CPS Unit Number 050-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Presbyterian Hospital
Operating agency: AFSC
Opened: 9 1942
Closed: 1 1946
Presbyterian Hospital, located in New York City, New York was one of the few general hospital special service CPS units detached from camps. As a teaching hospital, Presbyterian was affiliated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. State officials and medical organizations appealed to General Hershey for help to alleviate staff shortages created by the war. The unit opened September 1942 operated by the American Friends Service Committee and closed in January 1946.
None of the COs came from the New York City area and the Camp Operations Division of Selective Service emphasized that this hospital unit would still be “just as much under the Army’s jurisdiction as they would be in any of the camps for conscientious objectors”. (Robinson p. 195)
Director: David Van Name, James Lloyd, Juston Westover
Twenty-five men worked in the unit. With respect to denominational affiliation, a minority of men in the American Friends Service Committee camps and units reported Friend when entering CPS. Religiously diverse, the Friends units included those with no religious affiliation as well.
Men brought a diversity of experience not only with respect to religion, but also education and geography. Men in Friends camps and units entered CPS with having completed an average 14.27 years of education with sixty-eight percent having completed some college, graduated, or completed postgraduate work. Many men in Friends camps and units reported prior technical and professional experience. More entered CPS from urban rather than rural areas. (Sibley and Jacob pp. 171-72)
Interestingly, the first COs to arrive for the unit worked in the kitchen. However, both Selective Service and the American Friends Service Committee complained, requesting more substantial work. As a result some men worked as orderlies, attendants and technical or support staff.
Even though the work continued to be menial in nature, the men in the unit felt that they were serving in an area of acute need where they could demonstrate that COs were “average citizens” desiring to help humanity.
The men received tickets to the Broadway show “Oklahoma”.
Some unit members volunteered at local settlement houses during their free time.
For general information on CPS camps see Albert N. Keim, The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA: Good Books 1990.
For additional information on the Presbyterian Hospital CPS unit, see Mitchell Robinson, “Men of Peace in a World at War: Civilian Public Service in New York State, 1941-1946”, New York History 78:2 (April 1997): 174-210.
See also Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-1947. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.
For in depth treatment of mental hospital 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.