CPS Unit Number 118-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Western State Hospital
Operating agency: MCC
Opened: 11 1943
Closed: 6 1946
CPS Unit No. 118, a Mental Hospital unit at Wernersville State Hospital in Wernersville, Pennsylvania operated by Mennonite Central Committee, opened in November 1943 and closed in June 1946. Men in the unit served as ward attendants and in other support roles as needed.
Wernersville State Hospital was located in Wernersville, Pennsylvania just west of Reading.
The unit began with twenty-five men and grew to thirty. Some of the men were married and their wives worked in the hospital as well.
Men in Mennonite camps and units, when entering CPS reported religious affiliation with various Mennonite denominational groups.
On average they had completed 10.45 years of education when entering CPS, with fifteen percent having completed 1-3 years of college. Another seven percent had either graduated from college or completed some graduate education. (Sibley and Jacob p. 171)
Fifty-nine percent reported their occupations on entry into CPS as farming or other agriculture work. Twenty-three percent, when entering CPS, reported occupations in technical and professional work or business management, or sales and public administration. (Sibley and Jacob p. 172)
Unit members served as ward attendants and in other support roles as needed.
The Mennonite Central Committee opened a women’s summer service unit at the hospital. Women worked in the women’s wards. Although the majority of the women came from the Mennonite colleges, some participants came as recent high school graduates.
For more information on this and other Mennonite mental hospital and training school units, see Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949 Chapter XVI pp. 213-251.
For more information on women COs see Rachel Waltner Goossen, Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-47. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
See also Alex Sareyan, The Turning Point: How Persons of Conscience Brought About Major Change in the Care of America’s Mentally Ill. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.
See also Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-47. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.
For a more in depth treatment of mental health and training school units see Steven J. Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009.