Francis Barr was interned during WW II in CPS Camp 56, Waldport, Oregon, and CPS Camp 21, Cascade Locks, Oregon. Along with his brother Ernie, Francis also participated in pneumonia research during the war. Many COs voluntarily participated in dangerous medical research because they believed that they were helping their country without taking up arms. The work they did in these programs made an important contribution to science. The data they collected is still used today.
ďThere was never much of a question in my mind as to what would happen, or as to whether or not I would be a CO. My father was notChurch of the Brethren. He didnít become acquainted with Church of the Brethren until he was adopted by a Pennsylvania Dutch couple in a little count called Mechanics Grove in Pennsylvania. His parents were both dead when he was young, I think about seven years old. My understanding is that his father was a construction worker and died on a bridge-building project that he was working on. Then his mother passed away, and these old Pennsylvania Dutch people adopted him and he got interested in Church of the Brethren.
"My family has always been Church of the Brethren, but back past my parents thereís no history. My motherís parents were Mennonites, but her mother died very young and so she was hired out to work for rich family. So I donít have much of a history, but there was never any question in my mind that I would be a CO if I was drafted.
"And another sort of unique position was that my father was also my pastor, so I donít remember that we had a hard time getting my CO status. You know, I went to my draft board and we talked about it and they of course were familiar with the idea because there were other members of our church who had been in CPS ahead of me. One fellow who loaned me his foot locker when I went to [CPS] camp was back already because he had some kind of physical problem and his folks needed his help on the farm, so that got him an early release as I recall. But I donít recall ever having much of a problem, before I got to the induction center, of getting my status OKíd. The draft board was not particularly happy to have us on their record, but they didnít seem to object seriously, and didnít give me a hard time. So I had no trouble getting my 4E classification.
"The only trouble I had was after I got to the induction center. When I went to the induction center in Boise, Idaho, I didnít know it at that time, but there were a couple of fellows, a couple other COs from northern Idaho. Why they were down there I donít know. It seems like there would have been a draft board or induction center that would have been closer, but then Idaho is fairly sparsely populated so maybe that was the closest one for them. Anyway, when I got there here were these other two guys and they sort of fiddled around with us. They didnít seem to be in a hurry to get us in line and get the physical exam over. They found one of these long folding tables like you have a church to have dinners on, and they put it along the wall and we watched them doing this. They got three chairs and they put them up on the table and then we finally knew what they were getting ready to do. They had this big sign that they put up there that said, ĎConscientious Objectors Bench.í They put us up there, right were all these guys were walking by to get in line, and we sat there all day. I mean we sat there ítill the last dog was dead practically before they took us and ran us through the mill.
"And of course before that we had to go see the commandant or whoever this guy was in charge of the induction center and he asked us all the standard questions about what you would do if the Japanese or Germans came to your house and were going to shoot your grandma or your wife or you know, do bad things to your children. Well, heck, I was 18 years old! I didnít have a wife and I never met my grandma. All of these kind of questions were not situations which I had any real feeling for, you know, so I admitted that I didnít know what I would do. I said I had no idea what I would do. But they were intent on trying to make me say that under some circumstances I might use some violent means to stop these people. That one on for, I donít know, fifteen minutes or so and then we went on to our regular physical exams.
"I was just surprised how much it was the same for the other guys as well. We were treated like a piece of meat, you know. There we were running around bare naked in our birthday suits and the doctors were looking over at us and looking at our feet. I had terribly flat feet, I donít know. I guess they figured they were going to make this conchie do his duty, whether you had disabling features or not.Ē
Francis honors peace by having a Peace Pole. Click here to learn about planting your own Peace Pole.
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