By Jean Labayle Couhat

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43 In all, 80 percent of the twenty-one thousand inducted certified COs decided in the training camps to abandon their objections and to serve as soldiers in the army. One of these, Alvin York from Tennessee, later became famous as "Sergeant 34 THE UNITED STATES York," the American "doughboy" who in a single day killed twenty-five German soldiers and captured 132 others. Nevertheless, four thousand drafted objectors continued to assert their scruples against war and the military. Three quarters of these belonged to the historic pacifist sects, by now all largely middle-class: the increasingly urban and suburban Quakers, the predominantly rural Brethren and Mennonites, and the agrarian German-speaking Russian Mennonites, who had immigrated to America in the 1870s and 1880s.

Furthermore, Lewis B. Hershey, a career army officer who would head the Selective Service System from 1941 to 1970, assured concerned lobbyists of the peace and religious organizations that in writing the regulations to enforce the conscription act, draft authorities would make every effort to protect absolutist conscientious objectors, even nonreligious ones. 54 In a sharply divided vote, the draft bill was passed by Congress during the presidential election campaign and became law in September 1940.

57 After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the Selective Service Act enabled the government to draft ten million men, who, together with five million volunteers, gave the United States the largest armed force in its history. Fifty thousand draftees were classified as COs. 58 Most of these served as noncombatants in the military, primarily in the medical corps. 61 The CPS camps were operated for the Selective Service System by the historic peace churches, which formed a coordinating body known as the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (now NISBCO, the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors).

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