Shocked by the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the United States into World War II, thousands of Japanese, German, and Italian citizens in the U.S. were classified as Enemy Aliens and detained by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) through its Alien Enemy Control Unit. Texas hosted three of these confinement sites, administered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and in association with the Department of State, at Crystal City, Kenedy, and Seagoville. In addition, two U.S. Army temporary detention stations were located at Dodd Field in Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio) and Fort Bliss (El Paso).
In Crystal City, a site used during the Great Depression to house migratory agricultural workers was selected as the internment camp’s location and improved to accommodate over 3,300 at its peak in December, 1944 . The Crystal City Family Internment Camp opened in December 1942 and closed on February 27, 1948, nearly 30 months after the end of the war on September 2, 1945. In November 1948, the Crystal City Independent School District purchased 90 acres of the camp, primarily within the fenced area, from the War Assets Administration. To the north and east of the fenced area is where the camp’s athletic fields were located during the war. In 1952, the city purchased this portion of the camp to establish an airfield.
Today, eight distinct panels make up an interpretive trail at the former confinement site. As two public schools now stand on the grounds of the former camp, please visit the Crystal City Memorial Public Library located next to City Hall at 101 E. Dimmit Street to request permission to walk the grounds and for a copy of the free brochure that accompanies the interpretive signage project. Learn more about this and other enemy alien internment sites in Texas by exploring the Texas in World War II section of the Texas Historical Commission website.
Watch the following videos to learn more about World War II enemy alien internment camps in Texas and the experiences of Mr. Isamu Taniguchi, a Japanese emigre held at the Crystal City Enemy Alien Family Internment Camp. These videos were produced for inclusion in the World War II on the Texas Home Front mobile tour found in our Texas Time Travel mobile app. Learn more about the tour and the app on the World War II theme page at the following link: http://texastimetravel.com/travel-themes/main-world-war-ii