Civilian Public Service Smokejumpers Oral History project, 1986  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Title
Civilian Public Service Smokejumpers Oral History project
Dates
1986 (inclusive)
Quantity
31 oral history interviews
Collection Number
OH 163
Summary
The Civilian Public Service Smokejumpers Oral History Project includes 31 oral history interviews conducted in 1986 that detail the participants' experiences in non-military contributions during World War II. While there is emphasis on smokejumping and forest fire fighting in Montana and nearby states, the reminiscences include work in soil conservation and the mental health system.
Repository
University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
University of Montana
32 Campus Dr. #9936
59812-9936
Missoula, MT
Telephone: 406-243-2053
Fax: 406-243-4067
library.archives@umontana.edu
Access Restrictions

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana-Missoula.

Languages
English.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Civilian Public Service (CPS) provided conscientious objectors in the United States an alternative to military service during World War II. From 1941 to 1947, nearly 12,000 draftees, willing to serve their country in some capacity but unwilling to do any type of military service, performed work of national importance in 152 CPS camps throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Draftees from the historic peace churches and other faiths worked in areas such as soil conservation, forestry, fire fighting, agriculture, social services and mental health. The CPS men served without wages and with minimal support from the federal government. The cost of maintaining the CPS camps and providing for the needs of the men was the responsibility of their congregations and families. CPS men served longer than regular draftees, not being released until well past the end of the war. Initially skeptical of the program, government agencies learned to appreciate the men's service and requested more workers from the program. The CPS made significant contributions to forest fire prevention, erosion and flood control, medical science and reform of the mental health system.

Much of the smokejumping efforts occcured in Montana after training at the Montana facility in Ninemile but the men also took their skills to fires in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Civilian Public Service Smokejumpers Oral History Project includes 31 oral history interviews conducted in 1986 that detail the participants' experiences in non-military contributions during World War II. While there is emphasis on smokejumping and forest fire fighting, the reminiscences include work in soil conservation and the mental health system.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright transferred to The University of Montana-Missoula.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph number], Civilian Public Service Smokejumpers Oral History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Description Dates
OH 163-01: Interview with Robert Painter
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Transcript, 9 leaves
Painter talks about his Quaker family background, education, losing his place in medical school due to his pacifist views, and his experiences training as a smokejumper at Ninemile near Missoula, Montana, and later working out of Cave Junction, Oregon, during World War II. He tells of some prejudice against conscientious objectors, and how he eventually put himself through medical school.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-02: Interview with Sheldon Mills
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Transcript, 7 leaves
Mills recalls his difficulties in getting conscientious objector status as he was not raised in a "peace" church. Once he had the status he went to a camp run by Quakers before becoming a smokejumper for three years during the war. He explains that he was based at Moose Creek, Idaho, and Ninemile, Montana. He recalls working well with Forest Service men. His most memorable fire was at Granite Ridge, Idaho. He went on to became a teacher for thirty-four years.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-03: Interview with Robert Searles
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Searles talks about his decision to become a conscientious objector as a result of college experience before World War II, and his experiences, including some dangerous ones, as a smokejumper in Oregon and Montana. He also recalls his Civilian Public Service winter work including transplanting trees and cooking.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-04: Interview with Hubert Rohrer
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Braden credits his pacifist viewpoint to his Methodist upbringing and study of history. He recalls being sent first to Buck Creek in North Carolina, cutting trees and leveling ground before acceptance into smokejumper training in Montana in 1944. He recalls parachuting in detail as well as specific fire experience at Priest Lake, Seeley Lake, Bell Lake and Moose Creek. Braden felt that smokejumping allowed conscientious objectors to prove their courage off the battlefield.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-05: Interview with Ed Nafzinger
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Nafzinger, raised Mennonite, was in the first smokejumpers' group training at Ninemile out of Missoula, Montana. He recounts smokejumping experiences in Montana and Idaho and also talks about his later life as a teacher with a bachelors in Zoology and an advanced degree in Education Psychology. Smokejumping left him with a love for the outdoors.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-06: Interview with Harvey Henry Weirich
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Weirich recalls applying for conscientious objector status and having no problem gettting it. He spent his first year in Iowa, building dams and working on soil conservation. In 1944 with parental permission he trained as a smokejumper at Ninemile, Montana. He describes making many jumps, working on runaway fires, smaller fires and false alarms with most of his firefighting time centering around McCall, Idaho.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-07 and 08: Interview with George Leavitt
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Leavitt, raised in the First Christian Church, explains his pacifist stance and the problems he had obtaining conscientious objector status. He worked out of a California camp before applying for smokejumping work in 1944. He only was a smokejumper for one year, then dishwashing in California and on a medical experimentation project in Philidelphia. He was interviewed by Alfred Kinsey for his studies on human sexuality. Leavitt finished out his time working in a mental hospital and working on as crew on a cattle boat to Europe. He eventually got a Ph.D. in psychology.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-09: Interview with Willard Handrich
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Handrich explains that he had no problem getting conscientious objector status. He was in Pennsylvania for 23 months before training for smokejumping at Ninemile, Montana. He recalls 7 practice jumps and 7 fire jumps that were no problem but later missed a mountain location of a fire and had a number of challenges on his last jump in Oregon. He recalls a variety of other work from picking apples, to carpentry and canning that he did before discharge.
August 1986
OH 163-10: Interview with H. Lee Hebel
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Hebel, a Lutheran, became a conscientious objector when drafted and worked various Civilian Public Service jobs. He trained for smokejumping at Ninemile, Montana, and also did firefighting work in Idaho. In his post war CPS service he was sent to Virginia, then worked on a cattle boat, first to Poland and then to Italy. He comments on his increased appreciation of both nature and of others' viewpoints.
August 13, 1986
OH 163-11: Interview with Earl Schmidt
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Schmidt, a Memmonite, talks about his experiences in various Civilian Public Service jobs including smokejumping in Montana and Idaho. He recalls some firefighting in detail near Big Fork, Montana, and north of Missoula, Montana. He also talks about his post-war jobs.
August 1986
OH 163-12: Interview with John Scott
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Scott recalls losing his first wife at age 25 and subsequently being influenced to become a pacifist by his minister. He finally received conscientious objector status and began Civilian Public Service at Elkton, Oregon, planting trees for 13 months before going to smokejumper training at Ninemile, Montana. He describes a big fire at Bell Lake, making a rescue jump and cutting wood at Priest Lake, Idaho, between fire seasons. After the war, he farmed for twenty years and then drove truck for fourteen years. He stays in touch with fellow smokejumpers.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-13: Interview withWilliam P. Weber
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Weber, raised as a Methodist, explains his difficulties in getting conscientious objector status, 4E on the draft. He recalls his training as a firefighter and smokejumper at Ninemile near Missoula, Montana, and his appreciation of the experience. Later he worked on a cattle boat headed for Europe, then in post-war with refugees in France and Germany.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-14: Interview with Frank Neufeld
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Neufeld, raised as a Mennonite, moved from dispatching smokejumpers in the West to becoming one himself. He discusses the importance of smokejumping, and comments that the Forest Service was impressed with the conscientious objectors. He did not return to his pre-war work in business but became a teacher instead.
August 1986
OH 163-15: Interview with Lewis Berg
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Berg grew up in the Evangelical church which has since been absorbed by the Methodist church. He was drafted while teaching; when he declared conscientious objector status, his contract was not renewed. He then did soil conservation work for Camp 23 in Coshocton, Ohio, before smokejumping out of Ninemile, Montana. Later he worked in a mental hospital, and in reconstruction in Europe, mostly Germany.
August 1986
OH 163-16: Interview with Walter Reimer
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Reimer, raised a Mennonite, spent two seasons smokejumping out of Ninemile, Montana in 1944 and 1945. Before that service, he worked in soil conservation Nebraska, Oregon and Colorado. and timber cruising near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He explains the latter.
August 1986
OH 163-17: Interview with Albert K. Rodman
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Rodman, raised in a Congregational church, became a conscientious object, and worked in California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. He trained for firefighting at a Quaker camp in East Hampton. As a smokejumper he was based in Montana, and also fought fires in Idaho and Oregon. During this time he also earned his pilot's license and after the war, he got a college degree in electrical engineering.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-18: Interview with Lee Miller
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Miller, raised Mennonite, first worked out of camps in Nebraska and Oregon. In 1944 he became a smokejumper for the adventure and to prove himself. He worked mostly on two-man fires in Montana and Idaho and describes the terrain, fires, and other seasonal work done by the smokejumpers. Miller thought smokejumping was a crucial part of his education.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-19: Interview with Joseph and Audine Coffin
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Joseph Coffin, from a long line of Quakers, married Audine before they left college. He recalls starting his work in Civilian Public Service in California building a sheep trail. From there he went to work in a Medical Lake, Washington, mental hospital, where Audine also found work. In December 1944, the couple transferred to Ninemile, Montana, where Joseph train in smokejumping. He recalls several jumps and and some challenging fires that he helped fight.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-20: Interview with Bob Marshall
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Marshall, raised Quaker, began his Civilian Public Service in New Hampshire then repairing park facilities in Virginia, and working at a training school for developmentally challenged children in Maryland. He came to smokejumper training at Ninemile, Montana, in 1945. He recalls the train trip to Montana, off-duty hikes in Glacier Park, and putting out fires on six jumps. Marshall remembers his softest landing in new-growth pine, an injury rescue jump, a couple of fire jumps and the crew's recreational activities.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-21: Interview with Gregg Phifer
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Phifer, raised Methodist, recalls the challenges of being awarded conscientious objector status. He started his Civilian Public Service work in North Carolina, then California, fighting fires from both camps before training in smokejumping at Ninemile, Montana. He describes many jumps that he made in Montana and several fires fires that he helped fight. He also discusses winter projects at the smokejumping camp, compares parachutes, camp cooking, and his strengthening views on peace.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-22: Interview with Kenneth W. Diller
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Diller, raised Mennonite,started Civilian Public Service as a blacksmith sharpening tools used on a parkway in Virginia. in 1943 he joined the first smokejumper trainees at Seeley Lake, Montana. Then he smokejumped for three years, out of Cave Junction, Oregon; Winthrop, Washington; and Ninemile, Montana. Diller recalls his first jump and some larger fires. After the war he returned to Ohio to family obligations.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-23: Interview with Winton Stucky
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Stucky, raised Mennonite, injured his back on a practice jump at Cave Junction, Oregon, made ten more training jumps and one fire jump but also worked on some ground fires and delivered food to look-out towers. His injury caused pain for twenty-nine years until he finally had surgery. Despite the injury he would have done it again and would have stayed if family obligation had not drawn him back into the grocery business.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-24: Interview with Earl Stuteman
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Stutzman, raised Mennonite, fought a couple of fires out of Camino, California, then transferred to Montana where he trained in smokejumping at Ninemile. He had seven practice jumps there before transferring to McCall, Idaho, two more practice jumps and then twelve fire jumps. On one fire they were fifty miles from the closest road at the edge of the Salmon River. He enjoyed the wilderness. During off time, Stutzman recalls working in the potato fields to earn money to buy his own clothes and any extras.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-25: Interview with John L. Ainsworth
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Ainsworth, raised as a Methodist, was working at Westinghouse when he was drafted and subsequently sought conscientious objector status. He trained in smokejumping at Seeley Lake, Montana, before jumping for three years out of Ninemile, Montana and Savenac, Idaho. He discusses "riding the step," parachuting, fighting different sizes of fires, and a spectacular night-time lightning storm. After the war, he returned to work as an electrical engineer.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-26: Interview with Brad Snipes
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Snipes, from a Quaker background, started his Civilian Public Service in New York in 1944, then moved on to Elkton, Oregon, to work on forest service roads before heading off to smokejumper training at Ninemile, Montana. He felt that smokejumping proved that fear did not enter into his conscientious objector status. He recalls getting hung up in a tree, maintaining forest service trails at Seeley Lake, Montana, a fire they could not find, of sleeping on a trail, and of later working at a lookout tower and hauling water. At the end of the war he went on four trips on cattle boats, once to Germany and three trips to Poland. He returned to college after those trips.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-27: Interview with Tom Summers
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Summers was raised in the Christian Church but sought conscientious objector status based on personal philosophy. He served in Civilian Public Service first in California then working in cartography in Nevada before 1945 when he trained as a smokejumper at Ninemile in Montana. He recalls fighting fires mostly in Idaho and compares McCall, Idaho, of today with what it was in 1945. He considers the impact of CPS on his later life and choices to complete his education.
August 12, 1986
OH 163-28: Interview with Oliver Lynn Huset
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Huset, raised Presbyterian and later a Methodist, describes his challenges getting conscientious objector status. Once in Civilian Public Service, he worked on soil conservation and then on a dam in Colorado. He applied for smokejumper training in 1944, training that year. In 1945, stationed at Ninemile, Montana, he recalls a number of fires, several injuries and some pleasant memories. After a concussion, he was not allowed to jump but worked on timber access roads. He discusses his other CPS experiences at a camp in Savanak, then La Pine, Oregon, and North Dakota. He finished his degree at the Univerity of North Dakota. He recalls his work as a fire lookout with his wife, Martha, in 1951 in the Snoqualmie Forest in Washington.
August 1986
OH 163-29: Interview with T. Richard Flaharty
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Flaharty was one among many Methodist conscientious objectors and had no problem getting conscientious objector status. He recalls working first on a Civilian Public Service soil conservation project in Ohio, and then being sent to Ninemile, Montana, to train as a smokejumper. He talks about fighting fires in Idaho, marrying while in CPS, and his life since smokejumping including reunions of the group.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-30: Interview with Oliver W. Petty
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Petty explains how he came to a pacifist stance from both a religious background and the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front." He recalls his work as a smokejumper during the summers in Washington, Oregon, and Montana and in winter, he directed the soil laboratory in Glendora, California. He describes the floating feeling of parachuting, as well as some of the fires he helped fight. Petty has attended every smokejumper reunion and would have continued jumping if it had been possible.
August 11. 1986
OH 163-31: Interview with James R. Brunk
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Brunk came to Civilian Public Service from a Mennonite background in Virginia, working first in soil conservation in Iowa and then California before going to Montana to learn smokejumping. He recalls some fierce fires including a crown fire, and assisting in several rescues. He describes the physical training given to the smokejumpers. He later became a physician. Brunk recalls the tremendous impact of smokejumping on his life and his continuing belief in peace.
August 11, 1986
OH 163-32: Interview with Murray Braden
Sound Recording, audio cassette
Tape counter
Braden, whose parents were Methodist missionaries, recalls being stationed at Coshocton, Ohio, working on soil conservation before transferring to smokejumper training at Ninemile, Montana in 1944. He describes working on some pretty rough fires and sustaining minor injuries. He explains the challenge of becoming the educational director at the Ninemile camp in 1945, in charge of speakers, meetings, a library, and leather-working kits. Braden describes some prejudice against conscientious objectors.
August 11, 1986

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Conscientious objectors--United States--Interviews
  • Fire fighters--United States--Interviews
  • Fire lookouts--United States--Interviews
  • Forests and forestry--United States--Mensuration
  • Service, Compulsory non-military--Idaho
  • Service, Compulsory non-military--Montana
  • Service, Compulsory non-military--Northwest, Pacific
  • Smokejumpers--California--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--Idaho--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--Montana--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--Oregon--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--Washington (State)--Interviews
  • Smokejumpers--West (U.S.)--Interviews
  • Soil conservation projects--United States
  • Soils--Research--California--Glendora
  • Women--Montana--Interviews
  • World War, 1939-1945--Conscientious objectors
  • World War, 1939-1945--Conscientious objectors--United States
  • Personal Names :
  • Ainsworth, John L., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Berg, Lewis, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Braden, Murray, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Brunk, James R., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Coffin, Audine, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Coffin, Joseph, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Diller, Kenneth W. interviewee (interviwee)
  • Flaharty, T. Richard, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Handrich, Willard, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Hebel, H. Lee, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Huset, Martha
  • Huset, Oliver Lynn, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Kinsey, Alfred C. (Alfred Charles), 1894-1956
  • Leavitt, George S., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Marshall, Bob, 1924- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Miller, Lee, 1910-1988, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Mills, Sheldon, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Nafzinger, Ed, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Neufeld, Frank, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Painter, Robert, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Petty, Oliver W., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Phifer, Gregg, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Reimer, Walter, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Rodman, Albert K., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Rohrer, Hubert, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Schmidt, Earl, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Scott, John, 1915- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Searles, Robert, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Snipes, Brad, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Stucky, Winton, 1916-1991, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Stutzman, Earl, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Summers, Tom, 1924- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Weber, William P., interviewee (interviewee)
  • Weirich, Henry, interviewee (interviewee)
  • Corporate Names :
  • American Friends Service Committee. Civilian Public Service
  • Civilian Public Service
  • Ninemile (Missoula County, Mont.)
  • United States. Forest Service
  • Geographical Names :
  • Civilian Public Service Camp (Glendora, Calif.)
  • Glacier National Park (Mont.)
  • McCall (Idaho)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Interviews-- Montana
  • Sound recordings
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Lewis, Ted, interviewer (interviewer)
    • Phifer, Gregg, interviewer (interviewer)
    • Stone, Rosa, interviewer (interviewer)
    • Taylor, Kim Elise, interviewer (interviewer)