A group of demonstrators followed the guardsmen and it was at the top of the hill that about a third of the soldiers turned and fired in this group’s direction killing four and wounding nine.  

An Ill Wind

I did not plan a piece for today, but Isaias changed that. Isaias, what a peculiar name. Pronounced, E-sy-E-us, it is the Spanish or Latin translation of Isaiah meaning “God is Salvation.”

Isaias was also a named windstorm that travelled through the Northeastern states on Tuesday, August 4. Not to be confused with a monster storm like Superstorm Sandy that clobbered the Metropolitan area with water and wind, Isaias was downgraded to a fast-moving tropical storm by the time it arrived in this area.

It didn’t receive the hype that Sandy did either, but in the short time it took to pass, we learned that it isn’t always size that counts. Mary Ann and I had three separate encounters with the storm and its aftermath.

We began our experience in Denmark, ME at the summer camp of Geoff and Judy Jones our old friends who summer in Maine and winter in Saint Simons Island, GA. Each year we alternate visiting the Jones’ in Maine or they visit us in New Hampshire. Both homes are in the sticks, but their camp is on a lovely lake.

We knew the storm was coming on Tuesday, so we made haste to return to Marlow before it arrived. Less than 130 miles separate us but, since most of the journey is along two-lane country roads, traveling time is about three hours.

Still the storm seemed to arrive simultaneously with us about 3pm. By 5pm a large eye treated us to blue skies that quickly darkened. Rain and wind returned causing a power failure before six. Geoff and Judy lost their power about the same time. Losing power in rural areas is common enough that Geoff maintains a gasoline powered generator. We don’t spend as much time so we depend on battery powered lanterns and faith that New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) would save the day sooner rather than later.

Our son, Michael, his wife, Jodie and daughter Samantha were with us, but their two boys had left separately that morning driving back to Fairfield, Connecticut. Fortunately, Jodie had already prepared a pasta in meat sauce dinner just before the lights went out. Our guests left the next morning in the continuing blackout. Before they left, Drew told them power was out in Fairfield. We also discovered Port Washington had also been hit hard with numerous trees down.

Curiously, our NH problem turned out to be a broken utility pole that NHEC replaced mid-afternoon on Wednesday letting there be light once again. The Jones’ utility also acted swiftly but failed to re-connect them or their neighbor on Wednesday. On Thursday Geoff ventured out to find a utility truck and after a bit of frustration, found six in convoy. The lead diver agreed to follow Geoff home where the lineman spotted a tripped circuit breaker on the top of the pole leading to their home. He used a 30-foot telescoping pole to reset the breaker leading to a bright and loud spark along the line and a second tripped breaker. The workers fixed the short and power lived again.

We also learned that our New Jersey friends, Mike and Lynn Scott were without power in their Fairhaven home. WTF? How could three major Metropolitan power suppliers in three different states get it wrong. After Sandy, all of us had been sold the same bill-of-goods that they had taken steps to minimize outages and re-invented their communication system so that customers would receive accurate and timely updates. Instead, Isaias overwhelmed the utilities and, in each case accurate communication was zero point zero.

Our Port Washington power returned Friday morning, Michael Delach’s on Saturday morning and the Scotts on Saturday evening.

Despite the wide-spread annoyance of Isaias, I was able to take away an odd tale from the blackout in Port Washington. A good method to remotely determine whether power is on or off is to call the answering machine. If the power is on, the call will go through to voice mail. If it is off, it won’t go though.

Sometime on Wednesday I called 883-0040 from my mobile phone. On the second ring, a man said hello.

Nonplused, I was silent for a second or two then I said, “I’m taken aback. I never thought that a person would pick-up this call. You see I was calling a number that should have gone to a voice mail.” That number is 883-0040.”

He replied: “Amazingly, this phone number doesn’t contain even one of those digits! Must be a problem in the switching system.”

Sorry.” I replied. I called back on our NH land line this time including the area code: 516-883-0040.

Same fellow picked it up and answered: “You again.”

“Good grief, I thought including the area code would set it free. I will not bother you again. Goodbye”

True to my promise I didn’t call him again, but my daughter did. So did our friend, Sue from Florida and the Hampton Inn, Oxford, OH called to confirm a reservation for my son. I have no idea who else called, but on Friday I decided to call him one last time and offer him a bottle of his favorite brand as thanks for his trouble. Too bad, but by the time I called my answering machine was back in operation.

So, whoever you are, if I ever find you again, I owe you and thank you for your patience.