The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell
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.
During World War II, 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.
Jan Jarboe Russell is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Train to Crystal City. The book exposes the little-known story of a family internment camp in World War II located in Crystal City, Texas that housed Japanese, German and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The camp in Crystal City became the center of President Roosevelt’s prisoner exchange program. In 2016, The Train To Crystal City won the Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction, given by the Texas Institute of Letters.
Russell was born in Beaumont, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972 and became a political reporter for The San Antonio Light. In 1976, she joined the Hearst Bureau in Washington, D.C. She later went to work as a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.
In 1984 she was named a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, one of twelve American journalists to study at Harvard that academic year. Upon her return home to Texas, she shifted her career to long-form journalism and joined Texas Monthly magazine as a senior editor. In 1989, her story, “Adoption: The Woes of Wednesday Child” She is currently a contributing editor to Texas Monthly.
In 1999, Scribner’s published her well-received biography of Lady Bird Johnson, named by The Washington Post one of the best books of the year. She also compiled and edited They Lived To Tell The Tale, published under the Explorer’s Club imprint.
Jan lives in San Antonio with her husband, Dr. Lewis F. Russell, Jr. They have four children.
Photo by Trish Simonite
|Wharton County Library||October 4||6:00 PM|
|Holocaust Museum Houston||October 5||6:30 PM||RSVP Here|
|Asia Society Texas Center||October 16||3:00 PM||RSVP Here|
|Lone Star College North Harris||October 17||12:30 PM|
|Harris County Law Library||October 18||1:00 PM||Register Here|
|Cypress Creek Community Center||October 18||6:30 PM|
|Lamar University, Mary and John Gray Library||October 19||1:00 PM|
|Houston Community College||October 20||11:00 AM||Central, Learning Hub 100|
|San Jacinto College Lee Davis Library||October 25||10:00 AM|
|Texas Southern University Library||October 27||6:30 PM|
About the Book
History in Five: FDR’s Secret Enemy Exchange Program
- Book Discussion Questions from Houston Great Books
- Photos of the Train to Crystal City
- "Jan Jarboe Russell Writes Book on Texas WWII Internment Camp" by Kathleen Petty, San Antonio Magazine
- "The American Internment Camp You Never Heard of" by Jan Jarboe Russell, History News Network
- "5 Surprises About America's Imprisoning People During World War II" by Jan Jarboe Russell, Business Insider
- "Purgatory at Home in Wartime" by Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb
About the Crystal City Internment Camp
|A video made from a public domain film produced by the Immigration and Naturalizaton Service in 1945 of the family internment camp at Crystal City, Texas. This camps was used for the incarceration of German Americans, German Latin Americans, Italian Americans and Italian Latin Americans, as well as Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans.|
|See how the dedication of an historic site has led to healing for hundreds of families that were once held at the Crystal City Family Internment Camp.|
- Crystal City (Family) Internment Camp - Texas Historical Commission
- Crystal City Family Internment Camp (PDF) - Texas Historical Commission
- Legacy of Heart Mountain - ABC News Documentary (Heart Mountain is mentioned several times in the book)
|Harris County Archives||The Kinkaid School Archives|
|San Jacinto Museum of History||University of Houston, Special Collections|
|Woodson Research Center, Rice University|