Wilson standing on the bank of the Eel River near his home, a tributary of the Wabash River, in Indiana. A committed environmentalist, Wilson was instrumental in helping to restore river otter to the Eel.
Wilson Lutz was interned at the end of WW II in CPS Camp 42, Wellston, Michigan. Even though the war had ended by the time he was drafted, the draft was still in effect. As a boy Wilson has a strong affinity for nature and his work at Wellston doing forest restoration made a life-long impression on him. Many COs redirected their pacifist ideas toward environmental work and have made a valuable contribution to environmental reform in their communities.
“I attended public schools and northern Idaho. Small classes. And graduated in 1945. I was always interested in nature, as a young person. Eventually, after graduating, I decided to go to college because I had picked up a very strong interest in chemistry in my early years. And so the question was where to get additional training. I had a lot of fun in high school with chemistry.
“And being a Church of the Brethren person, my church was the Church of the Brethren in the community on the outskirts of the Akron. So I decided to take advantage of the Church of the Brethren schools. There were seven or eight of them around the country and Manchester College was the closest one.
"So I decided to attend Manchester College and enrolled there in 1945. In the meantime, World War II had been progressing and, in fact, the war had ended by the time I graduated from high school. But the draft law was still in effect. And so I had the draft board breathing down my neck, so to speak. When I enrolled in Manchester there was a question about whether I would even be able to enroll because of the draft situation. But I did. And no sooner had I enrolled then it was clear that I would not be able to finish the year. And the reason was that I had stated my position as a Conscientious Objector.
“I mentioned earlier that Akron had a strong military component. In the current area Lockheed owns much of what was originally Goodyear, and so there are a lot of aircraft parts being made in Akron. I have relatives that are in the ‘war industry.’ Well, I wouldn’t call it ‘war industry,’ but in the defense industry there. When I was still young person, I have to confess, I was somewhat enamored with the glitter of the war machinery that was going on in the airplanes and the battleships and all that sort of thing. During the war I took jobs in the rubber industry in Akron, one of which was making barrage balloons, these things that they strung up around London and other cities to prevent low-flying planes from swooping in and dropping bombs.
“So I did that one summer and in the later summer was involved in making life belts. I was beginning to wonder about some of the things I was doing and so the next summer I worked at General Tire and Rubber Company making life belts, which I felt was a more responsible sort of thing to do. When I presented myself as a Conscientious Objector to the draft board, they regarded that kind of work as a negation to what I was supposed to be standing for. And so my application for the IV-E draft status was denied on the basis that I had already been engaged in war work.
“What to do? Well, what you normally do is appeal to an appeals board. In the meantime I had enrolled at Manchester. When I made my application as a Conscientious Objector to the draft board requesting a hearing, or I requested a hearing I guess, because of the fact that after I requested the IV-E they put me in as a I-AO, a type of conscription where they put you in the Army as a non-combatant, the medical type of whatever. But you still had to carry a gun and do rifle training and all that sort of thing, which was foreign to what my beliefs were at the time. I was influenced to a considerable degree by my mother.She pointed out to me that our church didn’t believe in going to war. And in fact, during my high-school years there were good friends of mine who not only went into the military, but other good friends, in fact the ones that I esteemed most, who went into CPS. So the draft board put me in as I-AO, which was not what I wanted, which was not what I thought I could accept. So I appealed to the appeals board. Then the appeals board granted me the IV-E classification.
“Without any further adieu, the draft board thereupon ordered me to appear at Camp Wellston in Michigan and after finishing that they allowed me to finish my fall semester at Manchester. I had to check in at CPS Camp Number 42 in Wellston, Michigan. That was all right with me. I fully intended after the completion of my CPS work to go back to college and get a degree in chemistry and hopefully do graduate work. I eventually was able to do all that.
“The work that was going on at Camp Wellston at the time was to bring back the Manistee National Forest, which had been cut over and burn over back in the late 1800s. I regard myself as a strong environmentalist now. I was strongly inclined in that same direction back then. And so although many of the fellows at CPS, in CPS Camp 42, felt that they were spinning their wheels and that they were not really doing work of national importance, I thought that kind of work was important. And so I had no qualms about doing it.”
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