Don Smith was interned during WW II in CPS Camp 21, Cascade Locks, Oregon. For years Don has stayed in touch with his CPS peers helping to coordinate the collection of biographical information as well as collecting their views and histories. Along with Don's story, read his essay ďBuilding a World That Will Study War No More,Ē one of many essays heís written over the years about war and reconciliation.
ďMy fatherís influence was decidedly antiwar. He had been in the British Army and served in Egypt, particularly. He became very disillusioned with the army life and the whole business and became knowledgeable enough to find a way to wiggle out of active duty. He went back to England and married my mother. About 18 months after that the war broke out [WW I] and he was in the Reserve and he was off to France immediately. He was shot there and returned, and was sent out again in early 1915, to France again, and was shot again and darn near killed. So he was very antiwar, not only from the experience, the physical horror of the war, but he also absorbed a Leftist critique of the war, that the workmen fought it and the capitalists got rich.
ďMy mother, on the other hand, was much more a woman who valued justice and honesty, doing the right thing. She was by no means a pacifist. She was a fighter for justice. I donít know when for sure, I think 1934, the Hearst Press put on a big campaign against war. They published weekly a section of the paper that was a collection of WW I photographs of ships sinking with men in the ocean, trench warfare, corpses lying on the field, and this whole business. We didnít ordinarily by a Los Angeles paper but my father went out and bought all the LA Examiners the weeks that these stories ran, six or eight weeks, I donít know. And he went over that section of the paper with me. And showed me what those pictures meant. He never wanted me to be a soldier or to put on a uniform, or to join the Boy Scouts, or anything connected with that. He said, ĎDonít ever go. Donít ever go. Tell them youíre a conscientious objector and go to jail. Youíll have a roof over your head and theyíll have to feed you something and itíll be better than in the trenches.í
ďI was always interested in current events. My folks were. I followed the economy; we were in the midst of a big Depression and there were lots of economic solutions being trotted out in California. I also followed foreign affairs. So there was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and later on Mainland China. And the Italian invasion of the Abyssinia. The Nazi invasion of the Rhineland, the whole Nazi Party. Hitler came to power just about the same time as an FDR came to power.
ďSo I was watching all those things. I took part in current discussions in high school and freely talked about that and gave my opinions. But as to conscientious objections, to my objection to war, I was closed-mouthed about that. I didnít talk about that.
ďWhat about my junior year I had a good friend in high school and the Germans had overrun France. Congress that summer passed the Selective Service Act. Registrations were starting and so we knew what was coming. And somehow I got talking to him one day and I told him, ĎIím not going. I donít believe itís right to kill people. And I donít know what will happen. I suppose theyíll put me in jail.í He said it wasnít necessary to do that. He told me about a provision in the law for people who belong to a peace church; he knew about this law which I didnít know about. That was very interesting news to me. Iíd never been to a church service; Iíd never been inside a church at 17. He persuaded me to go to his church because his church was involved, the Church of the Brethren was involved in this peace program for COs. I didnít know any pacifist other than my father until that point when I realized that my friend was a CO!
ďSo then I got involved with the church. I certainly approved of the Church of the Brethrenís stand on the war. I understood that. And it flowed out of the testimony that Jesus had given, and that was fine. A lot of the church service was quite strange to me and always rather foreign, hymn singing and responsive readings, and stuff. I went along with that.
ďSo the time came for me to register. I registered and asked for the proper CO form and I had a little time to fill that out. And it asked a lot of questions. I donít know that I have any special memories of it now except that they were trying to establish the legitimacy of the position I was asking for. Of course, growing up in a peace church would be great evidence of that. But a kid at 18 doesnít have a whole lot of stuff in his file of evidence. So I was concerned about this and trying to make as strong a case as I could. So I wrote and rewrote and rewrote and finally, thought, ĎThatís the best I can do,í and sent it in. But I continue to worry about this and kept thinking about it. Will they understand? Will they accept it? That kind of thing. Then one day I just heard a voice within that said, ĎYou only have to understand what it is you need to do. You donít have to worry about what other people think about it.í And at that point I was at peace and didnít worry about it anymore.Ē
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