Civilian Public Service Camps Mark 70th Anniversaries

Photo by: courtesy of Brethren Historical Library and Archives
In a photo from the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, conscientious objector David Stewart serves patients in a senile ward at a mental hospital in Ft. Steilacoom, Wash.–one of the Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps where COs did alternative service during World War II. Fifteen CPS camps under the oversight of the Brethren Service Committee were opened in 1942.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the opening of a number of the Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps where Church of the Brethren conscientious objectors worked during World War II. Some 15 CPS camps overseen by the Brethren Service Committee opened in 1942.

Under the agreement made between the National Service Board of Religious Objectors (NSBRO) and the US government to provide alternative service for conscientious objectors, the three Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Friends or Quakers) along with some other religious groups and organizations were given oversight of a number of the camps. However, the camps were operated by government departments or institutions like mental hospitals.

“Should local groups have energy and interest, this would provide an opportunity for local commemorations of the CPS experience and a way to reflect on issues of conscience today which were very active during the WWII era,” notes Titus M. Peachey, peace education coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee US, who provided this list of Brethren CPS camps opened in 1942. “The anniversary offers a good opportunity for local history to be remembered and to reflect on the way we tried to protect freedom of conscience…even during the ‘good war.’”

— Camp 24 in Williamsport, Md., operated by the Soil Conservation Service
— Camp 27 in Tallahassee, Fla. operated by the Public Health Service
— Camp 29 in Lyndhurst, Va., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 30 in Walhalla, Mich., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 34 in Bowie, Md., operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service
— Camp 36 in Santa Barbara, Calif., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 42 in Wellston, Mich., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 43 in Adjuntas, P.R., operated by the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration
— Camp 47 Sykesville, Md., at a mental hospital
— Camp 48 in Marienville, Pa., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 51 in Ft. Steilacoom, Wash., at a mental hospital
— Camp 56 in Waldport, Ore., operated by the Forest Service
— Camp 69 in Cleveland, Ohio, at a mental hospital
— Camp 73 in Columbus, Ohio, at a mental hospital
— Camp 74 in Cambridge, Md., at a mental hospital

For more information about the history of Civilian Public Service and the experiences of conscientious objectors who took part, go to http://civilianpublicservice.org .