Growing up in Elmont, Long Island and Teaneck, New Jersey, Tom Weiner attended Trinity College before facing the draft in 1971. After failing the physical and mental examination, Weiner studied alternative education in England, Europe, and Israel on a Watson Fellowship. Upon his return in 1972, he began study at NYU law school, but soon left the city for Northampton, Massachusetts. A life-long social justice activist, Weiner has worked as a 6th grade teacher for the past twenty-five years.
With a lottery number of 117, Tom Weiner knew for certain that he would be drafted immediately upon graduation from Trinity College. Decades later, Weiner was inspired to collect the stories of the men and women who came of age during the Vietnam War era. This collection consists of the oral history interviews, recordings and transcripts, Weiner collected, thirty of which appear in his book Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Tom Weiner
A life-long activist and sixth grade teacher at the Smith College Campus School for more than thirty years, Tom Weiner was a student at Trinity College when the draft lottery was imposed, determing the order of call to military service for a generation of men during the Vietnam War. With a number of 117, Weiner knew for certain that he would be called to serve and the weight of this knowledge had a profound impact on him. Believing the war unjust, Weiner was determined not to fight in it; seeking the support of a draft counselor he filed a conscientious objector application and gathered letters from doctors that documented varioius physical conditions. Ultimately, he failed the physical and mental examiniation when he responded "yes" to two questions: "Have you ever smoked marijuana?" and "Have you ever had suicidal fantasies?".
Weiner's response to the draft was not unique, many others were also able to avoid serving in Vietnam. Nor was his response an easy one. Indeed each man affected by the draft knew firsthand that there were no easy respopnses. Fearing that these individual stories would be lost over time, Weiner was motivated to capture them first as oral histories and later as a book. A primary goal in collecting these stories: reflect the full range of responses to the draft from those who served and those who refused to those who loved, supported and counseled men facing the draft. Weiner was able to bring all of these perspectives together in his book Called to Serve: Stories of the Men and Women Affected by the Vietnam War Draft published in 2011.
Consisting of 54 oral history interviews on audiocassette or DVD and a complete draft of a Weiner's book Called to Serve, which includes the transcripts of those interviews, this collection documents the stories of men who served, men who left the country to avoid serving, men who refused to serve, those who "beat the draft", and those who were conscientious objectors. Also recorded are the stories of women who loved, supported, and counseled men affected by the draft. While the interviews were conducted with men and women currently residing in the Pioner Valley, the stories told reflect the experiences of men and women around the country, since very few the individuals interviewed resided in the area during the war. As such, this collection represents a full range of reactions and responses both to the draft and to the Vietnam War.
Acquired from Tom Weiner, 2011.
Processed by SCUA staff, January 2012.
Cite as: Tom Weiner Oral History Collection (MS 729). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.