World War II Civilian Internment Camp

                                           Crystal City, Texas U.S.A.


The following aerial photograph was taken of the camp taken circa 1945-46. This photograph was taken because the Crystal City internment camp had become "center stage," "not only in this country but in any other country." N.D. Collaer, Acting Assistant Commissioner for Alien Control, wrote the following to Joseph L. O'Rourke, Officer in Charge of the Crystal City Internment Camp:

"I believe we can safely say that it is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, internment camps ever operated by any country and, because of the children of various races [Caucasians, including Germans and Italians; Hispanics; and Asians, namely those of the Japanese nationality] there is a wealth of excellent pictorial material available there [Crystal City, Texas] [brackets added]"

Another thought which I have had in mind for some time is asking you to enlist the assistance of the Army in securing some good airplane view [of the camp] taken preferably at about a forty-five degree angle in mid-morning or midafternoon when the shadows are long, to add to our collection of pictures."

Letter dated January 19, 1945, from N.D. Collaer, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), U.S. Department of Justice, Philadelphia, to Joseph L. O'Rourke, Officer in Charge, Crystal City Internment Camp, INS, Crystal City, Texas. Declassified per E.O. 12356, Section 3.3, NND775033, by SPC, NARA, 5/15/89.

This aerial photograph, as well as a 16 millimeter movie, was made of the Crystal City Internment camp. The movie is available in video form, from the Film Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.



The next photograph is of a musical band made up of both Caucasians, persons of German ancestry and Asians, persons of Japanese ancestry. The inscriptions on the drum reads: Crystal City, Texas, 1945.


Forty years later an organization of Japanese-Americans, the City of Crystal City, and the Crystal City Independent School District erected a monument containing the inscription shown in the next photograph.


The inscription on this monument has two errors, one of fact and one of omission. The error of fact is that the inscription refers to the camp as a Concentration Camp, this it was not (See editors note below). And the error of omission is that there is no mention in the inscription of the Americans of European ancestry, namely persons of German and Italian descent who were also interned in this camp; nor does it mention that Hispanics from the Latin American Republics who were interned in the Crystal City Internment Camp.

Editor's Note: Identifying the Crystal City Internment Camp as concentration camp is inaccurate and unfair. The Crystal City camp was not a place of extermination or torture--deeds associated with a concentration camp. Labeling the Crystal City camp as a "concentration camp" is to do a disservice to the women and men of the Service (Immigration and Naturalization Service), the U.S. Border Patrol, the State of Texas and Federal Departments of Education, who dedicated themselves to the health, welfare, education, and morale of the internees. The term "concentration camp" does not connote a place where people graduated from high school and attended the College of Pharmacy at Texas University. The term "concentration camp" does not fit a camp whose high school students developed and published their school paper; formed football teams and pep squads; elected a Student Council, organized a Service Club; held Proms; and designed and produced The Roundup, the school's annual. The term "concentration camp" is not a fair descriptor for a camp whose high school had two seniors enter Texas University, a post-graduate enter Wayne University, and who had three of it seniors accepted by the University of Texas--all during their period of incarceration? You be the judge.

Photographic Collection of UTSA's Institute of Texas Culture -< Click on this link to view more than 90 photographs of the Crystal City Texas Internment Camp held by the University of Texas San Antonio’s [UTSA] Institute of Texas Culture. In the Search window of the page insert the words Crystal City and then highlight Subject in the Search By window   Posted November 30, 2007.



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