Title:
The Civilian Public Service Camp Program in Indiana

Author:
Charles B. Hirsch

Date:
1950

Source:
Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 259-281

Article Type:
Article

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The Civilian Public Service Camp Program in Indiana

Charles B. Hirsch*

The civilian public service program came as an outgrowth of the Selective Service Act of 1940. It provided a means of safeguarding the freedom of conscience and religion of the individual, in so far as military service was concerned. By means of this program individuals classified as conscientious objectors were assigned to work of national importance. The program itself showed the influence of selective service officials, military officials, other government agencies, and the sponsoring churches. Selective service was responsible for the early processing of the conscientious objector and supervised the transfer of assignees to other special projects or camps. It also operated the special camps sponsored by the federal government. The chief function of the military authorities entailed the maintenance of certain standards as to buildings and sanitation in the camps. Officials of the soil conservation service were responsible for carrying out the special work projects of each camp. They provided the technical guidance and necessary equipment. The sponsoring churches administered the camps, and became financially responsible for their maintenance. Their camp administrators looked after the personal needs of the assignees, kept, the records, and prepared the various work rosters.

This alternate program served a twofold purpose by offering the conscientious objectors an opportunity to serve in a capacity which would not infringe upon their personal convictions, and giving the government an opportunity to get some much needed work done at a minimum cost. What the gun and sword were to the soldier, the pick and shovel were to the conscientious objector. Instead of the sound of a bugle, a bell was used to awaken the assignee to the new day's task.

Before the selective service system granted permission for the opening of a CPS camp, certain requirements or requisites were necessary. After a proposed camp site had met


  • * Charles B. Hirsch, a veteran of World War II, is an instructor in history at Teachers College of Connecticut, New Britain, Connecticut. This is the concluding article of a series of three published continuously since March, 1950. It is the revision of a master's thesis in the department of history at Indiana University, 1949, under the direction of Lynn W. Turner.
the approval and standards of the army for housing and sanitation, had shown that there was enough work "of national importance" available, and had proven acceptable to the surrounding communities, the project soon became a reality. Army engineers usually checked the camp site to determine whether or not it met the army standards. As far as work "of national importance" was concerned, the soil conservation service determined this by its field surveys. The most common type of work especially in the camps in Indiana, dealt with the problem of soil erosion.1

Less than five hundred of the eight hundred and fifty conscientious objectors in this state were stationed in Hoosier CPS camps.2 They came chiefly from the northern and central areas of Indiana, where the historic peace churches were well represented. Specific communities such as, Goshen, Elkhart, North Manchester, and Richmond had the greatest number of conscientious objectors.3 Other denominations and communities also contributed to Indiana's share of this group.

Under the direction of the Brethren Service Committee, the first CPS camp in Indiana was located at Lagro and known as CPS No. 6. It was the second camp to be organized in the United States.4 Twenty-six of its first hundred assignees were from Indiana. The facilities of this camp were large enough to accommodate over two hundred men. This number was not reached since it would have been a difficult task to find sufficient conservation work to keep such a group of men busy.5 CPS No. 6 lasted from May, 1941, to December 26, 1943. Shortly after Lagro CPS No. 6 was established by the Brethren, other peace churches followed suit. The Friends ventured forth with a camp at Richmond and another at Merom. The former was to be composed entirely of young men belonging to the Friends' Meeting in eastern Indiana,


  • 1 Shirley E. Greene, the Director of Merom Institute, Merom, Indiana, to Max P. Allen of the Indiana War History Commission, August 17, 1945; and a typewritten history by W. Earl Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, Indiana, 19. Most of the sources mentioned in this article are located in the archives of the Indiana War History Commission, Bloomington, Indiana.
  • 2Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, April 8, 1943.
  • 3 Carl S. Miller of the National Service Board of Religious Objectors (NSBRO), Washington D. C, to John D. Barnhart of the Indiana War History Commission, May 15, 1945.
  • 4 The first camp, CPS No. 3, was established by the Friends at Patapsco, Maryland.
  • 5Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, June 24, 1941.
whereas the latter would be open to men of all denominations. As there were no facilities at Richmond to provide for such a camp, it was necessary to raise funds for the building of barracks and other necessary buildings. These funds were obtained from Friends in the Middle West including Isaac E. Woodward, president of the Acme-Evans Milling Company in Indianapolis, who made a personal contribution of five thousand dollars to the project plus twenty acres of land and an old homestead. The camp was canceled after its completion by the selective service system, whose officials reasoned that the camp at Merom would be sufficient.6 It lasted about ten months longer than the unit at Richmond.

Two Indiana camps, Bluffton and Medaryville, were sponsored by the Mennonites. Bluffton, CPS No. 13, at the time of its opening the largest camp in the United States, dated from June 12, 1941, to April, 1942. Eighty-three assignees arrived on June 23, and within a month the number totaled one hundred and thirty-six.7 Its closing was merely a transfer of personnel to CPS No. 28 at Medaryville. The purpose of this was the greater importance of the work at CPS No. 28, which also outlasted all the other camps in Indiana, running from April, 1942, to April, 1946.8 Thus, the chief CPS camps in Indiana were Merom CPS No. 14, Lagro CPS No. 6, Bluffton CPS No. 13, and Medaryville CPS No. 28.

Civilian conservation corps camps which had been abandoned because of the shortage of labor served as a standard for the CPS camps. Units at Bluffton, Lagro, and Medaryville were actually located on former CCC camp sites. The one exception was Merom CPS No. 14, which was located on the campus of a former Congregational-Christian college, now known as the Merom Institute. This institution served as a training school for church pastors and lay leaders. It emphasized the importance of Christian rural life and advocated strong, rural churches. Aside from this background, there were other features which distinguished Merom CPS No. 14


  • 6Ibid., March 25, 1941, and June 1, 1941. See also Thomas E. Jones, President of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, January 17, 1949, to the writer, and the Indianapolis, Indiana News, March 25, 1941.
  • 7 Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, July 25, 1941. These camp publications were issued irregularly, sometimes weekly and other times monthly.
  • 8 Medaryville, Indiana, Jasper–Pulaski Peace Sentinel, February, 1944; Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace (Akron, Pennsylvania, 1949), 126-128.
from other Hoosier CPS camps. The latter were located in open farm land or forest areas, whereas the former was established within the boundaries of Merom, a town of 450 people. While the former CCC camps were provided with barracks and other necessary facilities, the camp at Merom required repair work and the building of additional dormitories or barracks. This work was done by volunteers who arrived at the camp before its official opening.9

The attitudes of the neighboring communities toward the establishment of these camps in their vicinities were usually neutral or favorable, except in the case of the camps sponsored by the Friends. When the Friends announced their plans for opening CPS camps at Merom and Richmond, opposition was voiced immediately. The Harry Ray Post of the American Legion at Richmond adopted with the unanimous support of the group a motion opposing the creation of the proposed camp in its vicinity. In spite of this opposition, the Friends went on with their plans for a camp at Richmond until selective service orders put an end to their project.10

At the opening of their camp at Merom, the Friends experienced even more hostile opposition. About four months before its organization, rumors of the proposed camp reached the communities of Merom and Sullivan, The Sullivan County Community Committee immediately appointed a group to investigate the matter. In Merom a meeting of the Merom Institute Committee, which usually functioned as a liaison between the community of Merom and Merom Institute, was called for the purpose of hearing Claude Shotts, the potential director of the camp, discuss the proposed project. Shotts had already met representatives of the soil conservation service and farm leaders of Sullivan County to determine the needs of a soil conservation project in Sullivan County.11 His purpose now was to present the soil needs of the county and explain how the assignees of the CPS camp would fit into the picture.


  • 9 A typewritten history by Donald Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, Merom, Indiana, May, 1941-May, 1942, pp. 3-4. See also Lela W. Mills of the Friends Peace and Service Committee, Indianapolis to the writer, January 18, 1949.
  • 10Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, May 14, 1941. Just recently this Post voted to investigate what it thought were "un-American activities" at Earlham College. The Post soon resolved that "there was nothing that required action by the American Legion." Richmond, Indiana, Palladium-Item, May 17, 1950.
  • 11Greene to Allen, August 17, 1945.
After an open discussion of the subject, the community representatives (who included community leaders other than committee members) moved, "That we approve the proposed project of a Civilian Public Service Camp in Merom, Sullivan County, and request the authorities responsible for this project to create such a camp here."12 The Sullivan County Community Committee after hearing the report of their chairman, who had been present at the meeting in Merom, decided that the matter discussed did not fall within their range of activity.

While the meeting at Merom resulted in a favorable attitude toward the establishment of a CPS camp, another meeting held on the same night in Sullivan produced different results. The Sullivan County American Legion Council, in session in Sullivan, discussed the proposed project. After questioning its potential effects on W.P.A. and other labor activities, this group, without attempting to seek further information, declared itself in opposition to the opening of such a camp at Merom,13 The forces of the opposition soon made themselves felt.

After receiving permission from Merom Institute to go ahead with the project, the camp sponsors waited patiently for approval from Washington. It was not until May 19, that word was received telling why the approval from Washington was not forthcoming. The reason behind the delay was an action of the Sullivan American Legion, which had been responsible for the sending of a petition to selective service headquarters opposing the Merom camp. Friends of the project upon learning of this, immediately contacted the Indiana director of selective service and the governor. Both these officials denied that they knew anything of this opposition. A crisis had been reached. Forces favoring the camp rallied to get additional support for the project. Merom Legionnaires attended a meeting in which Claude Shotts was heard. An unofficial vote showed that over eighty-three per cent of those present were favorable to the project. At another meeting of farm leaders, the vote was a unanimous approval of the camp. Soon various groups and individuals were sending letters and telegrams to Washington urging approval of the camp. These groups included the Merom Town Board, the Merom Congregational-Christian Church, the Gill


  • 12Ibid.
  • 13Ibid.; Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, April 10, 1941.
Township Farm Bureau, and eight county farm organizations. A petition, which included more names than the one circulated by the opposition, was also sent to Washington.

This barrage of local sentiment caused the selective service headquarters to send Colonel Lewis Kosch, in charge of camp operations, to visit Merom and make a firsthand study of the situation. Arriving at Merom Institute on June 4, he spent most of his time with Shotts and Dr. Thomas E. Jones of the American Friends Service Committee, and meeting with the various groups and organizations of the county. These groups included those who were in opposition to the project as well as those who favored it.14

J. C. Greenberg, American Legion Commander of Sullivan County, said that the main objection to the camp was that "its members might engage in work that could be given to unemployed Sullivan county men."15 He also mentioned the fact that "Sullivan county was one of the most ‘unsettled’ areas in the state." If a camp were established it might lead to another disorder, as had occurred previously when a clash between union and nonunion miners resulted in the use of martial law. "This county," Mayor John Ace Robinson added, "is just now recovering from the effects of the martial law black eye, so don't bring something like this (the objectors' group) here to start trouble all over again."16

Local group leaders who expressed approbation for the project, emphasized the benefits which would be derived from such a camp. They mentioned the thirty-four thousand dollars which would be spent annually in the county for operating costs besides the work that would be done on the farms which would otherwise be left undone. This work would amount to sixty thousand dollars per year. The final meeting of Colonel Kosch's visit was held at Merom Institute. Over one hundred persons, representing almost every farm organization in Sullivan County, met to voice their approval of the proposed project. When Kosch questioned the possibility of violent opposition to the camp, one Merom resident replied "Would we be inviting this camp into the community where our families live, if we expected its coming to cause violent agitation?"17


  • 14 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 2.
  • 15Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, June 6, 1941.
  • 16Ibid.
  • 17Greene to Allen, August 17, 1945.
A few days later, official consent was received from Washington for the organization of CPS Camp No. 14 at Merom. It should be noted that the reason for this tolerant attitude among these Sullivan County groups was not so much the toleration of freedom of conscience as the promise of work on the farms, which were in need of soil conservation projects, and the financial profit which the local merchants and farmers would receive in return for their sale of goods and services to the camp.18

The administration of the camps which were supported financially by the churches followed a stereotyped pattern. Camp officials included a director, a matron, a business manager, an educational director, and a camp buyer. These persons were ordinarily nonassignees and members of the sponsoring denominations. Later, however, many of these positions including that of the director were invariably turned over to the assignees. The techniques of the directors in supervising these Hoosier camps varied from the use of dictatorial tactics to democratic procedures. Some of the units actually formed governments in which the assignees had a voice in the affairs of the camp.19

The differences of experience in education, marital status, and occupation, as well as the variety of backgrounds and beliefs were responsible for the heterogeneous groups of assignees that were found in these work projects. Assignees who refused to report to camp were handled by federal authorities and were charged with lawbreaking and delinquency. The consequence was usually a jail sentence.20 One Bulgarian refugee who had served some time in the Bulgarian Army was assigned to Camp Lagro. His stay here was cut short when government officials discovered his true status. It was not too long before he was reclassified as an enemy alien. Another case which added some color to the life at Camp Lagro was that of a Chicagoan who appeared at the camp in an inebriated condition. He made no claim of having any conscientious scruples and later when a newspaper reporter


  • 18 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 13.
  • 19 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 6-9, 29; Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 8. Two projects having camp governments were Lagro and Merom.
  • 20Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, June 27, 1941; Indianapolis, Indiana, News, February 3, 1942.
investigated the case, it was brought to light that the man had obtained a conscientious objector classification by bribing a member of a Chicago draft board.21 The first assignee to leave a CPS camp because he could not conscientiously submit to conscription even of nonmilitary service was Alex Stach of Merom CPS No. 28. He reported to FBI authorities and was taken into custody. When he appeared at court, the judge, without giving him an opportunity to explain his action, sentenced him to five years in a penitentiary.22

These differences among the assignees were often responsible for the "rough sailing" experienced by some of the camp administrators. Bluffton CPS No. 13 was the most homogeneous of all the Indiana camps. Ninety-five per cent of the assignees of CPS No. 13 were of the Mennonite group. This meant that the task of forming group solidarity was not only easier, but it was possible for camp officials to prepare a program, which would be accepted by the great majority.23 When this camp was moved to Medaryville, the picture changed. CPS No. 28 had a greater number of non-Mennon–ites than any other Mennonite camp. The breach between Mennonites and non-Mennonites led to disputes over the administration of the camp and its work program. Camps sponsored by the Friends usually had more problems of personal adjustment, not only because of the large number of non-Quakers, but because of the individualistic nature of the Friends' philosophy. One thing upon which the majority of these assignees did agree, divergent as they were in opinions and ideas, was the question of government camps.2* In answering a questionnaire at Merom eighty per cent of these assignees, contributors of thirty-five dollars per month for the privilege of being in camp (in many cases, families or churches paid this amount), and who received about two dollars and fifty cents per month as spending money,25 voted


  • 21 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 2, 17.
  • 22 Merom, Indiana, Plowshare, April, 1942.
  • 23 Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, December, 1941.
  • 24 William H. Chamberlin, "American C.O.'s," Survey Graphic (New York, 1921), XXXII (1943), 438; Gingerich, Service for Peace, 129-130.
  • 25 For two years the assignees in Mennonite camps received no monthly allowance. In December, 1944, the MC voted a five-dollar–monthly allowance for each assignee regardless of church affiliation. Medaryville, Indiana, Jasper–Pulaski Peace Sentinel, January, 1944.
"no" to the question which asked if they would prefer to serve in a government operated CPS camp.26

The main work of the CPS camps in Indiana was under the direct supervision of the soil conservation service of the department of agriculture. In addition to supervision, the government provided tools and equipment to be used on the projects.27 Co-operation of government supervisors, or camp superintendents as they were called, was usually good. Some were less tolerant than others, but they co-operated to the extent that was necessary in order to get the work done on their projects. The working week of the assignee at first was five eight-hour days. Saturdays were used to make up any time lost during the week due to inclement weather. Shortly thereafter, the work week was extended to half a day on Saturday and time lost because of bad weather was not made up. In 1943, a six-day work week went into effect.28

As has been mentioned, the major work of the camps was of a soil conservation nature. In most instances, labor was done on land belonging to farmers. It included fence construction, gully control work, terracing, tree planting, and ditching. The cost to the farmer, who had contracted for this service, was merely the expense of the materials used. Another important project was that done by the Lagro unit in the forestry service, especially at the Salamonie River and Francis Slocum State forests. Similar duties were performed in the vicinity of the other camps. This work involved the cleaning of picnic areas, cutting of wood, painting and creo-soting of all state buildings, maintaining roads and trails in the forests, improving the forest reserve, the planting of trees, breeding of thousands of pheasants, and a variety of other tasks that could be mentioned under this category. A new record in tree planting was achieved at Medaryville when twenty-eight assignees planted over eighty-three thousand trees in one day, as compared with the CCC record of thirty thousand trees planted by thirty-five men.29 Over fifty-five thousand trees were shipped to various parts of Indiana where they were planted in areas denuded by strip mining. Fire


  • 26 Merom, Indiana, Plowshare, May, 1942.
  • 27Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, February 8, 1941; Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, p. 18.
  • 28 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, pp. 4, 18-19.
  • 29 Leslie Eisan, Pathways of Peace (Elgin, Illinois, 1948), 89; Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, March 13 and April 24, 1942.
prevention and control was another important function of those engaged in forestry service. The great amount of service which Indiana received at the hands of the conscientious objectors is significant in that the assignees received no accident compensation, no dependency benefits, and none of the benefits granted to servicemen in the G.I. Bill of Rights. In Indiana 185,355 freeman work days, not including overhead, were contributed by conscientious objectors to the projects. This figure is only up to December 31, 1944. The man work days at Medaryville alone up to this same time totaled 104,911 on local projects.30

The educational functions provided by the CPS camps were numerous. They varied from informal class instruction to highly specialized courses. It was the duty of the educational director to co-ordinate the activities of the assignees. Some of the camps were fortunate in having educational directors who had college degrees and experience in the field of teaching and education.31 The problem that faced the educational directors was the planning of a program that would offer something for those with a minimum of education as well as for those on a college level. Except for two, all the assignees at Merom had a high school education. Sixty per cent of them had experienced some college training.32 This high percentage did not exist in the Mennonite camps. The reason being that the Mennonites were mostly farmers who preferred a strong work program.33 In order to create an educational interest among the assignees, it was necessary to provide a varied curriculum.

Early courses of study included first aid, religion, soil conservation, and forestry. Later, current events and such vocational courses as farm bookkeeping, welding, and auto mechanics were added to the curriculum. The instructors were camp officials, soil conservation service employees, and assignees themselves. Classes usually met in the evenings,


  • 30 Miller to Barnhart, May 15, 1945.
  • 31 Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, September 19, 1941; Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 8.
  • 32 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 5.
  • 33 Interview with Roland Bartel, a former CPS camp director, Bloomington, Indiana, February 26, 1949. Gingerich, in Service for Peace, 302, stated that the average schooling in Mennonite camps was about ten and one-half years.
as the assignees were not permitted to take off any time from work for these activities.34

The Lagro China Unit was one of the first specialized groups to be formed. It was organized in 1942 and consisted of volunteers who expected to be trained for relief and rehabilitation duty in China. Selective service headquarters had permitted members of this group to be excused from regular camp obligations, enabling the assignees to devote all their time to relief training. This training consisted of the Chinese language, first aid, and elementary medical procedure. Medical and surgical supplies and drugs were purchased and packed for the unit. As the training period drew to a close, transportation arrangements were made for the expected two years of ambulance and emergency relief work in China. There was discouraging news, however, when camp officials learned that the state department, without official reason, had refused to grant passports to the conscientious objectors. Despite this setback, the unit continued its program and after engaging in some emergency relief work at the tornado stricken town of Goshen, it was disbanded. Several members eventually took part in a rehabilitation program in Puerto Rico.35 A year later, an advance unit of relief workers to China managed to get as far as South Africa, but this time an Act of Congress resulted in the group's immediate return to the United States.36 Not much imagination is needed to realize how these boys must have felt and the "let down" which followed this disappointment.

Another training unit which suffered at the hands of officials was the dairy testing group at Lagro. The class, consisting of eight assignees, was under the guidance of the extension dairyman of Purdue University. In this case, selective service headquarters would not grant permission for these men to be excused from their daily obligations. This meant that the assignees would have to undertake the training on their own time. In order to accomplish this, the men started their day's work at four-o'clock in the morning and


  • 34 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 10; Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, July 25, 1941.
  • 35 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 11. See also Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, August, 1942.
  • 36United States Statutes at Large, LVII, 350. See also Guy F. Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance (Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1944), 183-186.
completed their eight hours at noon. The remaining time was spent in class and laboratory. All books, literature, and record sheets were furnished by Purdue University. This assistance was withdrawn when it was learned that approval could not be obtained from state authorities for permitting CPS dairy testers to work in Indiana. A few of the assignees did manage to make use of their training as dairy testers in other states.37

The biggest enterprise of the peace churches in the educational field was a special training program within their colleges. On August 7, 1942, a Conference of Mennonites and Affiliated College Administrators, at Winona Lake, Indiana, proposed a program for prospective workers in relief and reconstruction activities. It was expected that conscientious objectors, who are willing to volunteer for such service, would take part in the program. The main obstacle to be hurdled was to obtain consent from the selective service system. This was done through representatives of the National Service Board of Religious Objectors (NSBRO), who presented the idea to the government officials. On April 21, 1943, the director of selective service, Major General Lewis B. Hershey, issued an order establishing CPS camp No. 101. Located at Philadelphia, this camp was to serve as headquarters for the new project.38 Each of the historic peace churches was permitted to establish special educational programs in four of its colleges. In Indiana, these were organized by the Friends at Earlham College, by the Mennonites at Goshen College, and by the Church of the Brethren at Manchester College. Earlham enrolled seventeen in its program. Eight others who had been selected to attend were still in their camps when Congress put an end to the program. They were, therefore, prohibited from participating. Manchester had seventy-four CPS assignees, and the number at Goshen was about sixty-five. To this last group were added fifteen women volunteers.39


  • 37 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 11-12. See also Lagro, Indiana Camp No. 6, Civilian Public Service, Brethren Service Committee, a pamphlet reprinted from the Gospel Messenger of June 5 and 29, 1943.
  • 38Federal Register, VIII (April 27, 1943), 5444-5445; Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance, 183-184, 384-385.
  • 39Ibid., 185; Eisan, Pathways of Peace, 317-321. See also the Richmond, Indiana, Earlhamite, July, 1943; and the Goshen, Indiana, Goshen College Record, January 8, 1943.

The training program consisted of work in mechanics, agriculture, construction methods, public health and sanitation, food and nutrition, languages, history, and relief and reconstruction methods. The trainees whose expenses were paid by the sponsoring churches lived in the college dormitories, and except for their heavier school program were no different than the other students. A few conscientious objectors from the camps at Lagro and Merom attended a similar program at Columbia University in New York where the special lecturers included Dr. Philip C. Jessup, the present United States Ambassador at Large.40 All went well until Congress in June, 1943, attached a rider to the military appropriations bill for 1943-1944 which provided that, "no appropriation contained in this Act shall be used for any expenses pertaining to (1) the instruction, education, or training of Class IV-E conscientious objectors in colleges, (2) the service of such conscientious objectors outside the United States, its territories and possessions, (3) the transportation of such conscientious objectors to or from any college or any such service, or (4) the compensation of military or civilian personnel performing any services with respect to the matters set forth in (1), (2), or (3) above after the enactment of this Act, except any services which may be necessary promptly to terminate any such class IV-E conscientious-objector college or foreign-service projects existing on the date of the enactment of this Act."41

Officials of the selective service system, including those in the top echelon of the CPS program, received their salaries from the national government. The effect of the new law was to prohibit them from allotting any assignees to the relief training program. Since several of the colleges had started their training programs before the law was passed, they were permitted to go ahead and complete the program within two months.

This congressional action was a blow to morale within the CPS camps. The assignees interpreted this latest setback


  • 40 George T. Little, "Program of Training in International Administration at Columbia University," The American Friend (Richmond, Indiana, 1912-), n.s. XXX (1942), 566-567; George Mathues of the American Friends Service Committee, Philadelphia, to the writer, March 4, 1949.
  • 41United States Statutes at Large, LVII, 350; Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance, 183-186.
as indicating a diminished regard for freedom of conscience. Yet, the men maintained a vigorous interest in their studies, and after the close of the program returned to their former units. CPS officials were told unofficially that one of the underlying causes for the opposition in Congress was that some of the lawmakers resented Mrs. Roosevelt's alleged influence in the government. When these lawmakers learned that she had favored the special training program, they opposed the plan in order to thwart her.42

Camp libraries, which at times received books from the Indiana State Library43 and the camp newspapers, such as, the Salamonie Peace Pipe, the Plowshare, and the Bluffton Peace Sentinel, which provided practice in journalism, supplemented the educational activities of the assignees. Those who had special interests in music or art usually found ways and means of keeping their talents alive. An assignee at Merom used his spare time to paint a mural in the dining hall of Merom Institute. Others attended lectures and musical programs which were given at nearby colleges. Thus, in spite of the seemingly constant opposition, the CPS camps did manage to achieve some success in the educational activities of their men.

The religious phase of camp life consisted chiefly of Sunday morning services and daily morning devotions. Due to the heterogeneous conglomeration of beliefs represented in the camps44 the religious services did not satisfy all the spiritual needs of the assignees. Many of the men attended church services in the nearby communities. Some of the churches co-operated by sending groups of young people to the camps, where they presented religious as well as recreational performances. The assignees reciprocated by furnishing special music, and by leading in some of the church activities.45

In order to better the public relations between the camp and the nearby communities, an unofficial "good neighbor" policy gradually took shape. The attitudes of the surrounding communities varied. Some remained neutral, but others


  • 42 Eisan, Pathways of Peace, 320-321; Gingerich, Service for Peace, 308.
  • 43 Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, August 8, 1941.
  • 44 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 6.
  • 45 Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, July 25, 1941.
showed evidence of hostility toward the men in camp. It was while working at the Lagro camp farm that an objector felt several bullets whistling by his head. He was not injured, however, and the assailant, after firing the fourth shot returned to his black sedan and drove away. Prior to this, another man was attacked and abused while working on a camp project. These incidents, caused chiefly by prejudice on the part of some townspeople, were met with nonviolence on the part of the assignees.46 The situation was similar at Merom. In order to avoid arousing antagonism, the men visited Sullivan either singly or in small groups. An example of the hostile atmosphere of the town was evidenced by the attitude of the selective service examining physician who lived in Sullivan. One of his duties was to examine the new assignees when they arrived at Merom. Despite the fact that a considerable number were being rejected in the army and other CPS units for physical disabilities, this doctor refused to reject any assignees at Merom CPS No. 14. The first man to be released from Merom was a Hoosier who had been inducted just after an automobile accident. After collapsing several times while doing soil conservation work, an X ray was finally taken which revealed that the man's back had been broken in two places. Following a third set of X rays, the selective service system became convinced of the assignee's condition, and had him reclassified.47 Later the selective service system appointed an army medical officer to visit the CPS camps and examine all men whose condition warranted a re-examination.48 The camps at Bluffton and Medaryville had a less colorful experience in the above respects, for public sentiment in their vicinities was much more favorable toward the conscientious objectors.49

In practicing the "good neighbor" policy, assignees aided local fire departments on several occasions, and at one time supplied a local farmer with cots and blankets to replace those which were destroyed in a fire. Another farmer in distress received fertilizer and seed which some men at camp


  • 46 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 5, 16.
  • 47 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp #14, p. 13, 14, and an interview with Ed. Lefferson (the person in question), Bloom-ington, Indiana, on March 2, 1949.
  • 48 Medaryville, Indiana, Jasper–Pulaski Peace Sentinel, April 24, 1942.
  • 49 Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, September and December, 1941.
bought from their food savings on special fast days. One group of conscientious objectors used their spare time in making wooden toys for the underprivileged children of the community. Others donated their free time on Saturdays by working on a community project at a nearby college campus.50

Lack of manpower gave the assignees an opportunity to render helpful aid to the local farmers by participating in the harvesting of the corn crop. As selective service would not grant them time off from ordinary labor, the assignees worked with the farmers in their free hours. Prevailing wages were offered to the men at Lagro, but these were refused. Instead, the money was placed in a common fund and later used to buy a combined resuscitator and inhalator for the Wabash County Hospital.51

Proffered aid by the conscientious objectors was not always welcome. When a tornado struck Kokomo in 1942, Red Cross officials and others turned down the offer of conscientious objectors to assist in clearing the debris. Legionnaires went so far as to say that they would withdraw their help if assistance from the assignees was accepted. Members of the Building Trades Union also voiced objections. Some families whose homes had been destroyed by the holocaust said "they ‘preferred to do the work themselves,’ rather than accept such assistance."52 At Goshen, however, the conscientious objectors from Bluffton not only took an active part in demolition work in the tornado stricken parts of that city, but were actually welcomed there.53 A year later, when the floods of the Wabash River caused further damage, the American Red Cross again refused help from the conscientious objectors but this time it did accept cots and blankets.54

The closing of the CPS camps in Indiana meant for the most part a survey and inventory of all equipment and the processing of records for the transfer of assignees to other units. While the opening of Merom brought on a shower of opposition, the same attitude took place upon the closing of Lagro. In October, 1943, when it became known that CPS


  • 50 Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, April 15, October 24, and December 13, 1941.
  • 51 Eisan, Pathways of Peace, 172-173.
  • 52Indianapolis, Indiana, Star, June 24, 1942; Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, June 27, 1942.
  • 53 Bluffton, Indiana, Peace Sentinel, March 27, 1942.
  • 54 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 14.
No. 6 was to be closed, officials of the soil conservation service and members of the local community suddenly became active in an attempt to forestall the closing of the camp. The camp superintendent, a government agent, hoping to increase the community pressure to keep the camp open started a rumor that Italian war prisoners were to replace the assignees at Lagro. This produced the desired effect. Opposition to the closing of Lagro came partly because of the work being accomplished in the area and partly from the fact that the government technicians would have to be transferred to other places with less favorable working conditions. Farm leaders also joined the parade of opposition, as harvest time was approaching and farm labor was scarce. The pressure groups, however, did not get very far since the Brethren Service Committee had made several requests to the selective service system to close Lagro and two other Brethren camps, and approval was finally granted. Selective service officials fearing that pressure from Hoosier congressmen would make it necessary to keep the camp open, advanced the closing date of the camp, which officially ceased to exist as of December 26, 1943. Men from Lagro and other Hoosier camps were transferred to various parts of the United States and to Puerto Rico.55

The attitude of the selective service system toward the civilian public service program had been one of increasing liberalism as conditions warranted. This has already been shown in the educational aspect when assignees were at first restricted to the use of their own free time for the furtherance of specialized education. Selective service broadened its outlook toward the latter when it granted assignees time off from their work so that they would be able to participate in the relief and reconstruction training program. This same attitude was found in the farm labor program. The assignees at first helped the farmers during their spare time. Later, selective service recognized the need of farm labor and permitted the CPS men to take part in farm work during regular working hours. The conscientious objector was paid at the rate of forty cents per hour. Thirty-five cents of this went into a frozen fund in the United States Treasury where it was to remain until a decision could be reached as to its proper


  • 55Ibid., 23, 24; Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, November, 1943; Medaryville, Indiana, Jasper–Pulaski Peace Sentinel, November 6, 20, 1942.
use, while the remainder went to the camp for the purchase of gloves and special clothes for those engaged in the farm program.56 Workers usually received their meals from the farmers with whom they were employed. Purdue University also requested the aid of conscientious objectors for its agricultural station at Lafayette, Indiana. Their task was to husk corn which had been raised for experimental purposes. In return, the university had only to pay the cost of maintenance and transportation of the men. In this instance, however, when the selective service system not only recognized the need of farm labor but made it compulsory for CPS men, some repercussions resulted. A few of the assignees because of conscience or other reasons refused to take part in the farm program. For their refusal to participate, five men were transferred to another camp where there was no farm program. Another one was sent to a government camp, while one was returned to prison.57

Selective service showed further liberal tendencies when it permitted conscientious objectors to take part in "guinea pig" projects and work in mental institutions and hospitals. Indiana's conscientious objectors took part in experimental projects at the universities of Minnesota and Rochester, and at Northwestern and Indiana universities. These experiments included starvation diets, the testing of different kinds of clothing for army use, protein deficiency and colds, and the effects of high altitude on human beings. The volunteers received room and board, plus fifteen dollars cash per month for miscellaneous expenses.58 Other Hoosiers served in the State Mental Hospital at Columbus, Ohio, the Chicago Alexian Brothers Hospital, the South Western State Hospital in Virginia, the Mental Institution at Lyons, New Jersey, and the Logansport State Hospital in Indiana.59


  • 56 Efforts are still being made by the NSBRO to have the money in this frozen fund released to a rehabilitation project, but the Veterans of Foreign Wars are opposed to this and want the fund (over one million dollars) turned over to veterans welfare and service work. Washington, D. C., The Vet-Times, June 3, 1950.
  • 57 Griffin, Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 20-21.
  • 58 Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe; October, 1943; Research for Relief (Brethren Service Commission, n.p., n.d.). Also interviews with Professor Sid Robinson of Indiana University, February 24, 1949, who conducted some of these experiments, and Robert I. Long, Bloom-ington, Indiana, March 2, 1949.
  • 59 Interviews with Robert I. Long, Bloomington, Indiana, March 2, 1949, and Jasper Garner, Bloomington, Indiana, March 19, 1949. See also Of Human Importance, CPS No. 26, an illustrated pamphlet (Alexian Brothers Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, 1946), and the Lagro, Indiana, Salamonie Peace Pipe, December, 1942.

Logansport solved its problem of inadequate hospital personnel for satisfactory institutional operation by the installation of CPS unit No. 139. From fifteen to twenty-one conscientious objectors were assigned to this unit. The superintendent of the hospital stated in an annual report that the work done by these assignees was very good and that much better care and treatment was rendered to the patients. "As a matter of fact," he said, "without the services of this unit one cannot see how the patients could have been cared for." As male attendants became more readily available, the unit was discontinued on March 1, 1946. Some of its members returned to their base camps, while a few were discharged.60 When one hospital, hearing of the widespread use of conscientious objectors as "guinea pigs" put in a request for six men who would be willing to have their bones broken for a bone setting experiment, both officials of the NSBRO and the selective service system agreed that there was a limit to everything. They felt that the hospital could find enough subjects whose legs had been broken accidentally. The request was not granted.61

Further evidence of the growing liberal attitude of the selective service system toward the use of conscientious objectors was shown in allowing assignees to be detailed to relief work. One of these relief depots was located at Nappanee, Indiana, where a group of CPS men assisted in the preparation of relief clothing for shipping and in the making of soap. This work was under the auspices of the Church of the Brethren.62 When the opportunity at last presented itself, many conscientious objectors went into foreign relief work. This for the most part entailed voyages to Poland, Greece, and Italy, to which countries cattle, horses, and other domestic animals were being shipped on relief projects.63 There were


  • 60Fifty-Seventh Year of the Logansport State Hospital, Report for the Year ending June 30, 1945 (Logansport, Indiana); and the Fifty-Eighth Year of the Logansport State Hospital, Report for the Year ending June 30, 1946 (Logansport, Indiana).
  • 61The Reporter, published by the National Service Board of Religious Objectors (Washington, D.C., 1942-?), I, December 1, 1942.
  • 62 Eisan, Pathways of Peace, 322-323.
  • 63 Interview on March 3, 1949, with Richard E. Mundy of Bloom-ington, Indiana, who took part in the experiment at the University of Minnesota.
other opportunities for useful activity but many of these were closed to conscientious objectors because of the opposition of the American Legion and similar organizations.64

The conscientious objectors, despite the differences of opinion among themselves, did find common ground in their dissatisfactions. Their chief complaint was the insignificance or triviality of the work assigned to them. Many felt that the toil was "made work," chiefly for the purpose of keeping them occupied. This was emphasized by the use of hand tools on certain jobs where machinery would have proved more efficient and time saving. Assignees were given tasks which were not equal to their education and ability. As the men were unselected and unclassified as far as work skills were concerned, it was inevitable that the work would have to be of a kind that could be done immediately by all of them.65

Talents and experience of those assignees who were trained in various professions and skills were wasted because they were unable to work well at the manual labor provided. Accomplished pianists worked in the laundry and kitchen. Men with college degrees and graduate work at Harvard University were assigned to kitchen duty and to pulling weeds and sifting gravel. The group most satisfied with the work of the projects were the Mennonites, who, for the greater part were farmers, used to hard work. Hookworm control, forest fire fighting, mental hospitals, agricultural experiment stations, and "guinea pig" experiments were some of the special projects that were preferred by the CPS men.66

Lack of pay and compensation for injury and dependency gave rise to the term "slave labor camps," in reference to the CPS camps. Many felt that the government should pay them, but there were others who were opposed to governmental aid. This denial of pay to the assignees was chiefly the doing of General Hershey, the director of selective service, who not only blocked any proposals for pay, but also prevented the men from keeping the money which they had earned on the


  • 64 Paul J. Furnas, Comptroller of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, to the writer, December 28, 1948.
  • 65 Ralph Rudd, Cleveland, Ohio, to the writer, March 15, 1949.
  • 66 Woodward, A Study of Civilian Public Service Camp No. 6, Lagro, 9; Robert M. Lumpkin, Losantville, Indiana, February 6, 1949, and Ralph Curtis, Richmond, Indiana, January, 1949, to the writer; interview with Roland Bartel, Bloomington, Indiana, on February 26, 1949; The Experience of the American Friends Service Committee in Civilian Public Service, (1941-1945), (n.p., n.d.), 37-38.
farm. Because of financial pressure, especially in the case of married men, many were forced to change their status from Class IV-E to Class I-A–0.67 The lack of compensation also caused hardship in some instances. In one case at Lagro where an assignee had his left foot severely lacerated by a power machine, the men of the camp by a frugal meal, personal contributions, and financial aid from an outside source managed to raise $96.44 to pay for the hospital and medical expenses.68 Other issues of controversy were the visitations of army officers at the camps for routine inspections, isolation from society, difficulty of obtaining discharges for sick persons, and the transfer of conscientious objectors from church sponsored camps to government operated camps by the selective service system.69

In general, as has already been shown, the attitudes of the communities depended on the localities and the prejudices of the people. One Hoosier farmer representing those who were favorably disposed toward the CPS program wrote, "My first interest in the coming of the camp lay in our need of soil conservation work. Not in my memory have we had a summer season of continuous rains that proved to us so conclusively the need of this type of work. Glaring erosion and flood control problems meet us in every field … we, as farmers will have a more awakened sense of responsibility in our use and in our care of the soil. From the second standpoint, many of us to whom the thinking of the camp members was entirely new and strange have grown in tolerance, understanding, and better thinking from our camp contacts. We all of us cherish and wish to insure the continuance of a democratic form of government and know that suppression of conscience is totalitarianism in principle ….70

On the other hand, the antagonistic attitude of some was evidenced by the following excerpts from a letter which was


  • 67 "Conscientious Objectors in World War II," Quarterly Research Survey (Ithaca, New York, January, 1949), 6. Also an interview with Henry Swain, Nashville, Indiana, January 12, 1949.
  • 68 Medaryville, Indiana, Jasper–Pulaski Peace Sentinel, August 28, 1942.
  • 69Three Years of Civilian Public Service, May 15, 1941-May 15, 1944, Report of the Executive Secretary, issued by the NSBRO on August 5, 1944, p. 28; Mulford Sibley and Ada Wardlaw, Conscientious Objectors in Prison, 1940-1945 (Philadelphia, 1945), 17.
  • 70 Merom, Indiana, Plowshare, July, 1942.
sent to the editor of a CPS publication: "… This community is deceased [sic] with some of your stripe going under the name of Mennonites and Jehova's Witnesses. I think Jehova would be insulted to have such a bunch of selfish cowards use his name. I cannot understand the workings of a mind which let its possessor register as a CO under the present circumstances unless he were a foreign sympathizer. They might be fifth communists [sic] or some other filthy un-American organization. How any young man can see other young men go to fight to maintain the freedom such as we have for both themselves and the COs, and be content to stay in a safe camp where they can eat their fill, study and read and have entertainment, is more than I can understand. The redblooded white boys (Some of them have black skins but they are white inside) are patriotic and are willing to do all they can to help. But what does the cowardly bunch you fellows foster do? They are unwilling to help their neighbor in distress. I suppose if the Japs or Germans actually invaded this country those cowards would hide behind some womens skirts … Please take my name off your mailing list and do not insult a good American by even thinking of such a thing. If you will stop taking those shots in the arm of whatever you do to get into such a state of mind you could be a credit to this nation. I wouldn't trust one of you fellows the least bit. I am working with anyone who will see that your stripe get sufficient punishment for your cowardice. These CO farmers here dont refuse help from the government but they certainly are not willing to risk anything in return. I am in favor of putting all of your kind on a Pacific Island and letting the Japs take you. I rather think you would fight or die then. It is a pity that you are allowed to live in this country and contaminate it!"71

The civilian public service program in Indiana, with all its inadequacies was definitely a step forward as compared to the treatment of CO's in World War I. The recognition of conscientious objectors of all faiths and the alternate program of military service were new innovations, whereas during World War I conscientious objectors were only recognized in certain denominations, and the only alternative was noncom-batant service in the military forces. A more efficient CPS program would have resulted had many of its deficiencies


  • 71Ibid., August, 1942.
been corrected. These deficiencies included the wasteful use of conscientious objectors, the delays in reclassifying men who were physically or mentally unfit, the financial insecurity as evidenced by the lack of compensation for injuries and disabilities, and the absence of dependency benefits. Other unfavorable aspects were the hostile attitudes of some communities and the outspoken opposition of the American Legion, the American Red Cross, and other organizations. This intolerance on the part of some American patriotic organizations sometimes with too chauvinistic tendencies cannot continue without injuring the fundamentals of American democracy. For the maintenance of basic principles on which the government of the United States was founded, there should be equal respect and consideration on the part of the government and its constituents toward all its citizens.72

The real question that still remains to be answered is whether or not the CPS program actually answered the problem of the conscientious objector in time of war. Many who took part in this program are of the opinion that the best solution would be one as worked out in Great Britain, where the conscientious objector had an opportunity to pick out the job in which he was interested and for which he was qualified.73 Some felt that CPS was the best that could be offered, and that its chief weakness was its close affiliation with the selective service system which was directed by an army officer. Thus, the problem has yet to be solved in a manner satisfactory to all involved. Perhaps the real answer lies in the question General Archibald P. Wavell, former commander-in–chief of the British forces in Libya, asked his troops: "Have you ever thought what a world we could make if we put into peace endeavors the energy, self-sacrifice and co-operation we use in the wastefulness of war?"74


  • 72 See The Experience of the American Friends Service Committee in Civilian Public Service for the Quaker viewpoint toward CPS.
  • 73 Ralph Rudd, Cleveland, Ohio, to the writer, March 15, 1949.
  • 74Life (Chicago, 1936-), X (February 17, 1941), 32.


Published by the Indiana University Department of History.