CPS Unit No. 98, a Coast and Geodetic Survey Unit in various locations operated by Selective Service, opened in May 1943 and closed in September 1946. The men worked on geodetic control surveys in the field.
The Coast and Geodetic Survey Unit was part of the Department of Commerce. Topographic surveying units operated in twenty-two states during the war: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Directors: Lt. Commander Bernstein, Commander E. Hemple, R. A. Marshall*
*These men, according to American Friends Service Records in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, appear to have been serving in the director roles.
The camp directors apparently were appointed by the technical agency or by Selective Service. According to a letter from H. W. Elkinton to Huston Westover of AFSC,
This unit is the assignment to the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Just exactly what tie or status they have, other than a special service I do not know. Certainly they are not an AFSC-CPS responsibility and they thought that they were under NSBRO, but apparently the answer came back that they were under the Govt. or Dept. of Commerce. This left all in semi-confusion as to whether they were another “Govt. Camp” like Mancos and Lapine, or just orphans! It’s too deep for me. All I can say is that with such loose attachment with CPS they became very “detached” indeed and Geography adds to this remote feeling. No one other than myself has ever bent aside to visit and it is not likely that anyone else will. (Jan. 19, 1944)
Forty men comprised the unit. Stanley Hamilton, AFSC visitor to one of the Southwestern sites in March 1945, reported that the group included “9 Quakers and 10 Brethren”.
Men conducted surveys which led to the production of topographic maps.
Men in the unit completed 30,000 person days of work for the agency. (Camp Operations Division of Selective Service recorded in Table VI, Civilian Public Service Projects in Sibley and Jacob pp. 126-127)
Stanley Hamilton, who visited men in the Southwest on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, reported on his March 14, 1945 afternoon.
About noon, left with the observation party—for station south of Bowie (AZ). Helped carry up from truck to point on small work knoll. This was a “drive station” rather than a “pack station”. Three in this party. Set up tent and instruments near platform above bronze station marker. They lined up nearby markers wind azimuth. I went with Bill Wildman to locate latter—3/10 of a mile, helped line up with small light and measure distance from Rangh house road. We then lined up light stations and several land marks. They used heliograph to signal light keepers on three other stations. Lined up land marks and other stations and computed angles. Finished work about 6 p.m. Returned equipment to truck and came in. Trip about 60 miles—out and return. It has permanent importance. Of course, this was an easy day. On some high peaks the men have to pack in the equipment—two hours to a half day. On the latter they must remain all night. Pretty rugged.
The men explained to Hamilton on his visit that “there were no ‘meetings’ except when necessary and there is a minimum of organization. “Some men frankly said they came to this unit to escape camp meetings. Morale and spirits high. Kidding and banter, but no more griping than would be expected with any group of healthy young Americans. All, without exception, seemed to like their work and were proud of it”. (Hamilton, March 13, 1945)
Hamilton further reported that the men had no organized study groups . . .”but much learning going on. Learning skills and techniques on project—and much informal learning going on all the time”. After spending the afternoon with an observation party, Hamilton visited with two more groups of men in the evening in two different tents—talked about rural life and its place in making a peaceful world. . .” (Hamilton, March 14, 1945)
Men lived in tents, moving once a month or oftener.
Several of the men as part of the Southwest survey tour, published a booklet “The Gang. COS U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1943-1946”, reporting on their tour as well as information about the forty-two men on the tour crew.
Men who worked in Nevada likely faced tension in their work. Lt. Commander E. H. Bernstein, assigned to direct a surveying unit in the Nevada desert, made it clear to Major Henry Fisk of Camp Operations that he did not like his assignment nor working with COs. (Fisk to Kosch 25-26 June 1944, reported in Robinson pp. 409-410)
The government paid for the men’s maintenance, medical and dental care, as well as clothing, in addition to providing an allowance of five dollars per month.
See Stanley Hamilton, report of March 13-15, 1945 visit to Willcox Arizona in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG 002) Section 1, Box 21e, along with other letters and reports compiled by Anne M. Yoder in January, 2011.
See Mitchell Lee Robinson, “Civilian Public Service during World War II: The Dilemmas of Conscience and Conscription in a Free Society”. Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1990.
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.
“World War II History of the Coast and Geodetic Survey”, Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1951. http://www.lib.noaa.gov/noaainfo/heritage/coastandgeodeticsurvey/index.html