Masato Doi


Name Masato Doi
Born February 21 1921
Died July 21 2013
Birth Location Pa'auhau, Hawai'i
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Masato Doi (1921–2013), a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, was a pioneering Nisei legislator and later circuit court judge in postwar Hawai'i.

Early Life and Education

Born on February 4, 1921, in Pa'auhau, on the island of Hawai'i, Masato was the youngest of four children of Toyozo Dohi, a Japanese immigrant plantation worker, and Tose Muranaka Dohi. He attended Pa'auhau School and Honoka'a Intermediate School, and also attended Japanese-language school. With help from a scholarship, which he paid off by caring for the school's swimming pool and by summer work on the plantation, he attended Mid-Pacific Institute (MPI), a boarding school in Honolulu, where he graduated in 1939, serving as valedictorian. He then enrolled at the University of Hawaii's Teachers College, intending to become a teacher. In 1941, while at University of Hawaii, he was a leading actor, performing in "oriental" plays such as a kabuki production.

Immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Doi, along with many other young men, joined the Hawaii Territorial Guard. Once in the guard, he was assigned as a typist for the adjutant general. Once Japanese Americans were dismissed from the guard, he formally withdrew from the university and joined the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV). He served with the VVV, doing carpentry and building chairs in Schofield barracks, until the unit was demobilized in December 1942. After several weeks of serving as a practice teacher at Kawananakoa, in April 1943 Doi was able to enlist in the United States Army. He joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Antitank Company, and served in Italy and France. After the end of war in Europe, Doi volunteered to join the Military Intelligence Service to fight in the Pacific, but the Pacific War ended before he could begin language training. Upon his discharge in 1945 he held the rank of technical sergeant.

After the war, Doi decided to study at Columbia University. With assistance from a former MPI teacher, who flew him to the mainland as a medical attendant, he was able to travel to New York. With financing from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in Columbia College, where he completed his undergraduate studies, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He then went on to earn his law degree at Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar. While in school, Masato met Sachiko Yamada, who had relocated from California to New York following her confinement in the Manzanar camp during World War II, and was working as a legal secretary at a law firm. They were married in 1949 and later had two children, Carolyn and Philip.

Later Life

At the end of December 1978, he stepped down from the circuit court and returned to his private legal practice. He stated that he no longer felt challenged in his judicial work, and felt financial constraints. In 1979, he was recommended by a Hawai'i state Judicial Selection Commission as a candidate for a U.S. judgeship, but was passed over by President Jimmy Carter in favor of Walter Heen. In 1980 he was named an attorney to assist O'ahu's grand juries. He served as advisor on panels inquiring into statewide sentencing practices. In 1981 he attracted renewed controversy when he told a U.S. House Committee that he had lost faith in prison rehabilitation programs for convicted felons, and instead proposed punishment-oriented prison sentences without possibility of early release as a deterrent to crime.

In 1997, five years after the death of his first wife, Sachiko, Doi married Cynthia Chi. He remained active in golfing and other activities until his death on July 21, 2013.

Authored by Greg Robinson, Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Odo, Franklin S. No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'i during World War II. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003.

"Obituary: Masato Doi." Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Sept. 25, 2013.