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Combat Training in Florida

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Michael J. Doi was born in California. On 19 January 1942 Doi was inducted into the US Army at the age of 21. The army did not want to give him a rifle so he was sent to Camp Grant, Illinois which was a medical training center. Doi spent two and a half years at Camp Grant. After basic training he worked in the base hospital for a while before being assigned to run a clinic. At some point Doi was reassigned as a replacement to the 442nd, 100th Battalion [Annotators Note: 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team]. He was sent to a reception center in Chicago then on to Camp Blanding, Florida where he was issued a rifle and told that he was a rifleman now and no longer a medic. Doi was trained as an infantryman. His oldest and youngest brothers were also sent to Camp Blanding. His oldest brother could not keep up with them and was given a medical discharge and immediately went back to the internment camp. Doi was never in an internment camp. He was inducted before the evacuation. Doi was shipping out for overseas when his youngest brother was starting his training at Camp Blanding. Doi was very sick on the boat during the trip overseas. When they arrived in Naples, Italy Doi was assigned to A Company, 100th Battalion as a mortar man. Doi boarded a ship in Naples that took him to Marseilles, France. From Marseilles Doi went to Bruyeres where he saw his first combat. Every company had its own objectives. One of those objectives was the town of Bruyeres itself. The people of Bruyeres still remember what the men of the 100th Battalion did for them and have even erected a monument to them. Doi was sent back to a rest camp after the battle for Bruyeres for a shower and hot chow. They were only there for a short time when they got word that an outfit from the 36th Infantry Division had been cut off in the Vosges Mountains. This was the Lost Battalion. They were told that elements of the 36th Infantry Division had tried to get to the Lost Battalion but could not so they asked them to do it. Doi and the other Japanese American soldiers were mad because they had not gotten enough rest time but they went up there anyway. The fight to get to the Lost Battalion was the biggest battle Doi took part in. They lost a lot of men but they got to the Lost Battalion. After the battle General Dahlquist [Annotators Note: US Army General John Ernest Dahlquist was the commanding officer of the US 36th Infantry Division at the time of the rescue of the Lost Battalion in October 1944] wanted to see all of the guys from the 442nd to congratulate them for the battle they had done. When they formed up there were only a few of them. Some of the companies were down to 15, 20, or 30 men. Doi was one of only about 50 men left in his Company A. When General Dahlquist asked the colonel commanding the 442nd [Annotators Note: US Army Colonel Charles W. Pence] where all of his men were he told Dahlquist that he was looking at all that was left. Dahlquist finally pulled the 442nd back and assigned them to positions near Nice, France. Right after they moved to the Nice area they got a lot of replacements. His brother was one of them [Annotators Note: his younger brother Jimmy Doi]. Doi met his brother in France. Doi’s younger brother had heard that he was dead. There were five Doi’s in the company and Michael Doi was the only one to finish the war without a scratch. When they first went into action they dug in. Right about the time Doi was finishing his position they were told to move out. Doi was mad. The next day he went back to where he had dug his foxhole and it looked like it had been hit during the night. Doi feels that he was very lucky.

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When Michael Doi and the rest of the 100th Battalion were on the French Italian border they were allowed passes to go Nice and Monte Carlo. While Doi was in the rest camp the Italians would shell the camp every day. One time when Doi was on guard duty one of those shells missed him by 15 or 20 feet. Fortunately it was a dud and did not go off. That is how lucky he was. Shortly after that Doi and the rest of the 442nd were sent back to Italy for the final push. When they got to their jump off point they were facing a mountain that they had to spend all night climbing. The 92nd [Annotators Note: US 92nd Infantry Division] was on the left side and the 34th [Annotators Note: US 34th Infantry Division] was on the right. The 442nd was supposed to lead the charge so after spending the entire night climbing the mountain they began their attack. Italy was rough but not like France. In Italy once they got moving they just rolled right along. That is how they got the Germans to surrender. They pushed them all the way back to Milan. After the surrender they went back to Leghorn. They were placed in charge of guarding a stockade. Doi was charged with taking some of the POWs to their work assignments. He did not even have ammunition in his rifle but he knew the Germans would not give him any trouble. The war was over and they wanted to go home too. Shortly after the German surrender Doi had enough points to go home. He was one of the first from his unit to leave. He boarded a ship and steamed back to Camp Patrick Henry [Annotators Note: Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia]. He was discharged and joined his family who had all been released from the internment camps and were all now in Chicago. Doi’s brother Jimmy saw a lot of action in Italy. Jimmy was a wire man and was always at the front. Michael was a mortar man and was usually behind the line. Doi’s father was a farmer. Before the war started he returned to Japan because that is where he wanted to retire. His father was in Hiroshima when the bomb [Annotators Note: the atomic bomb] went off. They lived just a few miles from Hiroshima and had gone to the city to pick up a load of firewood. When he returned to his home the bomb went off. After the bomb went off the people from the city were walking around with their skin peeling off. It was terrible. After the war they got their parents to come back to the United States but they were not comfortable here. All of their friends were in Japan so they eventually went back and lived out their lives there. Doi and his siblings were raised by his oldest brother when his parents went back in Japan. Before the war Doi and one of his brothers each ran a grocery store in Ventura, California. Some of their customers left after the war started but some stayed and supported them. Then Doi was drafted and that was the end of that. Doi was at a movie in Los Angeles when an announcement was made that Pearl Harbor was being attacked. He drove the 50 or so miles back home feeling pretty bad. Doi did not experience any bad treatment. He had some very good friends. Doi was drafted on 19 January 1942. When he got to Camp Grant [Annotators Note: Camp Grant, Illinois] it was snowing and the weather was freezing. Doi had never seen weather like that. It had been 70 degrees when he left California. They trained in the snow and ice. It was rough. Doi was in charge of running a clinic for a while. He was responsible for treating people from all over the place. Camp Grant was a reception center and people arrived there from all over.

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Michael Doi did not experience and maltreatment or racism even when he went to the South but his daughter did. After being told that he was no longer going to be a medic Doi was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida for basic training. He and the guys he was training with all knew that they were going to the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team as replacements. Training in the south was tough. It was very hot. When they trained in the swamp they were all afraid of snakes. Florida is hot and muggy all year round. Near the end of his training another group of guys arrived for training and his brother was one of them. Conditions aboard the troopship were terrible and Doi was seasick during the entire trip. For food all they got were boiled potatoes but Doi was too sick to eat them. Doi had been on a boat before when he went fishing but that was nothing like the trip overseas. Accommodations aboard ship were tight. The bunks were stacked five high. Doi did not get out of bed too often. The first job Doi had in the mortar squad was carrying ammunition. Sometimes they would swap up and he would carry the tripod. The ammunition was heavy. Climbing up mountains with it was tough. Only young men can do that. The first night Doi spent up on the line it was raining. He found a foxhole that someone else had dug that had about three inches of water in it. He sat on his helmet and did his best to sleep. It was miserable and he could hear shooting in the distance. When they were moving down the mountain the Germans were firing artillery at them the whole way down. It was scary. The scariest night was the night before they were going to get the Lost Battalion. The Germans were firing at them point blank and there were tree bursts. Everyone was getting hit. A guy in front of Doi was hit and started yelling that he was hit so Doi put a bandage on him and continued on with his mission. After the barrage everything got quiet. Doi does not know for sure but thinks maybe a bazooka man knocked out the tank that was shooting at them. That was a scary night. When Doi was in Houston for a Lost Battalion reunion he met a veteran named Estes who lives near him in Georgia. Estes was in a large foxhole Doi recalls passing. Doi and the other guys from the 442nd gave the guys from the Lost Battalion cigarettes and whatever else they had that the men needed. When they finally broke through to the Lost Battalion Doi was in about the middle of the group as it scaled the mountain. It took them all or most of the day to get up the mountain and get to the cut off men. Doi thinks the Germans were about ready to quit by the time they got to the top of the mountain. The 442nd suffered a tremendous number of casualties during the fight to rescue the Lost Battalion. Many of the men Doi fought with had multiple Purple Hearts. They were patched up and sent right back to the front. Some had even been in the hospital and went AWOL [Annotators Note: Absent Without Leave] so they could go to France with their comrades.

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While Michael Doi was overseas his family and everyone he knew from Oxnard [Annotators Note: Oxnard, California] was held in an internment camp. The only time Doi was ever in an internment camp was when his brother got sick and he was sent there by the Red Cross. He could not stand the conditions in the camp so he left and spent the remainder of his leave in Chicago. When they were in Italy the mess sergeant was always trying to barter with the Italians for rice. There was a lot of rice in Italy. Doi never thought about the internment camps. When his sister wrote to him she never gave him any details of camp life. It was not until Doi went to the camp his family was held in to visit his sick brother that he saw firsthand what the camp was like. Doi got off the bus in Tucson and was taken to the camp in an army truck. When he arrived at the camp the guards at the gate questioned him about why he was there. Doi was wearing his uniform and the guards let him go. Doi did not write to his sister very often. Only once a month or so. Even so mail was very important to him. When they were in combat they just did what they were told to do. Nobody complained. The importance of liberating not only the members of the Lost Battalion but the people of Europe did not dawn on Doi until after the war. In France they were greeted as liberators. In Italy things were a little different. Doi went to France with his wife a few years before this interview took place and when the French people found out they were Americans they treated them cruelly. Doi does not believe that General Dahlquist was a combat general and feels that he should not have been leading combat troops. None of the men with Doi thought much of Dahlquist. He was not a leader. During their final push [Annotators Note: in Italy] they hired local kids to carry their packs up the mountain. After reaching the top of the mountain that night they pushed the Germans back down the mountain. By this time they were attached to the 92nd Infantry Division which was an all black division. The 92nd Division was advancing up the coast. Doi was in the area of Lake Como when the war ended. After the war Doi was assigned to guarding German prisoners. That was the first time he had ever had any interaction with live Germans. He had seen a lot of them dead. When Doi finally came face to face with the Germans after the war he had no ill will toward them. The war was over. A few months after the war ended Doi had enough points to go home. In December of 1945 he returned to the United States and was discharged.

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Michael Doi does not recall hearing about the death of President Roosevelt. Doi made a lot of Caucasian friends on the trip home. He did not get as seasick this time. Doi had no feelings at all about the surrender of Japan. He just knew the war was over and he was ready to get home. Doi was discharged at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. He was a PFC [Annotators Note: Private First Class] at the time. He had been a sergeant as a medic but was reduced in rank when he was made a mortar man. After being discharged Doi used the GI Bill and went to a chick sexing school in Chicago. After finishing the school he worked in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas for a couple years. When his brother and brother in law went to Georgia Doi followed suit. They have been in the Atlanta area since then. The army did not make an attempt to recall Doi during the Korean War. When Doi was at Camp Blanding the army was looking for interpreters for the MIS [Annotators Note: Military Intelligence Service]. Doi and many others were kicked out because they could not speak or understand Japanese. Doi met his brother Jimmy when they were in France. Doi was on leave in Nice and was walking down the beach 1 way when his brother passed him going the other. Jimmy looked at him like he had seen a ghost because he heard that Michael had been killed in action. There were five men with the last name Doi in the company and Michael was the only one to finish the war without a scratch. When Doi saw a dead German he did not feel anything. When he saw a Japanese American it was a different story. When they passed a body on the ground they would lift the cover to see if they knew who it was. After the war Doi did not return to California. He stayed in Chicago and got married. There were usually 10 or 12 guys at the front line religious services during the war. Doi would always go.

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Michael Doi believes that the war did not change his personality. Doi was an athlete in high school. He was a pole vaulter and played baseball and basketball. He was also a black belt in judo. Doi competed in sports tournaments while he was still in California. The most memorable event of the war for Doi was the rescue of the Lost battalion. It was such a scary event. There were so many guys wounded and killed. Spud Munemori, [Annotators Note: Sadao Munemori] who was the first of the regiment to get the Medal of Honor, was in the same company as Doi and they were friends. He was a very nice guy and everybody liked him. Munemori fell on a grenade to save two other soldiers. Doi feels that it is very important for there to be institutions like The National WWII Museum. He feels that most people do not know anything about the relocation camps and he hopes that everyone learns something about them. [Annotators Note: Michael Doi’s daughter, Sam Sears, talks about the internment of Japanese Americans and about the young men going to war. She is very proud of her father.] Some of the German soldiers Doi saw overseas were very young or very old. Doi encountered Italian soldiers while fighting in Italy. The Italians were nothing like the Germans when it came to fighting.
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