At a Glance


Unearth an important part of U.S. military history—the conscientious decision not to fight.

Robert Kreider, former professor of history, Bluffton University

Civilian Public Service Story

The Civilian Public Service Story answers the question, "Did individuals conscripted for World War II who were strongly opposed to killing have to fight?" The answer, something rarely discussed, is no. In the words of the site's introductory page, "Civilian Public Service (CPS) was a program developed at the onset of WWII which provided those whose conscience forbade them to kill, the opportunity to do work of national importance under civilian direction rather than go to war. Nearly 12,000 men made this choice, and many women voluntarily joined the cause. They fought forest fires, worked in mental institutions, planted trees, did dairy testing and served as subjects for medical experiments in more than 150 camps scattered throughout the United States."

The section "The Story Begins" consists of a brief summary of the history of conscientious objection in the U.S., beginning with colonial times. You can also find an annotated bibliography, listing approximately 18 works. Note that these works, and this site in its entirety, are intended for adult users. However, this does not preclude the information from being useful for K–12 history education.

"The People" consists of a few statistics on the World War II CPS population as well as a database of the men and women of the CPS, reproduced with permission from the Center of Conscience and War. These records, searchable and alphabetized by last name, may include year of birth, community, religious denomination, CPS entrance and exit dates, spouse, camps and units, higher education, and pre- and post-CPS occupation. These records may be of the most use in a classroom setting, as they could spark local history or oral history projects. "The Camps" provides a similar feature. Consider looking into CPS camps that were in your area using the map application on the site.