Today, my good writing friend, Elizabeth Byler Younts, joins us to talk about the story behind her newest release, Promise to Keep.
Since my first novel Promise to Return released in October 2013, I have heard more often than anything else “I never given the Amish and World War 2 any thought” or “I didn’t know the Amish were conscientious objectors” or “I didn’t know the Amish were allowed to be drafted.”
These range of statements and many other questions have encouraged me to share with you what I’ve learned in researching this amazing history.
There’s an amazing book called THE CPS STORY: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service that has provided a great deal of information to me. You can find it HERE. It is written by Albert N. Keim, a former Amishman and I believe converted to the Mennonite church later in life.
He begins this story with this:
“John Yoder finally realized the war was over when he topped the hill and saw the farm spread out below, an oasis of peace in a world which had known only war and violence for six years. The farm seemed unchanged since his departure four years before. The world had changed, however, and so had he. Four years ago he had been a simple farm boy. He was no longer that, but he was not sure he could tell in what ways he had changed, who he had become.” (page 7 of The CPS Story by Albert N. Keim)
This is just one story of thousands. Yes, thousands. With that, let’s start with some cold hard facts.
During World War II, 34,506,923 men registered for the draft. Of that number, 72,354 documented that they were conscientious objectors.
There were options for these men…unlike WW1.
Over 25,000 of those draftees chose to work with the army in noncombatant roles.?Over 27,000 did not pass the physical exam.?Over 6,000 chose to go to prison, refusing any form of service (FYI: many of those men were Jahovah’s Witnesses refusing on claim of ministerial exemption).?Around 12,000 of those original 34,506,923 men chose to go to the Civilian Public Work camps.
CAPTION: MCC Photographs, Civilian Public Service: Click photo for credit
These are the men I’d like to talk about and learn about. These are the men who have largely been forgotten.
One of these 12,000 men was my Daudy (grandpa), Freeman Coblentz. He faithfully served in the CPS for several years in the early- to mid-1940s. He worked in a labor camp and also a mental institution in Maryland. His stories were beyond belief and captivated my mind as a child and especially as an adult. I dug deeply into this history in the 2nd book Promise to Cherish in my historical Amish series The Promise of Sunrise.
I always knew that my family was great and unique—I love my family. I knew we had a special legacy because my daudy had done what most men would never have done. He defied the mainstream belief that war was the ONLY path for a country and the only way to serve your country…and he fought for his right to not fight. It wasn’t popular…at all.
What comes to mind right now when you think of men who refused to serve in any of the wars? If you’re really honest, usually this answer is not positive. This is what the Amish had to “war” against. Being for or against war in our modern day is much more accepted, but this was not the case our country’s history.
I married an active-duty Air Force Officer who, after ten years, recently has begun serving in the Air National Guard in Pennsylvania. I love my country and I love my husband’s desire to serve. But I also love that our country has a select number of men (and women) who have chosen differently for their hearts. I think it’s necessary and makes us a well-rounded country.
The release of the third and final installment of The Promise of Sunrise, Promise to Keep, is upon us now. I’m just as excited, or moreso, about this book as I was in the beginning of my journey with the series. Here’s a little about Promise to Keep.
World War II Marine Joe Garrison returns home from war longing to be a father to his deaf daughter, Daisy, only to find that she is attached to Esther Detweiler, the Amish woman who has raised her since his wife’s death in this touching historical romance.
Orphaned as a child, Esther Detweiler is used to caring for herself and her ailing grandmother. They made the best out of a hard life and poverty without asking for help. They even take in her shunned cousin’s deaf daughter, Daisy, when her mother dies and her father goes off to war. When Esther’s grandmother dies, Daisy is all she has.
When war veteran Joe Garrison returns, all he can think about is recovering from the horrors of war and building a relationship with his seven-year-old daughter. Daisy, however, is unwilling to leave Esther, whom she loves. Joe and Daisy get to know each other again, but Joe struggles with nightmares and fatherhood is proving to be more difficult than he imagined. Esther loves Daisy and despite her Amish ways, Joe finds himself drawn to her as a woman and not just a caregiver.
As their love blossoms, Joe decides to send Daisy away to a school for the deaf which propels their lives into turmoil and a battle for love and family.
I hope you liked this snippet of history. This subject matter is the focus of my three book series THE PROMISE OF SUNRISE.
If you have a question or thought about this, please, share it with me in a comment. I’d love to see if I can answer your question or put your mind at ease through this research. Learning the history of our country is vital and I’m going to try to contribute in the best way I know how.
Elizabeth Byler Younts is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She was Amish as a child and after her parents left the church she still grew up among her Amish family and continues to speak Pennsylvania Dutch. She lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.