CPS Unit Number 091-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Mansfield State Training School & Hospital
Operating agency: BSC
Opened: 3 1943
Closed: 8 1946
CPS Unit No. 91, a Training School unit at Mansfield Training School in Mansfield, Connecticut operated by the Brethren Service Committee, opened in March 1943 and closed in August 1946. The majority of the men served as ward attendants, while the rest served in a variety of other roles at the school. Some wives also worked at the school.
Mansfield State Training School was the first CPS unit at a training school for people with intellectual disabilities.
Men who served in mental hospitals or training schools often sought the work, since it addressed human need.
Men in Brethren camps and units tended to report diverse religious affiliation when they entered CPS, although the Brethren projects usually included a core of those with Brethren experience.
Men from Brethren projects reported considerably more education and professional experience when entering CPS than those who enlisted in the Army and Navy. They brought an average of 12.22 years of education. Thirty-nine percent of them had completed some college or four years, or some graduate work. Forty-six percent of men in Brethren camps reported their occupations on entry into CPS as in technical or professional work, business management, sales and administration or as students. (Sibley and Jacob pp. 170-72)
Of the thirty men at Mansfield, twenty-one were Brethren.
Eleven of the men were married.
The chief difference between mental health units and training schools lay in the type of patient admitted. Training schools were devoted to care of those whose mental conditions derived from hereditary factors, or for whom there was little or no hope for cure. The work in training schools was very similar to that in mental hospitals.
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 as well as food preparation roles.
Of the 21,762 person hours accomplished during the life of the unit, ward attendants performed 13,711, those in clerical roles gave 3,420, those in agriculture provided 2,372, while those in technical and professional roles contributed 1,704 hours of service. (Selective Service form DSS 52 as published in Eisan p. 212)
Of the thirty men, nineteen served as attendants. One assignee worked as industrial room manager. The teachers focused on handwork, crafts, physical education and some elementary academic work.
COs worked fifty-four hours per week on different shifts. For the day schedule, attendants worked three long days from 6:00 am to 7:12 pm and then two short days from 7 am to 5:30 pm. For the night schedule, men worked five consecutive days from 7:12 pm to 6:00 am with two free days.
At Mansfield, COs found as many as 105-110 patients crowded into rooms 30 by 25 feet. Often one attendant served these patients in the wards. (Taylor p. 203) Regular paid attendants, largely uneducated, hired in with few skills.
Mansfield State Training School offered little training for the COs. Assistant Director Ralph Delk described it as "the supervisor giving a new attendant his keys and telling him to keep his eyes open and keep things clean and the patients well taken care of—see that they have clothes on and don’t get rough with them." (in Taylor p. 200)
Both the men and women in the unit faced “general antipathy” toward pacifist beliefs as well as strained relations with the regular employees.
One of the COs, in a report for the CPS Mental Hygiene Program, made observations about patients at Mansfield.
An alert and observing attendant will discover these low-grade patients resemble a normal person, living in a slow-motion fashion. Notwithstanding this constitutional make-up, these “little thinkers” are careful to preserve a spark of life. They seem far more human than many normal people. They seek satisfaction and contentment in “being a part of” and “belonging to” a group similar to their own understanding. They seek encouragement in their abilities and like attention. They seek consolation in their frustrated moments. (in Sareyan p. 78)
The men lived in single or double rooms at the training school.
Some of the wives also worked at the hospital. One, LaVaughn Beard, worked as a switchboard operator and recalled her supervisor regularly expressing her hatred for the COs and their wives. (Goossen p. 64)
Superintendent Neil Dayton exercised strong authority over the training school, including the CPS unit. As examples, Assistant Director Delk faced complaints for bringing speakers to the unit without prior approval; his mail was opened by personnel at the hospital before he received it; his request that the institution fund supplies for a unit newspaper was denied. Dayton also claimed authority over who could be released to attend the CPS Mental Hygiene Program Training School Conference at Vineland Training School in New Jersey on a Friday-Saturday February 23-24, 1945. He even attempted to control content of short stories written by the unit men for the Reporter, published by the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO).
While no major exposés occurred at Brethren mental hospitals or training schools, the Mansfield State Training School COs did “get caught” in the midst of a controversy surrounding Superintendent Dayton. When employee complaints against him came to the attention of authorities, Governor Raymond Baldwin and Justice Allyn Brown, President of Mansfield’s Board of Trustees, conducted an inquiry into the complaints. Many employees supported Dayton, as did the COs.
Ultimately the investigation concluded that Dayton, while he had made mistakes, was an effective superintendent. They recommended the dismissal of the business manager, the nursing superintendent and two other employees. After these reports in the Hartford Times and the Sunday Herald, the four employees scheduled for dismissal lodged specific complaints. Those included allegations of low morale at the hospital since the Superintendent was “unduly impressed” by COs’ educational backgrounds so that he showed them favorable treatment. (Taylor pp. 184-190)
In Dayton’s open letter for the yearbook published by unit men, he wrote: “To say that your service at Mansfield was worthwhile is putting it inadequately. You made a very valuable contribution to the training and welfare of our patients at Mansfield Training School at a time when it was urgently needed.” (in Taylor p. 184-85)
For information on Brethren mental hospital 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.
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 units and training schools, see Steven J. Taylor, Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009.