CPS Unit No. 82, a Mental Hospital unit at Fairfield State Hospital in Newtown, Connecticut operated by the Brethren Service Committee, opened in March 1943 and closed in September 1946. The majority of the men served as ward attendants.
Men at the Brethren Service Committee camps and units tended to report a mix of Brethren and non-Brethren denominational affiliations when entering CPS.
On average, men at Brethren camps had completed 12.22 years of education, with nearly forty percent having completed some college, had graduated or had taken post graduate work. (Sibley and Jacob p. 171)
The majority of the men served as ward attendants, although some also served in clerical, agricultural, maintenance and construction, motor vehicle operation, technical and professional, or food preparation roles.
Of the 34,514 person hours accomplished during the life of the unit at Fairfield State Hospital, ward attendants provided 25,941 hours while those serving in maintenance and construction roles gave 1,733 hours, those in technical and professional work contributed 2,676 hours and those in food preparation gave 2,096 hours of service. (Selective Service form DSS 52 as published in Eisan p. 212)
In CPS units, the hospital superintendent ultimately determined not only the number of men to be placed among the services but also the individual assignment for each conscientious objector. Superintendents were responsible for discipline of the group, and this marked a distinct change from base camp organization and administration.
The Brethren Service Committee placed selected assignees in the assistant director role. Often times, the hospital superintendents delegated some responsibilities to the assistant directors. Assistant directors provided the link for the men with the Brethren Service Committee. They also gave leadership in educational and religious programs.
Hospitals provided living quarters, food and laundry. They furnished special clothing or uniforms, and a maintenance allowance for the purchase of minor personal items. Hospitals also provided medical and dental care and some form of compensation insurance.
Hospitals varied in their enforcement of Selective Service directives.
- One directive that became problematic for some assignees placed restrictions on outside work.
- Another related to exceptions for living off grounds for married men.
- A third was transfer from one unit to another, as hospital superintendents did not wish to lose some assignees.
For information on Brethren mental health and training school units see Leslie Eisan, Pathways of Peace: A History of the Civilian Public Service Program Administered by the Brethren Service Committee. Elgin, IL: Brethren Publishing House, 1948, Chapter 6, pp. 205-238.
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.
For an in depth history of conscientious objection in the United States, see 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 a more in depth treatment on the 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.