CPS Unit No. 99, a Foreign Service and Relief unit planned for Chungking, China operated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), opened in May 1943. The advance team of seven en route to China was recalled to the United States from Durban, South Africa when Congress passed the Starnes Rider to an appropriation bill forbidding foreign service for CPS men. The unit closed in October 1943.
The unit, planned for Chungking, China and operated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), opened in May 1943. The men, selected for the China unit from the programs of the AFSC, BSC and MCC, reported to the AFSC offices in Philadelphia located at 20 South 12th Street. They lived and attended training at Pendle Hill, a Friends conference center located a half mile from the Wallingford Station on the Media-Wawa-West Chester commuter line of the Pennsylvania Railway.
Director: Nelson Fuson
While seventy men were planned for the unit, seven CPS men and one other volunteer were selected to make the first trip.
- Bill Clannon, Brethren, married, had served as assistant to Harold Row, the BSC CPS director
- Ralph Curtis, an agriculturalist with a degree from Cornell
- Herbert Hadley, Friend, from a Kansas farm, had served previously at three Friends camps in Merom, Indiana, Coshocton, Ohio, and Oakland, Maryland
- Robert S. Kreider, Mennonite, had served at Colorado Springs, Colorado first as one of the assignees, then as educational director, as well as coordinator of camp educational programs for Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pennsylvania
- Howard Sollenberger, who had lived in China for eighteen years as the son of Brethren missionaries, had done relief work for the Brethren, and had served in the Brethren CPS project in Puerto Rico. He gave instruction in Chinese language and relief training at the Brethren camp in Lagro, Indiana.
- Lea Spring, Baptist, had studied engineering and worked in the Pittsburgh steel mills. Influenced by pacifist Baptist minister Bernard Clausen, he altered his interests and completed two years of law school prior to conscription. He served as work coordinator for the Friend camp at Big Flats, New York.
- Rupert Stanley, Friend and volunteer, had lived more than half his life in China and Japan where his father had served as YMCA secretary. Stanley had been taking courses in auto mechanics and nursing, and had been classified as IV-F deferred from service due to an earlier bout with tuberculosis.
- John Swan, Methodist, a medical student, had served in the Friends CPS camp at Stronach, Michigan, and in a Brethren CPS mental hospital unit at Sykesville, Maryland.
Two men selected for the first team were refused passports by the State Department.
- Wilson Head, Baptist, graduate of Tuskegee Institute in Georgia with a masters in social work serving as Fellowship of Reconciliation youth secretary in the South ;
- Ralph Rudd, Baptist, son-in-law of pacifist Baptist minister Bernard Clausen, graduate of the University of New Hampshire and Yale Law School, born in China to missionary parents.
Other men who comprised the unit continued their preparation for subsequent assignment in China.
By March 1943, Rufus Jones, one of the founders of the American Friends Service Committee, had convinced Secretary of War Stimson of the importance of CPS men working in foreign relief in China. “Secretary of War Stimson, General Hershey and President Roosevelt are all backing the plan to send men to China. . .. Within six months, one third of the men are to be in China. The 70-man unit will trickle to China two or three at a time, taking passage wherever it can be found.” (from Robert S. Kreider letter to his parents, March 10, 1943 in Kreider p. 319)
The President wrote to Clarence Pickett of the AFSC on February 13, 1943 “that he was ‘conscious of the benevolent work of the Society of Friends’ and had ‘read with interest the narrative report on the activities of the Friends Ambulance Unit in China’. Consequently he approved the request ‘to obtain several volunteers from civilian work camps for medical relief, sanitation and public health work in China.’” (in Robinson p. 202)
Brethren, Friend and Mennonite leaders hoped to have one half of a seventy-man unit in training for China by the end of April. The China unit supported by all three fell under the leadership of the American Friends Service Committee.
Chinese officials issued an invitation for workers to assist in relief and reconstruction in war torn areas of West China. The men were to work under British direction in the British Friends Ambulance Unit.
Nelson Fulson, the unit director, conducted the training at Pendle Hill. A young physics professor from Rutgers, he had participated in the relief training unit at Columbia University. The men spent eight hour days in training for six weeks.
They studied Chinese, techniques and methods in relief work, geography of the region, cultural, political and social issues in reconstruction and relief. Guests spoke during the sessions, including the following:
- Tom Tanner, British, who had spent nine months in China with the Friends Ambulance Unit, who spoke on living conditions;
- Dr. Beech, President of West China University in Chengdu;
- Rufus Jones emphasized the need for spiritual preparation and continuous spiritual renewal;
- Angelica Balabanoff, author of My Life as a Rebel, a socialist and tutor of Mussolini in his youth;
- The librarian from the Chinese Section of the Library of Congress, on Chinese literature, history and customs.
In addition, the men were guests in the home of James Vail, an industrial chemist and chair of the Foreign Service Committee. (from Kreider pp. 324-325)
Leaders planned to send men upon completion of training as passage became available.
In June 1943, seven CPS men and one volunteer were selected from the training group to begin the work in Chungking.
While in Philadelphia, even though immersed in study, physical exams, fittings for uniforms and other preparations for the journey, the men “. . .soon became familiar with the delights of the city center with the oyster bars at Broad and Market street stations and the department stores—Strawbridge and Clothiers and Wanamakers”. (Kreider p. 324)
The eight men departed from Pier 18 in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 1943. While at sea they continued study and training. Sollenberger led Chinese language study and taught first aid. The men brought a library of thirty books on China, each reading through them during training hours. Each day they held a discussion period; each man made reports on aspects of their reading and study.
The men arrived in Cape Town, South Africa at the end of July. While they waited two weeks for train reservations to Durban, South Africa where they could check on their passports and secure further instructions, they volunteered services at Goote Schurr Hospital in Cape Town.
They arrived in Durban on August 15, only to learn that Congress had passed the Starnes Amendment to the War Act which prevented COs from serving outside the United States. Further, six of the men’s passports had not been renewed and only two remained current.
While awaiting instructions from Philadelphia, the men worked in Durban’s largest hospital, Addington, for a salary of 144 pounds annually ($600) plus board.
Only Rupert Stanley, the Friend and volunteer, would be cleared to go on to China, taking all of the x-ray equipment, books for the Friends Ambulance Unit, drugs, supplies and uniforms. The other seven men left South Africa in mid October to return to the U.S.
For more information on Brethren relief training and service 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 10 pp. 313-332.
For more information on Mennonite foreign relief training, see Melvin Gingerich, Service for Peace: A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service. Akron, PA: Mennonite Central Committee printed by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 1949, Chapter XIX Formal Education in CPS pp. 295-317.
For more information on women COs involved in foreign relief training 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, Chapter 5 Collegiate Women Pacifists pp. 94-111.
For more information on the Starnes Amendment, see Nicholas A. Krehbiel, “Relief Efforts Denied: The Civilian Public Service Training Corps and the Starnes Amendment, 1942-1943,” War and Society 30:1 (March 2011): 48-60.
See Robert S. Kreider, My Early Years: An Autobiography. Kitchner, ON: Pandora Press, 2002, Chapter 15 In Quest of China—An Ill-fated Mission pp. 323-352.
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 Mitchell Lee Robinson, “Healing the Bitterness of War and Destruction: CPS and Foreign Service” Quaker History 85 (Fall 1996): 24-48.
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.