Last of three parts

Clarification: In Part 2 of this series, I wrote, “Crystal City Family Internment Camp was the only internment camp in the United States that held families.” I should have said that the camp was the only camp that held families of the three Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan) countries at one time.

Crystal City, Texas Family Interment Camp’s population expanded throughout the war, and ultimately consisted of Japanese, Japanese Americans, German American citizens, German nationals, Italian nationals, as well as Latin American Japanese, German and Italian, and a small group of Indonesian sailors.

During the war, the chartered Swedish ship, the SS Gripsholm, sailed from the U.S. with internees from Immigration Naturalization Services camps. February 1944 and December 1944/January 1945 saw two large movements from Crystal City. With the war ending, many of the interned were forced to move back to Germany or Japan. By June 30, 1945, Germany and Italy were out of the war and, in less than two months, Japan would surrender.

Crystal City still had a population of 3,316 when the war ended. U.S. authorities continued managing internees in the scores of INS and POW camps across the United States. Internees, including American-born children of Axis nationals, who voluntarily agreed to return to to their national origin, were considered for possible return to the U.S. in the future. Those who did not volunteer or who were considered dangerous were classified as deportees and could not return.

By December 1945, approximately 1,260 Japanese Peruvians were exchanged out of Crystal City –– 600 to Hawaii and 660 to Japan –– because Peru would not take them back after the war. INS authorities encouraged remaining Japanese to find a sponsor after parole.

Feb. 27, 1948, nearly 30 months after the war ended on Sept. 2, 1945, Crystal City Family Internment Camp closed. Crystal City Independent School District purchased 90 acres of the camp from the War Assets Administration. In 1952, the city purchased the camp’s athletic field for an airfield.

Today, the only reminder of the camp is a granite marker installed in 1985, and a 2014 plaque placing it on the National Register of Historic Places. The Texas Historical Commission has a good website with photographs and the camp’s history:

I was not aware until Part 1 of this series was published, that there was a POW camp in Sahuarita. A reader emailed that there are no remnants of the former camp that was located near Quail Creek Crossing. The men interned there were used in the local cotton fields, while the farmers were serving in the war.

The history of the INS and POW camps in the United States is interesting; I scratched only the surface.

“Genealogy is not only names and dates; it is also the history of the time and place of your ancestors.”

Becky McCreary is newsletter editor for the Southern Arizona Genealogy Society. Contact her at or visit the society’s website at, where her columns are archived. The articles may not be reprinted without written permission of the author.

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