Welcome to the story

An Invitation from Robert Kreider

Welcome to the Civilian Public Service story, a website created by CPS alumni to help tell the story of conscientious objectors choosing to live peace in the World War II era.
To learn more about our experiences, I invite you to read Work of National Importance, a brief overview of Civilian Public Service.
I hope this history will add inspiration and courage to our common efforts to continue the story.

Robert Kreider
CPS: 8/15/41-12/12/45

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The Story Begins

An Essay by Nicholas Krehbiel

The difficult experiences of conscientious objectors in World War I served as the stimulus for creating a legal alternative to military service as World War II approached. The essays, oral history interviews, photographs and stories linked from this page provide a window into the WWI experience.

The People

who were these conscientious objectors?

Collectively, the men reported religious affiliation with 231 different denominations; nearly 7,000 of the men claiming affiliation with the Church of the Brethren, Friends, or various Mennonite denominational groups.

Find a cpser   Finding aids   Worker notes and stories

At Luray C.P.S. camp from left to right Willard Hunsberger, Lester Tyson, Kenneth Bauman, Bob Nyce, Earl Hensel, me.[...]

CPS worker serves patients at the mental hospital, circa 1945. Mennonite Central Committee Photo Archive. Read about [...]

CPS camp 103, smoke jumpers camp. As soon as jumpers are dropped to a fire, a mule string carrying additional food supplies starts [...]

the camps

overviews of camps

Civilian Public Service Camp 85, Rhode Island State Hospital

Overviews of Camps

CPS Camps and Units operated as part of “A complex arrangement between churches and government”[...]

Explore the Camps

Each camp and unit is numbered. For each you will find not only its location by city and state or territory, but [...]

CPS Camp # 10, Royalston, MA. On the way to a fire with special pump equipment.
Photo by Paul-Kurt Ackermann

70th Anniversary Celebration

May 15, 2011 marked the 70th anniversary of the opening of the first Civilian Public Service camp at Patapsco State Park[...]

the story continues

mental health legacy

The Civilian Public Service experience left a legacy of reforms in mental healthcare and policy, as well as vibrant new forms of service for peace that are still a live today. To learn more, click on the photos below.

The Mental Health Legacy.

Service for Peace in the Post-WWII Era.

What is Civilian Public Service?

Civilian Public Service (CPS) was a program developed at the onset of WWII which provided those whose conscience forbade them to kill, the opportunity to do work of national importance under civilian direction rather than go to war. Nearly 12,000 men made this choice, and many women voluntarily joined the cause. They fought forest fires, worked in mental institutions, planted trees, did dairy testing and served as subjects for medical experiments in more than 150 camps scattered throughout the United States.

How can you help?

In files, drawers and boxes lie letters, photos, diaries, journals, and assorted papers of the nearly 12,000 men of CPS, plus letters of wives and girl friends. In this is a wealth of information that calls for preservation. CPS men, COGs, (Conscientious Objector Girls), families and friends are urged to place their records in established historical archives and to report to the website such placements.


Advocacy in War's Atftermath

Helping people recover from the devastation of war has been a constant impulse among conscientious objectors who want their lives to make a positive contribution to the peace and well-being of others.

This surely motivated Mennonites and Quakers who began working in post-war Laos (1974-1975). Yet they soon confronted a problem for which they had little training or experience. What could be done about the millions of unexploded US bombs left in the fields, gardens and village paths of Laos?

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