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.