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    Fort McCoy ArtiFACT: Internment, POW camp map

    Camp McCoy Prisoner of War Camp, 1940s

    Courtesy Photo | A scene from the Prisoner of War Area at Camp McCoy, Wis., in 1943. Includeds the "A",...... read more read more

    FORT MCCOY, WI, UNITED STATES

    05.28.2021

    Courtesy Story

    Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office           

    Contrary to popular belief, much of an archaeologist’s workday is spent in the office or the lab analyzing artifacts, conducting literature reviews and background research of sites and/or project areas, and preparing articles and reports.

    Archaeologists with Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands primarily obtain information about sites at Fort McCoy via archival research. Archival research involves gathering information from documents and text materials housed at local, regional, and national archives; special collections libraries; historical societies; or other repositories. Another means of learning about a site or a document pertaining to a site is through small talk with local people, who archaeologists refer to as informants.

    Recently, a document was brought to the attention of Fort McCoy archaeologists by Bessie Kmiecik, a local resident and historian. She alerted the archaeologists to a blueprint from 1942 titled “Plot Plan of Detention Camp,” which pertains to the Second World War internment camp, later converted to a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp, located on the South Post of Camp McCoy (now known as Fort McCoy).

    The blueprint is useful to archaeologists due to its ability to shed light on the layout of the internment camp in 1942, including types of buildings, building locations, building numbers, and security measures used.

    In 1942, the Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC) Discharge and Reception Center, constructed by the government in 1939, was converted to an “enemy alien” internment camp to detain civilian “enemy aliens.” Based on the blueprint, the camp contained 30-35 structures and a trapezoidal-shaped recreation yard within a 20-acre enclosure.

    Structures consisted of seven guard towers, four kitchen and mess halls, two bath houses, and 20 barracks secured by two 7-foot side-by-side mesh and 1-foot barbed wire fences. Each barrack could house up to 50 individuals, bringing the total capacity of the complex to 1,000 persons.
    The first “enemy aliens” arrived at Camp McCoy in March 1942 and consisted of German and Japanese Americans, both naturalized citizens and undocumented immigrants. The internment camp held approximately 170 Japanese and 120 German and Italian American civilians arrested as potentially dangerous “enemy aliens.”

    In April 1943, the mission of the camp changed from an “enemy alien” internment camp to POW camp. With the change in mission, all “enemy aliens” were transferred out of Camp McCoy, and all Japanese POWs (approximately 62 at that time) permanently held in the U.S. were brought to Camp McCoy. By December 1943, the POW camp facilities held 500 German enlisted men, 88 Japanese enlisted men, and 12 Japanese officers. At the end of World War II, the POW camp held approximately 3,000 German, 2,700 Japanese, and 500 Korean prisoners, making Fort McCoy the largest permanent Japanese POW camp in the U.S.
    The POW camp was destroyed at the close of World War II. Archaeological investigations conducted in 1994 found the site not eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) due to the absence of diagnostic artifacts and the loss of historic and archaeological integrity from the internment/POW camp being destroyed. Although the site is considered not eligible, it still holds historical significance regarding its use as an internment/POW camp.

    All archaeological work conducted at Fort McCoy is coordinated by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.

    Visitors and employees are reminded they should not collect artifacts on Fort McCoy or other government lands and leave the digging to the professionals. Any person who excavates, removes, damages, or otherwise alters or defaces any historic or prehistoric site, artifact, or object of antiquity on Fort McCoy is in violation of federal law.

    The discovery of any archaeological artifact should be reported to the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch at 608-388-8214.

    (Article prepared by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.)

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.28.2021
    Date Posted: 05.28.2021 16:03
    Story ID: 397740
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US

    Web Views: 2,302
    Downloads: 0

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