Smoke Jumping on the Western Fire Line: Conscientious Objectors During World War II

Mark Matthews, Author, George S. McGovern, Foreword by , foreword by George McGovern. Univ. of Oklahoma $29.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-8061-3766-7

Matthews brings to life a neglected but important chapter in American history. A former U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter, he documents the experiences of WWII conscientious objectors who volunteered for the dangerous job of smoke jumping in the Pacific Northwest. Beginning in 1939, the Forest Service trained the first jumpers to parachute near woodland blazes in order to keep the fires from spreading. At the same time 12,000 conscientious objectors, most of them from Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren churches, were herded into Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps, where they were often harassed for their beliefs. In 1943 smoke jumping was approved as an assignment for these men. The sometimes awkward text is more than made up for by Matthews's impressive attention to detail as he blends a history of conscientious objection and the harrowing but exciting lives of the 250 CPS jumpers (some of whom were injured, but none fatally). After the war the CPS jumpers returned to civilian life, but have continued to hold reunions that celebrate their remarkable and overlooked contribution. 23 b&w illus., 2 maps. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/08/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
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