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
While it is well known that America incarcerated 120,000 Japanese (forcibly evacuated) after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, what is most likely unknown is that Germans and Italians were also arrested and declared as "enemy aliens." These arrests extended beyond our borders. (Many of them came from Latin American countries.) Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1942, permitted the secretary of war to capture and confine Japanese, Germans, and Italians. They could be held without charges or having had a trial and their homes and businesses were taken away from them.
Crystal City was a small, desert town in the south part of Texas. From 1942 to 1945, secret government trains brought civilians to this site, which became the only family internment camp during World War II. The official name was the Crystal City Enemy Detention Facility. Men, women, and children were confined here for an indeterminate amount of time. Most of these people were very loyal to the United States and could not comprehend why they had been taken from their homes. These internees were never told that they were part of a government prisoner exchange program. Americans that were being held in Japan and Germany would be switched with these so-called "dangerous" civilians. And whether they wanted to or not, many of these immigrants were repatriated (read deported) against their will to their original countries including their American-born children.
The Train to Crystal City is quite a disturbing book. Our illustrious government thought that we had spies in our midst and what better way to keep them all together would be behind barbed wire where they could be watched twenty-four hours a day. These poor people were kidnapped and held as pawns to be used as trade bait. It's really unfortunate that FDR listened to his military advisers.
This is quite an important read and will make your hair stand on end. Not to be missed.