The Train to Crystal City

The Train to Crystal City

FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

Book - 2015 | First Scribner hardcover edition.
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The dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II, where thousands of families--many US citizens--were incarcerated.

From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during World War II, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called "quiet passage." During the course of the war, hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City, including their American-born children, were exchanged for other more important Americans--diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, physicians, and missionaries--behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.

Focusing her story on two American-born teenage girls who were interned, author Jan Jarboe Russell uncovers the details of their years spent in the camp; the struggles of their fathers; their families' subsequent journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan; and their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States, transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists. Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp, from the ten-foot high security fence to the armed guards, daily roll call, and censored mail, have never been told.

Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history that has long been kept quiet, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR's tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.
Publisher: New York :, Scribner,, 2015.
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781451693669
Characteristics: xix, 393 pages : illustrations, map


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bibliosopher Apr 15, 2019

This meticulously researched book on FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange contains interviews of more than 50 living detainees of the WWII family internment camp in Crystal City, Tx. It's an important story to be told. Highly recommended.

MGBustillo Jan 21, 2017

Russell exams the lives of several internees from the moment they are taken from their homes up to their lives today. Crystal City was a unique internment camp and its story is one that needed to be told.

May 23, 2016

Well balanced history, based on four years of research, including multiple interviews with former internees, and original documents written at the time by officials involved. One major, top secret, purpose of the camp was to have a pool of people for a prisoner exchange program, to rescue US prisoners of war, diplomats, missionaries, and other important civilians trapped in Japan and Germany during and at the end of the war. The FBI had, beginning when the US entered the war, arrested men it considered "dangerous enemy aliens," sometimes for good reason, sometimes on specious anonymous tips. These men had been in men-only camps. Crystal City reunited them with their wives and children, greatly increasing the available pool for trade. The price of reunion was that both spouses had to sign that they would if required, repatriate to the husband's homeland, with their minor children. The children, and some of the wives, were American born, thus US citizens. No family members knew about the prisoner trade. Life in the camp itself was not intolerable (except for summer heat), conducted under the Geneva Convention, and the head was a humane man particularly sympathetic to children. Internees were well fed, families ate their meals together, and jobs, schools, sports, worship, etc. were available, along with some self-government. Still, they were prisoners, living behind heavily guarded barbed wire fences, with twice daily roll call and strict censorship. Those repatriated, by their choice or the government's, had no idea what they actually faced when they reached either Japan or Germany at war's end. Many Japanese men believed Japan had won the war. This fascinating book follows the experiences of two repatriated families, one German and one Japanese, from the beginning to the end of each family's "story ". Families ultimately released, rather than repatriated, may have lived a different story. This one, however, needed to be told, and feels especially timely.

alleynoir Dec 02, 2015

This is an incredibly interesting and well written book. The author did a great job of intertwining history with experiences of the people who lived in the camps.

Jul 16, 2015

Very slanted and shortsighted.

ChristchurchLib Mar 01, 2015

A little-known episode in World War II history appears in The Train to Crystal City, which details how the U.S. incarcerated thousands of civilians in a Texas facility. Italian, Japanese, and German immigrants were sent there with their spouses and children, many of whom were U.S. citizens. Author Jan Russell portrays life in the camp, the struggles of those who were sent abroad in prisoner exchanges, and post-war expulsion of foreign nationals. This detailed work, partly based on personal interviews, provides a "necessary reminder of the dangers produced by wartime hysteria" (Booklist). History and Current Events March 2015 newsletter.

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Jul 11, 2016

kevinchen705 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 99 and 12


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