Since Promise to Return has been published I have heard more often than anything else “I never given the Amish in this era any thought” or “I didn’t know the Amish were conscientious objectors” or “I didn’t know the Amish were allowed to be drafted.” These range of statements and many other questions have encouraged me to share with you what I’ve learned in researching this amazing history.
I do want to start with a disclaimer. Just because I am writing about and blogging about the Amish in their conscientious objector views doesn’t mean I am aligned with that belief. I don’t really feel the need to declare my personal political beliefs here so I’ll just stick with the research.
Also, I will list for you the books used in this research. I’ll do the best I can with providing these sources since they are the ones who did the work, not me.
There’s an amazing book called THE CPS STORY: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service that has provided a great deal of information to me. You can find it HERE. It is written by Albert N. Keim, a former Amishman and I believe converted to the Mennonite church later in life.
He begins this story with this:
“John Yoder finally realized the war was over when he topped the hill and saw the farm spread out below, an oasis of peace in a world which had known only war and violence for six years. The farm seemed unchanged since his departure four years before. The world had changed, however, and so had he. Four years ago he had been a simple farm boy. He was no longer that, but he was not sure he could tell in what ways he had changed, who he had become.” (page 7 of The CPS Story by Albert N. Keim)
This is just one story of thousands. Yes, thousands. With that, let’s start with some cold hard facts.
During the Good War 34,506,923 men registered for the draft. Of that number, 72,354 documented that they were conscientious objectors.
There were options for these men…unlike WW1.
25,000+ chose to work with the army in noncombatant roles. 27,000+ did not pass the physical exam. 6,000+ chose to go to prison, refusing any form of service (FYI: many of those men were Jahovah’s Witnesses refusing on claim of ministerial exemption.) Around 12,000 of those original 34,506,923 men chose to go to the Civilian Public Work camps.
These are the men I’d like to talk about and learn about. These are the men who have largely been forgotten.
One of these men was my Daudy, Freeman Coblentz. He faithfully served in the CPS for several years in the early- to mid-1940s. He worked in a labor camp and also a mental institution in Maryland. His stories were beyond belief and captivated my innocent childlike mind. I knew our family was great and unique. I knew our family had a legacy because he had done what most men would never have done. He defied the mainstream belief that war was the ONLY path for a country and the only way to serve your country…and he fought for his right to not fight. It wasn’t popular…at all.
What comes to mind right now when you think of men who refused to serve in any of the wars? If you’re really honest, usually this answer is not positive. This is what the Amish had to “war” against. Being for or against war in our modern day is much more accepted, but it wasn’t in our history.
I married an active-duty Air Force Officer who, after ten years, recently has begun serving in the Air National Guard in Pennsylvania. I love my country and I love my husband’s desire to serve. But I also love that our country has a select number of men (and women) who have chosen differently for their hearts. I think it’s necessary and makes us a well-rounded country.
I hope you liked this snippet of history…over the next weeks I’ll share more.
If you have a question or thought about this, please, share it with me in a comment. I’d love to see if I can answer your question or put your mind at ease through this research. Learning the history of our country is vital and I’m going to try to contribute in the best way I know how.
How the #Amish made a peaceful stand against WW2. CLICK TO TWEET