Smokejumpers at CJ 1943-1945

Who were the young men who jumped from Cave Junction in those first three years–1943, 1944, and 1945? During World War II, all men were required to register for service and to receive a classification. If you were physically and mentally fit and of the right age, you were classified as 1-A and were quickly inducted into the armed military services.

However, men who in good conscience could not participate in full military service were given two legal options. They could serve as non-combatants in the medical corp or the chaplain’s office. They were classified as 1-AO and 22,000 chose this way of service. They received regular military pay and full veteran benefits.

Highway 199 approaching Highway 46 and the Redwood Ranger Station, 1945

Highway 199 approaching Highway 46 and the Redwood Ranger Station, 1945

The second option was open to men who by “religious training or belief” could not join the armed forces. They were classified as 4-E. They were conscientious objectors or COs. Over 12,000 men were drafted under this provision and were assigned “work of national importance under civilian direction.” The three historic peace churches–Mennonite, Brethren, and Quaker–agreed to administer the camps for all men assigned to them, and the churches agreed to pay all the expenses. The government, however, provided the work and camp buildings, etc. They were known as Civilian Public Service camps or CPS camps. The work was typically soil conservation, park construction, or forest fire suppression.

Much of the assigned work seemed to be of little national importance and the talents of the men were not utilized. So many of the COs volunteered for work outside the camps. Over 5000 men were assigned to serve in mental hospitals where they reformed the prior methods of handling mental patients. Other men worked as dairy herd testers on farms in America. The most difficult assignments were human guinea pigs for medical research. The most famous of these experiments involved men who volunteered to live on a starvation diet so our country would be able to provide medical care for those suffering from malnutrition in Europe after the war.

Crew Picture, 1945

Crew Picture, 1945
First Row: Art Hoylman, John Harnish, Alvin Kauffman, Chalmer Gillen, Russ Leazenby
Second Row: Albert Gray, Elon Eash, Emerson Miller, Willard Krabill, Dan Kauffman Third Row: Donald Hostetler, Roger Frantz, Leonard Pauls, Ray Mast
Not Pictured: Dale Yoder

One of the men in camp, Phil Stanley, suggested to the US Forest Service that COs would make good smokejumpers. So in May of 1943, the Mennonite Church opened CPS camp #103 in Missoula, Montana, at Seeley Lake. In that first year, 60 men were trained both in parachute jumping and fire fighting. Seven men were then sent to Cave Junction to serve under the leadership of Jack Heintzelman. In 1944, the number of smokejumpers doubled to 120 and 12 of them went to Cave Junction. Then in the last year, 1945, the training moved to Nine Mile Camp at Huson, Montana. The trainers were Earl Cooley, Wag Dodge, Jim Waite, and others. Fourteen of us agreed to go to Cave Junction. It was the final year of the CPS camps, and the base in Missoula closed in April of 1946.

The remainer of this short essay will confine its emphasis to the 14 men in the summer of 1945. There were actually 15 of us, because Alvin Kauffman came with us to work on camp maintenance, although he was not a jumper. There were eleven Mennonites in the group: Elon Eash, Roger Frantz, John Harnish, Donald Hostetler, Arthur Hoylman, Dan Kauffman, Willard Krabill, Ray Mast, Emerson Miller, Leonard Pauls, and Dale Yoder. The two men from the Church of the Brethren were Chalmer Gillin, and Clarence Leazenby. I was the lone Methodist and the leader of the group.

Crew Quarters; Miller, Yoder, Holyman, Kauffman; 1945

Crew Quarters; Miller, Yoder, Holyman, Kauffman; 1945

Over all, the men in CPS camps were a very diverse group. Over fifty denominations were represented: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, and others. The educational level was quite high with many men who were college graduates and some with a PhD, MD, JD, etc. But the small group at Cave Junction in 1945 was a homogeneous group–mostly Mennonite and Brethren farmers. I however was the oldest and had already been a university instructor before being drafted. It was a serious religious bunch. We invited all local ministers to visit the camp and to lead worship services. We had a wonderful quartet which sang gospel hymns and songs for the camp and for the churches. We came from religious families so we did not drink, only one smoked, and we seldom went to the movies. But we did play cards late into the night, and we constantly talked about girls. So, we were young, idealistic, physically strong, and willing to work (for $5 a month from the church). We made 51 practice jumps and 31 fire jumps in the summer of 1945. We were eager to show the public that COs in the CPS camps were not afraid of the danger of war or smokejumping. In all three years with several thousands of jumps, not a single man “chickened out.” We believed in our opposition to war and were proud to be conscientious objectors in service to our nation. We were also grateful to the nation that permitted our religious freedom and to the churches that supported us.


Mick Swift climbs a giant ponderosa pine tree to retrieve his parachute

Mick Swift climbs a giant ponderosa pine tree to retrieve his parachute


grants pass courier article june 19 2010


Smokejumper uses propeller to crank-start Fairchild jump plane before jump

Smokejumper uses propeller to crank-start Fairchild jump plane before jump