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Progressive Era to New Era
U.S. Participation in the Great War (World War One)
Reminiscences of a Rebel

The following interview, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, was given to a WPA worker by a man who refused to give his name or any other personal information. During World War I, this man was a conscientious objector, a person who refused to serve in the armed forces for religious or philosophical reasons. According to this man, what happened to conscientious objectors? Do you agree with his opinion that it took "more guts" to be an objector than to fight in the war? Why or why not?

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"It's hard enought to hunt a job, as it is", he explained, "without making it still more difficult by naming myself as one who opposed the war. . . . We still are an unhonored lot. Unlike those who marched uncritically and abjectly into the slaughter, our stand, as C. O's, was such that we as yet cannot also strut, brag and swagger as heroes. Of course, as things turned out, a long depression, with the "heroes" favored on jobs and civil service, we may have been foolish not to have gone crazy along with all the rest. But we, despite what they say, were certainly no cowards. The joy-ride over to France, with the cheers of the business elements and the flattering attention from the ladies, even though after a training spell we were thrown into the trenches, was more alluring than the abuse and misunderstanding, the starvation and rotting away in solitary cells, that many of us knew awaited us as objectors . Dont kid yourself, nor let anyone else kid you, about the C. O's being afraid of fighting; it took a damned sight more guts to resist the national hysteria than to fall in line with it. And at that, there were times when we had no more assurance of emerging alive from the jails and penitentiaries than were the more glorified and subserviant guys in the trenches. After all, our refusing to be fed as fodder to the bloody war, was a financial saving to Uncle Sam. When, with is pants down, and dizzy with the clamorous demands upon him in the heart of the depression, we, at least, didn't bother him for a bonus!"
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View the entire interview from which this excerpt was taken, from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.