Exercise of Conscience: A World War II Objector Remembers

Overview

An inherent tension exists between the pacifist conscience and the prevailing mentality of the populace in a country at war. Although today the term "conscientious objector" evokes images of the Vietnam era, every war in U.S. history has brought forth men who, for the sake of their consciences, refused to bear arms.

World War II was no exception. Exercise of Conscience is the memoir of Harry R. Van Dyck, one of the nearly twelve thousand men who were thrust into hastily ...

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1990 Hard cover New. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 250 p. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is ... necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

An inherent tension exists between the pacifist conscience and the prevailing mentality of the populace in a country at war. Although today the term "conscientious objector" evokes images of the Vietnam era, every war in U.S. history has brought forth men who, for the sake of their consciences, refused to bear arms.

World War II was no exception. Exercise of Conscience is the memoir of Harry R. Van Dyck, one of the nearly twelve thousand men who were thrust into hastily organized Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps during that war. Van Dyck, whose Mennonite heritage was the foundation of his conscientious objector status, spent nearly four years in the CPS. He experienced the numerous scenes of adventure, drama, and humor that made up daily life in the camps for a heterogeneous collection of men whose only common bond was their "exercise of conscience."

As Van Dyck writes, life as a conscientious objector during this time could be anything but peaceful. Faced with public resentment, many COs were subjected to verbal or physical abuse by impassioned "patriots"; others made the difficult decision to renounce their pacifist positions and join the armed forces. Some conscientious objectors waited years before they were allowed to leave the CPS camps and return to civilian life.

Van Dyck's memoir examines the principles, motives, and dilemmas of the pacifist, out of step with a society intensely engaged in a popular war, raising issues that are of concern to all who are interested in peace in our time. The COs story is not without significance; Van Dyck's compelling narrative captures the ambience of this unique time and place and illuminates an important portion of American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
There is little literature extant concerning the conscientious objector (CO) experience during World War II. Van Dyck, a Mennonite and retired University of North Texas sociology professor, relates his personal account as one of the 12,000 COs who served in the Civilian Public Service (CPS), a community service force. The level of government support provided CPS camp enrollees hardly provided basic subsistence. At camps, physical force was seldom used against COs. There was little sex, and boredom sometimes predominated. The author tells of the routines he performed at Hawthornden State Mental Hospital near Cleveland, and the reader gains insight into the COs pacifism and the negative attitudes of people toward them. Libraries needing to fill gaps in their World War II holdings or desiring something about COs should consider this.-- Scott Johnson, Meridian Community Coll. Lib., Miss.
School Library Journal
YA-- A close examination of the integrity, rational, and problems of the pacifists who ``marched to a different drummer'' when the United States was engaged in a popular war. Van Dyck, a Mennonite who refused to enter military service during World War II, recounts his four years in a hastily organized Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp. Readers experience the daily life in a camp for a heterogeneous collection of men whose only common bond was their ``exercise of conscience.'' Writing in a comfortable narrative form, Van Dyck discusses the public resentment, his fellow pacifists who renounced their beliefs and joined the armed forces, and the government snafus that kept some conscientious objectors in the camps for years. The theme of this book will raise controversial discussion.-- Mike Printz, Librarian, Topeka West High School, Topeka, KS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879755843
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1990
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.96 (d)

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