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
New: The Train to Crystal City is reviewed in the April 26th edition of the New York Times Book Review, saying: “Poignant… Russell movingly focuses on human stories coming out of one camp that held both Japanese and Germans, outside Crystal City, Tex.” Read the full review.
View video of Crystal City Camp
The Train to Crystal City is a NY Times Bestseller.
The Train to Crystal City was picked as an Amazon.com Best Books of the Month for January 2015.
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 more than 6,000 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.
A video made from a public domain film produced by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service in 1945 of the family internment camp at Crystal City, Texas.
Reviews for The Train to Crystal City
“Texas Monthly contributing editor Russell (Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson, 1999, etc.) recounts a dark episode in America’s past in this engrossing history of the forced detention of thousands of civilians in internment camps during World War II.”
—Kirkus (read full review)
“The Train to Crystal City is a story of heartbreaking dislocation, of lives smashed and ruined, and of almost unbelievable human endurance, resilience, and determination. Jan Jarboe Russell has written a powerful book that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.”
—S.C. Gwynne, New York Times bestselling author of Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon
“Jan Jarboe Russell has exposed a corner of American history that few knew existed, one that is at once bitter and transformative. The glory of this book is in the many human details so skillfully sketched, which add another chapter to the unending tally of war.”
—Lawrence Wright, author, Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David
“Engrossing…Russell documents in chilling details a shocking story of national betrayal.” —Kirkus
“This is an informative, disturbing, and necessary reminder of the dangers produced by wartime hysteria.” —Booklist
“Both scholars and generalreaders interested in World War II will agree, this book is a gripping storyfrom start to finish.” —Library Journal
“Russell pulls no punches describing the cost of war and the conditions internees endured….a powerful piece.” —Publishers Weekly