Often overlooked in the infamous history of US internment during World War II is the plight of internee children. Drawn from personal interviews and multiple primary source materials, "Schools Behind Barbed Wire" uncovers this chapter in American history. Previous to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the children of German and Japanese nationals took their "Americaness" for granted. Many were citizens, born on American soil. Many had worn Boy Scout uniforms, pledged allegiance to the flag, and even collected tin foil in order to do their "bit" for the war effort. But, all this changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Without warning their American identity was suspect and on the basis of their parents' nationality, they too were treated as enemies of the state and shipped off to remote internment camps. "Schools Behind Barbed Wire" is the story of the boys and girls who grew up in the Texan internment camp of Crystal City and spent the war years attending one of its three internment camp schools. These children attended regular classes in math and English, joined clubs and tried to go about "normal" life in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
For many, their wartime experiences were often the defining moments of their lives. Professor Karen Riley has recorded the struggles these children faced everyday.
Karen L. Riley is associate professor in the School of Education at Auburn University, Montgomery.