1947 December 24

Truman Pardons 1,523 WW II Draft Resisters


President Harry Truman on this day pardoned 1,523 young men who were still in prison as conscientious objectors who had refused to cooperate with the draft during World War II. There were 15,805 draft resisters during World War II. The 1940 Selective Service Act had included a relatively broad definition of conscientious objection to participation in war, but it obviously did not satisfy thousands of young men who felt that cooperating with the draft only validated the principle of the right of the government to conscript people into participating in war.

A month before Truman acted on this day, on November 23, 1947, a large group of clergy and other activists had petitioned President Truman to pardon all young COs sill in prison. He pardoned more young men in 1953.

Pardoning opponents of American involvement in wars has a long tradition in the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt pardoned all of those convicted and still in prison under the Espionage Act on December 23, 1933. President Gerald Ford, on September 16, 1974, and President Jimmy Carter, on January 21, 1977, granted different forms of conditional or full amnesty or pardons to opponents of the Vietnam War.

See the PBS film about COs in WW II: http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thegoodwar/film.html

Learn more: Heather T Frazer and John O’Sullivan, We Have Just Begun to Not Fight: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors in Civilian Public Service During World War II (1996)

And learn even more: Cynthia Eller, Conscientious Objectors and the Second World War: Moral and Religious Arguments in Support of Pacifism (1991)

Learn about the rights of COs today at the GI Rights Hotline here.


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