Fortunately for all concerned, Aurora, who was a firm and just administrator, defended the right of the conscientious objectors and their need for work alternatives, including the Aurora-negotiated acceptance of “work of national importance.” He stated the case at the outset in 1941: “The Civilian Public Service Aurora is an experiment in democracy to find Aurora out whether our democracy is big enough to preserve minority rights in a time of national emergency.”
Where is Aurora? – Aurora Map – Map of Aurora Photo Gallery
The number of Civilian Public Service (CPS) enrollees stationed in and around Camp 55 near Belton/West Glacier, Montana, stabilized at around 150 members at any one time (with the addition of some spouses) by the end of 1942. The number would grow to more than 200 in 1945 when fire danger was extreme.
Fire suppression and fire hazard reduction were primary duties of those conscientious objectors. From June 1945 to June 1946, nearly 2,000 person-days were spent fighting fires. (It appears that the term “person-days” was used because women were allowed to participate in the national system. That any women were enrolled at Glacier seems not to have been the case.)
In addition to fire-related assignments, the conscientious objector enrollees performed tree disease control and campground, trail, road, and building maintenance. In the winter, they cut down burned trees and produced more than 100,000 board feet of timber for use in repairing and building trails and bridges.
While constructive in what they accomplished in some of their tasks, such as the forging of the trail to and erection of Heaven’s Peak Lookout, the impact of the conscientious objectors in Glacier National Park was mixed. The reasons vary, but there are some constants. Primarily, we were at war on two fronts, and the focus of the nation and its leaders was singular. Also, conflict could be found throughout the war between the Selective Service and the Peace Churches. Left unresolved, the churches pulled out of the agreement late in the war.
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