Did you know there was an incarceration camp in Texas for Japanese Americans during World War II? (The middle panel at the Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC pays tribute to the 2500 held at Family Camp in Crystal City, Texas. Photo by Only1Tanuki)
It is not nearly as well known as 10 prisons which held 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
This camp in Crystal City also imprisoned immigrants of German and Italian descent, reports NPR.
Hundreds of these prisoners were sent back to their countries of origin in exchange for American prisoners caught in enemy territory.
“In the run-up to the war, the president realized that Americans would be tracked behind enemy lines in Germany and in Japan, especially. And he charged the Special War Problems Division with creating pools of people that he could trade for important Americans – soldiers, diplomats, businessmen, journalists, missionaries,” said Jan Jarboe Russell who documented the story of Crystal City in her book The Train To Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program And America’s Only Family Interment Camp During World War II.
Just like with the other incarceration camps, many of those imprisoned at Crystal City were American citizens. It was an irony that many prisoners still today resent.
“What they are resentful about it is that thousands of internees in Crystal City, including their American-born children, were exchanged into war for more important Americans,” said Russell.
At least one Japanese American sent to Japan in a prisoner exchange made it back to America after the war. You can read about that in NPR.