The Weather Underground Short Summary

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As a result of the racial outrage that marked the US socio-economic and political disposition of the early years, a fact which was coupled by the international aggression and imperialism the US displayed over nations that did not dance to her socio-economic and political ideological tunes, many social organizations were formed across the whole country whose membership included African-Americans, students, and mainstream white Americans. However, the most focal of these organizations were those advocating for racial equality composed of mainly blacks with African or Caribbean origins and infamous student organizations that were staged to push the federal government to drop her war and aggressive agendas, in particular the Vietnam war. The black panther party and the weather underground are such organizations formed in the 1960s. This paper will discuss the weather undergrounds history, activities, and it’s ending as it were between the late 1960s and early 1970s.


The 1969, Students for a Democratic Society Convention

The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a 1960s organization was formed by college students in all the US colleges to agitate the government to change her war and aggressive attitudes. The SDS initial methods of holding street demonstrations, was a big flop and therefore its national leaders who included Bernadine Dohrn, Michael Klonsky, Teddy Robbins, Mark Rudd, Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones and others to reconsider other methods. Again, the SDS was also faced by factionalism, a problem caused by the Progressive Labor Party (PL) infiltration; this caused Mike Klonsky, the national secretary and others to draft an article titled, “The Revolutionary Youth Movement” (RYM) that recognized the effect of working class citizens as worthwhile in the war against capitalistic imperialism. This document did not go down well with all the national officials, there was a split in the organization into two factions, one led by Dohrn, known as RYM I and the second one led by Klonsky, known as RYM II. During the June 18, 1969 Chicago, two positional papers were presented, the RYM manifesto by Klonsky and the other known as “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which the Wind Blows.” This latter paper was signed by eleven members, who included, Bernadine Dohrn, Steve Tappis, Mark Rudd, John Jacobs, Gerry Long, Terry Robbins, Jeff Jones, Gilbert David, Bill Ayers and others marking the beginning of Weatherman.  The fragmentation of SDS in that summer saw the Weatherman taking full control of the SDS; this marked the gradual journey towards the complete abandonment of the SDS in favor of weatherman in 1970.

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The Ideology of the Weather Underground

The name “Weatherman” was coined from Bob Dylan song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, which included the lyrics “You don’t need a Weatherman to know Which Way the Wind Blows.” These lyrics were quoted at the foot of a moving article in the SDS newspaper, New left Notes, meant to motivate the American youth into joining the war for social justice. Again, the Weatherman name used is also thought to be a “haul over the coals” on Progressive Labor Party which had dealt weatherman a blow by registering former SDS members. The experience the Weatherman got from SDS day’s taught them to believe that non-violent methods of anti-war campaign bore no fruits, and therefore they adopted more dramatic, militancy tactics that were aimed at instilling fear on the U.S. military and international security organs. They adopted urban guerilla warfare that was reminiscence to international revolutionary activities happening in countries e.g. student revolts in France, Mexico City and other Marxist-oriented independent movements throughout Africa.

For Weathermen, choosing to remain silent and living a white life or working in a white job while the country that you live in goes on murdering innocent lives was equivalent to committing violence. Therefore Weathermen were true advocates of the issues that mattered to the public such as what was known as “white politics” and “identity politics” as one of its leaders, Dohrn asserted that, white youths must choose sides, to either join the war on the side of the oppressed or be on the side of the oppressor.

Black Panther Party (BPP)

This was a party that was initially formed by blacks to push for social equality and defend the blacks against the police brutality and was founded by Huey P. Hawton and Bob Seale. Ideologically BPP was very different from weatherman but they tactically employed similar tricks of agitating the government. BPP played a substantial part in the shaping of SDS during the days when PL Party infiltrated in SDS causing factions within the SDS. BPP emerged to urge SDS not support the PL Party ideologies and to remain focused in following Marxist-Leninism ideologies. Again, the social unrest in the black neighborhoods served as motivator to Weathermen especially Dohrn declared that white youths should as well join in the war against oppression by supporting the Weathermen or else they join the oppressor. This worked positively in getting the white youths to join blacks in the ranks of fighting against oppression by a government that they lived in. The Weatherman ideologies were chiefly molded in resemblance to other organizations that fought for civil equality and representation. The Black Panther Party together with smaller social organizations in black neighborhoods was very influential in inspiring the Weathermen. [Jacobs, R. (1997)]

Activities of the Weathermen Underground

The Days of Range, October 8-11 1969

After the silent death of the SDS and the birth of the Weathermen, the new leaders started drafting more militant missions to shake the government’s arrogance, one of its national figures, John Jacobs proposed a slogan and it was adopted, the slogan which said, “bring the war home” pressed the government into ending the Vietnam War and bringing the soldiers home to fight the civil strife’s that were being staged by organizations such as the Weatherman. Another slogan as advocated for by Jacobs urged the citizens to fully support the organizations efforts in using militancy violence to bring changes, the slogan said, “The Elections Don’t Mean Shit – Vote Where the Power Is – Our Power Is In The Street.”

The days of range though anticipated to attract large crowds of people were a big flop as the anticipated number of people did not turn up in the first day. Only a few hundreds of people turned up on the eve of the Wednesday 8th 1969 in Chicago. Before they began on their violent movement in the streets one of their national icons, Bill Ayers bombed a statue in Chicago that was erected to honor the bravery of police officers who died in the 1886 Haymarket Riots. When they took to the street they smashed cars and buildings at sight, before they encountered a stiff police barrier whereby majority were injured and others arrested. Following the arrests the Weathermen suspended their riots for the next four days only to emerge again, on October 10th, they wrecked havoc on the Loop, Chicago’s main business district, but once again they met with heavy police presence and a quite a number were arrested. The days of range were very costly to the Chicago economy with over $180,000; this prompted the Weathermen to be fined heavily and as a result their accounts were drained of more than $243,000 to cater for the fines.

Declaration of War

In December 1969, the Chicago police in conjunction with the FBI conducted a raid on the home of Black Panther Fred Hampton, where they killed Fred and Mark Clark and injured other people who went ahead to be tried in the court for assault and attempted murder charges. The cases were dropped after the diseased families indicated that the Black Panthers were asleep during the attack and therefore did not resist arrest, the families were compensated and the cases terminated. This attack provoked the Weathermen into action and in early 1970s they declared a “State of War” against the U.S. government. They resolved to go underground rather than engage the police in street battles which were proofing to be costly in terms of casualties injured or even arrested.

The House Bombing of Justice Murtagh

These new resolutions meant that secret military attacks were to be conducted on symbols of the U.S government imperialism; the first on the list of the attacks was to be in the home of justice Murtagh who was handling the case of the “Panther 21.” On February 10, 1970, John Jacobs, Terry Robbins, Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and others planted a fire-bomb at the home of Justice Murtagh’s home, the bomb detonated though it caused little damage. This forced Terry to conclude that fire-bombs were ineffective and that it was time to adopt more effective types of bombs like dynamites. During a preparation of a bomb in townhouse, that was to be detonated in an officer’s dance in Fort Dix, an explosion occurred killing three Weathermen, Terry Robbins, Diana Oughton, and Ted Gold.

The Bombing of New York Police Department

After the accident in the townhouse that claimed three Weathermen, members disappeared, the remaining maintained an underground status and thus the name “Weather Underground Organization” (WUO) was born. They decided to change their strategies into minimizing human casualties during their future hits. In June 9 1970 they bombed the New York City police station due what they called a revenge mission following the murder of Soledad Brother George Jackson by prison guards while attempting to escape. This attack was first placed in a communiqué two weeks prior but went ahead to be executed despite the fore warning and alerting on the security departments.

 Timothy Leary Prison Break

In September 1970 the WUO agreed to assist in securing the release of Timothy Leary a LCD advocate out of prison, they were given over $20,000 by an organization dubbed, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. He was successfully forcefully freed and taken to Algeria were he was again to be caught by the FBI, he offered to collaborate with the FBI in capturing the WUO members by acting as an informant  in order to get his prison term reduced, however, no one was arrested and he went ahead to serve a reduced  term.

The Bombing of the Pentagon

May 19, 1972 the WUO hit the pentagon, after placing a bomb on the women’s bathroom in the Air Force wing of the Pentagon, the damage caused bursting of water pipes which caused flooding that damaged classified information about leftist radicals that were stored in computer tapes. This attack was internationally recognized by youths in countries that were angered by U.S. military system.

The Ending

In early 1970s the WUO ideologies took an about turn, this was with the help of former Progressive Labor Party member, Clayton Van Lydegraf. They adopted a more Marxist-Leninist approach by publishing a manifesto, “Prairie Fire: The politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism.” It was widely received among cities of the U.S. whereby Prairie Fire organizing committees were formed. Incidentally this marked the splitting again of the WUO into two factions in the late 1970s, “The may 19 faction” and the “Prairie Fire collective”, the latter favored by Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. The Prairie Fire collective members surrendered themselves to the police while the May 19 Coalition continued staging violent attacks on U.S. institutions.


The Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) was established by the FBI to deal with radical leftist groups such and WUO and others. However, in an incidence in April 1971, the “Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into the FBI Media, Pennsylvania office and done away with files concerning leftist groups’ cases, this caused the FBI to terminate all the cases dealing with leftist groups. COINTELPRO was later in the year disbanded by then FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, but the FBI continued with its counterintelligence on groups like the WUO. The illegal tactics employed by the FBI agents to penetrate leftist groups’ attorneys pressed for the dropping of all weapons and bombs-related      charges and hence WUO was not a fugitive organization any more, its members could turn themselves in with minimal charges pressed against them.


The WUO members did not immediately come out of public limelight after the change in their status, they called a meeting in Chicago dubbed “Hard Times” with the core agenda being creating an umbrella organization for all the leftist radical organizations. However, this caused more splits in the WUO with accusations traded on its commitments to fighting against the US government’s arrogance, imperialism, and racialism. The East Coast members still supported violence and therefore they differed greatly with old national icons such Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and Jeff Jones, AND in 1976 the WUO COLLAPSED. Taking advantage of President Gerald Ford amnesty many WUO members turned themselves in such as Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, and Bernadine Dohrn while others like Kathy Boudin, Judith Clark, and David Gilbert joined other radical groups.


Weathermen are sometimes referred as terrorists by far many people, under the definition of the FBI, WUO was a “Domestic Terrorist Group” of no much concern. Other quarters describe WUO as a justifiable force towards the agitation against the Vietnam War. Dan Berger in his book about Weatherman, “Outlaws in America”, contends that the group purposely avoided injuring anyone. Its war was targeted on property and not individuals, and therefore WUO was not a terrorist organization.

Some of its widely known members of the WUO are David Gilbert, Kathy Boudin, Mark Rudd, John Jacobs, Russell Nuefeld, the still married couple, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and many more others mentioned or unmentioned in this paper.


The chronology of WUO formation and activities is a complete testimony that it was an organization whose cause was justified, however, the use of violent tactics may be argued to have portrayed terrorist practices. It is one organization in the US whose membership defied the racial-ethnical differences at a time when racism and ethnicity was rampant in US. It main objective was to address the plight of innocent citizens in a Far East Asian country of Vietnam and therefore can be argued to be more of a philanthropist organization whose noble duty was to save the murder of innocent lives. The lives that were lost in the WUO cause can be said to be accidental, regretful and to some extend “justified” as they happened in the cause of preventing the perpetuation of a genocide and imperialism.


  1. Berger, D. (2005). Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the politics of Solidarity. California: AK Press, accessed on December 11, 2008
  2. Jacobs, R. (1997). The way the wind blew: A history of the Weather Underground. New York. Verso, accessed on December 11, 2008
  3. Kushner, H.W. (2002) Encyclopedia of Terrorism. California: Sage Publications, Inc, accessed on December 11, 2008
  4. Simon, J.D. (2001). The Terrorist Trap: America’s Experience with Terrorism. Indiana: Indiana University Press, accessed on December 11, 2008
  5. Varon, J. (2004). Bringing the War Home. California: University of California Press,  accessed on December 11, 2008
  6. Burns, V., Dempsey-Peterson, K. (2005). Terrorism: A documentary and reference guide. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, accessed on December 11, 2008
  7. Martin, C.A. (2006). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. California: Sage Publications, Inc., accessed on December 11, 2008
  8. Hewitt, C. (2002). Understanding Terrorism in America. New York: Routledge, accessed on December 11, 2008


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