From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered more than 10,000 civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. Read more...
From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered more than 10,000 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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-01
- Reviewer: Staff
During WWII, thousands of people of German, Italian, and Japanese descent living in the United States and Latin America were imprisoned as potential enemy aliens and forced to live in internment camps. Sometimes entire families were gathered together and shipped to a camp outside of Crystal City, Tex., to be traded for Americans imprisoned overseas. Russell (They Lived to Tell the Tale) draws on historical records and extensive interviews to revisit a confusing, shameful episode in American history. Using two American-born teenagers as her focal points—one of Japanese descent, the other German—she examines the process that transformed law-abiding Americans, regardless of citizenship, into internees and repatriated many to countries they’d never known. Russell pulls no punches describing the cost of war and the conditions internees endured. “The fundamental questions of citizenship, the status of aliens—indeed the definition of who is and who is not an American—are perennial. The travesty in Crystal City,” Russell notes, “is that in the effort to win the war... the cost to civil liberties was high.” Though Russell sometimes loses focus while delivering the full story in all its detail, it’s nevertheless a powerful piece. Agent: Amy Hughes, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.)