In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked top-secret documents to The New York Times, a daring act of conscience that led directly to major political events.
Conscientious objectors refused to fight in World War II, and prepared a generation of nonviolent activists who later changed American society.
Rick Tejada-Flores began working in television in 1969 in a minority training program at KQED in San Francisco. He served as unit manager/production supervisor for KNBC in Burbank, and as coordinating producer for the Latino Consortium at KCET in Los Angeles, where he created the national series PRESENTE!… His credits include Low ’N Slow: The Art of Lowriding (PBS); Go Chanting, Libre (PBS); Elvia: The Fight for Land and Liberty (PBS/Vistas series); Jasper Johns, Ideas in Paint, and Rivera in America (both for American Masters), and The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It. In addition, Tejada-Flores served as producer on the series The Great Depression, and has directed films on Hispanic history and culture for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
Judith Ehrlich has produced, written, and directed dozens of programs in video, radio, and multimedia on issues of non-violence, education, social justice, human rights, health, disability, housing, and voting rights. In 1991, she produced a three-part radio series on the history of conscientious objection… for public radio.
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.
Many were Quakers or others whose religious beliefs interpreted the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” to preclude participating in 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 objectors as a young doctor in these dangerous and sometimes deadly experiments. Thousands of other objectors 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.