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The Homefront, Then and Now

Books are Weapons in the War of Ideas

Classics were popular, as were bestsellers. Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943, was especially loved because it was a strong reminder of childhood and home. One lieutenent wrote thanking the Army for publishing, "everything from Plato to Zane Grey."
In 1939, when Nazi Germany started taking over territory in Europe, Hitler wanted more than counties’ lands; he wanted their citizens’ minds and souls. One of his first edicts in Germany itself was that all books that expressed “un-German” beliefs— and anything by Jews—4,175 titles dealing with culture, history, literature, art, media and entertainment — be burned. The book burning subsequently widened to include all conquered territory. Millions of books in hundreds of libraries and archives were destroyed.

When Germany declared war on the United States just after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt realized Hitler also wanted to control the minds of all Americans. That meant books were “Weapons in the War of Ideas.” And he believed America's citizen soldiers needed to understand why democracy was worth fighting for. Early efforts to fill the need through donations proved awkward and ineffective. Paperback books were in their infancy; many bookstores refused to carry them. Yet, convinced troops needed books, editors from four leading publishers worked together to develop paperback books especially designed to be carried into war.

The Navy and War Departments worked with them to design small, flexible books that would fit into a serviceman’s pocket or pack. Sized from 5.5 to 6.5 inches long and 3.325 by 4.5 inches wide, they required not book, but magazine presses. Using lightweight paper, printing two books to a page (one above the other for later separation) and binding them on the short side, they produced flexible books readable even under battlefield conditions. The brightly colored, cardboard covers showed an image of the original hardcover’s dust jacket, with “Armed Services Edition” in a circle below. A banner reading “This is the complete book—Not a Digest,” ran below. Later, some books were shortened for length, without deleting content.

Troops immediately embraced them and begged for more. Men who had last read a book in high school, and that under protest, sought them out. Private “W. E. W and the Gang” explained, “They are as welcome as a letter from home. They are as popular as pin-up girls. I want to say thanks a million for one of the best deals in the Army—the Armed Services Editions.” They read them in boot camp, standing in line for chow, sitting in a foxhole, sweating out a bombing run, in hospitals, on ships. The books provided desperately needed reminders of home, a few laughs, hope and inspiration and courage. Copies were passed around barracks and pup tents, dugouts and bombers until they were in tatters, but they were not thrown away. There were never enough.

Topics included nonfiction, classics, bestsellers, biographies, drama, mysteries, sports, westerns, even essays and poetry. ASEs, published and shipped by the armed forces, were considered as important for morale as good food and equipment. Between 1943 and 1946, there were 123 million copies of 1,322 editions available. Today the complete set is at the Library of Congress. Nearly complete sets exist at several universities. Sometimes copies can be found at used bookstores. See Molly Guptill Manning's excellent When Books Went to War for a complete list of titles.

Nazi Germany destroyed 100 million books in Europe in World War II. The United States printed and freely distributed 120 million. Read More 
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The University of Colorado Goes to War

Japanese teachers and families relax at Boulder's Chautauqua Park. Teachers and students learned respect for each other and many retained relationships after the war. Photo from the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.
In 1942, the University of Colorado reacted to the attack on Pearl Harbor by drastically changing the classes it offered students. As educators looked for ways to help the war effort, CU expanded courses in flying, business administration, the medical school’s general hospital and school of nursing. They offered radio and telegraphy, and even training in radar detection. Many of the courses were taught under contract with the US Navy.

But there was a more specialized need. There were scarcely more than a dozen American officers fluent in Japanese, and, when Executive Order No. 9066, exiling Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, became effective, a Japanese language course being taught at the University of California-Berkeley suddenly lost its Japanese-American instructors. With citizens—–and the leadership—of almost every state in the West protesting against displaced Japanese people being moved into their state, the military saw only one hope. Colorado’s Governor Ralph Carr’s lone welcoming stance (see my blog dated Feb. 22, 2017) encouraged the military to turn to CU.

The navy proposal was startling. Eighty American-born-Japanese instructors and their families and what would soon become 500 to 700 hundred students learning to speak Japanese would move into this small town of 12,958 people. The university’s some 7,000 students would be encountering the faces and language of an enemy whose conquests and treacheries made daily headlines. The school would provide intensive training in the Japanese language. Its students would be immersed in Japanese thought and speech. Could the community adjust? CU’s President Robert Steans, a friend of Ralph Carr, said “Yes.”

Housing was a major problem. With frightened citizens urging real estate dealers not to sell to any Japanese, Cu sought scarce housing. The Chamber of Commerce resorted to a ¾ page ad in the Boulder Daily Camera: “The United States Navy asks Boulder to meet the most important quota Boulder has ever been asked to meet…immediately.” It compared this “vital” need to housing “the crew of a battleship” and urged Boulder residents to come through. Boulder citizens immediately protested. Japanese-Americans were subject to unpleasant instances of garbage dumped, doors chalked, bee-bees shot, spiting and rude remarks. But the school proceeded.

Naval Intelligence ran the school. The navy desperately needed officers fluent in the difficult language. They needed interrogators, code breakers and translators, and they needed them quickly. Course work would be intense. The students were required to devote 14 hours a day to classes and study, six days a week for 14 months.

Syntax, grammar and theory went out the window. All discussion was In Japanese. All focus was on teaching students to read and write about 2,000 Japanese characters, and speak about 8,000 words. They were busy with rice paper and brush, gaining ability to read newspapers, listen to Japanese radio programs, and converse in Japanese. As quickly as they finished, most were sent to the Pacific.

Beginning in June 1942, as many as 177 Japanese-American teachers in Boulder educated more than 1,200 servicemen in what was considered a top-secret program. After the war, the students provided vital help during the occupation, and many later pursued careers involving the Japanese culture.  Read More 
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Ralph Carr: Friend of the Friendless

The name of Colorado governor Ralph L. Carr, 1887-1950, who championed the freedom of Japanese Americans, is memorialized in the Ralph Carr Judicial Center, which opened recently.
Seventy-five years ago, Colorado governor Ralph Carr was faced with a decision. On February 20, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 requiring the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast be removed from territory vulnerable to attack by Japanese naval forces.

When the Japanese military delivered the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, without warning, horrified and angry Americans considered it the vilest treachery. Filled with growing fear, as the powerful Japanese military machine easily advanced across the Pacific toward our west coast, Americans believed anyone with Japanese blood should be considered capable of similar betrayal. That two-thirds of them were American citizens seemed unimportant. The safety of the nation was paramount.

Carr was horrified at the order. American citizens were to be deprived of their homes, businesses and freedom only because of their ancestry. He believed strongly in constitutional rights. He thought the Federal government had far overstepped its authority.

The controversy over Order 9066 was immediate and vocal. But it was not about the rights of the Japanese. It was about where they would be housed. Gov. Carr had already received hundreds of calls and letters from his constituents declaring they did not want those “yellow devils” “slant-eyed vipers” “Jap barbarians” contaminating and endangering their state.

By Feb. 28, the federal government had decided the Japanese Americans should be housed in the Rocky Mountain states; the U.S. Army asked 10 Western states to step up and help them solve this serious issue. A cable arrived in each governor’s office asking how many of Japanese lineage their state could accommodate. Carr, who idolized Abraham Lincoln, ask himself, as he always did when pondering an action, “What would Lincoln do?”

That night he delivered a state-wide radio address that gave his answer. After listing the continuing victories of the Japanese offensive—even shelling a Santa Barbara gasoline depot— he said the Japanese had “the most dangerous war machine that has ever been assembled.” And the army was asking their help. He urged Coloradans to “be good soldiers” and pledged: Colorado will do her part and more to help the war effort." It was the patriotic thing to do. No other Western governor made such an offer.

Before the war began, Carr’s successful governance of Colorado was drawing national attention. Now the popular governor was being urged to run for the U.S. Senate. He knew his stance on Japanese rights would hurt his chances, and he was defeated. But he continued to speak out for the Japanese for the remainder of his term.

Please see Adam Schrager’s The Principled Politician; Governor Ralph Carr and the Fight Against Japanese American Internment for much more of Ralph Carr’s fascinating story. Read More 
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Bringing A Piece of Home to a Place Full of Fear

Bob Hop[e was an indefatigueable entertainer of WWII troops. He is pictured here in 1944. By US Army - US Army, Public Domain
The individual USOs, created by local townspeople, were pretty much hometown affairs. They were much-appreciated, low-key places for the troops to relax and take it easy. But professional entertainers also wanted to “do something for the boys.” Six months after the USO was formed, on Oct. 30 1941, a separate group organized the USO Camp Shows to meet the entertainment needs of the Army Camp Commanders. The chairman of the William Morris Talent Agency eventually created 702 USO Camp Show units, ranging in size from one to fifty.

All the major entertainment unions, such as the Screen Actors Guild and musicians unions, agreed to perform with little to no pay so that armed forces personnel could have live shows wherever they were. The units went when and where requested, and tours could last from three weeks to six months. In the first six months, 24 units gave 3,781 performances. By the end of the war, Camp Shows, Inc. presented 273,599 performances to over 171 million people.

There were four entertainment circuits: the Victory Circuit brought large shows featuring famous celebrities to large stateside bases. The Blue Circuit brought comedians and a few acts to smaller locations. The Hospital Circuit, which began in 1944, brought special entertainment units to hospitalized personnel.

The most famous outfit was called the Foxhole Circuit. It took performers overseas and into combat areas all over the world. Every theater of operations had shows; one audience, such as at an airfield, might contain 15,000 GIs. Another might be a few GIs around a jeep.

Over 7,000 artists performed. Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Gypsy Rose Lee, the Rockettes, Lily Pons, Edward G. Robinson – the list is all encompassing. Bob Hope was deservedly the most celebrated. He gave his first show in March of 1941 in California, and became renowned for his stamina, performing everywhere from North Africa to the Pacific islands. From the time he started performing for the troops until after the war, only nine of his weekly radio shows were broadcast from NBC studios. Twenty-eight entertainers lost their lives —most in plane crashes, some to illness and disease. Al Jolson lost a lung to malaria. In 1945, show curtains were “rising” 700 times a day.

The USO was discontinued in 1947. When the Korean War began, Al Jolson badgered the white House to let him go sing for the troops, who were nearly surrounded by the Chinese, Told there was no more USO and no funds, he said, "I'll pay my own way!" He did, and he put on 42 shows in 16 days. The grateful troops gave the last bridge used in their retreat Jolson's s name. The singer returned home, where he was asked to star in a movie about the USO. Before production could begin, the exhausted singer died of a heart attack.

But the USO was revived to serve troops in Viet Nam, and it continues today, operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatan, living up to its motto: “Until Everyone Comes Home.” Read More 
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Volunteers Create a Touch of Home

Servicemen could also get help with writing letters, play ping pong, and at some clubs, make a record holding a three-minute message to their family.
In Not to be Forgiven, it's 1942 and Sis Greggory is making paper chains to drape the Hiram's Spring's USO Christmas tree. She was only one of 1.5 million volunteers eager to do whatever they could to brighten what was becoming the G Is favorite place to while away off-duty hours.

President Franklin Roosevelt created the United Service Organizations for National Defense as a private, non-profit organization on Feb. 4, 1941, even before Pearl Harbor, foreseeing that US troops would require good morale, and believing private citizens could do a better job creating it than the Defense Department. After Pearl Harbor, with army bases and air fields a-building around the country, citizens were quick to see the need for a place the troops could relax and have fun in off-duty hours.

In Hiram Springs, the community cleared out the empty Piggly Wiggly grocery store on Main Street and brought in couches, easy chairs and tables for snacks, card games and puzzles. The Methodist church donated a piano, and someone found a usable jukebox. Soon “Boogie Woogie,”and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” filled the air. Food, of course, was a necessity for a good time; soft drinks, sandwiches, cakes and cookies were needed on a daily basis. Intoxicants were forbidden in USO clubs. Books, magazines and games helped fill the time. All services possible were offered free; candy, cigarettes and food were sold as in the Army’s own Post Exchanges.

And while the hostess in charge was a matronly sort, a corps of high school and working girls over 16, each vetted by at least two members of the community, were called Junior Hostesses and gladly made themselves available to dance, play games or just talk with the servicemen. Each hostess was required to take one course every year dealing with the philosophy of the USO, charm, etiquette, cosmetics, and proper clothing (no slacks) : They were to be “ladies at all times.” They could not refuse to dance with any serviceman unless he was being “ungentlemanly.” Each hostess was required to work a minimum of two hours a week. Those who fulfilled the requirement from 1941-1945 earned 490 hours. Most put in many more.

More than 3,000 communities established such centers, run by USO Council /Committees. There also were Mobile USOs which served isolated outposts. They took a truck equipped with a power generator, PA system and microphones, a turntable and records, motion pictures, stationery and refreshments to men stationed in sparsely populated areas. Sometimes carloads of Junior Hostesses, chaperoned by Senior Hostesses, arrived for special parties or dances. Hostesses were not allowed to date men they met at the USO, though correspondence with them was encouraged.

The well-known USO Camp Shows, organized by a different division on Oct. 30, 1941, soon had 24 separate show units, headlined by Hollywood stars, entertaining the troops. They continue today. Look for more about this vast volunteer effort next month.  Read More 
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A Matter of Honor

This book by Adam Makos is recommended for a different perspective on WW II. Among the places it is available are at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Tattered Cover.
Some war stories are so incredible you know they have to be true. They could not be made up. When this event happened, it was so unbelievable officers taking reports would not credit it. And when they did grudgingly acknowledge it, they forbid Pilot Charlie Brown and the crew of the B-17 bomber Ye Olde Pub who experienced it, to ell anyone else it happened.

The book is not new. It was published in 2012, so many other people know about it. But I did not, and you may not have either. The title is A Higher Call, and it is by author Adam Makos, who spent eight years in research and interviews.

It will renew your faith in human nature and give you a new perspective on German airmen.

Early in World War II, German fighter pilots held the top of the hill, lionized by the German population, given all the best of food, drink and women. They dominated the skies during Hitler’s conquest of North Africa, gleefully chalking up their “kills,” earning Iron Crosses when they got their quota. As 1943 progressed, the Allies were gaining strength, but for months bitter fighting went on, and no one knew what the outcome might be. There was desperation on both sides. American bombers from England were blasting German factories, railroads and airfields. German fighters rose to protect them, mowing as many as 60 bombers —600 men— out of one flight.

On Dec. 20, 1943, after a raid on Bremen, German ace Lt. Franz Stigler came upon Charlie Brown’s B-17 bomber, with two engines out, unable to keep up with his returning squadron—scarcely able to stay in the air. It was limping north toward the German coast as it sought safety. With a large hole in the nose cone, the radio room laid wide open, the fuselage and tail full of holes, and the left stabilizer reduced to a nub, it was an easy target. Stigler had his finger on the trigger, ready to finish it off. He could clearly see the crew inside, battered and bloody, the living caring for the wounded. They looked at him with fear, defiance, resignation. And he did nothing. Then he did more.

He not only failed to down his enemy’s bomber, he placed his BF-109 fighter so close to the American plane that when they passed over Germany’s vaunted coastline gunners, not one fired, afraid to take the enemy down. It was a treasonous act. He opened himself to court-martial and death. Yet he escorted Ye Olde Pub for ten minutes, until it was well out to sea. Then he saluted pilot Brown and crew and peeled away.

Brown hardly had time to notice Stigler’s presence. He concentrated on wrestling The Pub across the English Channel; it was skimming the treetops by the time he maded the coast. But afterward, the incident haunted him for years. The Higher Call relates the lives of these two pilots, their contact during WW II, and the journey they took after to finally become friends.

I highly recommend this story of a man who felt a higher call. Read More 
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Love Song to Democracy

The mission was clear. To tell the story of the American experience in “the war that changed the world.” Why was it fought? How was it won? What does it mean today?

Historian and author Dr. Stephen Ambrose spent years studying World War II. He wrote the best-seller Band of Brothers that was made into a movie and an award-winning miniseries, a multi-volume study of Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, D-Day and Citizen Soldiers.He advised on the movie Saving Private Ryan. But that was not enough. He had 2,000 oral histories and so much more information. He decided his home-town of New Orleans, which had manufactured the landing craft that made amphibious invasions possible, was the place for a comprehensive museum that would tell America’s whole story. He wanted a permanent and powerful teaching tool, so that “all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.”

The National WWII Museum, financed by private donations, opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th Anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops splashed ashore in France. Originally called the National D-Day Museum, the facility has grown to a 5-acre establishment in central New Orleans with five soaring pavilions that tell the stories of different aspects of the war. Another two pavilions are under construction. Funded largely by private donations, the museum, Ambrose said, was a “love song to democracy.”

There is much emphasis on the individual’s experience. Special exhibits covering the Road to Berlin and the Road to Tokyo feature Dog Tag stories. Participants board a train car and select the person whose story they will follow from basic training through their wartime experience. They visit kiosks in succeeding galleries each holding another multimedia chapter of their service person’s experience. Included are such things as a nurse’s roll of surgical tools, a letter from a soldier’s mother, and Chinese baskets one soldier used to pack for home when peace was declared.

The museum, the top-rated tourist destination in New Orleans, is designated by Congress as the country’s national museum of WW II. It is affiliated with the Smithsonian. It annually hosts many events concerning WWII. Special shows are presented daily, such as music of the era in BB’s Stage Door Canteen, and a Bob Hope’s Thanks for the Memories show. Movies are available, and special experiences, such as riding along on the final tour of a US submarine in the Pacific. Visitors are advised to allow a a minimum of 2 1/2 hours to view exhibits. Many devote much more. The museum provides teachers’ guides to facilitate studies of the war and annually holds a Student Essay Contest and a High School Quiz Bowl. It also sponsors a travel program that arranges historical tours, publishes a quarterly news magazine and maintains a comprehensive, multimedia website, It is open all year with the exception of three major holidays and Mardi Gras Day.
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An Army of Children

Children throughout the country scrounged neighborhoods, alleys, roadsides and fields to find scrap metal of all kinds, old tires, garden hose, bikes and bedsteads. In 1942, Nebraska Camp Fire Girls display their gleanings.
An Army of Children
“To every soldier, sailor and marine who is fighting for my country:
For you there can be no rest, for me there should be no vacation from the part I can play to help you win the war. I therefore solemnly promise to continue to buy United States War Savings Stamps and Bonds to the limit of my ability throughout my summer vacation and until our victory is won.”
There was a line for the student to sign his name. There was also a line to be signed by a witness, I suppose a teacher.

This pledge appeared on the back of each war savings stamp book issued to school children in May of 1942. War savings stamps cost 25 cents each. When you had pasted $18.75 of stamps in a book, you could take it to a bank and receive a War Savings Bond that would be worth $25 in ten years. I remember buying war savings stamps at my grade school on Fridays. But not every week. Twenty-five cents was a lot of money. You could go to a movie for 10 cents if you were under twelve. You could get a Hershey bar for a nickel. A Coke for a dime. Of course both Hershey bars and Cokes were in short supply as almost all of them went to the armed forces.

We were at war! We had been at war almost six months now. And we were losing! The government needed all the help it could get. Everyone needed to do their part, and that included children. When Sis Greggory collects scrap metal, rubber and paper in my novel, Not to be Forgiven, she is only one in an army of children. The Camp Fire Girls were joined by the Boy Scots, Girl Scouts, the High School Victory Corps, the Civil Air Patrol, 4-H Clubs, American Junior Red Cross, neighborhood Victory Clubs….the list is long. Little Orphan Annie of the comics enlisted Junior Commandos, who signed a Junior Commando pledge, and received Junior Commando arm bands to wear as they did war work.

Children collected mature milkweed silk (used to make life vests buoyant), tin foil from gum wrappers and cigarette packages, toothpaste tubes (contained lead). They were the best at scouring alleys, roadsides and fields for scrap metal and rubber. They washed, de-labeled and flattened the family’s tin cans and toted them to collection points. They became Junior Air Raid Wardens.

In agricultural areas, children worked in the fields to harvest crops. In the Platte Valley, school was dismissed to harvest potatoes. Kids helped plant and care for the family Victory Garden, and later helped their mothers can tomatoes and other produce. Twenty million Victory Gardens produced 1/3 to 1/2 of the nation’s produce in 1943.

We were not abused. We were eager to help in any way we could. In return, we learned thrift, a good work ethic, a sense of self-worth, a can-do spirit and a deep love of and respect for our country. I, for one, think we received far more than we gave. Read More 
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Women Pilots Gave Vital Service

Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osbon leave their plane, "Pistol Packin' Mama," at the four-engine school at Lockbourne Army Air Force base in Ohio. They would later ferry B-17 Flying Fortresses to air bases or points of embarkation.
They volunteered. They flew over 60 million miles for their country. They picked up 12,650 aircraft as they came off the assembly line and delivered each one to the appropriate embarkation point or army airbase. They towed targets while airmen in training shot at the target with live ammunition. They simulated strafing missions. They transported cargo. Among them they flew at least 78 different types of aircraft, some of them experimental.

During their service, 38 of them died in accidents, 11 while training and 27 on active duty. Those 38 sets of parents had to pay to have their daughters’ bodies shipped home, without so much as a flag to cover their coffins.

Originally organized in two separate groups in September of 1942, American civilian women pilots who volunteered to help the war effort merged to become the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) on Aug. 5, 1943. The 1,074 who were accepted (out of 25,000 volunteers) headed to Avenger Field Sweetwater, Texas, for four months of military flight training.

They were trained to fly “the army way” and were subject to military discipline. They were not trained for combat, but learned how to recover from any flying position. After training, they were stationed at 120 airbases across the country, each one freeing an army pilot for combat.

After the war, WASP records were classified and sealed for 35 years. The women were not recognized as veterans and received no benefits, no recognition, except perhaps in their hometown newspaper. They took satisfaction in knowing they had helped with the vital war effort and settled into quiet civilian lives. That is, until 1977, when the Air Force put out a press release claiming it was training women to fly military aircraft for the first time.

"The WASP became a force to be reckoned with,” said Deannie Bishop Parish, now of Waco, who had been among the first of the volunteers “We wrote letters, made phone calls and lobbied Congress.” The records were unsealed, and later that year, President Jimmy Carter signed the G.I. Improvement Act, which granted the WASP Corps full military status.

Seven years later each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal. Since 2002, they have been buried in Arlington National Cemetery. On July 1, 2009, approximately 300 surviving WASPs became eligible for the Congressional Gold Medal, which was awarded on May 10, 2010.

Still, WASPs must continue to battle for recognition. In December of 2015, the daughter of WASP Elaine Harmon, who had died at 95, was denied the right to bury her ashes in Arlington. The secretary of the army at that time reversed the policy allowing burial.

There is a petition with 36,647 signatures to again allow burial of WASP ashes in Arlington. I hope you will go to and add your name to those who believe the WASPs have earned that honor.

Web site contains indexed photos of these enthusiastic, capable young women, as well as clippings and mementos of their years of service.
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Crystal City Camp Revisited

A mother and child contemplate their future as they leave the United States and are repatriated to the country of their ancestry.
When I wrote last April about the Crystal City, Texas, internment camp for German and Japanese families caught in the United States when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, I did not have access to a book by Jan Jarboe Russell published in 2015. In The Train to Crystal City, (Scribner), Russell has added much new nformation about the camp that President Franklin Roosevelt ordered built so that he could exchange these aliens for Americans similarly caught in Germany and Japan.

Roosevelt was anxious to free American diplomats, soldiers, businessmen and others from enemy POW camps. In 1942, German, Japanese and Italian nationals in the United States who had not become U. S. citizens were arrested, taken from their families and imprisoned. Of the nationals confined, few were guilty of any crime. However, some were active in the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization headquartered in New York City that conducted rallies featuring swastika flags and salutes to Hitler. One 1938 meeting that hit the newsreels numbered 25,000 supporters. Fueled by war-time fears, estimates of American membership in the Bund varied wildly, from 200,000 to 8,500.Today, it is thought 3 to 9 % of German nationals belonged.

When Roosevelt’s Crystal City camp opened in December 1943, the alien families were reunited there, and camp residents were urged to agree to repatriation so they could be exchanged. The father, head of the family, made the choice. Most chose to go in order to keep their family together. That their children were born in America and knew nothing of their parents’ homeland could not be a consideration. The Crystal City camp was humanely run, with good schools and recreational activities. Most school-age children wanted to remain Americans. But only those who were of age could make their own choice.

Few Americans were aware that thousands of prisoners were being exchanged. Beginning in February 1944, the exchanges began. A total of 2,661 Americans were brought back from Europe, some of them soldiers from German POW camps. Every person, including babies, was counted, as the prisoner exchanges were strictly enforced one for one. Organized in large groups, each group was taken by train, window curtains down, to board a pre-arranged ship awaiting them in an east or west coast harbor. When the ship arrived in a European harbor, a similar German train full of Americans eager to return home awaited. The occupants traded accommodations so their journeys could proceed.

The last exchange was in January 1945. By then, Germany and Japan were much in ruin, but the repatriating fathers, who had received little war news while in camp, were steadfast in believing their homelands had won the war. Russell relays the haunting experiences of two teen-age girls, one German, one Japanese, as they struggle to exist in their devastated new countries andstruggle to return to America. A well-known journalist, Russell interviewed over 50 former internees and uncovered previously untouched public and private records to give faces to the unfortunate families who inhabited the Crystal City camp.
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