Peace merits its own topic in any discussion of the Religious Society
of Friends. From very early in our history, we have recognized
that violence or forcible coercion is contrary to the teachings of
Christ, who told us not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek, to
walk the extra mile, and to give up our cloak as well as our tunic to
Participation in warfare was religious apostasy to the first
Christians, and modern Conservative Friends regard it in the same
way. Preparation for warfare in the form of training, stockpiling
weapons, or support of a military arm of our government is equally
inconsistent with the commands of an incarnate God who told us to love
one another. Some Friends go so far as to refuse to pay taxes to
a government that will use it to wage war on other people.
Peace is so important to the Religious Society of Friends that some
people assume it to be a foundational belief, rather than the secondary
consequence of more important and more fundamental religious expectations. Nonetheless, Quakers have always been in the
forefront of resisting warfare, forced conscription, and of seeking
non-violent resolutions to the conflicts that plague a fallen
world. In Ohio Yearly Meeting, our membership contains people who
represent the entire spectrum of Christian attitudes towards warfare:
Some members decided to serve in the military in various wars,
enlisting as medics and gravediggers in order to avoid carrying weapons.
Some members became conscientious objectors, forming the
first smoke-jumping teams of firefighters, paying their own way
and suffering serious injuries. Others volunteered to serve their
country as official guinea pigs in medical and starvation experiments
conducted during war. Many took part in other alternative service in the United States and overseas.
Some members refused to participate in government war programs at
all, reasoning that registering for the draft or volunteering for non-combatant work merely freed up
a substitute soldier to carry a gun in their place. These members
spent time in prison.
Injuries and mortality among the conscientious objectors was
higher than in the general military that they refused to participate in.
We are assembling photographs and short accounts of the experiences of
Conservative Friends involved in conscientious objection and
alternative service. If you have anything to share, please let us
know on our Contact Us page. We will be contacting people as fast as our over-committed schedules permit.
In the United States today, there is currently no forced
military conscription, nor is there any way for a citizen to formally
register as an "official" Conscientious Objector to war. Citizens must still
register with the Selective Service Administration, however, and suffer
various penalties if they refuse to do so. Should the draft be re-instated and a citizen told to report for conscription, there may be
only a week or two available to apply for Conscientious Objector
status, and the resolution of the case often depends on being able to
document that the beliefs of the draftee have been long-standing.
Ohio Yearly Meeting Peace and Human Relations Committee provides a means for citizens to record their
beliefs about war in a way that will let them provide a Draft Board
with dated evidence of their beliefs. We provide a Registration
of Position for Conscientious Objectors, a one page document that a
potential draftee fills out, dates, and returns to us. We store
the document in a fire-proof vault, where it remains until the draftee
notifies us that it is necessary to use it in a Draft Board
interview. The dated document provides one way that the Board can
verify that the objection to military service is long standing.
Remember that it is only one piece of evidence, however, and may not be
enough by itself. Should you decide that this avenue is
appropriate for you, please link to the document, print it, and send it
to us. The form is confidential, and no one will see it but
you and the members of OYM charged with its preservation.
We also provide the same document in an online form, available to you
through this website. Fill it out in the same way and click
SUBMIT to automatically send it to the administrator of this
site. The administrator will forward it to the OYM Peace and
Human Relations Committee.
Our Own Stories
Conscientious objection to warfare is a corporate testimony of the
Religous Society of Friends. but the personal decisions and actions of
individuals is how it has historically been best expressed. Many
Friends made great personal sacrifices for their beliefs and served
both their God and their country in ways that should never be forgotten.
During the American Civil War a young member of Ohio Yearly Meeting
found himself on the wrong side of the dominant culture when it came to
taking up arms against his fellow man. Nathan Blackburn
was a Pennsylvania reisident who was drafted in 1863.
Conscientious objectors were treated severely at that time.
Nathan was shipped off with the troops. After cooperating in
initial drill training, he decided that to continue was inconsistent
with his beliefs. Nathan writes of a typical week, "I again attempted to regain my
position by refusing to take my part in the performance and one day
they had me bucked and gagged (as they call it) most of the day.
The next day I was jerked around, knocked down, beat over the head,
kicked several times and tied up by the thumbs for a while, then put on
the ground on my back with a bayonet through my mouth with the ends
tied to two sticks, and my hands tied and then left to lay in the sun
for some time, then tied up by the thumbs, so changed back and forth
two or three times..."
Nathan was released by direct
order of the Secretary of War, who also added, "..and if the name of
the officer who maltreated him is furnished he shall be dealt with in
such manner as will prevent any repetition." Nathan's account of
a few days reflects similar weeks and months that other CO's underwent
in the American armed forces of this time. COs were forced to
stand through staged firing squads, beaten, starved, strung up by their
thumbs, and imprisoned throughout the war.
Treatment of American COs during the First World War was similar.
In 1937, the young Richard Hall turned 18, and as were all young
Americans, faced the routine task of registering for the draft. To
Richard, though, a life-long Friend, the responsibility was clear cut:
"I felt that I was called to take a stand that anybody could take. I
didn't want to be excused from military service just because I was a
Quaker," he remembers. Richard informed his draft board that he
refused to register. He was arrested and sent to the county jail,
where he was invited to post bail and go home. "I said that it wasn't
right to pay money to be excused from this," he says, and spent the
next four months in jail. His cellmates were unsypatheitic, and amused
themselves by setting fires to newspapers in attempts to drive Richard
from his upper bunk and out of their cell block. Richard spent an
additional month in jail in Columbus, Ohio, awaiting sentencing. With
the second world war looming, the judge chose to use Richard as an
example, and sentenced him to five years in Federal prison.
Richard spent the next four years and two months at the
Federal Prison in Chillicothe, Ohio. He spent five days per week
the work crews, and two days per week at the prison farm's
Richard remembers that Federal prison was easier than county jail,
because, the prison staff was aware that his crimes were of a different
nature than most other inmates. Today Richard is a recorded
minister of Stillwater Monthly Meeting, where he quietly serves as an
example to all of us.
Some members of Ohio Yearly Meeting served as human guinea pigs in wartime medical research. Cliff Guindon
started his CO assignments in 1945 in New York State, where he planted,
weeded, dug, and packaged forest seedling trees to be delivered to
landowners for reforestation projects. Then Cliff travelled to
Oregon, working on surveyor and fire crews. Towards the fall of
'45, he returned to New York, where he and four other young men were
used in frostbite and frozen-tissue studies. Each subject had six
areas of their body frozen for various lengths of time, and then the
anti-coagulant drug heparin was administered. Over the next few
weeks, doctors used flurescent dyes to study the development of lesions
in their subjects.
Cliff believes that being raised and educated as a Friend was critical
in cementing his beliefs regarding the draft. He frankly enjoyed
the workcamp community, where many of his co-workers were also from
Ohio Yearly Meeting. "We had a group of fine individuals to
fellowship with," he recalls.
Today Ed Kirk
is a recorded minister of Stillwater Monthly Meeting, but as a young
man in 1944 he was of one of the first smokejumpers in the United
States. At that time various Quaker, Mennonite, and Brethren
conscientious objectors were assigned the high-risk job of parachuting
into northern forests using the primitive equipment of the time to
fight forest fires on the ground. The work was very
dangerous--note the neck armor and the helmet with the steel mesh
faceshield to protect the firefighter as he dropped into the
treetops. Ed broke his back in his last jump and volunteered to
finish the rest of his assignment doing clerical work in the camp
also of Stillwater Monthly Meeting, was drafted into the US Army as
young man during the Korean War. Although a lifelong Friend and
committed to non-violence, Myron felt obligated to serve his country in
some way during the conflict and did not protest his induction. During
training, he explained to his commanding officer that his beliefs did
not permit him to carry a gun, but that he would do whatever else he
could to serve faithfully. His options at that time were
immediate discharge, gravedigger, or medic. Myron was reassigned
as a medic, and returned home to Ohio after the war. He is the
soldier second from the left.
When Bob Rockwell turned 18, his draft board permitted him to take on
alternative service through the World Council of Churches. Bob
was sent to southern Italy, to a small mountain village with 2500
people and 13 bars. The work consisted of agricultural
advisement, explaining the value of improved strains of seed and
livestock and mechanical advances such as hand-cranked corn
shellers. Housing improvements included the novel concept of
building inexpensive concrete pigpens, which allowed the farmers to
house the pigs somewhere besides their own houses for the night.
Bob believes that it isn't enough to just oppose war, or the
preparation for it. He states, "CO's have an obligation to
participate in some kind of work which will reduce human suffering,
promote understanding between different peoples and nations, or in some
other way reduce the tensions and other causes of war. I think
that only when we as CO's can offer and participate in constructive
alternatives to military service can we make positive steps towards the
elimination of military service."
Today, Bob grows apples and repairs the Stillwater Meeting House in Barnesville, Ohio.
of Short Creek Meeting, believed that it was important to serve his
country in some manner that would be beneficial. As a Friend, he
cooperated with his draft board and opted for one of the formal
Alternative Service work plans. In 1957, Lewis and his wife Wanda
were sent to Madhya Pradesh in central India. As an Ohio farmer,
Lewis became the "Agriculturalist" and Wanda worked as a nurse.
The project was administered by the American Friends Service
Committee. Lewis taught modern irrigation techniques (not always
successfully), and helped dig modern wells for both irrigation and
Lewis writes, "I want us always to be careful
to not just be opposers. It is important to not just make clear
your opposition, but beyond this, we each must work in one or more
avenues of positive contribution to achieve the right end. In
this case it is understanding, well-being, trust, and honor, We
are US citizens, and I think none of us wish to throw that away, in
spite of how disgusted and discouraged we sometmes become with our
government's actions. In alternative service, we have the
opportunity to meet many of the hardships a fellow in the armed forces
might have, but above this we have the opportunity to build a little
In 1942, the 20-year-old Ray Stanley
was classified 1-A by his draft board, and discussed the matter at
length with them in the subsequent hearing. Ray agreed to take on
non-combatant service and was sent to Maryland to clear trees from the
Pocono swamp. Soon afterwards, Ray volunteered to serve in the
American Friends Service Committee's medical unit as a human guinea
pig. Ray's assignement was to undergo dehydration study, which
involved no and low-protein diets for a year while various foods were
tested, including gum arabic, soybeans, and various amino acids.
The studies were not benign. One volunteer died, one was
discharged on mental grounds, and Ray was hospitalized twice.
next transferred to high-altitude research, conducted in a two-man
evacuation chamber. One day his oxygen hose disconnected at an
equivalent of 42,000 feet, and Ray lost consciousness. The
technicians opened the dump valve to keep Ray from dying, and the
sudden increase in pressure seriously damaged his eardrums.
at times the rigors of the guinea pig experiments seemed devastating to
my physical health," writes Ray, "I have never doubted that this was
the testimony required of me."
Bill Taber spent almost 40
years as a recorded minister of Stillwater Monthly Meeting. When
he turned 18 in 1945, he refused to register for the draft.
Bill's Olney High School roommate David Jensen also refused to
register. Both Bill and David were tried in Ottumwa, Iowa, and
sentenced to 1 1/2 years each. They were sent to Sandstone
Federal Penitentiary in Minnesota, where they served 9 months before
being paroled. For a time they refused to cooperate with the
prison system and were placed in segregation with other COs who took
that position. After becoming uncomfortable with the attitude
toward the guards of some of their fellow protesters, Bill and David
each arranged to return to the main prison population. Bill had a
work assignment in the library, where he was in charge of the
By the time of the postwar draft in 1948, Bill had decided to give up
the absolutist position and to register as a conscientious
objector. From 1955 to 1957 he performed alternative service as
Moses Brown School, a Quaker Prep School in Providence, Rhode Island. These are just a few of the many stories of Friends and their
peaceful service to their God and to their country. We will
continue to add more, and hope that they will help you in remembering
that first, Jesus told us to love our enemies, not to kill them, and
second, that a conscientious objection to war is a testimony that
Friends have maintained for generation after generation. We
encourage you to continue the story within your own life.
The G.I. Rights Hotline (800) 394-9544. A network of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations
who provide information to servicemembers about military discharges,
grievance and complaint procedures, and other civil rights.
Burial Set April 3 At National Cemetery For Medal Of Honor Winner Desmond Doss
posted March 23, 2006
Photo by Wesley Schultz Desmond Doss
T. Doss, Sr., the only conscientious objector to win the Congressional
Medal of Honor during World War II, has died. He was 87 years old.
Mr. Doss never liked being called a conscientious objector. He
preferred the term conscientious cooperator. Raised a Seventh-day
Adventist, Mr. Doss did not believe in using a gun or killing because
of the sixth commandment which states, Thou shalt not kill (Exodus
20:13). Doss was a patriot, however, and believed in serving his
During World War II, instead of accepting a deferment, Mr. Doss
voluntarily joined the Army as a conscientious objector. Assigned to
the 307th Infantry Division as a company medic he was harassed and
ridiculed for his beliefs, yet he served with distinction and
ultimately received the Congressional Medal of Honor on Oct. 12, 1945
for his fearless acts of bravery.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Mr.
Doss fellow soldiers witnessed how unafraid he was for his own safety.
He was always willing to go after a wounded fellow, no matter how great
the danger. On one occasion in Okinawa, he refused to take cover from
enemy fire as he rescued approximately 75 wounded soldiers, carrying
them one-by-one and lowering them over the edge of the 400-foot Maeda
Escarpment. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety
nearly 12 hours later.
When Mr. Doss received the Medal of Honor from President Truman,
the President told him, Im proud of you, you really deserve this. I
consider this a greater honor than being President.
Mr. Doss exemplary devotion to God and his country has received
nationwide attention. On July 4, 2004, a statue of Mr. Doss was placed
in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, along with statues of
Dr. Martin Luther King, President Jimmy Carter, and retired Marine
Corps General Gray Davis, also a Medal of Honor recipient. Also in
2004, a feature-length documentary called The Conscientious Objector,
telling Doss story of faith, heroism, and bravery was released. A
feature movie describing Doss story is also being planned.
Mr. Doss died Thursday morning in Piedmont, Ala. He is survived by
his wife, Frances; his son, Desmond T. Doss, Jr., and his brother,
Visitation will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, at
Heritage Funeral Home, located at 3239 Battlefield Parkway, Fort
A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 1, at 3 p.m. at
the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church located at 4829 College
Drive East in Collegedale.
Burial will take place on Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the Doss family requests that donations be
sent to the Desmond Doss Museum Fund at the Georgia-Cumberland
Conference office (P.O. Box 12000 Calhoun, Ga., 30703).