Jimmy Doi

Journey curated by: Museum of History and Holocaust Education

Jimmy Doi was born in California in 1925. He and his four older siblings were Nisei, first generation Americans born to parents who emigrated from Japan and ran a tomato farm in Oxnard, California. When Doi’s parents decided to return to Japan in 1939, he chose to stay in the United States because he spoke only English and did not want to leave his high school. Despite being a popular student and athlete, Doi was shunned by his fellow students after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

After President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps, Doi had to report to an assembly center in Tulare, California. From there he was transported to Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. He made $8 a month as a dishwasher in the camp kitchen and played baseball to pass the time. In 1944 Doi was drafted and became part of the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a regiment made up of Japanese American soldiers. He served in France and Italy, where he oversaw the surrender of German soldiers who were holding out in a mountain fortification.

After his discharge Doi reenlisted in order to visit his parents who were living near Hiroshima, Japan, and had survived the first atomic bomb. In 1949 Doi joined his brother, who had moved to Georgia to work in the poultry industry. Doi took a job as a chicken sexer, determining the sex of hatchlings at ten hatcheries across the state. He and his wife, Alice, who was an internee at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, live in Decatur, Georgia.

Watch Jimmy Doi's Legacy Series videos here.

Locations for Journey

"My parents, well, they were from Hiroshima, Japan, and they eloped. The day that my mother was supposed to get married to someone else, my [mother's] sister took my father to a woodshed and had all my mother’s Japanese clothes, you know.…

"[My parents] had friends in California that they knew there. So that’s the only place…all they knew was Oxnard, California. And from El Paso they went all the way to Los Angeles to Oxnard. Walked all the way...My dad went to work for...the…

"We were in Sunday school class and someone came in and said someone attacked Pearl Harbor and I thought, I don’t know Pearl Harbor. It was a Caucasian Sunday school teacher and we were supposed to go to have a basketball outing, you know, and…

"We lived in town and they had telephone poles all around in the town, you know, and they said we had to evacuate in a couple of weeks. So my brother, he tried to go to his farm but there was a guard there - an Army guard - and he wouldn’t let…

"They told us to go to the railroad station with one suitcase each and we waited for the train and the train came and there were a lot of people there from Los Angeles...We had to keep all the blinds down. But the train operator was mad at the…

"I volunteered to go to the next camp...I was living with my brother. My brother decided to volunteer with me! He left his family and we went just the two of us...I didn’t know where it was and when we left, we thought we were going to go to a…

"There were 10,000 in our camp...as a whole, it was one mile each, you know, all the way. We were on one side of the camp and then there was the side for baseball fields. At first, kids used to go underneath the fence and clean up the field with…

"Well, [Eleanor Roosevelt] came to the camp, and after that people started going out to work outside the camp. Until then, no one could go out... I went and I was working in a grocery store [in Cleveland]...When I got my order to go into the…

"So I went and started working for this defense plant, and I worked there for about three months...It used to be a bicycle shop and they made it into a defense plant... I don’t know what the radar parts were that they were making, and…

"They took me right away. I went to Camp Blanding, Florida right away...It was hot and [there were] snakes. One guy put the machine gun down and looked right straight at a seven-foot rattlesnake... We had to learn everything because…I think…

"It was about close to October...Well it was crowded, about 5,000 soldiers. And Mickey Rooney was there. He was an entertainer...I was on the 6th level bunks. On the bottom of the ship and I was at the top and had to climb over everybody...They…

"When we got [to Bruyères, France], a friend of my brother’s came up to me and said, ‘Hey, your brother [Michael] died five days ago.’ I says, 'Wow, I didn’t know. I was waiting for my sister to write to me about it.’ But she…

"We were way up. All we had to worry about were the shells coming. They couldn't come over the mountains, so when they hit one side, the rocks would come flying onto our side. That's the only thing we had to worry about... Staying up…

"Down in the valley they had a fort crossing from one mountain to the other. The captain called and asked for dive bombers, but three of them came and knocked a hole in the fort. Then as soon as the dive bombers left, the captain wanted, I think…

"It was in Genoa. We were in Genoa, Italy, and we were in a big hallway and we heard all kinds of firecrackers going off. I went outside and said, 'La guerra è finito,' the war is ended. I was happy for that. We were going to go to…

"I was worried about my mom and dad because they were... in Japan near Hiroshima, and I was the only single one in the family, so I said, I decided to re-enlist... Then before I boarded the ship [in San Francisco], I had a telephone call from…

"Then, after a few weeks in Japan, I asked the lieutenant if I could have a few days off to go look for my parents. He wasn’t going to give it to me, but the major sitting right by him said, ‘Give the man a ten day pass.’ So I got ten days…

"See, my father and her father were good friends. So, he told me to go to New Orleans to go see...they had five daughters! I went. They told me Motoko - that was her Japanese name - was there. I went to see her...And I liked her so we got…

"Well, I was in Chicago and I was what they call chick sexing, determine the sex of a baby chicken...As soon as they're hatched, we would look at their back-end and tell between a rooster and a hen... I was going to Iowa, Nebraska, and all…