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Recalling a U.S. Camp for WWII's Unwilling Draftees

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Recalling a U.S. Camp for WWII's Unwilling Draftees

U.S.

Recalling a U.S. Camp for WWII's Unwilling Draftees

Recalling a U.S. Camp for WWII's Unwilling Draftees

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Dan Dingman was one of the Germfask assignees. Hear more from him below. Marcus Rosenbaum hide caption

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Marcus Rosenbaum

On Becoming a Conscientious Objector

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On His Pacifist Philosophy

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On His Arrest After Walking Out of a Camp in Minersville, Calif.

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A newspaper story from the period about the camp. Marcus Rosenbaum hide caption

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Marcus Rosenbaum

Buildings from Camp Germfask are now used by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in nearby Manistique, Mich. Marcus Rosenbaum hide caption

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Marcus Rosenbaum

The conscientious objectors at Germfask were housed at the site of an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp from 1944 to 1945. This sign marking the site makes no mention of the conscientious objector camp and fudges the dates of the CCC camp. Marcus Rosenbaum hide caption

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Marcus Rosenbaum

Sixty-five years ago this fall, the United States implemented the first peacetime draft in its history. The peace, of course, did not last; and by the time World War II ended, some 10 million men had been drafted.

However, not every draftee either went into the military or went to jail. Men who opposed war for religious reasons were given an option, and about 50,000 took it. Most went into the military as noncombatants, but about 12,000 of these conscientious objectors (C.O.s) performed civilian work in the national interest.

Nearly all the civilian work camps were run by peace churches such as the Quakers and the Mennonites; but there were two government-run camps for the few hundred C.O.s who opposed the churches' participation.

And in 1944 and 1945, about 100 of them were sent to a camp in a town called Germfask, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Germfask camp was much like other work camps at the time — rural and rustic, with quonset huts alongside a stream. But at Germfask, the assignees were a different cut: Many of them had been to college, and for the most part, they were more political than the average C.O.

Time magazine reported in February 1945 that this group posed a challenge to Selective Service officials, describing them as "draft-age Americans who have refused to fight, who now decline to work, and spend most of their waking hours finding new and more ostentatious ways of thumbing their noses at authority."

NPR's Marcus Rosenbaum spoke with some of the men who were there and some of the people from the area who remember them.