No compromising or rationalizing is in the pages of A Few Small Candles: War Resisters of World War II Tell Their Stories, edited by Larry Gara and Lenna Mae Gara (Kent State Univ., $28). In this collection, 10 conscientious objectors to military violence explain why they defied the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Knowingly, they took the consequences of declining the invitation to kill for their country: stretches of two to five years in federal prisons. While there, several went on hunger strikes to protest unjust prison rules, including dining hall racial segregation.  The 10 essays are reflective and gracefully written remembrances of men who, guided by informed consciences, can rightly claim to be called the other greatest generation. In all, some 6,000 war resisters were jailed, including poet Robert Lowell and novelist J.F. Powers.  "We knew our actions would not stop the war," writes co-editor Larry Gara, who rounded up nine others for this collection. "Though the bombings of London, Dresden, and Hiroshima horrified us, and we saw nothing but terrible evil in the Nazi regime, we did not think that killing German and Japanese civilians was the answer. . . . Our witness was against conscription and war itself, not against members of the armed forces."  Who inspired these inspirational men? Some had faith-centered Mennonite, Quaker or Unitarian childhoods. Others had embraced the peace teachings of A.J. Muste, Ammon Hennacy, Jeannette Rankin and Evan Thomas (the brother of Norman Thomas). Some, like David Dellinger, were divinity school students with automatic draft exemptions who nonetheless chose prison over privilege.  Now in their late seventies and early eighties, all 10 resisters remain firm in the ideals of their youth. Lawrence Templin, who became an English professor at Bluffton College in Ohio, voices a sentiment common to the essays: "I believe in nonviolence as a weapon against evil and injustice in the world, a weapon which has rarely been tried so far. As a pacifist I believe that war is tragically wrong -- tragically because it is so often conceived to be a just war by the participants on both sides, but which results in unintended injustice and suffering on both sides." (Review by Colman McCarthy, Washington Post)


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1998.  Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
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