July 6, 2019


America's Once and Future Concentration Camp: Postcards from a homeland outpost where Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, and now lone migrant children have been enemies of the state. (MATT FARWELL, July 3, 2019, New Republic)

Fort Sill is now where all United States soldiers and Marines in the artillery community, known since the time of Napoleon as "the King of Battle," come to learn or hone their craft--that is, how to precisely fire massive cannons so their shells kill a far-off enemy that they can't see. They learn how the King of Battle kills targets--people--based on guidance from forward observers. Approaching the cemetery, there is the distant, occasional percussion of small arms gunfire from the training ranges, and--depending on the day--an arrhythmic heartbeat of artillery thumps, the type that you can feel in your chest and sinuses as a small and thundery pressure differential.

On the map, the Beef Creek Apache Prisoner-of-War Cemetery--one of three Apache POW interment sites on the post--is tucked in between a helicopter landing zone and a rock dump, along a mosquito-filled waterway that flows down from the north Arbuckle Range, what the Army calls a "dudded artillery impact area"--an off-limits practice range where unexploded shells are presumed to remain stuck in the ground. On the road, the cemetery lies just past a sign that reads "Landfill & Rubble Pit, 1.5 miles."

A father of 12 named Kanesaburo Oshima was shot dead in spring 1942 trying to scale the camp's barbed wire while crying "I want to go home, I want to go home."
There have been many ways to get stuck at Fort Sill over the years, as the cemeteries attest. Before the announcement that lone undocumented children would be stuck here, there were the newly inducted soldiers, heads shaved for basic training, who all left eventually for far-flung postings and deployments. Before that, there were 707 Japanese-American civilians held prisoners on the post by the U.S. during World War II; one, a Hawaiian father of twelve named Kanesaburo Oshima, was shot dead in spring 1942 attempting to scale the camp's barbed wire while crying, "I want to go home, I want to go home."

In the throng of protesters assembling outside the Fort Sill gates after I arrived was Satsuki Ina, who was born in captivity in a similar California camp where her family had been held during the war; now 75, Ina told the assembled reporters why the protest was so important to her. "We are here," she said, "to say: 'Stop repeating history.'"

Posted by at July 6, 2019 1:03 PM