Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Joe Campana & r & & r & Some Jumping on the Western Fire Line by Mark Matthews & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & uring World War II, when a draft board classified a prospective soldier 4E (the official designation for conscientious objectors), the conscript had the choice of performing noncombatant service in the military, doing jail time, or enlisting in the Civilian Public Service. Most petitioners from the country's three historic peace churches -- the Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren -- chose the latter option. CPSers did "work of national importance": grading roads, cutting brush, building bridges and laying water lines. Paid just $2.50 a month, many found the labor boring and unfulfilling. Phil Stanley, a Quaker, called it "work of national impotence." After hearing that the Forest Service was looking to parachute men into the wilderness to fight fires, he wrote a letter seeking a transfer.





In response, the smoke-jumping camps opened 60 slots to conchies -- and that's how conscientious objectors proved themselves by discovering the moral equivalent to war in the burning forests of the Pacific Northwest from 1943 to 1945. Because while they were often accused of being yellowbellies, none of the conscientious objectors in Mark Matthews's Smoke Jumping on the Western Fire Line lacked courage.





To construct his tale of an overlooked part of American history, Matthews interviewed several surviving smokejumpers. He does his best to honor these tales by letting the men tell their stories in their own words, quoting from their letters and journals at length.





While Matthews pays due respect to his subjects' religious convictions, he identifies his subjects above all else as people who yearn for heroism, the same as any soldier who goes off to war. Many COs, who had suffered such atrocities as being thrown from moving trains and combed with brooms in freezing showers, just wanted their tormentors to affirm their courage. Says CO James Brunk, "I thought that if I could get into the smokejumpers there would be enough danger involved that people might realize that I was serious about my stand against war and not just some 'yellowbelly.'"





If Matthews' work has a weakness, it's only that he takes a bit too long to get his men up in the air and then down among the flames. Once there, the book becomes a page-turner. These men were first-rate. An analysis by Matthews of only three regions indicates that their work saved the Forest Service $346,000, and that one smokejumper could equal the output of eight earthbound wildland firefighters. Even desk-bound bureaucrats -- too afraid to jump into wildfires themselves -- will appreciate that kind of efficiency.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Cherry Pitfalls
  • Cherry Pitfalls

    Why fruit is rotting on trees while workers wait at the border
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • The Real Threats
  • The Real Threats

    What worries Spokane's sheriff; plus, Washington's lawmakers finally hash out a budget
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • Party of Five?
  • Party of Five?

    Why Spokane County's newest commissioner is leading the fight to add two more
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • The Rachel We Knew

    EDITOR'S NOTE: How Rachel Dolezal came to write for the Inlander
    • Jun 18, 2015
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation