Overview of Prewar and Wartime Experiences

Internment, Defense Plants and Experiencing Racism

Being Drafted and Combat in Italy

End of the War and Postwar Service

Postwar Service, Visiting Family and Scaling Monte Carchio

First Impression of the Internment Camp


Jimmy Doi was born in Oxnard, California in 1925. Growing up in California was great until the war started. Doi was 16 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. By the time he was 17 he was in an internment camp. A year and a half after his interment, he was released from the camp so he could enter the workforce. He got job in Cleveland then moved to Chicago. He had been working for about eight months when he was drafted. When Doi first reported after getting his draft notice, he was told to go home because he had Japanese blood in him. He went back to Chicago and got a job in a defense plant. He had been there for about two weeks when he received a notice from the draft board notifying him that his classification had been changed from 1A [Annotator's Note: the Selective Service classification for "fit for military service"] to 4C [Annotator's Note: at the time, 4C was the Selective Service classification for "enemy alien"]. He was now considered an enemy alien even though he had only been to Japan one time when his parents took him to visit his grandparents when he was about five years old. About three months later he got another notice. This one told him that he had been reclassified from 4C back to 1A and that he was to report to Fort Sheridan. From Fort Sheridan he was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida. When he got to Camp Blanding his brother was there. [Annotator's Note: Jimmy Doi's brother, Michael Doi, served as a mortar man in Company A, 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Michael Doi's oral history interview is also available on this Digital Collections website.] Had he been sent when he was originally drafted, he would have ended up in the same unit as his brother. After completing his training, he went aboard the Queen Mary and steamed to Glasgow, Scotland. From Glasgow they went to either Liverpool or Southampton then on to Le Havre, France. When they got to the 442nd Combat Team they were going to be assigned to a company. As soon as Doi got off the truck, another soldier who was a friend of his brother walked up to him and told him that his brother had been killed in action five or six days earlier. In November [Annotators Note: November 1944], Doi was sent down south to the Maritime Alps where they went into defensive positions. Around 12 December, a friend of Doi asked if he wanted to go with him to Nice. He did. In Nice, Doi and his friend watched a group of girls in bikinis play volley ball. Doi and his friend watched the game for about an hour then left to go to a store so his friend could buy some perfume. Doi waited outside while his friend went in. While he was waiting outside, Doi saw a group of about four soldiers approaching him. One of them looked very familiar. It was his brother [Annotator's Note: Michael Doi] who he had heard was dead. The timing had been perfect. Had Doi not stopped to watch those girls play volley ball he would have missed his brother and not known that he was not dead until after the war. Doi went into the service on 12 April 1944 and was discharged on 8 March 1946. He reenlisted that same day and stayed in the Army until 1949. Doi reenlisted because his parents had been living close to Hiroshima. He was the only one in his family who was single so when the Army offered to send anyone who reenlisted where ever they wanted, Doi stepped up. Doi did not speak any Japanese and had to rely on directions his sister had given him to find his parents' home but he did. Doi approached his father and tapped him on the shoulder. His father was shocked to see him. It was the first time his father had ever hugged him. His mother was very sick at the time and was confined to the house. Doi had an uncle who told him through a translator that his father was always a suspect because he would always brag about having four sons in the United States Army. Doi's oldest brother, who was 17 years older than him, was drafted right out of the internment camp. His brother was so small that they could not find a uniform that would fit. He was eventually discharged and sent back to the internment camp.


Jimmy Doi and his family were informed in March [Annotator's Note: March 1942] that they were being sent to an internment camp. There was nothing they could do. They were sent to the Tulare Assembly Area [Annotator's Note: Tulare, California]. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire fences and there were guard towers with machine guns in them facing into the camps. They had been told that the camps were for their protection but if that were true the machine guns in the towers would have been facing out. Doi was in a Sunday school class when someone entered and said that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. None of them knew where Pearl Harbor was. That same day they were supposed to go on a basket ball outing. They were going to cancel it but the Caucasian Sunday school teacher told them that they were Americans and that they should go. In school, Doi always hung out with the football players and they all ate lunch outside together. When he went to school on Monday [Annotator's Note: Monday, 8 December 1941] he was all by himself. They did not bother him but they did not talk to him either. At that point he knew where he stood. Doi was sent to the internment camp in Gila, Arizona. He volunteered to go to Gila. Since he was 17, he was given a job as a dishwasher working six days a week for eight dollars a month. That was good money for him because he never had money before. He did a lot of sweating while he worked. There were no air conditioners and the temperatures would sometimes be 115 degrees. It was rough. Doi lived in the camp with his brother and his brother's family. He slept on a fold up cot that he had to pick up during the day so they had room to move around. Since he worked in the kitchen he was able to get a lot of food. On Sundays he was off so he would go to the mess hall for the block he lived in and eat breakfast. Then he would go to the mess hall on the block where he worked and would eat again. He ate good. There was a professional baseball player in the camp who wanted to play ball. They started clearing the brush to make an area to play. When a patrol spotted them and reported them to the director he cut the fences to give them more room to play. After that, semi professional players would go to the camp to play there. Their team would also travel to play in other areas. When they would travel, Doi would get the bus driver to stop at Sears so he could run in and buy some Glen Miller records which he would lend to his school to play at dances. When he was not working, Doi played basketball and six man football. Doi volunteered to work outside of the camp. He went to Cleveland then to Chicago where his sister and her husband lived. In Chicago he got his first hot meal. All he ate back in Cleveland was peanut butter and jam. After he started getting paid he bought baloney. In Cleveland, Doi worked in an automobile paint shop. In Chicago he worked with his brother-in-law at a National Food Store. He was later made a manager at another store. He was paid 25 dollars a week and working 60 hours. When he later went to work in a defense plant he was making 50 dollars a week and working 40 hours. Doi was hired at a defense plant after he had been classified as an enemy alien. He was afraid that he would be laid off. When he got drafted he was ready to go. When Doi was drafted the first time he went to the camp to say good bye to his family. On the bus he sat with a Marine and they hung out the whole trip. When Doi later tried to eat in the same cafe he and the Marine had eaten in, the cook chased him out with a butcher knife. He ran out and from Wichita, Kansas to Chicago all he ate was two Babe Ruth candy bars. That was the only time he experienced that kind of treatment but he was afraid to go into restaurants until a Caucasian friend took him to one.


Jimmy Doi spent his first day in the internment camp [Annotator's Note: Doi was interned at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona] walking around. He did not really know anyone in the camp. When they entered the camp they were each given a big bag that they were to stuff with hay to make a mattress for their cot. Doi took his basic training at Camp Blanding. The training was tough. It was hot. There were rattlesnakes and water moccasins everywhere and the mosquitoes were terrible. From Camp Blanding Doi was sent to a place in Maryland to get on the Queen Mary that would take them overseas. Aboard ship Doi and the guys he was with were at the very bottom of the boat. The bunks were stacked five high and Doi had the top one. Doi did not get seasick. He had to get up at three in the morning to do KP [Annotator's Note: kitchen police or kitchen patrol]. There were 5,000 soldiers aboard the Queen Mary when Doi went over, including Mickey Rooney. The Queen Mary took them to Glasgow, Scotland. From there he went to Southampton or Liverpool and then on to Le Havre, France. When Doi arrived in France he reported directly to the 442nd [Annotator's Note: 442nd Regimental Combat Team]. He was assigned to Company G as a rifleman. When they went to Italy, Doi was close to his captain one day when the captain told his wire man to tell a lieutenant to go to an intermediate area. The wire man had been born in America but grew up in Japan and was unable to say the word "intermediate" so the captain fired him on the spot and made Doi his new wire man. Doi did not know anything about wire. All of the officers in Doi's outfit were Caucasian. Doi did not have a problem with this and respected them and feels that they all, in turn, treated the men well. The captain did not know Doi's name and just called him soldier. He was alright with that. Doi was only in France for a day before being shipped down to Southern France. They were waiting for replacement to arrive. Since they were a Japanese-American outfit they had to get Japanese-American replacements. When the 1,000 replacements arrived, they went to Italy. Most of the replacements had come from the internment camps. Doi and the other Japanese-Americans felt that the United States was their country too and they were going to fight for it. When Doi went over to Italy he was assigned as the wire man for the captain. They arrived at a small town a few miles away from a fort. The captain decided to wait until the next day to move. The next day the captain called for dive bombers and while he was on the radio he learned that President Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt] had died. In a way Doi did not care for Roosevelt but he was the President of the United States. The dive bombers came and knocked a hole in the wall. The captain called for three lieutenants to tell them what to do. The captain said he was going down to the wall but the lieutenants tried to talk him into waiting for battalion to show up with support. Doi and the captain went to the fort while the rest of the company stayed behind. Doi carried the telephone with the wire dragging behind it. The captain told him to put the phone and wire down and move up toward the wall. When Doi was half way to the wall he saw a white flag. Doi yelled in German for whoever had the flag to come down to him. The response he got was in Italian but when the enemy soldiers emerged it turned out to be 17 Germans. There were two German officers and 15 enlisted men. The captain went into the fort and was awarded the Silver Star for taking the fort. The Germans did not seem surprised to see a Japanese-American soldier. They just threw their guns away. It was close to the end of the war and they did not want to die now. The day before they got to the fort there had been a whole German battalion in the fort. Before they got to the fort their sergeant sent Doi and two other soldiers back for supplies. They were supposed to get help from six other guys but the six men had been captured by a German patrol and were being interrogated in the fort. When the Germans were moving the prisoners an artillery shell hit and killed one of the Germans. The six American POWs jumped the other two German guards and killed them then escaped and got back to the American lines. The six escaped POWs told Doi's unit that there had been an entire battalion in the fort the night before. If Doi's captain had decided to attack the fort the night they got there instead of waiting for the next day they would not have had a chance.


Jimmy Doi encountered Italian fascists at San Terenzo. San Terenzo was their last big battle. They were down in a gully and a machine gun opened fire on them, hitting and killing an ammunition carrier. Soon after that, Doi heard the voice of his good friend calling for a medic. He crawled toward the sound of his friend's voice but his buddy was dead by the time he got there. The only time Doi ever felt that he would not survive the war was when the captain ordered him to move up toward the fort. After accepting that he was probably going to be killed, Doi was no longer afraid. After the battle in which his buddy died they went to Genoa. They were supposed to go into Austria but the war ended. Doi accepted the replacements they received and was glad to have them. The men were spread out so much that Doi did not know many of the men outside of his platoon. When he went to the first Company G reunion he did not know many of the men there. Doi was in Genoa, Italy when the war ended. He heard shells going off so he went outside to see what was going on and an Italian told him that the war was over. Doi's brother was in the 100th [Annotator's Note: 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team] and was at the bottom of the mountain, close to the sea. They could go out and take baths when they wanted to. Doi's company was way up in the mountains. If they wanted to take a shower, Doi's platoon had to go down the mountain then take a 15 mile jeep ride. The town where the showers were was shelled day and night so nobody in Doi's platoon ever went. They were getting enough shelling back in their front line positions. During the war Doi wrote to his sister frequently. He was waiting for his sister to mention something about his brother being killed but she never did. [Annotator's Note: Jimmy Doi has a brother named Michael who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. When Jimmy first arrived in France, a friend of his brother told him that Michael had been killed in action. It was not until months later when the two Doi brothers happened to bump into each other in Nice that Jimmy learned that Michael was still alive.] Doi did not mention anything about their brother's death to her. It was a very special moment when he learned that his brother was not dead. It was just perfect timing [Annotator's Note: see clip titled Overview of Prewar and Wartime Experiences]. Doi remained in Europe for close to a year after the war there ended. Right after Japan surrendered the Army asked for guys to reenlist and Doi did so. While in Italy after the war, Doi's unit was assigned to guard different facilities. His company killed a number of Italians who were trying to steal tires. Doi did not kill any of them. Doi returned to the United States around October 1946. In November he went to Japan. Doi was in Leghorn, Italy when he was discharged. The same day he reenlisted. Doi was a PFC [Annotator's Note: Private First Class] when he was discharged and reenlisted. After reenlisting, Doi returned to the United States and was given leave. When his leave was up he went to Fort Meade. The Army was going to keep him at Fort Meade but he protested and told the Inspecting General [Annotator's Note: Inspector General] that he had reenlisted so he could go to Japan. The following day he was on a train going across the country.


Jimmy Doi stayed in the Army until 1949. He had reenlisted as a quartermaster because he did not want to be in the infantry anymore. The duty station he was assigned to in Japan was not close to Hiroshima. It was about 150 miles away. His parents would travel to see him. [Annotator's Note: Doi's parents had returned to Japan prior to the United States entering World War 2. He and his siblings remained in the United States.] One day his dad asked him to get him some soap. Doi got his father 50 bars of soap. The next time he saw his father the elder Doi again asked for some soap. When Doi asked about the first 50 bars he had gotten his father told him that he was giving it away to friends and relatives. Doi visited Hiroshima while he was in Japan. The first time he went there was nothing but a dome. By the time he left there were shacks built up there. People would open a shop or store on the ground floor then live up on the second floor. In 1947 Doi went to visit his mother. By then the whole city was built up. Doi was treated well even though he spoke no Japanese. He went to a train station one day and asked for an interpreter. There were four nuns there who looked at him funny because they could speak Japanese but he could not. Doi returned to the United States in April or May [Annotator's Note: 1949]. He was discharged at Fort Sheridan as a corporal. He had been a buck sergeant but left as a corporal. Doi left the service almost exactly one year before the Korean War broke out. He knew the war was coming. He was in the quartermasters and was in charge of rationing in the Fukuoka area. One day he had to go to Kokura for a meeting in which he was the only non-com [Annotator's Note: non-commissioned officer]. The general holding the meeting told them what they were supposed to do in the event that the tunnel between Kyoto and Kyushu was bombed and gave instructions as to how they were to keep their areas supplied. Doi was also in charge of a ship that went to Korea and back every day. There was always a ship that was fully provisioned with K rations and ready to go on 15 minutes notice. This was one year before the Korean War. The officers gave Doi one rifle to defend himself with in case trouble broke out while he was over in Korea. The Army did not try to recall Doi to active duty during the Korean War. As far as he was concerned one war was enough. The one event from his time in the service that stands out the most to Doi was when he saw his buddy dead. That was the saddest part. His friend was very good to him. Had Doi not gone away to war he most likely would have ended up being a farmer. Instead, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went to chick sexing school. His brother and brother-in-law had done the same thing and were already working so Doi followed suit. He does not know if he would have been able to go to school without the G.I. Bill. Doi drank a lot after the war but his wife changed that. These days he does not smoke or drink. Doi feels that it is important for there to be institutions like The National WWII Museum. He and his brother both visited the museum at Fort Benning. Doi is looking forward to visiting The National WWII Museum when he visits New Orleans [Annotator's Note: Jimmy Doi and his brother Michael have both visited The National WWII Museum in New Orleans since this interview]. One event that stands out to Doi was when they captured a German supply truck that was carrying barrels of beer. Each guy in the company got 10 bottles of cognac. After that they were all on the ground more than they were standing up. This happened right after the war ended. The 3rd Battalion [Annotator's Note: 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team] went up Mount Folgorita [Annotator's Note: in Italy]. Doi ended up going up the 3,000 feet high Monte Carchio at night. Doi was carrying his full pack and his rifle which weighed about 15 pounds. He was also carrying a roll of telephone wire which weighed 20 or 25 pounds. Then, when they got to the base of the mountain, each man was given two mortar shells for the 81mm mortars. It was a very tough climb but they made it. They got up a little later than the 3rd Battalion did but they were only there for support. The 3rd Battalion was the assaulting force. By the time they reached the top of the mountain Doi was so thirsty that when the sun came up he used his spoon to scoop up the mountain dew.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.