Date

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Department

History

First Adviser

Pettegrew, John

Abstract

During the Second World War, the United States government established the Civilian Public Service (CPS), an alternative service program for conscientious objectors on an unprecedented scale. Though it intended to place men in camps where they would perform "work of national importance" in lieu of military service, the CPS often assigned men to make-work projects that proved inadequate to both the government and the conscientious objectors themselves. Through an examination of the official records, periodicals, and correspondence of a diverse sample of CPS camps, this study contends that the men of the CPS actively sought to reconstruct their work program around projects that demanded extreme physical challenges, difficult environments, and individual sacrifice. By demonstrating the value of dangerous, dramatic service, the men of the CPS created a more satisfactory program and in the process helped to redefine the basis of American citizenship beyond exclusively military service.

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