2012-07-05 / General Stories


The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission was awarded a Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program (JACS) grant to aid the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) efforts to preserve and interpret the history of alien enemy internment camps in Texas during World War II. The National Park Service, through the JACS, now in its fourth year, is funding projects to help preserve and interpret the U.S. confinement sites where more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.

Entitled “Japanese American and Enemy Alien Confinement at Crystal City (Family) Internment Camp, Texas,” the project’s key goal is to increase the historic documentation of Crystal City (Family) Internment Camp, and hopefully facilitate the site’s elevation to the National Register of Historic Places. Through an inkind contribution of THC staff and City of Crystal City time, this project will result in a National Register nomination for the confinement site as a discontinuous district. Through this grant, the JACS Program will fund a low-invasive archeological survey of two specific sections of the former internment camp.

When the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, one of many immediate issues to address was the possibility of enemy agents in the country and the Western Hemisphere. As one response, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were moved away from the West Coast. A lesser-known response was an internment camp system operated by the Department of Justice through the Immigration and Naturalization Service that held Japanese, German, and Italian Alien Enemies along with their U.S. citizen relatives.

Thanks to prior grant support from the JACS Program, the THC has significantly increased the documentation and interpretation of the history of the World War II confinement sites in Texas––and is the only agency working on this type of preservation project in the state. Since 2009, the THC has extensively researched Crystal City (Family) Internment Camp, one of five internment sites in Texas during the war. The other four camps were located at Seagoville, Kenedy, and two U.S. Army facilities at Dodd Field on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and Fort Bliss in El Paso. Through a previous grant, the THC has produced a free, full-color brochure and onsite interpretation about the Crystal City site. New webpages detailing the history of all five sites will launch this fall at www.thc.state.tx.us.

“The Texas Historical Commission remains dedicated to saving the real stories of our state’s past,” said THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe. “By documenting the significance of the Crystal City site through a National Register nomination, the THC is able to fulfill one of its core functions as the State’s Historic Preservation Office. The funding from the National Park Service provides our professional staff with the opportunity to ensure that this part of our shared history is preserved for future generations.”

This new grant project is part of the THC’s national awardwinning Texas in World War II Initiative, a program to honor the significant role Texans played on the military and home front in support of the war effort. Historical markers, a commemorative brochure, oral history workshops, and a comprehensive statewide site survey are part of this special program.

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