Thank you for the excellent documentary. Relatives of mine fought and died on both sides of WWII -- none refused to fight. Though I am proud of them, and I still mourn those gassed at Terazin and Auchwitz, I believe the story of their friends who wouldn't kill must be heard -- especially today. Please rebroadcast "The Good War" in primetime. Thanks again.
Jo Ellyn Armstrong email@example.com
I must add my voice to those who expressed their puzzlement that Jehovah's Witnesses were not even given a sidebar mention in a documentary on contentious objectors. It seems that it is not politically correct to draw attention to Jehovah's Witnesses or their completely neutral stand in all countries in any war on any given day. They don't march, protest, or strike in the name of pacifism as some do. The idea of peace does not need the Witnesses to champion it any more than do the ideas of justice and love. What these ideas do need is a presentation in a meaningful way that gives every human being an equal seat at the table. Jehovah's Witnesses recognize that the only force powerful enough to truly level the playing field for every man, woman, and child on the planet is God. All the well-intentioned political actions of the last century have not produced a more peaceful or secure world. 9/11 was a powerful reminder that a few determined individuals fueled by fanatical zeal can d estroy the hard won long-term accomplishments of the multitudes in a matter of minutes. We have seen millions of dollars along with precious lives and diligently thought out plans expended for months now with far less than satisfactory results. The evil remains and spreads, though many have been killed or maimed and an entire country has been further rendered incapable of supporting its citizens. All the technology, money, and rhetoric have not brought the world, or any individual in it, a sense of security. Nor will a purely pacifistic view of the world. Whatever love we may feel for our fellow human beings is not strong enough to counteract the hate in some hearts or the utter disregard a few have for the lives of those they do not know or understand. Jehovah's Witnesses, therefore, are not strictly pacifists, but they are realists. They look to God for what only God can do. Thankfully, for all of us His Word contains ample proof that he intends to do just what we all so desperately need...establish a true and lasting peace among all peoples of the earth. Witnesses set and follow a living example of their faith in His promises in their own congregations throughout the world. They volunteer to share with their communities the information they have seen tried, tested, and proven to work. Witnesses were holding interracial Christian meetings in all corners of the world before it ever became politically acceptable or socially sympathetic. They were already in the concentration camps when the Jews began to arrive because they did not support Hitler's militaristic or racist views. Their magazines published exposes' against him in the United States for quite a few years before this country entered the war. Some of the first information available to the rest of the world about the death camps and what was being done to Jews and others became known because Witnesses in those camps provided maps and detailed accounts and accurate figures of the deaths. They risked their lives to bring these atrocities to the attention of the rest of mankind.
It was very sad to hear the resounding sound of silence in your documentary when it came to the record of Jehovah's Witnesses as conscientious objectors. Entire families have been sent to relocation camps by various governments in times past. Many Witness women have faced brutal treatment right alongside their men including death by every means conceivable because of their neutral stand in the conflicts of men and nations. Witnesses continue to face harsh treatment, from beatings to imprisonment, in a handful of countries in 21st century because of their courageous stand.
It is amazing to me that your documentary failed to note that the first contentious objector executed by the Nazi's was one of Jehovah's Witnesses. That was reported on in major newspapers in this country. How could anyone produce a documentary on this subject without ever mentioning the contributions and sacrifices of Jehovah's Witnesses? It is a shameful oversight in light of the facts. I expected more from PBS.
Lawrence Templin firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an excellent and well-conceived program. But I don't think that many of us who were conscientious objectors during World War II were all that heroic, as some of your responders seem to think. "Quixotic" might be the more honest word---though I hasten to add that I am a great fan of Don Quixote. However, I do think that the creators of the program were wise to focus on the good and useful things that came out of the CO experience: a wider awareness of the effectiveness of nonviolence, a pioneering role in the civil rights movement, an active role in resisting the bad war of the century (Vietnam), and reform of mental institutions. My friend Bill Robert's words at the end of the program are an apt reminder of the frequently expressed Biblical irony that prophesies the ultimate foolishness of the wise and the wisdom of the foolish.
larry bartlett email@example.com
I was a child during the war, but since I believe it was the most important event of the 20th century I have spent over 50 years learning about the causes, effects and the incredible changes that period gave the world. Yet in all my reading I have never before found out the story of this group of brave people All the CO's could not be singled out in one hour, but it has given me an entirely new area to research Just when I think I know everything about the war, someone enlightens me how little I really know. Thanks for opening new vistas to me I was an active member of CORE for several years yet I never knew that anyone other than the late James Farmer had helped to found it.
Bob Harris firstname.lastname@example.org
I thoroughly enjoyed the program, and was unaware of the various medical experiments and other tortuous conditions to which the WWII CO's were submitted. This was a fascinating show.
As a life long CO I appreciated the history. I personally received my CO from the Selective Service in 1969, the first and only one ever given in Bergen County New Jersey. As a matter of interest while assited by the American Friends CCCO, and members of various churches, I created my own religion based on the biological system of nature. In this concept animals fight but rarely kill eacy other. This is because they touch each other. When the contact is removed by the use and training with weapons, the immorality of killing is introduced which allows the depersonalization. So while killing is wrong, the training by armies in the use of weapons, and the weapons themselves are immoral in this system. I arrived at this belief after spending 5 months as a student in Berlin while the wall was still in place.
The support of the Friends gave me the history of conscientious objection that I needed to present my beliefs in cogent form. I chose to resist the Viet Nam War by becoming a CO so that if anyone ever came to me wishing to be a CO, I would be a legitimately recognized witness by the Selective Service Board.
Now I am wondering in these times when there is such strong support for military action in Afghanistan, what is the best way to help promote the idea of actively solving international situations with peaceful means that don't involve the military. I would appreciate any comments to me in this regard. These days my most political activity is traveling around the world making kites with children to show them not all Americans are hostile and warlike, and to interact with them to promote peace, population control, and compassion. I sometimes wonder if this is enough. (my activities are seen on my web pages http://www.bhc.com) In Peace
Cynthia Phillips email@example.com
Thank you for airing this important documentary. I've never understood why so many people seemingly hate and despise those who are not willing to engage in mass murder. I hope this documentary has gone some way in correcting misconceptions about pacifism. I would like to add an important peace group to those listed on your Resources page: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. WILPF is one of the oldest peace groups in the country. It was founded in 1915 in the Hague, Netherlands by women from many different countries who had come together to protest the carnage of World War I and to plan to work to avoid future wars. Jane Addams was its first president. WILPF is still going strong after all these years and works on issues broadly related to peace and social justice. The website address for U.S. WILPF is "http:www.wilpf.org".
It was refreshing to see more coverage of those who oppose war, even a "just" war, on television. Three cheers for all who contributed to this production.
I don't intend to call the people who chose not to fight cowards, but WWII was an important one for the U.S. to join. Thier beliefs, although seeming right to them, were wrong. Killing is never good, but sometimes it must be done to stop other killings. You weren't going to liberate Europe or the Jews without shooting any Nazis. I figure you want to show all sides, which is good. I am always eager to learn more about history. I found it sad, though, that you would glorify such anti-war sentiments, especially at a time like now where it is most important to have the country behind President Bush and the War on Terrorism. You are only giving more hope to the anti-gun and anti-war nuts. These are the same people who said they were unscathed by the September 11th attacks yet at the same time say we should not hurt the Taliban.
I found the program very interesting and was glad to see it aired. It is important to hear viewpoints that are not viewed by mainstream America. It was good to hear, from the few interviewed, their experinces, including those from the Amish and Quaker faiths.
I was, however, disappointed to see that there was no representation of one of the largest groups of Consciencious Objectors in America and the world. They were known during WWII as the International Bible Students, today known as Jehovah's Witnesses. In America they were imprisoned and attacked, physically and verbally by clergymen of prominant churches. In Britian they were put in prison or in labratories, analyzing coal dust. In Germany they were put in the concentration camps along with other objectors and the Jews. They were the only group in the German concentration camps who could obtain their freedom by denouncing their faith in writing. Only a few took this advantage, but most of the thousands inprisoned, stayed true to their faith. This group is still being persecuted for their nuetral stand against the politacal elements of this world and not to harm another human, since they believe love for one another is the defining factor of their faith. The country of Georgia is a good example.
Larry Gara firstname.lastname@example.org
After more than 40 years teaching history, as a World War II resister, I realized that an important part of that history has been virtually invisible. My wife and I decided to edit a book of short memoirs by other resisters and it was published as A Few Small Candles: War Resisters of World War II Tell Their Stories. I thought it was good to have the documentary which also helps make this part of American History visible. I was especially glad that it showed that the reisters and the draftees had a lot in common. It was not a Good War to those who had to engage in it nor to those who resisted it and tried to fight for freedom from war itself.
Stanley Campbell email@example.com
I learned to hate war in Vietnam. I came back from that war and protested along with others, pacifists included. I found that I had greater credibility because I was a veteran, but I was educated by them, especially the Quakers.
I thoroghly enjoyed your program, the Good War. What a moving and wonderfully produced documentary! I especially liked how the film followed the timeline of the war, giving the responses of the pacifists to the events of the day. It was not maudlin, but was exciting and interesting and moved well.
Carol Knapp firstname.lastname@example.org
While I watched the whole program, I waited in vain for any mention at all of 1 of the staunchest CO groups - Jehovah's Witnesses. Other church groups are mentioned, why not them???
Even though concidered ordained ministers, almost none where given a ministerial exemption. Thousands were imprisoned in every country affected by the war, starting with Germany in 1936.
Hitler vowed to "exterminate this brood". Even though many were in the camps with the Jews, and several hundred were executed for their faith, by the end of the war there were about twice as many Witnesses as at the begining.
The Witnesses in this country were no less persecuted. If not imprisoned for refusing to fight their "brothers" in faith, many were cruely beaten and some killed by nationalistic mobs. Even the children suffered. During the late 30s thru the early 40s, many Witness children were denied schooling for the simple reason that they refused to salute the flag (as they still refuse to do in every country they are in). The US Supreme Court finally ruled that they (and all of us) have that right.
So how can you have a program on COs and not even mention Jehovah's Witnesses???
Are conscientious objectors heroes or cowards? They're certainly not cowards. It takes courage, regardless of whether you chose to be a CO or a soilder, to stand up and fight for your beliefs. Furthermore, society recognizes that it is an honorable act for a person to be willing to undergo imprisonment or death to protect their beliefs. Why should COs be any different from soilders in this regard? On a related note, as a legal researcher, I found it fascinating, and couldn't help but wonder, why the film completely neglected to include any information on the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, a group with a long-standing history as concientious objectors?
Nick Bertoni said it best, "great film, long overdue, service to humanity." To have captured these people on film will, no doubt, provide inspiration and guidance to people for years to come. Even if some affiliates are showing it at 4:00am today this production will last to be treasured tomorrow.
Helen A. Spalding email@example.com
I was so grateful to see this subject addressed, especially at this time. During the Vietnam action, I was active in the anti-war movement and assisted young men who wanted to avoid the draft in making the journey to Canada. During subsequent times of pressure by the US to force young people into murder, our family decided that if any of our boys were to recieve notification to report, the entire family would move to Canada, where my husband had relatives.
I feel that those who refuse to kill are following the prompting of thier own value systems, whether sacred or secular. I don't understand how those who call themseves "pro-life" can in good faith suppport the taking of human life in war. Timothy McVeigh was trained in the military and was a decorated soldier. His statement that the children who died in the bombing of the Federal Building were "collateral damage" is exactly what the military calls civilian deaths from errant or not-so-errant bombs. It was interesting to me that in the most recent bombing attacks the first bombs fell on the UN mission to remove land mines and the Red Cross. I don't feel that this was in any way unintended.
Wars against civilians at home or abroad are equaly egregious, and those who refuse to participate are equally heroic. War takes many forms, and the current complicity of our own un-elected government in the goals of the terrorists to make drastic changes in the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution is scary and horrifying. Those who flew the planes have won to the extent that the freedoms and protections of our constitution are abrogated by those in power.
I'm of mixed mind about alternative service. Some people feel that it is still a way of assisting the military indirectly, while others would do it anyway. Some see it as a forced taking of their freedom. Each person must examine and clarify their own values about this. However, if one truely loves one's country, there is an OBLIGATION to speak out wh en it is doing a wrong thing. I consider it analgous to the obligation to stop a beloved child from running into the street. One shows one's love stopping the child, not by allowing the chjild to proceed on a wrong path! I'm sorry this is so long. Thank you for permitting me to speak out on ths subject.
Carolyn Bettes firstname.lastname@example.org
Greetings and thank you for your program. I watched the PBS special last night with great interest. My dad was a CO in WWII serving some time at Wellstone, which I believe was a CCC camp in northern Michigan, then after walking out, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years at El Reno Federal Reformatory. His sponsor and advisor was Dr. Henry Hitt Crane, of Detriot's Central Methodist Church. I believe he was the advisor to other COs and often spoke on the subject. I would be interested to hear from anyone who is familiar with Dr. Crane, Wellstone or El Reno.
I think there is more to this story.
Rachel De Nys email@example.com
As a daughter of Vietnam War contientious objectors and draft counselors, I've long considered COs to be heroes. However, in the wake of 9/11, my pacifist stance has gotten a beating. But thanks to your film I have a new resolve to stand up for the truth of peace, and of the value of every human life. I believe the only way to promote peace is to encourage rational dialogue with people of every belief, and this film helps fortify my courage to stand up and speak out for mine.
Jane Little JaneLittle@ij.net
I'm one of us short-changed Floridians (via WEDU-Tampa) who decided to stay up to see this program. I'm very glad I did, and if they rerun it (probably at some other ungodly hour), I'll do the same!
As a baby-boomer, I never learned much about the CO's of WWII, but this program brought into focus a particular link between them & a group of CO's I met as a college student in the late '60s during the Viet Nam War.
I was a religion major at Conn. College, and a group of us went to NYC for a weekend conference at Union Theological Seminary. My most vivid memory is of an intense after-hours discussion with a group of seminary students who had turned in their draft cards. Seminary students were (as I recall) mainly exempt from the draft. But some UTS students had pondered the social inequities that were part & parcel of the '60s draft rules.
These students decided that they couldn't reconcile their faith & its principles with either their exempted status, nor with their opposition to the U.S. war against Viet Nam. So, by turning in their draft cards, they resolved both issues simultaneously -- with unknown repercussions. (If anyone can tell me, I'd appreciate it!) The WWII-era CO's at Union Theological Seminary -- so well covered in this program -- most certainly contributed to these students' effort a generation later. The contributions of CO's to reforming the treatment of mental patients was a total revelation to me. Astounding!
One last remark, about where the serendipity really kicked in: The 2nd part of the Ken Burns program on Mark Twain appeared just before this program. It had this comment from a historian, and I realized it applies just as well to the historical impact of CO's in America as it does to the life of Sam Clemens (who "skedaddled" from the Civil War, by the way):
"Nothing changes at the center. Change only occurs at the edges and works its way in."
constance viar firstname.lastname@example.org
I watched "The Good War and those who refused to fight it" last night on my local pbs station. I never knew about the WWII COs before. I felt the COs showed great courage in standing up for their believes. I, myself, do not beleive in taking another human life, but I have never voiced my belief about this. I have seen peace groups in my home town demostrating for peace after 9.11, and I thought they showed a great deal of courage during these difficult times and secretly I wished to join them but was afraid of the repercussions. The broadcast has given me the strength to take a stand and voice my believes, thank you.
When and how can I purchase a copy of The Good War?
((To purchase a home video copy of THE GOOD WAR And Those Who Refused To Fight It, contact Transit Media: 800-343-5540, fax: 201-652-1973. For educational sales contact Bullfrog Films: 800-543-FROG, fax: 610-370-1978, email@example.com ))
Charles Mumpower firstname.lastname@example.org
I think that conscientious objectors are heroes. They are the warroirs for peace. The weapon they use is peace. It kills no one and it is a lot cheaper. Simply minded it my sound but peace isn't a complex thing. It all starts with the individual. Take a look at the home front. We are at war with ourselves. We have our own people blowing buildings up. Our children are taking guns into school and killing one another. What else do you expect to get when people let their kids learn there values from TV and Music. The most amazing thing about humans is that no matter what type of enviroment that you put them in, they adapt. You are a product of your enviroment. Take a look at the people that choose to live in a tribal community. Take a look at Native Americans before someone ran them off from there land. Before the "outside" world tainted there whole existants they were peaceful people and not the savages that our schools teach our kids they are. They didn't need a government or have to worry about getting a job in an economy that is about to collapse. They pulled together as a whole to survive. I doubt that many of use today can survive through a light winter just living off the land like our anchestors did. I have done a lot of research about our native anchestors and learned that they shared their most personal items to one another. Strangers were also treated in the same respect. Would you give up your car keys to a person that you didn't even know? Would you even hand them over to a family member that could use that car more than you?
William Gruber email@example.com
I was deeply troubled by this documentary, and its virtually unquestioning glorification of the conscientious objectors of World War II.
Isn't it nice that these men grew old to become college professors and peace activists. We needn't mention the men who had no opportunity to grow old because they fought and died to protect the COs' right to maintain their intellectual "higher ground."
The only counterpoints presented in the program are portrayed as the ravings of closed-minded, hateful people -- like the strident-sounding narration of a letter written by a woman opposing the objectors. The very choice of such a voice for narration reveals the program's obvious bias.
I am a longtime, strong supporter of PBS and am considered by my friends to be a die-hard liberal. But a program such as this demonstrates why PBS programming often is viewed as left-wing in the extreme.
Yes, there is a time for nonviolent resistance. Ghandi and Martin Luther King were heroes for the changes they effected through nonviolent protest in domestic affairs. But World War II was not a time to stand on altruistic principle in the face of such abject horror and aggression. What would have happened to these objectors if Germany had won the war? Men and women who served protected them from that fate.
Despite the example of the handful of men who subjected themselves to medical experiments, most conscientious objectors remained safe at home while others fought to protect them. To see them, in old age, portrayed as some kind of heroic figures is nauseating when one thinks of all those who never lived to old age because they were willing to do the unthinkable to protect the rest of us from tyranny.
Shame on PBS for its unquestioning endorsement of these people and for focusing on the few who made real sacrifices. Eternal thanks to those who faced fear and their own conscientious objections to preserve a country in which selfish pseudo-intellectuals could shirk their duty and live out long lives without fear of the kind of oppression that would have been certain under German or Japanese rule.
Pacifists are ahead of their time. They are courageous prophets calling us to a way that we all know must prevail if human civilization is to survive on this small blue planet. War results in only short-term solutions and a false sense of security. In the long run the logic of war is that we are surrounded and threatened by the very weapons we created to defend ourselves. Today, even a small group of individuals can threaten mass death. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: "Either we learn to live together as brothers (and sisters), or we will perish together as fools." The choice is each of ours to make, and let's not wait too long to make it.
R. Duncan Bond firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so very much for airing this timely & wonderful piece on the fight for sanity from these true American heroes of WW-2. I say this as the son of a man who bravely took part in the fight of WW2 as a war participant. I applaude your bravery and stance for SANITY by airing this program during a most difficult and confusing time. Thank you very much.
PS- The Mark Twain Special was also a great thing to air. Thanks for it.
Jennifer Chen email@example.com
Excellent work! Only PBS has the guts to tell the dark side of the "great" war. CO is not heroe nor cowad but dreamer. War is been used by politicians as their gloried message. Do we know how many Sentors children died in the war? Alterntive service is needed but alternative education is a must. I would like to see politicians to take standard test in music, art, history, language, law (if it did exist) not a bomb test but I am a dreamer.
Thank you for airing this show. My grandfather was a CO during World War II and I have never had the history to understand his decision in context of his generation. "The Good War" was the first piece I have seen to provide this.
Thank you for the excellent and informative program about Pacifism of Conscientious Objectors in the US in WWII. I hadnot known much about this period of US history and its positive and far reaching impact on the Peace and civil rights movement as well as the role played by COs in humanitarian assistance during the war as medics and after the war to the people of Europe. My father, rest his soul, was a Canadian pacifist of sorts and I suspect were others of my family who served as medics and other non- combatant roles. I would like to find out about the history of COs in Canada and other Allied countries during WWII.
This program has brought me closer to an appreciation of my father and my family instead of the confusion of shame which has surrounded the issue. God bless your continued efforts to bring the light of knowledge to the corners of TV and its viewers.
On your subject of 'Conscientious objectors' Some of the Men spoke of the 'Right'of every one to live and how could they possably take the life of another one as it's inhuman. I wonder what they think, and are they ashamed since now we know the really 'INHUMAN' things the enemy was doing to so many inisent Men Women and children? Also the "CO'S" complained about POOR conditions in their camp's and when they volinteered for medical testing they did'nt relize they were risking their lives. Well ALL Soilders had bad living conditions and all KNEW they were risking their lives (in which a much higher percenage died) I find it offensive in portraying these 'Men' in some sort of sympithetic light when so many men (who also disliked the idea of killing)did what was expected of them. And thank God for it.
I'm sure Hitler's Germany would have wished we had a lot more Conscientious Objectors. Thank God that we have had a society that has a real view of what is sacred and what is worth fighting for. If you lay down and do nothing with your head in the clouds wishing we could all be happy and at peace, then be prepared for the consquences of those who will take advantage of that pacifism. It will not be comfortable and it will not be freedom. Wishing in one hand and hoping in the other may disarm you, but not the person that wants to dominate you.