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The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II
by Jan Jarboe Russell

Published: 2015-01-20
Hardcover : 416 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members
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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2015: By now, most Americans past high school have learned something about the internment of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1940; until recently a not-much-discussed piece of history—the internment of citizens mostly born on our soil—was, to many, a blight on the human rights record of the Roosevelt administration. But what The Train to Crystal City makes clear is that Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for internment of Japanese Americans, was just one of the questionable human rights decisions the wartime administration made. According to this dramatic, copiously detailed but still very readable account, a camp in Crystal City, Texas housed American-born children of German and Italian descent as well as Japanese, and many of those children were traded for “more ostensibly important Americans – diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, and missionaries” who were stuck behind enemy lines. (The program was dubbed the “quiet passage.”) How did such a thing happen? To find out, author Jan Jarboe Russell looked into government files (surprise: Eleanor Roosevelt did not agree with her husband the president and publicly abhorred internment of “Oriental looking people,” suggesting that it was un-American) and interviewed now-adult survivors who had been in the camp as children, most notably a Japanese-American girl named Sumi and a German American one named Ingrid. Though the two never met, their stories, taken together, celebrate the pluck and resilience on the part of many survivors. They also paint a vivid picture, all too applicable today, of a country beset by wartime fear, bigotry and governmental misguidance. --Sara Nelson

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  "Good book for discussion"by debi123c (see profile) 11/14/16

This book is not very well written but makes for a great discussion.

 
  "The Train to Crystal City"by bonisue (see profile) 01/23/16

You could never imagine your country could carry out a program that is so against all that we stand for. Unfortunately when your country is in a battle for it's survival it will do things that they wouldn't... (read more)

 
by retiredreaderNE (see profile) 01/20/16

Thoroughly researched. Well written. Provides information on WWII events not generally written about. Good discussion material.

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