All Documentary Films

The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It

The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It illuminates the contributions and struggles of World War II conscientious objectors.

Director/Producer: Judith Ehrlich
Director/Producer: Rick Tejada-Flores
Production Company
Paradigm Productions
Release Date
January 1, 2000

The Good War And Those Who Refused To Fight It sheds light on a previously ignored part of the World War II saga - the story of American conscientious objectors who refused to fight "the good war." It is a story of personal courage, idealism and nonconformity based on both ethical and religious beliefs - about men whose love of country could not extend to killing their fellow man. The Good War And Those Who Refused To Fight It  tells its story through the memories of several remarkable men who went against the tide of the most popular and justifiable war of the 20th century. Many were Quakers or others whose religious beliefs interpreted the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" to include war; others were passionate pacifists who felt morally incapable of cooperating with a violent conflict, no matter how worthy the cause.

Like today, during WWII many Americans felt that being opposed to war was cowardly and unpatriotic. In order to prove their patriotism while maintaining their principles, many of these World War II conscientious objectors risked their lives as fire jumpers and medical guinea pigs. In the film, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop recalls working with COs as a young doctor in these dangerous and sometimes deadly experiments. Thousands of other COs volunteered to work in mental institutions and helped transform them from places of filth and degradation to the more humane institutions of today. All of these efforts took place under Civilian Public Service, a national system of work camps administered and paid for by the "peace" churches - the Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren. Thousands, however, refused to cooperate with the war effort and spent the war years in prison, where they used hunger strikes to integrate the federal prison system. All lived with the scorn of a nation, and often family and friends as well. While it has been more than half a century since WWII, this particular war story has been almost entirely lost to history until now.

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