1982 May 15

International Conscientious Objection Day


A special day to commemorate conscientious objection to war began on this day as European Conscientious Objection Day. In 2001, the group War Resisters’ International marked it as International Conscientious Objection Day. In the United States, conscientious objection was a major controversy in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

On the controversies over conscientious objectors in World War I, see July 2, 1917September 14, 1918; and January 22, 1922. During World War II, a number of conscientious objectors in federal prisons staged huger strikes and successfully ended  both race discrimination (December 23, 1943) and censorship (September 29, 1943) in their institutions.

The elimination of the draft with the all-volunteer army in the 1970s essentially removed the issue from American legal and political life. The U.S. still maintains draft registration for males as a matter of law, and the issue could always return should a draft be reinstituted.

Read about the history of the day: http://wri-irg.org/node/5206

Learn more: James Tollefson, The Strength Not to Fight: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors of the Vietnam War (1993)

And more: Peter Brock, “These Strange Prisoners:”  An anthology of Prison Memoirs From the Great War [World War I] to the Cold War (2004)

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