Reflections from John Lehman

Reflections from John Lehman

The following are excerpts from an account of the CPS experience by John E. Lehman:

"In the spring of 1943 it was announced that there would be a position available in our local post office. I decided to take the Civil Service Exam for the position. A number of persons reported to take the exam. We were informed that the position would be awarded to one of the three persons receiving the highest scores. I was informed that I was one of the three persons qualified.

I did get the appointment. I immediately became aware that the Postmaster was not pleased with my appointment, since I was a CO. There were others in the community who shared his feelings. Our minister came to see me and expressed concern with the strong feelings developing within the anti-CO element in the community. The third morning, when I reported to the post office, the Postmaster said to me, 'Your appointment has been rescinded.' He did not inform me 'why' or from whom the order came. I left immediately."


"Rev. Alton Motter was the minister of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. He was very interested in the peace position and wanted to learn more about conscientious objectors. He came to Sideling Hill to visit our group. He invited me to come to the Church of the Redeemer when I would get to Harrisburg. Margaret and I were able to do this one Sunday morning. He happened to meet us at the entrance when we arrived. They were having Sunday school first, so he had a lady take Margaret to a women's class. He took me to the room where the men's class would be meeting. It was not time to begin, so he excused himself as he had some things to do. I walked about half way up the aisle and took a chair in the middle of a row. Men came in and soon the leader had us stand and pledge allegiance to the flag. He then said that we would not be having the regular Sunday school discussion, since he had invited in a special speaker. He introduced the speaker as a veteran who would speak to us on the subject, 'A Veteran Looks at the Conscientious Objector.'

I'll admit that did cause me a jolt! He took quite a look! He classified them as yellow, dogs, rats, slackers, and wanted them loaded into ships and taken out to sea and blown up! During this stirring presentation, Rev. Motter came into the room and took a chair just inside the door. I could tell by his movements that he was disturbed by what was being said. Soon he got up, walked up the aisle, and worked his way into the row where I was seated. There was a vacant chair beside me. He sat down, put his arm around my shoulder, was patting me and shaking his head. At the conclusion of the 'lecture,' he asked me to stay for church.

I am certain that he changed his sermon. He spoke about 'Love and Peace.' He said he knows people who are demonstrating love. Calling them yellow, dogs, etc. will not go in his church! The veteran had taken a seat near the front. It would have taken real courage to speak as Rev. Motter did to a large congregation during the war years."


--Taken from Our CPS Stories. Elkhart, IN: Prairie Street Mennonite Church, 1996. p48-53.