CPS Unit Number 073-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Columbus State Hospital
Operating agency: BSC
Opened: 12 1942
Closed: 6 1946
Total number of workers who worked in this camp: 56
CPS Unit No. 73, a Mental Hospital unit at Columbus State Hospital in Columbus, Ohio operated by the Brethren Service Committee, opened in December 1942 and closed in June 1946. The majority of the men served as ward attendants.
Directors: Forest Shively, Joseph Ablett
Men in Brethren Service Committee units tended, when entering CPS to report about fifty percent Brethren and non-Brethren denominational affiliations.
On average, men in Brethren camps and units had completed 12.22 years of education when entering CPS. About eighteen percent reported technical and professional occupations upon entry into the program, while twenty-nine percent reported farming or other agricultural work. (Sibley and Jacob pp. 171-172)
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 29,293 person hours performed during the life of the unit at Columbus State Hospital, ward attendants provided 19,675 hours while those serving in clerical roles gave 1,717 hours, those working in maintenance and construction gave 4,288 and those in food preparation contributed 2,464 hours of service. (Selective Service form DSS 52 as published in Eisan p. 212)
Men involved in the guinea pig unit at Columbus also held membership in the CPS Union, a group formed in 1944 and led by Friends conscientious objectors. The union formed with the purpose of improving pay, benefits, working conditions and rights of CPS men.
During the time the Brethren Service Committee (BSC) was considering withdrawal from CPS in late 1945 and early 1946, it surveyed CPS men in Brethren units. The Columbus men passed a resolution urging BSC to withdraw from the Augusta State Hospital unit in Maine due to unfair treatment of CPS assignees there.
The Columbus men also united in opposition to attempts by the Selective Service to regulate men in their off duty hours. They not only decided to ignore the directive, but also eighteen of forty-two men broke the regulation and more than thirty-five men went on record with their intent to do so. The furor over the directive dissipated across the units as Selective Service began making exceptions. (Taylor p. 135)
J. F. Bateman, hospital superintendent, in a June 5, 1946 letter to Colonel Lewis F. Kosch, Director of Camp Operations for Selective Service, wrote that in the group of forty-five men there were a certain percentage of excellent workers, a percentage of fair workers, and a certain number of no good workers. “We had a few of the . . .[latter] type. . . .”
He went on to say that “I do not know how on earth we would have operated without their assistance. . . .A great many of the men were most faithful and loyal . . . They made many contributions to the humanistic side of attendant care. Their kind and sympathetic approach to the patients set a very good example to a number of the old line attendants who felt their duty more in the sense of a guard than in the sense of a helper.” (Eisan p. 234)
For more information on Brethren mental health 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.
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.
Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Camp periodicals database.
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.