CPS Unit Number 093-01
Unit ID: 1
Title: Harrisburg State Hospital
Operating agency: MCC
Opened: 4 1943
Closed: 8 1946
CPS Unit No. 93, a Mental Hospital unit at Harrisburg State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania operated by the Mennonite Central Committee, opened in April 1943 and closed in April 1946. The men served as attendants as well as in other roles as needed. Some wives also worked at the hospital.
Harrisburg State Hospital, located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was the oldest in Pennsylvania.
During the life of the unit, sixty-nine men served the hospital, with forty being the maximum number at any given time.
In May 1945, seventeen of the forty men were married.
The majority of men in Mennonite camps and units tended to report Mennonite denominational affiliations when they entered CPS.
Fifty-nine percent of men reported farming or other agricultural work as their occupation upon entry into CPS. Twelve percent reported technical or professional occupations; eleven percent reported business, sales and public administration work; and five percent reported that they were students. Men in Mennonite camps and units on average had completed 10.45 years of education, with twenty-two percent having completed some or all four years of college, or some graduate work.(Sibley and Jacob pp. 171-172)
The men gave 8,826 person-days in work at the hospital as attendants and in other roles as needed.
Some of the wives also worked in the hospital.
The living conditions proved satisfactory in that each assignee lived in a single or double room, as opposed to barracks.
Assignees participated in a Christian worker’s school running December 1944 to June 1945. The school included two courses: The Life and Teachings of Jesus and The Work of the Church.
The men published a yearbook Anniversary Review, which not only described the work and departments of the unit, but also gave a history with pictures of all personnel.
For more information on this unit and other mental hospital and training school units, 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 XVI pp. 213-251.
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.
*Camp directors Paul Ratzlaff and Harold Lehman changed to Gerhard Peters and Ernest Lehman to reflect MCC camp files and personnel listings in '47 and '96 directories (Stephanie Cabezas, 06/14/13).