Civilian Public Service Unit 98 (USA)

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Civilian Public Service (CPS) Unit No. 98, a Department of Commerce, Coast and Geodetic Survey Unit operated by the U.S. Selective Service System, opened in May 1943 and closed in September 1946. The men worked on geodetic control surveys in the field which led to the production of topographic maps. Topographic surveying units operated in 22 states during the war: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Operations, however, were concentrated in remote areas of the American Southwest, including west Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada.

Camp directors were: Lt. Commander Bernstein, Commander E. Hemple, R. A. Marshall.

The camp directors apparently were appointed by the Coast and Geodetic Survey or by Selective Service. A total of 62 men served in the unit during its years of operation. Stanley Hamilton, American Friends Service Committee visitor to one of the Southwestern sites in March 1945, reported that the group included "9 Quakers and 10 Brethren."

Men in the unit completed 30,000 person days of work for the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The men lived in tents, moving once a month and sometimes more often. Initially the survey crews operated side by side with Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel but, after a training period, the crews were manned almost exclusively by conscientious objectors with the exception of the party chief and a reconnaissance man who worked in advance of the triangulation work.

In general, CPS-98 crew routines were little different from other geodetic survey crews of the period. Basically CPS-98 was divided into building crews, light-keepers, observers, and an office force for clerical duties and computing observations. Building crews followed the reconnaissance man and built observing stands on high mountain peaks, relatively small pole towers in lightly timbered country, and high Bilby steel towers on flat areas. Light-keepers worked alone and showed lights for the observing crews to point on with theodolites and measure the angles of the triangulation scheme; the computers compiled computations necessary to assure that all specifications had been met, and to determine geographic positions, lengths of triangle sides, and azimuths between points.

Several of the men associated with the Southwest survey tour, published a booklet "The Gang: CPS-98 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1943-1946." The publication provided an overall history of the camp, description of the tour, vignettes of daily life on the survey, and glimpses into the lives of the men on the tour crew.


"CPS Unit Number 098-01." The Civilian Public Service Story: Living Peace in a Time of War. Web. 27 January 2012.

"CPS-98: An Odd Geodetic Survey Crew." Hydro Internation. Web. 27 January 2012.

Author(s) Harlan D Unrau
Date Published February 2012

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Unrau, Harlan D. "Civilian Public Service Unit 98 (USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2012. Web. 21 Sep 2020.

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Unrau, Harlan D. (February 2012). Civilian Public Service Unit 98 (USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 September 2020, from

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