Follow Here To Purchase The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

Author: Jan Jarboe Russell

Publisher: Scribner

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9366-9

Jan Jarboe Russell, author of The Train To Crystal City, has authored one other historical work (Lady Bird; A Biography of Mrs. Johnson, 1999) and edited another. (2015, inside back cover) Russell has previously been Nieman Fellow and a contributing editor for Texas Monthly, New York Times, San Antonio Express, and more. She and her husband reside in San Antonio, Texas.

I am far from a fan of war and as such had a difficult time reading about some of the atrocities that Mrs. Russell exposed in this book. However, I think it is important that we, as human beings, realize what terrible things other human beings are capable of, especially under duress. This book highlights much of what transpired amongst our immigrant population on American soil just prior to, during, and after America’s entry into WWII. Russell’s revelations are revealed via face-to-face in-depth interviews with many people who were unjustly housed in concentration camps across America and especially in Texas. One of which became known as the only family oriented concentration camp; that was Crystal City.

At the time this particular war [WWII] takes place trains were viewed as a modern means of travel that connected distant and remote places with more cosmopolitan areas around the world via tracks. Mrs. Russell states in the preface “During the war, life and death revolved around the arrival and departure of trains.” (2015) The train that she [Mrs. Russell] directs our attention to travels to Crystal City, Texas. This train operated from 1942 until 1948 and transported a large portion of our immigrant population to a desolate town near the southern tip of Texas. According to Mrs. Russell these people were considered “dangerous enemy aliens” and they were held indefinitely and secretly. Large populations were American born.

Preparations for this top secret scheme came as early as 1941 according to the research of Mrs. Russell. (2015, p.39) Americas’ State Department covertly agreed with Panama, Guatemala, Peru, and other Latin American countries to covertly restrict travel to some portions of their citizenry named on their Black List. Some captured people was deported, others were arrested and held without bail. They were German, Japanese, and some Italians.

After Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans serving in the US military were reclassified as 4C—enemy aliens…Their weapons were taken from them, and they were imprisoned in internment camps…” (2015, p.139) President Roosevelt was responsible for this denial of democracy. A test was devised to attempt to ascertain the loyalty of such persons. That test, lengthy though it was, and the decision as to the futures of these detainees came down to two questions. Numbers 27 and 28 according to Russell were the deal makers or breakers. To learn about those questions and the lives these supposedly unsavory and disloyal people led in our concentration camps during Americas’ war efforts read this graphic book. While I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book, at least not from a feel-good perspective, I did learn a lot and I think you will too!