I spent two years–May 1944 to August 1946–in California Quaker CPS camps under the Forest Service. During that time I made two trips to Europe, under the United Nations Relief Administration. One trip took cattle to Danzig and the other horses to Trieste. During this time I accepted a CO classification under the draft.
I was on the staff at Scattergood School at the time of the 1948 peace time military draft and felt differently about the governments right to impose such. On my twenty-fifth birthday in December, 1948, I became illegal. Shortly after that an FBI agent showed up. We drew up a statement of my position which I signed.
Harold Burnham, teacher at Scattergood School, and I had our trials together in Waterloo, Iowa. We made the trip there on a cold February day, accompanied by Leanore Goodenow, Scattergood Head, and my wife, Lois, and our six-month-old son, David. Leanore spoke as a “friend of the court” asking that we be given probation, rather than a prison sentence, since we were essential to the operation of the school. We both got eighteen month sentences instead. We were offered the opportunity to go home and “settle our affairs” and return in a month to start our sentences, but we were prepared to start that day. Our tearful good-byes were said then and Hal and I were were escorted to the Waterloo County jail.
Following is the letter I wrote to the U.S. Attorney General:
August 30, 1948
Mr. Tom Clark, Attorney General
Dear Mr. Clark;
At a time like the present when international relations are so upset, in the
interests of world peace we need to be indicating in every way possible that
we are a peaceful people; our expanding military program and peacetime draft are indicating exactly the opposite of this.
Military training is the poorest kind of training for citizens of a democracy.
The best soldier, the man who is willing to do the least critical thinking
and accept the orders from higher officials makes the best citizen of a
totalitarian society and the poorest citizen of a democracy.
In the eyes of other nations we are getting stronger and stronger and are
becoming a nation to be feared, thus encouraging the armament race among all nations. I believe any government or political philosophy whether democratic or totalitarian that maintains its support through military might is violating the laws of God and therefore I cannot support its military policy. I feel that if we are to secure the world from destruction we must have faith in man and God and repeal our expanding military program before it even gets under way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Because I believe the military program of the United States government to be a violation of the laws of God I feel I cannot take any part in such a program, even to the extent of registering. So I did not register on August 30, as required by law, and will be at my home in West Branch in case a government official wishes to talk with me.
Donald E. Laughlin
West Branch, Iowa