American Pacifism, the “Greatest Generation,” and World War II

Scott H. Bennett

in The United States and the Second World War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231201
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240791 | DOI:

Series: World War II: The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension

American Pacifism, the             “Greatest Generation,” and World War II

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This chapter examines both secular and religious pacifists, the movement's reaction to prewar preparedness, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the vital role that peace activists and conscientious objectors played in supporting civil liberties during the ensuing war, and the latter's heroic role in serving the mentally handicapped in often dangerous and appalling conditions. It also traces how peace activists, especially the Fellowship on Reconciliation, fought Jim Crow by helping to create the Congress of Racial Equality. Many in the so-called “greatest generation” nobly served the republic without taking up arms, and the chapter explores the histories of those pacifists who served as medics in some of the most brutal war zones. Just as military service provided veterans with newfound skills and abilities, so too did conscientious objectors emerge from prison and Civilian Public Service camps with valuable skills that shaped a generation of postwar activism.

Keywords: pacifists; prewar preparedness; Pearl Harbor; civil liberty; peace activists; Congress of Racial Equality

Chapter.  12454 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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