CPS Unit Number 083-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Warren State Hospital
Operating agency: AFSC
Opened: 2 1943
Closed: 5 1946
CPS Unit No. 83, a Mental Hospital Unit at Warren State Hospital in Warren, Pennsylvania operated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), opened in February 1943. When AFSC withdrew from CPS in April 1946, Selective Service operated the unit until it closed in May 1946. Most men in the hospital served as ward attendants. A number of their wives also worked at the hospital.
Warren State Hospital was located in a valley two miles north of the city of Warren, Pennsylvania. The hospital utilized one large and eight smaller buildings for housing 1,200 male and 1,300 female patients. The hospital was known for its pioneer efforts in the field of occupation therapy. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) opened the unit with the capacity for twenty-five men in February 1943.
Of the twenty-five men in the unit, at least twelve were married and their wives also worked at the hospital.
In general, men in Friends operated units reported the greatest diversity in religious affiliation, including those with no affiliation when entering CPS. They frequently entered CPS from urban rather than rural areas.
Men in AFSC camps and units had completed an average of 14.27 years of education, with sixty-eight percent having completed some college work or graduated, or had completed graduate education. With respect to occupations from which men in AFSC projects entered CPS, forty-three percent reported professional and technical job experience. (Sibley and Jacob pp. 171-72)
Most men served as ward attendants. They reported to the wards at 7:00 am, quit at 7:00 pm one day and at 5:30 pm the next day. On a rotating basis, each attendant received one and a half days off per week, unless their half day fell on Saturday. In that case, the attendant remained off from Friday afternoon through Sunday. The hospital carefully scheduled the attendants so that a husband and wife would have the same days off.
Those assigned to work outside the wards reported at 7:00 am and, on most days, concluded at 5:00 pm. At 7:30 am they gathered their work crews made up of 9-20 patients from the wards. Those crews performed “all sorts of work—farming, coal hauling, greenhouse work, vegetable peeling, gravel digging and washing, canning, snow shoveling, picking up scraps around the buildings, and many other types of work as the need arises.” Patients were returned to the wards from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, and their work day ended at 4:00 pm. COs working outside the wards also took patients to weekly activities in the evenings during the winter—movies one week and a dance the next, and were with patients for recreation on Saturday afternoons. An additional duty was to “chase run-away patients any time day or night”. (Carter, January 28, 1944)
Assistant Director John Carter noted that the work for the wives proved more difficult than the work for the men. “First the women patients are more difficult to handle. Second, the shortage of help is greater on the women’s side than on the men’s side. Third, their working day is almost without exception from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. The women are made to feel their position as attendants more than are the men, because the men are allowed to do more specialized medical work. This is logical as the women are frequently working under R.N.s. whereas the men almost never are.” (Carter)
The hospital paid women for ward duty starting at $61.50 per month. The men, however, by Selective Service regulation, received an allowance of $15.00 per month. Both received room and board. The women, as regular employees, bought their own uniforms and shoes. Men received their uniforms and shoes as part of maintenance provided, and sent their laundry to the hospital laundry. Women could send only their uniforms to the hospital laundry. (Carter)
According to Floyd Greenleaf, one of the men in the unit, “The hospital has provided an excellent series of lectures and demonstrations, which, so far have been of great service to most of us in our work. It is interesting to note that the hospital has not offered these classes to other attendants not in C.P.S. Similar classes are planned for the wives of C.P.S. men and there is also a plan afoot for advanced studies in related subjects.” (Greenleaf, ca. 1944)
Greenleaf also noted that as soon as a patient was able to work, the superintendent considered the type of experience in which he or she could likely be successful. “Some of the patients work on our many farms, others care for the grounds, work in the laundry, printing room, sewing room etc.”
Married couples lived in either the Married Couples’ Building, or in the so-called Stone Building cottage. “In the married building we have a room, closet and bath room with tub. The rooms vary slightly in size but are approximately 14’ by 16’. The building is relatively new and very comfortable. . . . The single men live on the third floor on a new building, two to four to a room with central toilets, showers, etc.” (Carter)
The hospital grounds provided excellent recreational opportunities—bowling, tennis courts, bicycles, trails for hiking and bicycling, fields with baseball diamonds and volleyball courts, and horseshoes.
Since the town of Warren was within walking or bicycling distance, the CPS men and women took advantage of shopping and other opportunities there. In addition, “. . . an eccentric bus . . . wanders back and forth between the hospital and the town. There are some good stores in the town and you are usually able to fulfill most of your needs provided the war hasn’t eliminated the supply (we spent three hours one day looking for a can opener)”. (Greenleaf)
Jacob Cohn reported an incident that occurred one evening as he and his wife took a walk around 9:30 pm.
We had arrived in front of Mr. Hudson’s house, and had begun walking towards the pump house, on the sidewalk. We noticed car lights behind us. They went off, and then on again. We had walked about ten steps when the car pulled past us. We saw about 4-6 men standing on the running board. I shouted hello, and got some reply, but Ateret and I, as soon as we saw them stopping, thought only to run. We dashed up the walk towards Dr. Israel’s house, they behind us, shouting curses. I heard one distinct sentence, “Why are you running?” We stopped all of a sudden, and so did they. I looked around and saw about a dozen, the leader was tall and thin, and wore a red sweater. We paced on, towards Dr. Israel’s house, and they turned around.
The next day they heard the rumors that “this ‘Junior Commando’ gang, or ‘CO Hunters’ had beat up Chapman [unit member C. Robert Chapman] and chased the Cohns.” (Cohn, March 15, 1945)
During June 1944, Cecil Thomas, co-director of the School of Race Relations at CPS Camp No. 16, Kane, Pennsylvania, spoke at Warren. He urged inter-visitation between the men at Warren and those at Kane. Thomas suggested in particular, that “two Negro campers” from Kane, could help in discussion of race at Warren. (Planning Committee Minutes, June 7, 1944)
Untitled report by John H. Carter (Assistant Director), January 28, 1944, in information compiled by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, April 2011from Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG002), Section 1: CPS Administration, Box 57d, folder “Warren State Hospital (Unit # 83: Steering & Planning Committees – meeting minutes, 1944 (Feb. 4) – 1945 (July 25)."
Note re: Incident, March 15, 1945 by Jacob Cohn, in information compiled by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, April 2011 from Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG002), Section 1: CPS Administration, Box 57d, folder “Unit #83: Activities & Education."
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.
“One Man’s Opinion on the C.P.S. Unit at Warren State Hospital”, by Floyd Greenleaf, ca. 1944, in information compiled by Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, April 2011 from Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG002), Section 1: CPS Administration, Box 57d, folder “Warren State Hospital (Unit # 83: Steering & Planning Committees – meeting minutes, 1944 (Feb. 4) – 1945 (July 25)”.
See Albert N. Keim, The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1990.
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.
For more in depth treatment of 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.