Bob McCoy was interned during WW II in CPS Camp 46, Big Flats, NY. Bob worked for many years at Wilmington College and has had a life-long interest in history.
In 1946 through 1950, in the aftermath of WW II, Bob decided to serve as a Quaker Relief Worker and volunteer to do what he could do to personally help with the rebuilding of a devastated Europe. In 2002, as he was closing up his parent’s home after their deaths, he discovered that they had kept many of the letters that he had written to them on this first great adventure of his life. Recently these letters have been collected into an amazing book, Planting the Good Seed, published by the Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, Wilmington, Ohio. Like a time capsule, this collection of letters unfolds chronologically and captures the challenges, frustrations, and excitement of a young man witnessing the affects of world war. Books can be ordered from the Peace Resource Center of directly from Bob.
“We met every week to discuss what to do [about being drafted for the war]. Most of my friends were older than me; I wasn’t old enough yet then, but as the war became imminent and the draft came on us, this had quite a bit of influence on me, I think. It turned out that only two of the ten young men ever got drafted because they were on farms and were considered essential to the war industry by continuing on the farm. But two of us got drafted, and at that point I had to make the decision: Should I go to CPS [Civilian Public Service], should I go in the Army as a CO, should I go to prison, or should I join the Army? This was a very difficult decision to make.
“I was helped by several outstanding Quaker speakers who came to the Wilmington, Ohio, yearly meeting and to Wilmington College. One of them was Tom Jones, T. Canby Jones’ father. Another was Milton Hadley. And perhaps the most important one was our local minister, Wendell Farr.
“Another aspect of my concern as to what to do was due to of my father’s experience. In 1917 the American Friends Service Committee was founded, basically to provide service for COs in Europe during and after World War I. My father signed up and was accepted by the Service Committee to go to France. But his local draft board turned him down and said you’re going into the Army or you’re going to stay on the farm. Most of the rest of his life, I think, he regretted that he didn’t get to work with the Service Committee. Therefore, he was very sympathetic with my feelings of showing my objection to the war.
“I had to do something opposed to the war. I felt that the service of the three churches, the Mennonites, the Brethren, and the American Friends Service Committee had done a great job getting the Selective Service to agree to have an alternative program for us. So I wasn’t one of those who that felt that I should completely oppose the draft by not registering, by going to prison. Going into the Army as a CO was too supportive of the war system. It seemed to me that the alternative setup was within the range of what I could reasonably do. So I was drafted in my senior year at college and I was given deferment until I finished college in June of 1942.
“The first embarrassment I had was when we were all taken up to the Odd Fellows Hall, about 150 young men in my community, a third of them whom I knew, and we were all stripped naked to sit around the room before each one of us had a cursory physical examination. This was somewhat of an embarrassment to a young fella.
“Then I went through the process of filling out the proper forms for the draft board. Without any great difficulty the draft board assigned me the 4E classification which put me into the CPS camps. The chairman of the draft board was the same man who had been chairman of the draft board who had turned my father down in World War I. I have a feeling that he had a bit of conscience that he had done that, and remembered it when I came before the draft board. Now that’s only conjecture. I don’t know for sure, but it makes sense to me.”
In 1946 through 1950, in the aftermath of WW II, Bob decided to serve as a Quaker Relief Worker and volunteer to do what he could do to personally help with the rebuilding of a devastated Europe.
Bob McCoy in France, 1946
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