Conscientious Objectors

The men who volunteered to be subjects in the Starvation Study were called Conscientious Objectors (COs) because they were opposed to war and service in the military, usually for religious reasons. Henry Scholberg was a CO who served in the Civilian Public Service (CPS) rather than in the military, and he was selected to participate in the study. Think about the following as you read the following excerpts from an oral history interview with Scholberg:

  • What were Scholberg's beliefs?
  • Why do you think the military undertook an investigation into Scholberg's background?
  • Why do you think Scholberg volunteered for the Starvation Study?

I arrived at my anti-war convictions during the 1930s when I was growing up in India and during the year-and-a-half I spent in Minnesota in 1936-7.  Part of this came from the influence of Gandhi, and part of it was from a general anti-war hysteria which pervaded in the 1920s and 1930s; that is, reaction against World War I.  We saw films like All Quiet on the Western Front, and we read books and articles which spoke of the horrors of war.

Like everyone else who lived during that period, I recall Pearl Harbor vividly.  The evening of 7 December I sat down and wrote a statement to the effect that I was going to stick with my belief in non-violence and that I was not going to become caught up in the  hysteria that was prevalent in the country on that day....

When it came time to register for the draft, I registered as a Conscientious Objector (C.O.), but this don't come automatically unless you were a member of one of the so-called "historic peace churches" - that is, Quaker, Brethren, Mennonite, German Baptist, Jehovah Witness, etc.  Well, the Methodist Church [I belonged to] was not on the list of "historic peace churches."

This meant I had to apply to my draft board fo C.O. or 4-E status.  I was rejected; so I appealed and had to go through an FBI investigation and appear before a hearing officer in Danville, IL.  I was later told to report to a former [lumber] camp in Largo, Indiana, to perform my civilian public service.

I learned that an experiment on semi-starvation was being conducted at the University of Minnesota and the call was out for human guinea pigs.  I wanted to do something memorable with my commitment to peace, and this seemed like the kind of thing I should volunteer for.  Other young men my age were risking their lives in war, and I felt the need to make some kind of a sacrifice for my beliefs.  So I volunteered for the semi-starvation experiment and was accepted.


The Starvation Study Medical Care at Fort Snelling Minnesota Home Front Induction Military Intelligence Service Language School