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Memories of War : Oklahoma's pacifists

World War II brought the country together like never before. War bonds were sold. Scrap metal drives were held. Men and women volunteered to go into combat zones. People of all walks were engaged.

But not everyone was into the combat part of war. Oklahoma's Mennonite community objected to violence in the 1940's, just like those communities do now. They are, and were, conscientious objectors.

In February 1942 The Oklahoman profiled one such family in Corn. The Hinz family had five sons but only two decided to enlist. One was deemed too old. The other, 19-year-old Vernon, joined the Army Air Corps but not without some trouble.

CORN --" That preacher said they ought to put all Mennonites in a concentration camp!”

The mother, her faced lined from the years of work, worry and worship, looked at this, her youngest of five sons, who had listened to a radio preacher at Oklahoma City. This was the day she had been dreading, the reason for her prayers in the still nights, the day for which she had been preparing an answer.

“Mother I love my country as much as that preacher!”

She stroked his hair, with her short, strong fingers that knew how to hold a plow or knead dough with equal skill and strength.

“Mother, I’m an American!”

“Yes, son.”

“I want to fight for my country!”.

Then he buried his face on her lap and sobbed.

Along with Hinz there had already been 18 young Mennonite men who had left Corn by early 1942. Sixteen of them went to join the military to fight in the war.

Two more went to conscientious objector camps.

Forty men from Washita County died during World War II, according to the War Department. Vernon Hinz was not one of them. 

'Memories of War' project seeks readers' help

Seventy-five years ago on Dec. 7, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor prompted America's formal entry in to World War II, a conflict that would transform the nation and along with it Oklahoma and its people.

Almost 5,500 Oklahoma service members would die in the conflict. Those who survived the battles are either long-grayed or gone now.

To commemorate this landmark anniversary, The Oklahoman presents the series “Memories of War,” which will include photos, videos, archival accounts, interviews and other elements that seek to recreate those turbulent times as they unfolded.

More than anything, we want to tell your stories, to share your memories. To do that, we need your help.

Do you have photos, letters, diaries, mementos or a good tale you'd like to share with our readers related to World War II? If so, drop us a line at or

Also, visit the Memories of War special coverage page for all content related to this project.

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›