Episode 13 - The Conscience

(4 January 1979)
Writer: Michael McGreevey.
Director: Gwen Arner.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"The weeks that followed the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor affected our family deeply. It was a time of great anxiety and uncertainty and like all Americans we wanted to contribute to the war effort as best we could. My brother Jason was particularly troubled during this time, he wanted to serve his country but doubts of conscience forced him to face one of the most difficult decisions of his life".


Billy Streeter, a buddy from Jason’s old National Guard unit, visits Jason after joining the Army. The lieutenant attempts to convince Jason that he should volunteer now so he can join him and the enlistees from the old unit. However, Jason says he is waiting until graduation from college. Upon telling his parents what happened, John says that young men are needed during times of war. Olivia reminds her husband that they are talking about their sons. Afterwards, Jason goes to Ike’s store for a dollar’s worth of gas. Ike thinks Jason will soon be joining the military. Corabeth doesn’t think so because he is so sensitive.


Jim Bob again attempts to join the Army Air Corp. Sergeant Gates tells him that he is still too young, but to return on his next birthday. On his way out, Jim Bob sees an Army Air Corp insignia among other designs in a tattoo parlor. Wanting desperately to join he decides to buy the tattoo for his right arm. Later, Jim Bob and Ben tell Jason how eager they are to join the war. Jason shows his hesitation much to his brothers’ disbelief. Jason leaves the bedroom to find Mary Ellen reading from an old book of poetry. He tells his sister about feeling a responsibility to sign up but admits not being sure he can kill another human being, even for his country. They continue their conversation after Mary Ellen talks with the chaplain at the hospital. She mentions the Conscience Clause that allows men to state their opposition to killing others so they can participate in war without carrying a gun. Jason says he grew up believing ‘thou shalt not kill’ but knows about the abuse such men are subjected to in the military. Jason wonders if he is a coward.


Jason enters the Recruiting Office to ask Sergeant Gates about Conscientious Objector information. The Sergeant provides Jason with the papers when two local boys enter hoping their papers are ready. Bert and Jeb overhear the conversation concerning C.O. status. As Jason leaves for the Dew Drop Inn Ben confronts him concerning the C.O. pamphlet he found. Ben thinks he is crazy for even considering such a thing. But Jason thinks he is more concerned what other people will say about him and the family. At the bar Bert and Jeb see Jason and begin crowing like chickens. Jason ignores the taunts but Ben forces a confrontation. When Jason intercedes he is knocked down by one of the boys. He refuses to stand up against the two saying that just because they think I’m chicken doesn’t mean I am. But Ben believes it does.


In the morning, Olivia sees Jason’s swollen lip. He admits being knocked down because two guys thought he was a conscientious objector. Olivia tells her son that it takes courage to go against the tide. She wants Jason to stay away from the war but also wants him to feel good about himself.


Jim Bob visits Ike to find something to remove the tattoo. When Ike finally forces Jim Bob to show him the tattoo he laughs and says, ‘Your moma’s goin’ to kill you!’ Jason waits for his father to return home so he can talk with him about his dilemma. When John returns they leave for the office where Jason says he understands why killing stock in order to feed the family is necessary. He says killing a man is another matter and does not believe he can do it. Jason admits having nightmares about the times in the National Guard where he had to thrust a steel blade into a dummy during bayonet drills. John admits he had those feeling while in France during World War I but knows that when the time comes his son will do the right thing. He reminds Jason that even though Grandpa was a man of peace he fought in the Spanish-American War. Grandpa felt a debt was owed for those Waltons that fought and died to protect their land and family. Jason decides to spend tomorrow up on the Mountain to think about his decision.


In the morning with Jason already off to the Mountain, Elizabeth screams when she accidentally finds liver on Jim Bob’s arm. Jim Bob confesses he was trying to remove the tattoo with the meat. Olivia thinks tattooing one’s body is disgusting. John tells his son that he will have to live with it for the rest of his life. But John poses to his son the more important question, ‘How are you going to live with your Moma?’


Jason hikes on the Mountain, plays his harmonica, and thinks about what to do. At home Ben feels guilty about what he said to Jason. He decides to go to the Mountain in the morning so he can drive his older brother home. Sleeping under the stars Jason has another nightmare bayoneting a dummy and wakes up in a cold sweat. In the morning he visits Grandpa’s grave. He remembers how his grandfather always said how the Mountain never lies. He tells Grandpa that the world is filled with hate and does not know how he can fit into such a world. On his way home, Jason finds Ben driving toward him. Ben tells him he is sorry and will back him up with whatever he decides. Back home Jason tells his parents that Ben took him to the Recruiting Office so he could return the pamphlets. He also announces that he enlisted in the Army but will be able to first finish college.


"Jason had searched his soul and found an inner strength that would help him enter a new phase of his life. Jim Bob's tattoo remained on his arm, a symbol of his youthful lack of judgment as well as his commendable ambition. It is to this day a topic which amuses everyone - except my mother".


Ben: Jim Bob quit tossing and turning will ya?
Jim Bob: Can't go to sleep.
Ben: Well neither can I, not with you spinning around like a whirling dervish.
Olivia: What's the matter, Jim Bob?
Jim Bob: I got to thinking about my Army Air Corps tattoo. What if I end up flying for the navy as a Marine?
Ben: They really get on you Jim Bob that's what would happen.
Olivia: Pleasant dreams, Jim Bob.
Jim Bob: Goodnight Mama.



John-Boy has joined the military as a reporter for the newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Ike has added John Walton, Jr. to his honor roll along with the names John B. Lewell, Russell R. Williams, and Howard K. Wilson.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Corabeth Godsey (Ronnie Claire Edwards); Sergeant Gates (Hal Bokar); Lieutenant Billy Streeter (David Hunt Stafford); Bert (Sean Michael Rice); Jeb (Wayne Northrup); Drill Sergeant (Edwin Owens).