Work of National Importance
Clarence A Dykstra, 1st Director of Selective Service, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 provided an alternative form of national service for those who rejected military service with the provision for “work of national importance.” However, exactly what that work entailed remained undefined until February 1941. It was then that President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order placing the responsibility of defining, creating, and administering the work of national importance in the hands of the Director of Selective Service.
However, prior to the issuance of Roosevelt’s executive order, the Historic Peace Churches had been working in conjunction with the Selective Service to create a program of alternative service. From the time of the passage of the Selective Service Act, to the implementation of an alternative service program, representatives of the Historic Peace Churches worked directly with the Acting Director of Selective Service, Lewis B. Hershey (who would later become the Director), and the first permanent Director, Clarence A. Dykstra, in planning for a system that would satisfy both the federal government and the CO. When the Peace Churches and the Selective Service were able to submit a plan that satisfied President Roosevelt in early 1941 (Roosevelt rejected an earlier plan in late November 1940 that paid COs assigned to alternative service) he issued his executive order placing the authority over COs and the responsibilities for the work of national importance in the hands of the Director of Selective Service. The program to be implemented, fulfilling the requirement of work of national importance, was called Civilian Public Service.