By Chris Robinson, President of Friends of Peace Studies
At age 96, Rieman has had a full career as a passionate advocate for peace. Rieman’s interview focused primarily on his work as a psychiatric social worker during World War II, when Rieman was among the first clinicians to treat soldiers who were suffering from psychological trauma due to their experiences in combat.
In 1942, after graduating with a Master's Degree in Social Work, Rieman went before the draft board and successfully argued to be allowed to enlist as a non-combatant. According to Rieman, "I told them I would not kill anyone but that I would serve in a helping capacity." Rieman made it clear to the draft board that he was seeking CO status based upon philosophical - not religious - grounds. Specifically, he felt that war contradicted his values as a social worker and, in particular, the belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. Additionally, Rieman said that two books about World War I contributed to his pacifist views: All Quiet on the Western Front by German soldier Erich Maria Remarque and Paths of Glory by American soldier Humphrey Cobb.
After serving in the Alternative Service for two years, which included an assignment at a state mental hospital in Connecticut, Rieman volunteered to go before the draft board a second time and asked to be admitted to the military as a non-combatant. "Although my work at the psychiatric hospital was valuable, as a matter of empathy, I wanted to share in both the training and service of soldiers so that I could relate to them more effectively," Rieman stated. Subsequently, he was assigned to Brooke Convalescent Hospital as a psychiatric social worker.