Book Review Thursday: The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

TrainToCrystalCityAs one reviewer wrote, all enthusiastic supporters of everything the government does should read this book.  It’s a true story about one of the saddest pieces of our country’s history when young children, born as American citizens to immigrant parents, were forced into American internment camps throughout the country following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

It started with President Franklin Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, an action which placed him at odds with his wife Eleanor.  Within a short period of time, immigrant families across the country were split apart as their parents (mostly fathers) were sent to male only internment camps, sometimes in places far from their homes, just because they were Japanese, German or Italian.

Author Jan Jarobe Russell took on the task of exposing the never-before-told story of the only American family internment camp located in Crystal City, Texas, not far from the Mexican border.  Ms. Russell interviewed many survivors of the camp, the unfortunate American-born children of immigrant parents, and tells the story from their perspective.

The book goes beyond the internment camp experience and delves into the lives of those who had been sent at Crystal City ostensibly to later be used for prisoner exchanges and other victims of the war.  Some of those who were sent back to their country of origin chose to return, mistakenly it turned out, because they believed they would be better off.  The Japanese were so sure that Japan would never surrender and had indeed won the war, yet upon their return were met with devastation, poverty and food shortages – same for Germany.

This well-researched book was an Amazon Best Book of January 2015.  It’s obvious that Ms. Russell did her homework, combing through government files and seeking out actual witnesses to shed light on the truth.  History is ugly sometimes, unfortunately, but it’s still important to know as much about the good and the bad – lest we make the same mistakes.  As the saying goes “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

It’s an interesting book about World War II, American and Texas history that most people probably have never heard of.  For that reason alone, it’s worth your time to pick up a copy, or check it out at your local library.

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.


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