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Conscientious Objectors: World War II

Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day Column, JUNE, 20, 1944

Editor’s Note:  For additional information about the contributions of conscientious objectors in the area of mental health visit: Training Schools – And Civilian Public Service: 1944.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

HYDE PARK, Monday—Ever since I answered in a magazine a question about the rights of the families of conscientious objectors, I have been getting innumerable letters from the conscientious objectors themselves and their friends and relatives. I think there should be a clearer understanding of their point of view and what has been done by the government as I understand it.

At the beginning of Selective Service, the Federal Government took cognizance of the rights of these men and I am now quoting from a document which some of the religious groups have sent me:

“On May 15, 1944, the United States completed its third year of moral and legal recognition of the right of drafted men to register conscientious objection to war and to perform, in lieu of military service, designated work of national importance. (Editor’s Note: Civilian Public Service) During these three years, this wartime minority of less than 8,000 drafted men has worked without pay to render to our country more than $25,000,000 in public service. Except for the cost of transportation and technical supervision, this work was done without cost to the Federal Government. In most cases, the men themselves, their families and their churches pay for their living costs, which amounts to nearly $2,000,000 a year.

“The ‘work of national importance’ which Selective Service assigns these conscientious objectors (classified 4-E under the draft law) to perform, consists of helping to protect and conserve our homefront resources—both our natural and human resources. To this end, Civilian Public Service camps and units have been set up across the country in areas where conservation needs are great and the war effort has seriously reduced the supply of essential personnel. For instance, 2800 men in 35 camps are engaged in fighting forest fires, draining swamps, building dams, maintaining national parks, and wildlife resources, and in reclaiming sub-marginal land. Nearly an equal number of men are performing essential work in 120 small special units throughout the country. They serve as attendants in state hospitals, as dairy men on farms, as ‘teachers’ in state training schools, as farm hands and technicians at state agriculture stations, as human ‘guinea pigs’ in medical research experiments, and as ‘sanitation engineers’ in rural public health projects.”

This is certainly a good record of work and it is work which is of national importance. It is, however, not the work which the country really requires of these young men. They would not have been drafted had they previously been working in jobs which the Selective Service Board considered important to the war effort. Many of them feel that in doing the work assigned to them, they are not using their capacities to the limit and that they could be more useful in other ways. However, the work in which they could be more useful is work in which their conscientious objection prevents their taking part.

I will continue the discussion of this in an ensuing column.



Source: Eleanor Roosevelt Project, George Washington University,

2 Replies to “Conscientious Objectors: World War II”

  1. With a woman’s military draft, more guinea pigs?
    In 2016 Congress’s own to date ignored “hazardous” human experimentation “lessons” learned now span seventy two (72) years without correction, i.e., 1944 – 2016![5]  A dysfunctional U.S. Congress still withholds military needed for treatment and experimentation identifying records, as proven by their from 1999 through 2007, eight (8) times rejection of the “Veterans Right to Know Act”.[4]
    “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” is the U.S. Congress’s responsibility under the 1791 U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sect. 8, Clause 14, and under the Bill of Rights, Amendment VIII is the, “…nor cruel and unusual punishments.” [1]&[2] 
    Congress’s own ignored 8 December 1994 U.S. Senate Report is, “Is military research hazardous to veterans’ health? Lessons spanning half a century.”, i.e., human experiments then back to 1944 [5] that are continuing to date! The Report records that “Every year, thousands of experiments utilizing human subjects are still being conducted by, or on behalf of, the DOD.”  In its “I. Introduction” is its’, “III. Findings and conclusions” that states, “K. DOD and DVA have repeatedly failed to provide information and medical follow-up to those who participate in military research…” plus “N. Participation in military research is rarely included in military medical records, making it impossible to support a veteran’s claim for service-connected disabilities from military research.”  To-date U.S. Congress scorned is this 1994 U.S. Senate Report’s, “The Feres Doctrine should not be applied for military personnel who are harmed by inappropriate human experimentation when informed consent has not been given.” On 26 February 1953 was the TOP SECRET Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary’s NO non-consensual, human experiments Memo (Copied, in part, herein).[8]  On 22 Aug. 1975 it was unclassified.  In 1950, three years prior to the Memo, the U.S. Supreme Court Feres Case determined that an accidental barracks fire death was a U.S. is not responsible “incident to service”![9]  Twelve years after the Memo became unclassified, the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court STANLEY decision makes clear that deliberately injured, experimented on and not consenting Military Personnel are “incident to service” guinea pigs![7]  Approved was a U.S. Military, sovereign immunity Doctrine of the king can do no wrong, injurious 1958 non-consensual LSD experiment. It was in direct disobedience of the DOD Secretary’s 1953 order.  “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” is written above the main entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court Building. The 1987 U.S. V. Stanley Case, Footnote 4, Page 688 states, “To conceal these activities from the american public in general, because public knowledge of the unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles….”.[7]
    The U.S. Congress’s Oath of Office is: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”[10]  Doesn’t this mean the U.S. Congress stopping their own proven betrayal of service personnel [5] by their documented DOD, “experiments that were designed to harm” and the DOD’s “Degrading Treatment” [6] by the rape of service women?  Please require your members of congress to obey their abandoned Oath of Office!  Shouldn’t U.S. Service Personnel have the same U.S. Constitutional, Amendment 8, Rights [2] that convicted rapists and murderers keep under, The International, “…Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”?[6] Due to honorable military service to our country, forever left behind are those U.S. Constitutional rights granted to convicted rapists and murderers?
    As of 2016 the U.S. Congress has yet to make a “Rule” preventing injurious, non-consensual experiments on and the rape of U.S. Military Personnel!! The U.S. Congress’s Dereliction of Duty? Please have the U.S. Congress put a stop to the current practice of using our deceived loved ones as guinea pigs.[5] Help eliminate the U.S. Supreme Court’s Feres non-consensual, experimentation Doctrine that it is OK to use U.S. Service Personnel as human guinea pigs.[7&9]
    Thank You.
    David Marshall
    100% disabled 1952-1956 USAF Jet Aircraft Mechanic; B.U. 1957-1961 B.S.M.E.
    References: >>>[1] Enacted on 15 December 1791, U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Section 8, Clause 14. “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces”. >>>[2] Enacted on 15 December 1791, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment VIII, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. >>>[3] 25 July 2012 U.S. Magistrate Judge LSD records decision. >>>[4] The “Veterans Right to Know Act” was proposed by H.R. 3256, 1999; S. 2953, 2000; H.R. 511, 2001; S. 405, 2001; H.R. 5060, 2002; S. 2704, 2002; H.R. 4259, 2005 and H.R. 2434, 2007. >>>[5] December 8, 1994 REPORT 103-97 “Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans’ Health?….” Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 103rd Congress 2ND Session. >>> [6] “U.S. Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights July 1994, Article 7 – Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” “1994 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage>>> [7] U.S. SUPREME COURT, JUNE 25, 1987, U.S. V. STANLEY , 107 S. CT.. 3054 (VOLUME 483 U.S., SECTION 669, PAGES 699 TO 710) >>>[8] 26 February 1953 Secretary of the Department of Defense no non-consensual human experiments order, pages 343-345 in, “The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation” George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin (N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 1992). >>>[9] Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 146 (1950)>>>[10]
    The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation, in part, page 343:
    Memorandum for the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Air Force
    26 Feb. 1953
    SUBJECT Use of Human Volunteers in Experimental Research
    1.  Based upon a recommendation of the Armed Forces Medical Policy Council, that human subjects be employed, under recognized safeguards, as the only feasible means for realistic evaluation and/or development of effective preventive measures of defense against atomic, biological or chemical agents, the policy set forth below will govern the use of human volunteers by the Department of Defense in experimental research in the fields of atomic, biological and/or chemical warfare.
    2.  By reason of the basic medical responsibility in connection with the development of defense of all types against atomic, biological and/or chemical warfare agents, Armed Services personnel and/or civilians on duty at installations engaged in such research shall be permitted to actively participate in all phases of the program, such participation shall be subject to the following conditions:
    a. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. (Emphasis added)
    /signed/ C. E. WILSON
    Copies furnished: Joint Chiefs of Staff Research and Development Board
    22 Aug 75
    Per S. Clements DDR&E OSD (PA)
    Complete (343, 344 & 345 page) copy of the 26 February 1953 memo, on request.

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