3. Historical Background

[Link to chapter 2]

Pre-Twentieth-Century Antecedents

In this section I will summarize the pre-World War II history of pacifism and conscientious objection, thereby establishing antecedents for what happened in World War II, focusing on groups which constituted the majority of the conscientious objector population during World War II.

Definitions. I want to begin by making some distinctions among three inter-related terms:

Non-violence–the rejection of all use of violence, personal and social. This dates to the New Testament and Jesus. Later on, especially among Mennonites, the term nonresistance came to be used in a way which is synonymous with this definition of non-violence.

Pacifism–the rejection, in principle, of involvement in war. This dates to the early church leader, Tertullian, as we have no record of Christians prior to that overtly facing this issue.

Conscientious objection–the refusal to join the military on moral grounds. This is connected with conscription, since the refusal takes place when the person is being forced to choose whether or not to fight. Hence, “conscientious objection” really only dates back to large-scale conscription beginning in the late 1700s with the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. However, it could be said to have been present whenever people refused in the face of pressure to join the military as “volunteers.”

In the light of these definitions, we could say that the non-violent or nonresistant person would always be a pacifist and a CO by definition, but may not face the issue if there were no wars or if that person were not draftable.

Pacifists may not be personally non-violent (i.e., they may, for example, be willing to use violence for personal self-defense or protecting other individuals or they may approve of captial punishment), but they will by definition always be COs should they be faced with that issue.

COs may be neither pacifists or non-violent. They need not oppose all wars in principle to object conscientiously to the particular war their nation is asking them to fight. But in the United States, this “selective conscientious objection” has never been legal (although certain more lenient draft boards have given CO status to men reasoning on just war grounds).

As a rule, most historical discussions use “pacifist” and “conscientious objector” almost as synonyms. The distinction I want to draw is that “pacifist” has to do with a general attitude about war, potentially held by anyone at any time. A “conscientious objector” is specifically a person who refuses to join the military when required to join by law. my discussion in the following chapters will focus on COs in this “technical” sense. In this chapter, will be discussing both “pacifism” and “conscientious objection.”

The Early History of Pacifism. In his magisterial book, Pacifism in Europe to 1914, Peter Brock asserts that the first full pacifists were the early Christians:

“Although at times a longing for international peace and human brotherhood appeared in the thought patterns of some early civilizations, and war was denounced and passive forms of resistance praised occasionally, pacifism in the strict sense of an unconditional renunciation of war by the individual is, so far as we can tell, a little less than two thousand years old. The first clearcut renunciation of this kind appears among the early Christians….There is no known instance of conscientious objection to participation in war or of the advocacy of such objection before the Christian era, and until roughly the last one hundred and seventy five years pacifism in the West was confined to those who stood inside the Christian tradition.”[1]

Any discussion of early Christians’ perspectives on war and peace is somewhat speculative due to many gaps in the evidence. But most interpreters believe that the New Testament is “non-violent” in the sense defined above, if not overtly “pacifist.”[2] The early church up to 313 C. E. showed overt pacifist tendencies. After that time the vast majority of Christian writings on the subject supported involvement in warfare. Consideration of available evidence indicates that Christians accepted war largely due to a process of cultural accommodation, rather than due to debate and the emergence of a clear moral argument in favor of the change.[3]

Although the just war theory has been the consensus position of the vast majority of the Christian traditions ever since Augustine, the pacifism of the early church has always had its adherents. These could be found in the Catholic church as individual priests and monks. Sometimes, as in the case of Francis of Assisi and the Franciscans, new orders within the church emerged which had many pacifistic tendencies.

Since the twelfth century we can trace a series of movements which broke away form the mainline church and attempted to return to the New Testament and to the way of Jesus as they interpreted it–a way which includes non-violence and non-involvement in warfare for all Christians, not only priests and monks.[4]

The first permanent “peace church” was the Mennonite church which arose from the Anabaptist movement which formally began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 when some early Protestants first rebaptized adults.[5] Anabaptists’ central distinctive characteristic was baptism, not pacifism. But pacifism, or, as it came to be known among Anabaptists and their Mennonite descendents, nonresistance, had a central place from the start.

The three surviving direct descendents of the Anabaptist–Mennonites, Hutterites (a small, strictly communitarian group dating back to the 1530s), and Amish (who split from Mennonites in seventeenth-century Switzerland)–all have experienced several major migrations, many of which resulted from lack of freedom to maintain their pacifist principles in the face of conscription and other pressures to fight in wars.

Probably better known than Mennonites in the popular consciousness as a historic peace church is the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.[6] The Quaker movement began in the late 1640s in england during the reign of Oliver Cromwell following the Puritan revolution which had deposed the king. Cromwell allowed unprecedented religious freedom (except for Catholicism). The first Friends did not face repression to the same degree as the first Anabaptists, a factor contributing to more optimism about the impact of a peace position on the wider society. Quakers had fundamentally the same theology as Anabaptists. But they grew in a culture with more possibilities for safely expressing their convictions. They faced less immediate repression than the Anabaptists and thus had more of a chance to make a social contribution without being severely persecuted.

William Penn brought a strong humanist influence into Quakerism and thereby had a major effect on the shape of Quaker pacifism. Penn, following Erasmus, appealed to human beings as rational creatures to act reasonably and to give up the madness and folly of war.

While it can be said that early Quakerism and early Anabaptism had a great many similarities in their reading of the New Testament, eschatological emphasis, evangelistic fervor, wedding of faith and action, emphasis on the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in Christian thought and action, and placing an epistemological premium on the role of the community of faith in discernment and action; nevertheless, their respective histories diverge. The Anabaptists met with a much more hostile response which soon caused them to be alienated from their surrounding societies. This had at least two major effects lacking in Quakerism. for one thing, the Anabaptist quest for a new society became a Mennonite quest for tolerance. This, of course, greatly affected their theology and ethics and led to a much more inward-centered, quietistic focus than had initially been the case. It also led to the second effect, namely that the descendents of the Anabaptists became in most cases migrating communities in exile, surrounded by people who not only did not share their beliefs, but did not even speak the same language. So, Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish remained in isolated ghettoes for generations.

The Friends, on the other hand, remained much more at home in the various societies they were part of. This both stemmed from and contributed to a more optimistic, outward-oriented theology. Certainly Quakers reached out to non-English-speaking societies, but generally as missionaries, not as communities-in-exile. Their strongholds always remained in England and the United States.

After the ferment of the early Anabaptists died down, Mennonite pacifism lost its individual, mystical element and became primarily strictly a matter of community life. Refusal to use the sword came not so much via individual conscience as from simply adhering to the value of one’s community. Quakers certainly for many generations had a strong communal component to their pacifism also, but from the very beginning they had a strong mystical side which never faded away. They approached truth and reality, as a rule, more intuitively and fluidly than Mennonites, with the consquent stronger emphasis on the role of the individual conscience in not fighting. However, it would be many generations before a Quaker young man could fight in war without facing sanctions from his church.

From very early on, especially through William Penn’s influence, Quaker pacifism had a humanistic, rationalistic component which Mennonite pacifism never shared. Quakers were much closer to the seats of power in British and American societies, and thus at times felt the need to articulate their principles in language anyone could understand. With their belief that the Light of God shines within everyone, they had much more optimism as to the possible success of the use of such language.

The third peace church, along with the Mennonites and Quakers, is the Church of the Brethren.[7] The origins of the Brethren date back to the Pietist movement in the early eighteenth century Germany. A handful of German Pietists, led by Alexander Mack and greatly influenced by the Anabaptist movement, came to believe that true Christianity required a visible community separate from the unfaithful state church (as a rule, Pietists remained with the churches in the belief that the supreme expression of Christianity was within the individual). These Pietists, not being very impressed with their Mennonite acquaintances in Holland, formed their own church, called the Church of the Brethren.

The early commitment to pacifism basically stemmed from two factors, one being the early Brethren’s reading of the New Testament and the other being disgust with the warring state of affairs in western Europe at that time.

Pacifism emerged gradually among the Brethren, as with early Anabaptism and Quakerism. But once it took hold it became a central tenet of Brethren faith. The first Brethren met with hostility and persecution in Germany, and after several years decided to migrate en masse to the United States, where they settled in Pennsylvania in the 1730s.

The existence of North American peace church pacifism received a tremendous boost with the founding of Pennsylvania colony in 1682 by Quaker William Penn. This colony attracted thousands of Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren with its promise of good farmland, freedom from military service, and general religious liberty.

Quaker optimism about the possibilities of favorably influencing the structures of society toward a more peaceable way manifested itself most significantly in the “holy experiment,” the attempt by Quakers actually to run a state according to their non-violent principles in Pennsylvania. This experiment continues to elicit ambiguous evaluations; certainly running the colony resulted in much compromise. But for about 75 years the quakers ran a colony which was much more humane and much less violent than any other. By the 1750s the Quakers constituted such a minority in the colony that they could no longer rule it, withdrawing from the leadership in 1756 in the face of the French and Indian War.

All three peace churches remained strongly committed to pacifism and conscientious objection when their first big test came with the American Revolution. Full-fledged national conscription did not become a reality in the U. S. until the Civil War, but the individual colonies enforced a kind of conscription in raising their militias during the Revolutionary War. Also, public pressure quite strongly pushed young men to join up, and those who did not join often faced accusations of being British sympathizers.

In the face of this pressure, the peace churches generally remained steadfast, even as tehy endured substantial persecution. The Quakers probably suffered most because of their English connections. The Mennonites and Brethren, still largely German-speaking, for that reason engended less suspicion from the revolutionists.

Nineteenth Century. The period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War saw the peace churches being quiet, and even the Quakers (facing severe internal stress over church splits and doctrinal controversies) remained relatively non-evangelistic about their peace concerns. While several individual Quakers involved themselves in the emergence of the first non-church related peace movement in the United States in the years immediately following the War of 1812, the Friends as a whole remained aloof. This movement never became wide-spread, relating closely to the abolitionist movement, and essentially disappearing as support for the impending Civil War grew.[8]

The Civil War tested pacifists in a major way.[9] For the first time, the U. S. government initiated national conscription, as did the Confederate government. All three of the peace churches strove to maintain their pacifist commitments, with mixed success.

As a rule, most members in good standing refused to fight. Some performed non-combatant service in the military and some paid to hire replacements. A few fought in the war, and in most cases these had their membership revoked.

The federal government for the first time initiated national conscription and established alternatives to full-fledged military service for those who, on moral grounds, refused to fight. Both the Union and Confederacy groped for policy, the North eventually offering a kind of alternative service (serving as memdics) and the possibility of avoiding service by hiring substitutes. The South had fewer peace churches, particularly outside Virginia. Policy varied there, understandably becoming more restrictive as the Confederacy’s fortunes in the war worsened.

World War I

Pre-war Pacifism. In the years between the Civil War and World War I, the issue of conscientious objection did not arise since conscription was not in effect in that period. The peace churches all experienced a kind of complacency regarding their peace stance.

During this time another group arose which contained many COs during World War II, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This group emerged from nineteenth-century millennial impulses land contained a strong other-worldly strain. The Witnesses focused not on pacifism per se, but on a rejection of human government, a conviction that evangelism is their only legitimate activity (therefore, joining the military is an unacceptable diversion), and a belief that the only war in which they can engage is the war of Armageddon.[10]

The founder of the movement, Charles Taze Russell, taught that Satan rules all earthly governments which are “ferocious, destructive, beastly, and selfish.” Because of this, church members should keep themselves “separate from the world,” including avoiding voting, holding public office, or joining the military.[11]

The United States and World War I. Many Americans opposed World War I, but the locus of that opposition centered more on issues of politics and ethnic identity that on rejection of warfare per se. The German-speaking peace churches certainly continued to reject war and constituted the largest percentage of COs (though the Brethren showed a much reduced commitment to pacifism), but they contributed almost nothing to the national debate.

Most churches eventually jumped on the war bandwagon,[12] isolating the remaining anti-war advocates and making it easier for the government to deal harshly with them. The Federal Council of churches waited until 1919 even weakly to request that the government respect CO rights.[13]

Pacifist COs who did not vocally oppose the war, especially Mennonites and Brethren, also faced harsh persecution, a few even losing their lives. Their German ethnicity contributed to this persecution, as did the intense, crusade-like popular pro-war emotions whipped up by the propagandists.

Several peace church leaders received threats of governmental prosecution due to their encouragement of their young men not to co-operate with the military when drafted, and the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually went to prison. Shortly before his death in 1917, Pastor Russell published an article arguing that the New Testament never prescribed patriotism and forbad killing in every form, including military killing. Russell’s death spared him, but not others. In the context of great hostility toward Witnesses on the part of the general populace, and clergy in particular, all seven members of the Witnesses’ leadership group, the board of directors of the Watch Tower Society, went to prison for “sedition” from June 1918 through March 1919.[14]

Conscientious Objection. On May 18, 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act establishing conscription. This law made allowance for conscientious objection in a manner modeled after the Civil War draft act of 1864, stating that:

“Nothing in this act shall be construed to require or compel any person to serve in any of the forces herein provided for who is found to be a member of any well-recognized religious sect or organization at present organized and existing and whose existing Creed or principles forbid its members to participate therein in accordance with the Creed or principles of said religious organizations, but no person so exempted shall be exempted from service in any capacity that the President shall declare to be noncombatant.”[15]

Local boards retained much discretion in determining legitimate COs. The law also failed to recognize that many COs would not come from peace churches and hence did not make provision for those. As well, the law did not recognize that may, if not most, COs objected to being in the military in any form and not simply to fighting. The law also did not adequately address the nature of noncombatant service which, being left to the President, was not defined for many long months.

The limitation to peace church membership and even to religious commitment soon proved to be untenable. in December 1917, Selective Servie issued an order broadening the term CO to apply to all those who had personal scruples against war. This order stated that:

“The Secretary of War directs that until further instructions on the subject are issued “personal scruples against war” should be considered as constituting ‘conscientious objection’ and such persons should be treated in the same manner as other ‘conscientious objectors’ under the instructions contained in confidential letter from this office dated October 10, 1917, [i.e., which named as COs those from peace churches].”[16]

Selective Service reiterated this order in March 1918 and it stayed in effect throughout the rest of the War.[17] However, this order did not change the law nor its application by draft boards. As a rule, it only applied to COs without peace church ties who remained committed to their pacifist convictions after drafted. Once they had thereby “proven” themselves, they generally received recognition as COs.

All draftees first faced induction into the military, being sent to camps before being allowed to express their CO commitment within the camps and under military authority. This situation was quite volatile. Most COs refused to wear an Army uniform or drill with weapons. By doing so, they could be liable to be prosecuted for disobeying an order, not simply for being COs. They would also then be tried in military courts and imprisoned in military prisons. Simply by taking their legal stand as COs, the young men received harsh treatment from soldiers. Norman Thomas pictured the situation in stark terms, based on personal observation and many interviews with COs:

“The rough treatment of World War I COs, admitted to by the War Department, according to reports from COs, included confinement in unsanitary guardhouses–sometimes in unheated cells during winter months, without blankets; and long hours of standing at attention, in bitter cold or in blinding heat. Men were forcibly clad in uniform, beaten, pricked or stabbed with bayonets, jerked about with ropes round their necks, threatened with summary execution, tortured by various forms of the “water cure”. In at least two cases men were immersed in the filth of the latrines, one of them head downward. In several cases guards dug their thumbs into the eyes of objectors in order by this form of exquisite torture to make them put on the uniform or obey a military command. Some COs were permanently injured.”[18]

The War Department, to a large degree successfully, intended to convince those claiming CO status to become regular soldiers after spending time in Army camps. When it became clear that this strategy would not work for everyone, the government finally made efforts to create acceptable alternative service possibilities.

In March 1918, Congress passed a law making COs available for farm work in the face of a labor shortage due to the War. In July, government tribunals began visiting Army camps to examine those claiming to be COs. Those approved as being sincere, including both religious and non-religious COs, received furloughs to farms to serve as laborers.[19] These men could be paid the prevailing farm wage, but could keep only $30 per month above subsistence so they would not be paid more than soldiers. The income above that amount was to be donated to the Red Cross.[20]

Of 20,873 claimants for CO status actually inducted (out of a total of 64,693 claimants), only 3,989 COs in the camps, indicating the success, from the War Department’s point of view, of the strategy of inducting all COs into the Army as a means of convincing them to become regular soldiers. And of this latter total, a small number had not had their CO claims recognized upon induction and thus were not part of the 20,873 but remained committed COs in camp. Hence, less than 20% of those inducted as COs retained their CO commitment.[21]

No full breakdown of the denominational affiliations of COs is available. The closest is the breakdown on 1,060 COs in 12 Army base camps interviewed by the tribunal. Of these, 55% were Mennonites, 8% Quakers, 6% Jehovah’s Witnesses, 4% Brethren, and the rest from dozens of other churches.[22]

Consequences. The experience of World War I had much to do with shaping perceptions of war and peace in the years that followed and, hence, ultimately with shaping response to World War II. The experiences of persecution and hostility and, also, of being under the direct control of the military greatly traumatized the peace churches. They worked hard at renewing their internal peace theology and practical education.

Several Brethren leaders, realizing that World War I would definitely not be the war to end wars, shortly after it ended vowed to work on leading the denomination to a more active pacifist stance.[23] They made efforts shortly after World War I to join the emerging national peace movement and to increase peace teaching within the church.

Some Mennonites shared these concerns. But a more traditional Mennonite response, due at least partly to Mennonite’s concern to show they could do positive work and not simply say no to war, can be seen in the founding of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as an inter-Mennonite effort to provide relief to European people, especially Russian Mennonites. P. C. Hiebert, the first chairman of MCC articulated this sentiment:

“There was little satisfaction in just maintaining a negative position toward war. What was needed was an opportunity to disprove the charges of cowardice and selfishness made against COs, and to express in a positive, concrete way the principles of peace and goodwill.”[24]

Interwar Years

COs to World War II can be seen (with the exception of the several rugged individualists whose objection was based simply on an intuitive aversion to violence and warfare apart from any outside influences) as the product of three main streams of thought and practice. First, and by far the most common, is the tradition of the three peace churches (Mennonites, Quakers, and Brethren). These three groups have distinct histories, but the key attribute they share is a commitment to pacifism and conscientious objection held to for hundreds of years and almost universally affirmed in official church statements of belief and practice (though certainly not, as we shall see, universally affirmed by church members).

The second stream is “sectarian millennialism.” This stream, in particular, includes “hetero-orthodox” groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Seventh-Day Adventists. All three groups had a high percentage of young men who refused 1-A status during World War II. Each of the three groups is unique, but all share a kind of other-worldly millennialism and sense of the immanence of the end of history which reduces their commitment to world political structures.

The third stream combines Social Gospel radicalism and a general disillusionment with war following World War I. This combination contributed to the widespread (though as it turned out, not always absolute) pacifist sentiment in the 1930s.

The Historic Peace Churches. During the inter-war period, Mennonites experienced increasing acculturation, though the process was quite gradual. An important development with regard to their peace concerns arose with the formation of MCC in 1920 as a merger of relief agencies from various Mennonite groups throughout the country. In its early years, MCC especially focused on assistance for victims of war and famine in South Russia, including many Mennonites there. The total value of the assistance has been conservatively estimated at $3 million.[25] Essentially dormant between 1925 and 1930, MCC became active again in the 1930s and by the time of World War II worked on various international relief and development projects.

As a rule, throughout this period, all Mennonites felt great caution about any kind of political activity until the War became imminent and efforts to gain favorable conscientious objection policies became necessary.

In the Church of the Brethren, denominational leadership had much more openness than Mennonite leaders about asserting the need for political involvement and hance more overtly aligned itself with the wider peace movement. Nevertheless, the church did little beyond general pronouncements.[26]

By the interwar period, Quakers had very little unity on the issue of pacifism. The peace testimony remained an ideal and the work of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) gave it concrete embodiment. At the AFSC’s 15th anniversary celebration in 1932, Quaker leader Henry Cadbury asserted that AFSC had had a significant effect on the Society of Friends, helping Friends to see that the Society was neither decadent nor antiquarian and that it had a distinct task in the modern world–of practical peacemaking.[27]

Alongside the witness and vitality of AFSC existed the reality of the gradual brakdown of any actual application of corporate theory of the Inner Light, in particular as applied to involvement in warfare. In earlier days, Quakers opposed such involvement. No convert could remain long within the Society without giving up the sword. As a rule, through the Civil War, Friends who joined the military forfeited their membership. But by World War I and the years following such corproate control had completely vanished. The Inner Light came to be interpreted in a purely individualistic sense. The official Quaker position remained pacifist, but people who joined the military remained members in good standing.[28]

Sectarian Millennialism. The Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced much internal controversy which lasted several years following the death of founder Charles Taze Russell in the early years of World War I. Gradually Judge Joseph F. Rutherford gained control and progressively weeded out his rivals. By 1938, few of the more independent-minded Witnesses remained. To oppose the leadership led to being labelled a “troublemaker” and to face shunning. Thus, most Witnesses thoroughly supported aggressive proselytizing and when the leadership instructed them to carry on a regular evangelizing campaign under any and all circumstances, they willingly obeyed.[29]

In the late 1930s, the Witnesses–after a period of only moderate growth, began to expand rapidly. Membership shot up from about 28,000 to 1938 to over 72,000 by 1943. The total number of “fellow travelers” (those active in the Watchtower Society but not official members) was probably three times higher.[30]

Several major characteristics of the Witnesses emerged during the interwar period affecting their relation to World War II. These included their total hostility toward human governments, their strong sense of calling to evangelize, and their opposition to killing.

The primary cause of the persecution likely can be seen in Witnesses’ insistence on aggressive evangelizing. That was what differentiated them from other closed religious groups who remained to themselves. Their total commitment to evangelism led most drafted Witnesses to reject even alternative service during World War II, since they saw that as too restrictive.

From the group’s beginning in the late 1800s, Pastor Russell taught that all taking of life was wrong unless it accorded with God’s rules such as biblical wars, Armageddon, or slaughtering animals for food. Modern wars, fought for secular ends, violate God’s law.[31] This remained a tenet of faith for Witnesses and provided them another basis for not fighting in wars.

Mainstream Pacifism. In the mid-1930s, many Protestants joined with other Americans to form a very sizeable and in many ways quite influential peace movement in the United States. However, by the end of 1941, this peace movement had little influence.[32]

Mainstream pacifists ion the 1920s and 1930s not only opposed war, they also worked at transforming society in a positive manner. They shared the Social Gospel hope to be able to influence human society to approximate the Kingdom of God, seeing this as a genuine possibility within human history.

One writer estimates that in 1938 the peace movement had 12 million adherents and an income of over $1 million per year.[33] But they did not meet this goal of peace, and the advent of World War II signaled the final death knell of Social Gospel optimism as a major force in Protestant activism. The vast majority of those twelve million came to support the War as at worst a necessary evil.

The loss of pacifists’ influence can be seen in the sudden change of heart among the leaders of the Methodist Church. In May 1939, they proclaimed that the Church “would never offically support, endorse, or participate in war.” A mere 19 months later, they affirmed that “the Methodists of america will loyally support our President and our nation” as it enters World War II.[34]

While the pre-World War II Protestant peace movement had many adherents and, in coalition with other groups, did influence public affairs, it nevertheless represented only a small part of the American church. Virtually no Catholics, very few people of the southern churches, few Lutherans, and hardly any evangelicals or fundamentalists identified with the peace movement. Given the polarities between liberal and conservative Protestants and the isolation of Catholics and Lutherans, the entire American church had little potential for working together in the peace movement. This inability of Christians to be unified certainly made it more difficult for a peace movement identified with Christianity to become more widespread and powerful.

Ultimately, when the pressure became acute, American Protestants’ nationalism in 1941 exerted more influence than a Christian ethical system that told them that war was always wrong. Many so identified the United States as a Christian nation that they assumed that the will of God would be mediated through the leaders of the country. Historically, little precedent existed for Christians actually saying no to a particular government calling on them to support a war. So it stands to reason that a peace movement within Christian churches would lose its influence once people actually faced a choice of serving their country or following their ethic of peacemaking.

Preparing for war. Once it became clear that the United States would go to war, the energies of pacifist leaders increasingly turned toward working to secure adequate provision for COs. This especially characterized peace church leaders, including the previously politically-withdrawn Mennonites.

The peace churches began meeting together in the mid-1930s to plan for conscription. Their concern from the start included not only their own members, but also religious pacifists of other denominations, as well as absolutist objectors who refused both non-combatant and alternative service.[35]

Starting in 1935, peace church leaders along with a few other pacifists began testifying to House and Senate Committees on Military Affairs. This testimony revealed that Congress had very little sympathy for their position. Legislators made little attempt even to try to understand the pacifists. The initial version of the draft legislation, which became known as the Burke-Wadsworth bill, treated conscientious objection in almost exactly the same way as World War I legislation. This meant, among other things, that only men from recognized peace churches could claim deferment and that all COs would be under direct military control.

Pacifist leaders completely rejected these provisions and labored mightily to institute changes. The pacifists, most effectively represented by two Quakers, Paul Comley French and E. Raymond Wilson,[36] argued strongly for legislation modeled after that in Great Britain which allowed complete exemption for absolutists, made recognition of all objectors regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, and provided for completely civilian-based alternative service. They pointed out that this system worked (in early 1940) even as Britain fought for its life against Germany. To a large degree these arguments fell on deaf ears, though ultimately they contributed to some changes.

The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 which Congress finally passed (barely, as isolationist sentiment still ran high) provided for exemption from military training and service on the grounds of “religious training and belief.” This did more than strictly limit exemption to peace church members, but it nevertheless disappointed the pacifist leaders. The interpretation of this phrase varied from draft board to draft board, but as a rule it seems that boards interpreted it loosely. As long as the CO claimant couched his claim in general religious terms (and not just on political grounds) he had a chance to gain exemption. Congress made no allowance for the full exemption of absolutists and provided alternative service as “work of national importance under civilian direction.” This key provision meant that, unlike World War I, COs would not have to be inducted into the military. But, as events proved, the lack of clarity over what “civilian direction” meant and lack of clear guarantees for its implementation caused many tensions, especially when shortly afterwards General Lewis Hershey became the director of SS and as such had jurisdiction over the COs.

The provisions for COs in the Burke-Wadsworth bill proved to be both an improvement over the legislation of World War I and much less than what the pacifists had hoped for. Congress could have been much more accommodating to COs without jeopardizing the war effort. But given the legislators’ general ignorance about and hostility toward the pacifists’ positions, it is a tribute to the hard work and lobbying insights of people such as French and Wilson that the pacifists gained what they did from the legislation.

For the pacifist communities in the U.S., World War II essentially began with the passage and implementation of the Burke-Wadsworth bill. The draft began in early 1941, and the first Civilian Public Service camps opened shortly thereafter. Pearl Harbor and the official American entry into both the European and Asian wars in December served almost as an anti-climax.

World War II

1940. In January 1940, the peace churches sent a delegation to meet with President Roosevelt to petition for liberal CO provisions. Roosevelt responded congenially, providing the peace church representatives with what later proved to be a false sense of optimism regarding his intentions.

When the draft bill passed on August 28 under the label of the Burke-Wadsworth Bill and Roosevelt signed it into law on September 16, it included none of the progressive British provisions. Unlike British COs, American absolutists whose convictions forbade that they cooperate in any way with conscription could not be totally exempted. Alternative service work would not be independent of the ultimate supervision of Selective Service (SS), though it was not to be under direct military control. Also, prospective COs faced the requirement of having convictions based on “religious training and belief.”

Nonetheless the peace churches and their friends did effect some changes in the draft vis-a-vis World War I. Four of the major advances included: (1) CO status, while still being tied to religion, no longer required affiliation with a recognized peace church. This meant, most obviously, that any religious pacifist could be a CO. But it also meant that lenient draft boards (of which there were a few) who understood “religion” in a broad way, could recognize all pacifists who applied for CO status, even those not affiliated with any kind of organized religion. (2) COs could now appeal local boards’ classification. (3) The law explicitly made provision for alternative service to include work “of national important” which would be under civilian control. (4) Prosecution for draft law violation would be handled by the Federal Court system and not military courts.[37]

The law allowed for alternative service of a civilian nature, but included nothing regarding the nature of that service, leaving resolution of that to the “discretion of the President.” The law said nothing about how the work would be financed and whether, and if so, how, the COs would be compensated for their work.

Even with these (ultimately very significant) omissions, and even given the failure of the law to measure up to the pacifists’ hopes in the light of British legislation, a general feeling of nervous optimism prevailed. Pacifists felt “nervous” because this process had no precedents in the U. S. and left much up to the discretion of government officials and “optimistic” because significant potential for doing constructive, civilian supervised alternative service as a witness against war seemed to exist.

In retrospect, it is obvious that the roots for discord existed from the beginning. The establishment of the SS as the ultimate supervisor of Civilian Public Service (CPS) placed a serious contradiction at the heart of the program. On the one hand, idealistic COs and the Service Committees of the three peace churches saw CPS as a means for witnessing against war, growing in their pacifist beliefs and practices, and performing meaningful humanitarian service of genuine “national importance.”[38]

On the other hand, the pragmatic desire of SS from the very beginning strictly had to do with avoiding any lessening of national unity regarding the fighting of World War II. SS “tolerated” COs because it perceived that not to do so would hinder its primary mission–i.e., drafting soldiers to fight in this War. So, though SS willingly allowed for COs, it did so with the basic attitude of keeping COs out of sight and out of mind. To allow the COs freedom of action and a public role (as, for example, might have happened through foreign relief service) had potential, in SS’s eyes, of alienating the vast majority of American citizens who “willingly made sacrifices.”[39]

The government’s lack of genuine sympathy for the ideals and desires of the peace churches soon became clear. Roosevelt signed the draft law in September. Shortly thereafter he surprised SS director Clarence Dykstra and greatly dismayed the peace churches with his extremely hostile response to their proposal regarding alternative service and his clear intention to refuse to allow any government funds to be used to finance CPS.

Dykstra informed the peace churches that they faced a choice of either taking on full responsibility for financing and administering the camps (though SS would still have ultimate supervisory authority, as events came to show) or ceding all control to the government and thereby giving up any possibility of supervision even over young men from their own churches.

These developments naturally distressed the peace churches and their umbrella organization, the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO) a great deal. After intense soul-searching and debate, NSBRO decided to go ahead with full responsibility for CPS. In retrospect, it became clear that from this time on CPS failed to meet the conditions which many of the pacifists, especially those of a more political bent, had originally considered essential.[40] One was that there be a choice between government and church camps. In the beginning, all camps had to be church camps and all legally recognized COs had to go to church camps regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. Also, CPS would receive no government funds for the maintenance of the camps or camper expenses (however, the government did fund the actual work projects by paying for equipment and supervisory personnel). This placed a tremendous financial burden upon the peace churches, especially when they had to take all comers into their camps and subsidize those who did not have the means for supporting themselves.

The actual CPS program also failed to meet the condition of full NSBRO control over the camps. Perhaps due simply to negligence on the part of the NSBRO leadership (made up, it should be noted, of men used to being very trusting of those with whom they worked), SS gave NSBRO and the peace church Service Committees no explicit and binding assurance that the camps under their administration would actually also be under their control. This vagueness later haunted the Service Committees and NSBRO as a whole when SS increasingly interfered with the internal operations and policies of the camps.

As the program progressed, SS exercised its overall supervisory function in several ways.[41] It regulated the hours of work in the base camps, the establishment of overhead quotas, the use of limited service men, and the conditions of absence from camp, including furlough, liberty, and leave regulations. SS imposed restrictions on assignees living outside officially designated quarters. In these and other ways, SS greatly restricted the Service Committees’ possible control over the campers’ situation in spite of the fact that the Service Committees were completely responsible for the funding of the CPS program.

1941. With the beginning of inductions in May 1941, the churches began to articulate options for their young men. Many mainline Protestant churches, especially those most influenced by the Social Gospel such as the Methodists and Disciples of Christ, emphasized freedom of choice for their young men while pledging support for those who chose to be COs. The Quaker and Brethren leadership strongly urged their young men to be COs but left this on the level of advice, recognizing that the majority in their churches no longer had pacifist commitments.

The Mennonites gave diverse responses. The most liberal branch, the General Conference Mennonite Church, as a rule strongly urged members to be COs but did not threaten sanctions to those joining the military. The largest branch, the Mennonite Church, had no unified national policy. However, one of the larger conferences, the Franconia Conference in eastern Pennsylvania, has a meeting of ordained ministers on May 1 which issued a statement that “those [draftees] not willing to file CO papers or who refuse to accept the alternative service forfeit their membership.”[42] This statement represented those of many conference and certainly expressed the sentiment of the many smaller, more conservative Mennonite groups, Amish, and Hutterites.

The first CPS camps opened in May. The first few months of the CPS program saw morale at the highest level attained during the War. The campers, administrators, and their supporters saw CPS as an opportunity for COs to make a significant witness against war and at the same time to render a service of peace to society.[43] They saw the hardships which it engendered as bearable since the commitment at this time was only for twelve months. An atmosphere of congeniality prevailed among the campers and administrators along with a sense of gratitude for the chance to serve in this way. The peace churches were also positive–and grateful that the government appeared to trust them to run these camps.[44]

The entire dynamic of the situation changed in early December with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into World War II. Public opinion strongly favored fighting the war–a poll on December 10 showed only 2% opposed to entry.[45] Certainly, by implication, public opinion appeared very unlikely to have much sympathy for those whose convictions forbade them to fight. The American churches, even those most influenced by the interwar peace movement, rallied to the flag.

Many, if not most, COs certainly desired an Allied victory once the War started. However, they still did not find it a war morally justifiable, really necessary, or acceptable in which to fight. The strong sense of isolation they felt from mainstream American society greatly troubled many COs, though less so those from groups such as the Mennonites who already had less of a sense of identity with the wider society.

The realization that they now faced enrollment in the program for the duration of the War, likely several years at least, also had a powerful effect on CPSer morale. Joining the military or going to prison offered the only ways out of CPS. In the months to come several took one of those routes, especially those CPSers who did not come from communities strongly supportive (both emotionally and materially) of their CO stand.

1942. Perhaps the crucial event in the early months of 1942 was the resignation of Clarence Dykstra as the Director of SS and the promotion of General Lewis Hershey to replace him. Dykstra, a civilian, prior to his appointment had been president of the University of Wisconsin. Quite tolerant of COs, he strongly believed in providing maximum recognition of the individual’s right to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, with the main limits being those explicitly imposed by legislative restraint.[46]

On the other hand, Hershey was a career military man and a member in good standing of the American Legion. He believed that he could not allow tolerance for the CO to hamper the overriding task of SS to recruit manpower for the military. Hershey saw alternative service as a “privilege” granted to those who would tend to undercut military efficianecy and discipline if inducted, and he saw COs’ privileges as totally contingent upon them cooperating fully with SS regulations.[47]

Hershey did work hard at maintaining open communication with NSBRO, and he evinced a willingness to effect occasional changes in response to NSBRO requests. He got along quite well with those forces within CPS (especially the Mennonites) who essentially cooperated with the program as established. But he had little patience with, little respect for, and little understanding of those forces which resisted what they saw to be overly strong government control in CPS.

Following Pearl Harbor, the government required CPSers, same as soldiers, to render service for the duration of the War plus six months. But unlike those in the military, CPSers received no pay or benefits. SS set the pattern which remained in effect throughout the War: CPSers have the same restrictions as those in the military, but never the same benefits. Hershey’s ascendancy signaled the beginning of an ever-increasing tightening of SS control over CPS.[48]

The CPS program greatly expanded during 1942. Along with the growth in numbers came an increasing dissatisfaction with the CPS program. COs who had entered CPS with hopes of doing “meaningful” work unhappily found themselves relegated to farm and forestry projects. From the beginning of CPS in May 1941, numerous CPSers petitioned for more meaningful work. By March 1942 these efforts began to bear fruit. CPS established several “detached service” projects in the months to come, and by the end of the War the majority of CPSers served in these projects rather than remaining in the “base camps.”

SS limited the options available for detached service due to perceived public opinion constraints. Hershey continually expressed his view that COs be best kept out of sight and out of mind.[49] Working as attendants in mental hospitals became by far the COs’ most popular option. Early in 1942, religious leaders and mental health professionals proposed using CPSers in mental hospitals. These faced a shortage of attendants, given the scarcity of labor in wartime America and the relative unattractiveness of mental hospital work.[50] SS approved this proposal, and with the establishment of a unit in the Eastern State Mental Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia in June, CPSers began serving as attendants.[51] By March 1947, when the CPS program ended, 1.7 million work-days had been spent by COs in mental hospitals.[52]

A debate emerged among NSBRO leaders pitting the founders of NSBRO (as a rule, representatives of the peace churches) who had a more service-oriented approach to pacifism against those more politically- and resistance-oriented. The isisue of church cooperation with the government in carrying out the draft emerged as a major one. Inevitably, those opposing such cooperation–representatives of the Federal Council of Churches (FCC), Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and War Resisters League (WRL)–all withdrew from NSBRO.

This controversy moved NSBRO director Paul C. French, a Quaker, to issue a defense of church cooperation with the state in the CPS program. He asserted that NSBRO’s perespective was the most realistic in the present situation. The evils of the loss of civil liberties are inevitable and irresistible during time of war. The first duty of the pacifist in such such times is to refuse to fight, in contrast to spending one’s main energies protesting the conditions which accompany war. Imperfect as it is, the CPS program is the best possible arrangement for facilitating that refusal. French also supported church funding given CPS’s purpose to display the religious orientation of the COs’ pacifism. This “second-mile” approach displays this orientation quite effectively. To insist upon government funding might be just, but such would be a “purely political” approach which would not be adequate for Christians.[53]

Tensions among the various protagonists in the CPS program grew during 1942 and only got worse as the war lengthened. In March, five CPSers in the AFSC-run Cooperstown, NY, camp went on a work-strike to protest the SS-mandated increase in the CPS work-week from 40 to 48 hours.[54] The strike, though short-lived, presaged an on-going battle between absolutist “resister-types” and the authoritarian and often arbitrary SS, with the service committees often caught in the middle.

By the middle of 1942, CPS had clearly failed in its objective of helping to keep men out of jail. In some cases, although they met the requirements of the law (i.e., being opposed to all war due to religiously-based convictions), the COs received 1-A or 1-A-0 (non-combatant) classifications from unsympathetic draft boards. Arrest came after they refused to report for induction. In other cases, men with pacifist commitments lacked religious convictions. Some absolutists refused to cooperate with the draft in any way. Also in this category fit those who discovered their absolutism after entering CPS and then decided to cease cooperation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses seeking total exemption as ministers constituted by far the largest group of prosecuted COs. Though they often met the legal qualifications for that exemption (i.e., spending 20 hours per week at their ministry), they usually did not get exemption. Thus they faced prosecution when they failed to report either to the military or CPS depending upon the classification they did receive.

By the end of the War, nine times more COs had been imprisoned than had in World War I, three times more in proportion to total draftees.[55] Interestingly, those refusing induction on pacifist grounds received much more severe treatment than other types of draft evaders, receiving lengthier sentences, being liable to being reimprisoned upon release if they still refused induction, and simply being more apt to be prosecuted.[56]

1943. Much of General Hershey’s thinking regarding the CPS program became public through his extensive testimony to the Senate on February 17, 1943. Hershey stated that he supported the CPs program. He strongly opposed an American Legion backed bill that would do away with the CO classification altogether. He felt that attempting to force COs to fight would compromise the efficiency of the military. “If you arouse opposition [from COs], you develop a martyr complex and they would do anything rather than fight. I would like to deprive the Army of having that problem to deal with.” At the same time, he expressed a desire to convince CPSers voluntarily to join the military, stating happily that “we have salvaged about 700 out of [the] 7,000 [total CPSers] already. I think, in time, more will be salvaged.”[57]

The establishment of government-administered camps resulted largely from expressions of dissatisfaction by numerous campers with churches administering all the camps. The church agencies themselves expressed unhappiness with having to accept all comers, even those COs preferring not to be in a church camp.

The first government camp opened at Mancos, Colorado in July 1943, follwed by one in Lapine, Oregon in january 1944 and one in Germfask, Michigan in May 1944. Initially, a CO had specifically to request placement in a government camp. At the urging of the church agencies, especially AFSC (which received most the no-HPC COs and had more campers opposed to CPS), SS reversed this policy in May 1944 so that COs were assigned to government camps unless they specifically requested placement in a church camp.[58]

The experience in the government camps proved to be quite unsatisfactory for many of those involved. The work projects continued to be of the forestry/agricultural type, and many campers especially considered the dam-building projects at Mancos and Lapine to be of dubious value even with regard to their stated purpose as irrigation dams. This fueled the COs’ sense of having make-work projects foisted on them. Also CPSers saw the government camps as disciplinary camps where SS could collect those who caused problems in other camps.[59] The government-appointed camp directors, generally technical service people, had expertise in the work projects rather than human relations. The directors tended to lack sympathy for the resister-type CPSers who often refused cooperation with the work projects. On the other hand, the church agencies welcomed the on-going existence of the government camps because that enabled them to be rid of at least some of the campers who did not want to be in their camps.

The Service Committees continued to find themselves in the middle between the inflexible, authoritarian SS on the one side and the strong resisters on the other side. In the view of historians Mulford Sibley and Philip Jacob, the Service Committees made the choice to seek to become more strict in their discipline of assignees as a means of retaining responsibility for CPS and securing “leverage” to win SS concessions. For the Friends especially (and, to a lesser degree the Brethren; though not so much the Mennonite, who from the beginning were more strict), this meant a deliberate and painful decision to abandon their initial commitment to a high level of democracy in the camps. The leadership of AFSC concluded that:

“It is only possible to demand the right of control…when we take the responsibility of exercising that control. When we do not accept the obligation to handle a discipline situation we are not in a position to object when another agency steps in.…We need good understanding and management of our own problems in order that we may deal with them without the intervention of SS.”[60]

A major blow to the morale of many CPSers came in June when Congress passed an amendment to the military appropriations bill which effectively forbade CPSers from leaving the territory of the United States to work in war relief and other service projects. Apparently many legislators were not aware of what they were voting for, but the amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Joseph Starnes, kenw exactlywhat he was doing. He asserted that he had no desire to see COs glorified by overseas service and would do everything in his power to keep this new law from being changed.[61] The Starnes amendment stated that no government funds could be used to finance overseas service and did not explicitly state that no overseas service could occur. But hershey took the position that he had no moral right as a governmental administrator to allow training for overseas service to continue, since the amendment plainly intended to abolish it.[62]

This action especially frustrated COs because several dozen of them has just undergone six weeks of intensive training for war relief service. They even had placement in China, and in fact an advance group of five CPSers had already left and travelled as far as South Africa before being ordered to return to the United States.[63] A service project began in China, but without staffing by active CPSers.

The work in mental hospitals continued to expand. A significant development early in the year emerged with the formation in the Philadelphia State Hospital for Mental Diseases of an organization of CPS attendants. This organization, at first names the Mental Hygiene Program of CPS, eventually grew to have an enormous impact on the mental health field as a whole in the United States. Originally, it was made up of only four CPSers, whose time spent with the Program came out of what little free time they had after 51-hour work weeks as unpaid attendants in the hospital.[64]

July 1943 saw approximately 800 non-Jehovah’s Witness COs in prison – along with about 2,000 Witnesses. These prisoners could be divided into four categories, of descending quantity: (1) men who met the law’s requirements for CO status and who had cooperated with the draft laws but received non-CO status from local draft boards; (2) political COs with largely non-religious and non-pacifist opposition to World War II; (3) genuinely pacifist, non-religious COs; (4) absolutists who refused to cooperate with the draft law, e.g., by not registering, not reporting, or going AWOL in CPS.[65]

1944. CPSers had a long year because they could really see the end of the War in sight and weariness had definitely set in. SS continued to be intransigent with regard to many of the concerns of CPSers. Where SS willingly did at least some advocacy, as in the case of dependency allowances for CPSers, Congress and other governmental officials refused to cooperate.

The ACLU sought the removal of CPS from SS control due to SS’s military nature. A delegation from the ACLU visited the President in June to propose that jurisdiction over CPS be passed from SS hands to the Interior Department. Roosevelt initially approved this proposal, but changed his mind in response to SS’s strenuous opposition.[66]

SS responded to the ALCU charges of a militarization of alternative service by asserting: (1) that the legislative history of the conscientious objection clause indicates that Congress merely intended to keep COs out of the military and free from military law; (2) that CPSers are not in fact the military nor are they subject to military law or court martial; (3) that Congress specifically authorized the President to use officers on the active list of the Army to carry out provisions of work of national importance; (4) that several courts, in response to challenges of CPS’s civilian nature, have ruled that CPS is not under military direction.[67]

1945. Many of the restrictive policies of SS gained their rationale from the perception (albeit anecdotal and intuitive) that public opinion in the United States was very hostile to COs. From this came the policy to keep COs out of sight and mind. Leo Crespi of Princeton University examined the public’s opinion of COs with an extensive survey published in early 1945 and therein challenged much of the conventional thinking.

Crespi’s findings showed a surprisingly strong sense of tolerance for COs among the American people. Large majorities of those polled (considered to be an accurate cross section of the general population) supported the existence of alternative service (80%) and supported financial reimbursement for COs (75%). In Crespi’s scale 56% were tolerant enough to assert that they would “have COs as friends,” and 37.3% asserted that they would “treat COs no differently than anyone else.”[68]

This evidence of public tolerance gave small consolation to the COs. With the conclusion of the European war in May and the Asian war in August, CPSers could now see the end in sight. But morale went down, if anything. On the one hand, SS only very slowly began the demobilization of CPS. Despite early hopes that CPSers would be demobilized at the same rate as the military, they were not, partly because Congress insisted that soldiers get priority.

On the other hand, many CPSers felt little hope in facing life after release. Unlike those in the military, they would receive no governmental assistance whatsoever. They had no financial benefits such as the separation allowance, no aid for going to college, no assistance for buying a house or starting a trade or business, or no help in securing employment. They feared discrimination even in attempting on their own to find employment and simply to returning to regular life in general.[69]

Continued conscription raised the question for the Service Committees as to whether they should continue to administer CPS in what amounted to a situation of peace-time conscription, which they all strongly opposed. AFSC decided that such cooperation would be unacceptable, and in October announced that it would cease administering CPS, effective six months following the end of the War – i.e., March 1946.[70]

MCC formally announced in December that it would remain with CPS for the duration of the draft. There was little doubt that MCC would do this, given the Mennonites’ relative lackof concern with opposing a peace-time draft. The explicit reasons given for continuing were: (1) the desire to continue in an alternative service program within which the churches could continue to minister to its people after they were drafted and (2) the desire to render constructive service to the nation more than simply saying no to war. MCC asserted that it desired CPS’s early termination, but it committed itself to working within that program as long as it existed.[71]

The leadership of the Brethren Service Committee (BSC) at first wanted to follow AFSC’s example by withdrawing from CPS administration. But in November they decided to remain with CPS until the program ended. They expressed a concern “for those who would continue to be inducted into CPS past March 2, 1946 and for keeping the door open to improved forms of alternative service in case of long-term conscription legislation.”[72]

1946. The government took over full administration of AFSC camps in March. Though young men continued to be drafted, the demobilization, once it got underway, went as a much more rapid pace. Hence, the number of CPS men and camps quickly shrank.

Paul C. French asserted that CPS had been one of the greatest cooperative ventures ever undertaken and even partially carried out in US history. It also was one of the most complex and confusing structures Washington, DC, had ever seen. French felt that the SS person directly over the CPS program, Col. Lewis F. Kosch, would recommend for future draft situations that the government have full administrative responsibilities for alternative service camps and that the churches be allowed only visiting ministers and teachers.[73]

1947. On March 29, the CPS program formally ended. President Truman issued a very limited amnesty for World War II draft law violators in December, settling the last piece of World War II CO business. To the great disappointment of the vast majority of CO violators, Truman’s order did not pardon them.

Conclusion. An estimated total of about 100,000 draftable young men had a CO commitment during World War II. This included the 50,000 who were drafted or sent to prison (12,000 CPSers, 6,000 convicted of draft evasion, and over 30,000 non-combatants) and an estimated 50,000 deferred for various reasons (e.g., occupational deferments for doing “essential” work such as farming and civil service work, dependency needs, physical problems).[74]

The 12,000 CPSers, while admittedly not always having the best motives, nonetheless did do a great deal of work. CPSers gave a total of almost six million project work-days between May 1941 and March 1947. About two-thirds were given in the base camps and one-third in the various detached service projects. CPSers constructed and maintained 2,000 miles of fence, 475 miles of new telephone and electric power lines, 814 miles of new truck trails, and 7,640 miles of stock and foot trails. They planted around 40 million trees in areas needing reforestation, did 1,800 miles of new fire hazard reduction work on fire-trails and roads, and devoted 48,000 work-days to fighting forest fires. CPSers built several irrigation dams and spent one and one-half million work days in state-mental hospitals, 120,000 in veterans hospitals, 105,000 in public health work, and 150,000 in research projects in areas such as effects of starvation, diet, and disease control. If the government had paid for the work of CPSers at the same rate as for its military, it would have spent over $18 million. As it was, this work – which presumably would not have been done otherwise – cost the government next to nothing.[75]

Not only did the CPS program meet with much less tolerance and freedom than initially envisioned by its founders, it also ended up costing the Peace Churches and other supporting groups much more money than initially expected. The Peace Churches expected the government to pick up part of the tab for administering the camps, especially for those CPSers not members of a Peace Church, and COs expected to be required only to give one year of service. As events proved, except for the few government camps established more than halfway into the War, the Peace Churches and other church groups provided all the administration funds for CPS, an amount that totaled over $7 million for the three Peace Churches. Small donations from generally rural people with limited financial resources provided most of this money.

That so many of their young men joined the military disappointed pacifist leaders – even among the Mennonites about one-half of those drafted became soldiers. But those who did join CPS remained committed to their pacifist ideals. Only 7.6% of the CPSers left for military service, a very small number considering the hardships imposed upon CPSers due to restrictive government policies.[76]

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[1]Peter Brock, Pacifism in Europe to 1914 (Princeton University, 1972), p. 3.

[2]Basic secondary sources on the New Testament and pacifism include: John Ferguson, The Politics of Love: The New Testament and Nonviolent Revolution (Fellowship, 1979); J. Massyngbaerde Ford, My Enemy is My Guest: Jesus and Violence in Luke (Orbis, 1984): William Klassen, Love of Enemies: The Way to Peace (Fortress, 1984); Jean Lasserre, War and the Gospel (Herald, 1962): G. H. C. MacGregor, The New Testament Basis of Pacifism (Fellowship, 1953); John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution (Herald, 1971); John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1972).

[3]Studies on the early church and war include: C. J. Cadoux, The Early Church and the World: A History of the Christian Attitude to Pagan Society and the State Down to the Time of Constantine (T. & T. Clark, 1925); Gerard Caspary, Politics and Exegesis: Origen and the Two Swords (University of California, 1979); John Helgeland, Robert J. Daly, and J. Patout Burns, Christians and the Military: The Early Experience (Fortress, 1985); Jean-Michel Hornus, It is Not Lawful for Me to Fight: Early Christian Attitudes Toward War, Violence, and the State (Herald, 1980); Louis J. Swift, The Early Fathers on War and Military Service (Glazier, 1983).

[4]My major source here is Brock, Pacifism in Europe, who pays special attention to the Waldensians, Czech Brethren, early Anabaptists, and early Quakers.

[5]Studies of Anabaptism and Mennonitism include: Brock, Pacifism in Europe; Cornelius J. Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History (Herald, 1981); Frank Epp, Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920: The History of a Separate People (Macmillan of Canada, 1974); Guy F. Hershberger, ed., The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision (Herald, 1957); Guy F. Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance (Herald, 1944); Richard K. MacMaster, Land, Piety, and Peoplehood: The Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America, 1683-1790 (Herald, 1985); Samuel F. Pannabecker, Open Doors: A History of the General Conference Mennonite Church (Faith and Life, 1975); John L. Ruth, Maintaining the Right Fellowship: A Narrative Account of Life in the Oldest Mennonite Community in North America (Herald, 1984); James Stayer, Anabaptists and the Sword (Coronado, 1976); John A. Toews, A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church: Pilgrims and Pioneers (Board of Christian Literature, 1975); and J. C. Wenger, The Mennonite Church in America (Herald, 1966).

[6]Studies of Quakerism include: Howard H. Brinton, Sources of the Quaker Peace Testimony (Pendle Hill Historical Studies, 1942); Brock, Pacifism in Europe; Peter Brock, Pioneers of the Peaceable Kingdom (Princeton University, 1968); Margaret Hirst, The Quakers in Peace and War: An Account of Their Peace Principles and Practice (Swarthmore, 1923); Rufus Jones, The Faith and Practice of Quakers (Methuen & Co., 1927); T. Canby Jones, George Fox’s Attitude Toward War (Friends United, 1984).

[7]Studies on Brethren pacifism include: Rufus D. Bowman, The Church of the Brethren and War, 1709-1941 (Brethren, 1944); Dale Brown, Brethren and Pacifism (Brethren, 1970); Frederick Denton Dove, Cultural Changes in the Church of the Brethren (Brethren, 1932); Floyd E. Mallott, Studies in Brethren History (Brethren, 1954).

[8]On these movements see: Peter Brock, Radical Pacifists in Antebellum America (Princeton University, 1968); Merle Curti, The American Peace Crusade, 1815-1860 (Duke University, 1929).

[9]On Civil War pacifism see: Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to World War I (Princeton University, 1968); Samuel Horst, Mennonites in the Confederacy: A Study in Civil War Pacifism (Herald, 1967); Edward N. Wright, Conscientious Objectors in the Civil War (University of Pennsylvania, 1931).

[10]On Jehovah’s Witnesses see: M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (University of Toronto, 1985); Herbert Hewitt Stroup, The Jehovah’s Witnesses (Columbia University, 1945); Timothy White, A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah’s Witnesses and an Evaluation (Vantage, 1967).

[11]Penton, Apocalypse, 138.

[12]For American church responses to World War I see Ray Abrams, Preachers Present Arms (Herald, 1969); Eldon G. Ernst, Moment of Truth for Protestant America: Interchurch Campaigns Following World War I (Scholars, 1974); John F. Piper, The American Churches and World War I (Ohio University, 1985).

[13]Paul Carter, The Decline and Revival of the Social Gospel: Social and Political Liberalism in American Protestant Churches, 1920-1940 (Cornell University, 1956), 92.

[14]Penton, Apocalypse, 55.

[15]Quoted in Thomas J. Etten, “An Historical and Ethical Evaluation of Selective Conscientious Objection in the United States” (PhD dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1970), 55-56.

[16]Quoted in Etten, “Historical,” 58-59.

[17]Walter Guest Kellogg, The Conscientious Objector (Boni and Liverwright, 1919), 22.

[18]Norman Thomas, Is Conscience a Crime? (Vanguard, 1927), 144.

[19]Kellogg, Conscientious, 31-32.

[20]Thomas, Conscience, 115-116.

[21]Thomas, Conscience, pp. 80-81; Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-1947 (Cornell University, 1952), 12.

[22]Kellogg, Conscientious, 128-129.

[23]Roger E. Sappington, Brethren Social Policy, 1908-1958 (Brethren Press, 1961), 46.

[24]Quoted in James C. Juhnke, A People of Two Kingdoms: The Political Acculturation of Kansas Mennonites (Faith and Life, 1975), 115-116.

[25]Juhnke, People, p. 114.

[26]Bowman, Church, 257-258.

[27]Margaret Hope Bacon, Let This Life Speak: The Legacy of Henry Joel Cadbury (University of Pennsylvania, 1987), 85-86.

[28]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 24.

[29]Penton, Apocalypse, 69.

[30]David R. Manwaring, Render Unto Caesar: The Flag Salute Controversy (University of Chicago, 1962), 20-21.

[31]Manwaring, Render, 29-30.

[32]Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914-1941 (University of Tennessee, 1971), 325.

[33]Lawrence Wittner, Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1941-1960 (Columbia University, 1969), 1.

[34]Wittner, Rebels, 37.

[35]Theodore Wachs, “Conscription, Conscientious Objection, and the Context of American Pacifism, 1940-1945” (PhD dissertation, University of Illinois, 1976), 50.

[36]Wachs, “Conscription,” 58.

[37]Neal W. Wherry, Conscientious Objection (Selective Service System Special Monograph #11, vol. 1, 1950), 89-90.

[38]As we shall see, great diversity existed among COs and the Service Committees themselves concerning the shape this idealism took and the relative potential of the work which they actually did to meet those ideals. But even those happiest about the actual shape of CPS and most grateful for government “tolerance” had these kinds of idealistic views about the purpose of CPS. Naively, it now seems, these “optimists” failed to perceive that SS did not share those ideals. Though seeing through those “rose-colored glasses” kept the contradictions between SS’s and the Service Committees’ basic perceptions regarding the purpose farther from the surface, those contradictions nevertheless existed in all cases.

[39]Wherry, Conscientious, 1-2.

[40]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 120.

[41]Leslie Eisan, Pathways of Peace (Brethren Press, 1948), 376-377.

[42]Willard Hunsberger, The Franconia Mennonites and War (Franconia Mennonite Conference, 1951), 79.

[43]Eisan, Pathways, 182.

[44]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 121.

[45]Wittner, Rebels, 34.

[46]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 308.

[47]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 308.

[48]Wachs, “Conscription,” 114.

[49]Wherry, Conscientious, 168-169.

[50]Marvin R. Weisbrod, Some Form of Peace: True Stories of the American Friends Service Committee at Home and Abroad (Viking, 1968), 29.

[51]Wherry, Conscientious, 169.

[52]Gordon Zahn, “A Descriptive Study of the Social Backgrounds of Conscientious Objectors in Civilian Public Service During World War II” (Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1953), 30.

[53]Paul Comley French, Civilian Public Service (NSBRO, 1943), 3-4.

[54]“Protest Brings Major McClean,” Cooperstown 1.4 (March 21, 1942), 1, 10.

[55]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 332.

[56]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 336.

[57]Lewis Hershey, “Testimony Before the Senate Military Affairs Committee, Feb. 17, 1943,” Calumet 2.12 (July 10, 1943), 4-5.

[58]Eisan, Pathways, 382.

[59]“Camper AWOL to Chicago Conference Ordered to Government Camp,” Sage O’Pinion 2.1 (July 1943), 3.

[60]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 283.

[61]Sibley and Jacob, Conscription, 228; Eisan, Pathways, 321.

[62]William Snyder, “Congress Action Jolts CPS,” Skyliner 1.7 (July 1943), 3.

[63]Eisen, 314-315.

[64]Weisbrod, 30-31.

[65]Julien Cornell, The Conscientious Objector and the Law (New York: John Day, 1943), 68-69.

[66]“Conscientious Objectors Under the Selective Service Act,” The Reporter 3.4 (August 15, 1944), 4.

[67]Julien Cornell, Conscience and the State: Legal and Administrative Problems of Conscientious Objection (New York: John Day, 1944), 3-4.

[68]Leo P. Crespi, “Public Opinion Survey Shows Majority Friendly Toward COs,” The Reporter 3.14 (Jan. 15, 1945), 3-6; Leo P. Crespi, “Survey Shows Public Favors Friendlier Treatment of COs,” The Reporter 3.15 (Feb. 1, 1945), 3-6.

[69]Sibley and Jacob, 303.

[70]Wachs, 188-189.

[71]“MCC to Continue Administration of CPS,” Mennonite CPS Bulletin 4.16 (Jan. 4, 1946), 1.

[72]“MCC to Continue Adminstration of CPS,” 1.

[73] “Combined Conference,” Mennonite CPS Bulletin 5.17 (August 18, 1946), 1. It is not known if Kosch made the recommendations that French expected. If so, he must have been disappointed with the direction future treatment of COs took. In the 1948 draft bill, much to the surprise and delight of the Peace Churches, Congress gave COs total exemption from the draft. Though this exemption ended in 1951 during the Korean War, no one but the most hawkish legislators wanted camps. As a result, COs performed alternative service in a completely civilian environment which offered them a great deal of choice regarding the work they would do. In addition, they received pay and benefits. See Albert Keim and Grant M. Stoltzfus, “Conscientious Objection and the Historic Peace Churches: The Politics of Alternative Service in Twentieth-Century America,” (xeroxed, 1986), 66-78.

[74] Sibley and Jacob, 464.

[75] Sibley and Jacob, 125-6; Wherry, 209-10.

[76] Zahn, “Descriptive,” 89.