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The Train to Crystal City    by Jan Jarboe Russell order for
Train to Crystal City
by Jan Jarboe Russell
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The government's official name for the facility was the Crystal City Enemy Detention Facility. Located in Texas, this internment camp held Japanese, German and Italian immigrants and many families from Latin America. In operation from 1942-48, trains deposited about six thousand civilians at this camp located just thirty miles from the Mexican border.

The official purpose of Crystal City was to reunite immigrant fathers who'd been arrested and imprisoned as 'dangerous enemy aliens' with their wives and children. The length of their internment was indefinite.

The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prison Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell tells the story of this program that ostensibly exchanged, at times, these individuals with important Americans caught behind enemy lines.

The author interviewed over fifty living internees and was given access to private journals, diaries and camp administrative files when she was researching this book.

In reviewing life in this desolate location, Russell tells the story of two American-born teenage girls and the struggles of their fathers and families. The narrative also follows the girls' respective journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan, their attempts to survive in these hostile environments, and their eventual return to the U.S..

This little known story illustrates how the definition of American citizenship changed during the war years and how one group of individuals were used as pawns in the game to rescue American POWs.

The incarceration of 120,000 Japanese during the war in relocation camps is a story most people are now familiar with, but the details of this Texas camp has remained pretty much out of the public's view.

Not only were enemy aliens rounded up and sent here from American locations but the government also orchestrated and financed the removal of nearly seven thousand Germans, Japanese and Italians from thirteen Latin American countries. These individuals were also sent to the U.S. and interned.

New light continues to be shed on this chapter of American history and The Train to Crystal City will add to our knowledge of what went on away from public scrutiny in these camps. This adds just another chapter in the ever increasing library of material that concerns the aftermath of Executive Order 9066 signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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