Civilian Public Service Camps
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When World War II erupted in Europe and Asia, the United States attempted to remain neutral in the conflict. As Germany and Japan expanded militarily, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt increasingly prepared the American people for war. Roosevelt authorized increased military aid for countries, especially Great Britain, already battling against Germany. In 1940, the President also implemented the Selective Training and Service Act, the first peacetime draft in United States history, to increase the number of men in the United States military.
The Selective Training and Service Act required all men drafted to serve their country. The federal government realized, however, that some men opposed military service for religious or conscientious reasons. Rather than requiring religious or conscientious objectors to serve in the armed forces, the Selective Training and Service Act permitted these men to serve their nation in other ways -- principally in Civilian Public Service Camps. These camps organized the various religious and conscientious objectors into units similar to military ones. These units, however, would not serve on the battlefield. Instead, these men worked on various government projects, most of which dealt with improving state and national parks or implementing soil conservation measures. Various religious groups, especially the Society of Friends and the Mennonites, operated these camps. The camps were located across the United States.
Civilian Public Service Camps existed in Ohio. Numerous pacifist religious groups had resided in Ohio since the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, and members of these various organizations chose to work in the camps rather than serving in the military. The Society of Friends operated a Civilian Public Service Camp at Coshocton, while Mennonites supported similar camps at Marietta and Tiffin. These camps each usually held fewer than two hundred objectors, and despite having the opportunity to serve their country in a pacifist manner, many opponents to the United States' involvement in World War II still refused this form of alternative service. These more determined objectors commonly received prison terms, with most of the more ardent ones in Ohio serving sentences at the Chillicothe Federal Correctional Institution.