The story of Civilian Public Service veers from the broader history and popular culture of the American home front. Citizens who opposed the war on religious or philosophical grounds found themselves isolated from the vast majority of Americans. Yet they too claimed the moral high ground. Like Americans who supported the war with heart, mind, and soul, many who opposed it invoked pietistic language. In March 1941 a C.O. college student published an essay declaring his eagerness for alternative service: "We, who will go to camp, should . . . make of it a blessing for God, for mankind, and for ourselves. Perhaps there we will see the truth that this is a God-centered and not a man-centered world."1
During World War II American pacifists came to no consensus on where to draw the line for war-related work. Each of the historic peace churches had some members who entered military service as noncombatants and others who accepted regular I-A classification for combatant duty. 2 But despite the war's immense popularity, tens of thousands of American men eligible for the draft identified themselves as conscientious objectors. Casting a critical eye on the war, they looked for ways to avoid participation. Some sought deferment for health reasons or because they were engaged in farming or ministerial work. Others, who chose Civilian Public Service or went to prison, thought long and hard about the war and their relation to it. Some conscientious objectors did not consider themselves pacifists but objected to the war on political grounds. Most objectors, however, did embrace pacifism and offered wide-ranging justifications for it.