Text by Mike
Photos by Bill
Bill is available for slide presentations on his trip
Contact this Web Site
I have been wanting to do a story on Bill's travel's to Vietnam
since last September. Bill had phoned me and left a message on my machine that he was
giving a slide presentation on his trip at Cat's Impetuous Books in Kent.
I have know Bill Arthrell for almost 30 years. We met when I was a new freshman at Kent
State in the Fall of 1970, only 5 and a half months after the murder of the 4 students. We
marched together and demonstrated together at Kent State and in D.C. Bill is one of
only two individuals from my freshman days that I still see on a regular basis.
However, he lives in Oberlin and I in Kent and we didn't get to see each other that often.
So I jumped at the chance to go see him and hear about his exploits. Bill is a great
story teller. His trip to Vietnam was not his first overseas excursion. Kendra and I have
been entertained many a time by his whimsical tales of travel throughout the world. Now
don't misunderstand me. Even a dry rendering of Bill's exploits would thrill the average
individual. Bill just doesn't go somewhere and let fate happen to him. He molds it and
guides it and challenges it. We were not disappointed on listening to his
presentation on his Vietnam tip at Cats.
It so happened that I had been looking for individuals to submit personal stories to this
website about how May 4, 1970 at Kent State had personally effected their lives
Bill helping out in the rice fields on his way to My Lai, Vietnam
|And, of course, Bill's trip to Vietnam would
never have happened if not for Bill being at Kent State on May 4, 1970 and
having been fired on by the Ohio National Guard.
Well, due to events beyond our control, illness and the weather, we were only able
to meet 3 times in the 7 months, the latest being just one week ago on April 6 when I
began to construct these pages. So I apologize for whatever consequences arise out of my
need to get this up as soon as possible.
Bill was a sophomore history major in May of 1970 and had been active in Kent State's
antiwar movement. He is probably best known for his famous (or infamous)
"napalming of the dog" incident on April 22, 1970. Needless to say, there was NO
napalming of a dog nor had Bill ever planned for there to be one. However, according
the The Daily Kent Stater on April 23, 1970, "members of the Animal
Protective League stood close by." For the Stater's full article on the
"incident" click HERE.
Bill was one of 25 individuals present on campus on May 4, 1970, indicted by a Portage
County Grand Jury for alleged acts of inciting riot and other such nonsense. (Charges
against Bill and most of the 25 were dropped.)This grand jury also exonerated the killers
and blamed the victims for their own deaths. Bill was also a member of Tent City for those 62 days of
struggle in an attempt to prevent the KSU administration from abusing and altering
the site where the May 4 murders were concocted and carried out.
|You can also read an article written by Bill on the Gym
Struggle in this web site. Bill is also a poet and an author. He has written numerous
articles about his experiences on May 4, 1970 and at Tent City. Bill has a chapter in
Scott Bill's, Kent State/May 4-Echoes Though A Decade (see our resource page)
and has written and edited books of poetry. Link here for a poem Bill had published
in A Gathering of Poets, a collection of poems about Kent and Jackson State (also listed
on our resource page.)
The genesis for Bill's Guilt Trip (a title, I might add,
embraced by Bill) actually began about 10 years before Bill "returned" to
Vietnam. Bill had embarked on a trip around the world, of which one segment found him
living in Thailand for a year. It was while in Southeast Asia that Bill began to feel a
need to deal with his feelings about what had been done to the people of Vietnam by his
countrymen in what the Vietnamese refer to as the American War. This was a war that had
cost the lives of over 3 million human beings, mostly Vietnamese but also the lives
Allison, Bill, Sandy and Jeffrey, classmates of Bill's at Kent State. It was a war which
had "come home" to Kent State, and thrust Bill and hundreds of others at Kent
State onto the front lines. Sixty-two seconds of gunfire...but a lifetime of emotional
According to Bill, his stay in Thailand "unearthed a lot of unsettling feelings I
wasn't even aware of about Kent State and about Vietnam that still were embedded in
the pit of my stomach." At that time Bill had a Cambodian girlfriend and he
even attempted to apologize to her for the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970 (which
precipitated the tragedy at Kent State.)
The longer he stayed in Thailand the more these demon's surfaced and more Bill became
affected by them. However at this time Bill feelings were mixed. "When I lived in
Thailand, I was really afraid to go and confront that [his feelings abut the war]. I
wasn't ready for it psychologically. And it took me 10 years to even go back to Thailand
after I lived there."
Bill returned to Southeast Asia in the summer of 1998 and spent 3 agonizing weeks
in Laos and Thailand before finally getting on a plane and flying to Ho Chi Minh City
(formerly Saigon). While on the plane Bill began a poem which he finished about two days
into his trip. It too is entitled Guilt Trip and will take you into a Vietnam
that is as old as Bill's memories of the American War and as new and fresh as his
experiences on the ground in a reunited Vietnam.
Go to Guilt Trip the