Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 4

Records of the Armed Services Committee and Its Predecessors:

Committee Records discussed in this chapter:

Committee on the Armed Services, 1947-68

    History and Jurisdiction

    4.91 The committee was established under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which merged the jurisdictions of the former committees on Naval Affairs, and on Military Affairs to form a single committee, the Committee on the Armed Services. The jurisdiction of the new committee included the following subjects:

    • a) Common defense generally. b) The Department of Defense generally, including the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force generally. c) Ammunition depots; forts; arsenals; Army, Navy and Air Force reservations and establishments. d) Conservation, development, and use of naval petroleum and oil shale reserves. e) Pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the armed forces. f) Scientific research and development in support of the armed services. g) Selective service. h) Size and composition of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. i) Soldiers' and sailors' homes. j) Strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense. 1

    4.92 The committee has functioned through numerous subcommittees, the names and number of which vary from Congress to Congress. Through most of its history there have been four or five standing legislative subcommittees, several special subcommittees appointed to conduct specific studies, and an oversight or investigating subcommittee. The records that have been preserved reflect the complex and often technical nature of the subjects dealt with by the committee, and its reliance on subcommittees to perform most of the work.

    Records of the Committee on Armed Services, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-68)


    Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
    Petitions and Memorials 4 ft. 82d-90th (1951-68)
    Committee Papers 263 ft. 80th-90th (1947-68)
    Bill Files 75 ft. 80th-90th (1947-68)
    TOTAL: 342 ft.  
    Committee Records Summary Table


    4.93 No minute books from the full committee have been transferred to the National Archives, but some minutes of the subcommittees are in archival custody and the files contain the full committee's record set of the minutes of all the subcommittees for the period between 1947 and 1950 (80A-F2.1, 81A-F2.1) and for 1967-68 (90th Congress Front Office Files). The full committee files that probably would contain the subcommittee minutes for the years between 1950 and 1967 are not among the records currently in the National Archives. During this 17-year period, the records of some subcommittees for particular Congresses have been retired, and these collections sometimes contain minutes, but no systematic collection of subcommittee minutes has been compiled.

    4.94 The petitions and memorials referred to the committee show the interest of individuals and organized groups in the events and policies that fell within the jurisdiction of the committee. A file from the records of the 82d Congress (1951-52), for example, contains a petition from the General Assembly of Rhode Island praying for the reactivation of the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point to alleviate economic disruption caused by its closing; a petition from the York Harbor Village Corporation protesting the location of a proposed bomber air base at Newington, NH, because it threatened the welfare and safety of the locality; and a memorial from a woman in Dubuque, IA, demanding that Congress pass legislation to "Defend America at Home!", a policy she claimed could be accomplished by taking American boys out of Korea and stopping the shipment of vital materials to foreign countries (82A-H2.6). Other petitioners during the same Congress raised the issues of civil defense (82A-H2.1), deferment of college students from the draft (82A-H2.2), the dismissal of Douglas MacArthur (82A-H2.3), universal military training (82A-H2.4), and the consumption of alcoholic beverages in the armed services (82A-H2.5).

    4.95 By 1967 some petitions concern the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The committee received a massive petition titled, "Declaration on Napalm: The Use of Napalm Must Be Stopped!" The petition was printed in newspapers and otherwise circulated throughout the United States in 1967 by a group called "Concerned Citizens" from Palo Alto, CA and thousands of citizens signed the document that declared, "The use of napalm is bringing shame upon our nation throughout the world. Its use is wholly unworthy of the ideals for which this nation stands. We demand that our President and the Members of our Congress take immediate steps to stop the manufacture and use of this barbarous weapon" (90-AS-4, 8 in.). That same year, the Rochester Police Locust Club, Inc. requested passage of legislation to exempt policemen from the draft, and the Italian-American War Veterans of the United States, Department of Massachusetts, passed a resolution documenting their condemnation of draft card burners and others who took part in "political dissension; racial turmoil; war rebellion; student disturbance; draft protest." The legislature of the State of New Mexico, recognizing that the draft laws placed an unusually heavy burden on economically and educationally deprived Hispanic Americans, requested Congress to amend the draft laws to allow for a more equitable selection from disadvantaged minority groups.

    4.96 Other subjects that are represented in the petition and memorial files include: The establishment of an Air Force Academy (83A-H2.1), civil defense (83A-H2.2), the establishment of a soldier's home in Massachusetts (83A-H2.4), the National Guard (85A-H2.2), a new method of computing the pay of members of the Armed Forces (85A-H2.1), and protests against a proposed curtailment of employment at the Boston Naval Yard (83A-H2.3, 84A-H2.1). National Guard organizations and the Senior Reserve National Commanders Association of the U.S. Army urged increases in the size of the active Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard (87A-H2.1) in the face of threatened cutbacks.

    4.97 Some organizations produced complex petitions listing numerous demands, or sent multiple documents to Congress. The 1955-56 records contain 17 resolutions by which the Jewish War Veterans Association voiced opinions on such subjects as educational benefits for veterans, prisoners held by the Chinese Communists, the Reserve Forces Act of 1955, housing for the Armed Forces, punishment for North Korean and Chinese war crimes, a P.O.W. code, and commissary and post exchanges (84A-H2.1).

    4.98 The committee papers of the Armed Services Committee consist of a large number of discrete collections of records retired at various dates by the full committee or one of the subcommittees. Most of the collections are comprised of one type of record or the records of one subcommittee for the two year period of a Congress, but there are a number of collections or record series that span two or more Congresses.

    4.99 Some of the committee papers show the committee's reliance on subcommittees to conduct a large part of the workload; there are, for instance, records of 12 subcommittees in the 80th Congress, 18 subcommittees in the 81st Congress, and 21 in the 90th Congress. Other series, such as the Technical Reference Files and Real Estate Project Files provide background documentation for the interpretation of highly technical issues in the committee's jurisdiction.

    4.100 For most of the period under consideration, the papers retired by the full committee consist of a series of executive communications that were referred to the committee, a series of reports that were required by law, and very often, a series of departmental legislative proposals. The executive communications are usually arranged by Department or office of origin: Defense, Air Force, Army, Navy, and other agencies. They include documents such as annual reports of departments, agencies, commissions, and other bodies; special reports required by law such as the reports on emergency supplies and equipment required under the Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950; and statements of specific actions such as the approval of construction of an Army National Guard Armory in Alabama.

    4.101 Reports required by law, but not submitted as executive communications, include reports on the real estate transactions of the Department of the Army involving property valued above a certain dollar figure; the "Battle Act Report" filed in accordance with the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act of 1951; the Annual Report of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals filed in compliance with Article 67(g) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and a report of the Attorney General pursuant to section 3 of Public Law 89-175, an act to provide for exemptions from the antitrust laws to assist in safeguarding the balance of payments position of the United States.

    4.102 Legislative proposal files consist of correspondence and a variety of memoranda prepared by the executive departments proposing specific legislation. The files usually consist of a cover letter, a draft of the legislation, and a section by section analysis of the legislation. Proposals that were introduced usually are filed with the bill or resolution file.

    4.103 The records of the 82d and 83d Congresses also contain certified documents providing for interstate Civil Defense Compacts signed by the Governors of the 50 States.

    4.104 The records of the full committee for the 90th Congress are much more complete than those of the earlier Congresses. The full committee Miscellaneous Front Office Files (24 ft.) include files for each of the 21 subcommittees that contain the minutes of subcommittee meetings and selected correspondence between the subcommittee and the full committee or the subcommittee and certain executive departments. This collection also includes the records of certain subcommittees: the Special Subcommittee on the M-16 Rifle Program (4 ft.), the Subcommittee on Enlisted Promotion Policy Review (1 ft.), the Sea Power Subcommittee (4 in.), and the Special Subcommittee on Anti-Submarine Warfare (2 in.) are included as part of this collection. Also included are part of the files of the staff director, and several committee counsels and professional staff members.

    4.105 An additional set of records from the 90th Congress is the massive Armed Services Committee reading file. This file consists of 19 feet of correspondence from the first session and 4 feet from the second session, arranged alphabetically by addressee. No Committee reading files for earlier Congresses have been transferred to the National Archives.

    Multi-Congress and Special Collections 4.106 In addition to the records described above, which were retired by the full committee at the end of a Congress, a number of significant series of records of the Armed Services Committee have been retired as multi-Congress files. The multi-Congress series include:


    Front Office Files 80th-93d Cong. (1947-74, 16 in.)
    Committee Travel Files 82d-89th Cong. (1951-66, 1 ft.)
    Executive Secretary Files 86th-93d Cong. (1959-74, 10 ft.)
    Real Estate Project Files 82d-86th Cong. (1951-60, 30 in.)
    Hearing Transcripts 81st-89th Cong. (1949-66, 7 ft.)
    Technical Reference Files 89th-93d Cong. (1966-74, 16 ft.)
    Technical Reference Files 89th-94th Cong. (1966-76, 17 ft.)
    Oil Shale & Naval Petroleum Reserves 80th-90th Cong. (1947-68, 3 ft.)


    4.107 The 80th-93d Congress Front Office Files cover a variety of administrative subjects such as the personnel files of former committee staff members, committee travel, and miscellaneous topics such as invitations to members. A closely related set of records, Committee Travel Files, contain correspondence and vouchers as well as other records related to the travel of committee members and staff. Both sets of files are arranged chronologically by Congress.

    4.108 The Executive Secretary Files are legislative files covering such subjects as military construction, Armed Forces pay, the Universal Military Training and Service Act, aircraft appropriations, and military personnel. These records are, for the most part, research files containing survey data, reports, correspondence, and other information relating to the subjects in the jurisdiction of the committee. The Real Estate Project Files contain records on the acquisition and disposal of real property by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Full Committee and Subcommittee Hearing Transcripts include many transcripts of subcommittee hearings and executive sessions. A large number of the executive session transcripts are from the Subcommittee on Real Estate and Construction.

    4.109 The two series of Technical Reference Files are general files kept by the full committee covering a wide variety of subjects concerning the committee and its jurisdiction. The individual files are arranged under the broad categories of personnel, education, intelligence, defense, Congress, medical, facilities, finance, legal, publicity, foreign aid, and transportation. The Oil Shale and Naval Petroleum Files, 80th-90th Congresses, contain folders on naval petroleum in general, on specific sites such as Elk Hills, Buena Vista Hills, and Teapot Dome, and on issues such as Navy oil exploration, and hearings on naval oil shale reserves.

    Subcommittee Records

    4.110 The records that have been preserved testify to the importance of the use of subcommittees. The committee papers from the 80th, 81st and 90th Congresses (1947-50, 1967-68) include file folders for each of the subcommittees operating during these years. The subcommittee folders contain copies of bills and resolutions referred to the subcommittee, subcommittee correspondence, memoranda, testimony taken at subcommittee hearings, and minutes of subcommittee meetings. During the 80th Congress the 12 subcommittees were identified by the following names and numbers: #1 Personnel; #2 Education and Training; #3 Organization and Mobilization; #4 Heavy Munitions; #5 Air Material; #6 Procurement and Supply; #7 Scientific Research and Development; #8 Posts and Stations; #9 Hospitalization, Health, and Medical Corps; #10 Pay and Administration; #11 Legal; and #12 Plans, Organization, and Policy of the Committee on Armed Services. The files of the 81st Congress and 90th Congress contain similar collections, but for the 82d to 89th Congresses (1953-66) the full committee files on the subcommittees are missing.

    4.111 There are no systematically preserved records of the subcommittees mentioned above, and no unpublished documentation has been preserved for most of the subcommittees. Substantial collections of records have been preserved for three investigative subcommittees: Records of the 1951-52 Subcommittee on Procurement (82A-F2.4, 7 ft.); records of the 1953-54 Subcommittee on Defense Activities (83A- F2.3, 19 ft.); and records from the 1955-68 Special Investigations Subcommittee (84th-90th Cong., 73 ft.).

    4.112 The records of these subcommittees consist largely of investigative subject files. A typical file from the records of the Special Subcommittee on Procurement is labeled "Army Ordnance District, Birmingham, Alabama" (82A- F2.4) and it contains a variety of documents relating to the committee oversight of the district. Among these are transcripts of executive session subcommittee meetings, documents concerning the awarding of certain contracts, lists of contract inspectors, the results of a survey of active contracts, and reports on delinquent contracts. The Procurement Subcommittee investigated restrictive bidding on government contracts; government purchase of commodities such as turret lathes, water distillation units, and paint for the Navy; cataloging and standardization in the armed services; gross ineptitude and intrigue surrounding armed services contracts with the Elvair Corporation; and a large number of military and naval offices and facilities.

    4.113 The records of the Subcommittee on Defense Activities comprise a voluminous collection of papers concerning special investigations and studies undertaken during the 83d Congress. The records include a general subject file (10 ft.), transcripts of hearings (8 ft.), and vouchers (1 ft.). The records concern a wide range of topics, including airstrip paving materials, alleged favoritism of professional athletes in the Armed Forces, the deployment of military personnel in the diplomatic attache and mission system, the operation of post exchanges, complaints and charges concerning activities at various military and naval facilities, and improper conduct involving both personnel and procurement contracts (83A- F2.3).

    4.114 The committee conducted an investigation into the disappearance and death of Major William V. Holohan while he was on duty as an O.S.S. officer behind German lines in Italy during World War II. Major Holohan was murdered in 1944 by subordinate O.S.S. officers who stole a large sum of money that had been entrusted to him. Investigations conducted between 1945 and 1951 uncovered the details of the conspiracy, and allegations concerning the murder were published in True Magazine. The files on Holohan's disappearance, including transcripts of hearings and other records relating to the alleged murderer, are in the records of the Subcommittee on Defense Activities (82A-F2.3) and of the full committee (84A- F2.8).

    4.115 Beginning with the 84th Congress, records of the Special Investigations Subcommittee exist for every Congress (1955-68, 71 ft.). For each Congress, a large portion of the records of the subcommittee are arranged in subject files and indexed according to a numerical system. These large subject files include investigative subjects, administrative subjects, correspondence of committee members and staff, copies of hearings and special reports published by the subcommittee, transcripts of executive session hearings and meetings, and many other types of documents. The records of the subcommittee contain a large number of transcripts of hearings, many of which are unpublished executive session meetings. The subcommittee records from the 84th Congress (1955-56), for example, include files on investigative subjects such as insurance sold to G.I.s; rocket launchers; airstrip paving materials; correspondence from businesses that claimed to have been unfairly excluded from competitive bidding for contracts; administrative files such as personnel files and expense vouchers; and the minutes of subcommittee meetings (84A-F2.10-2.15, 12 ft.). A reading file for the subcommittee (2 ft.) contains carbon copies of outgoing correspondence from 1953 and 1961 through 1974.

    4.116 The Special Investigations Subcommittee files of the 85th Congress (1957-58) contain over 5 feet of hearing transcripts primarily relating to the following investigations: the Armed Services Procurement Act (85A-F2.12), the General Motors airplane contract (85A-F2.13), and the Raylaine Worsteds investigation (85A-F2.14). The file also contains information on the subcommittee's organizational meetings (85A-F2.16) and various other subjects.

    4.117 In addition to the subcommittee records discussed above, there are small accumulations of records from the following subcommittees:


    • Special Subcommittee No. 5 (85A-F2.18, 2 in.)
    • Special Subcommittee No. 6 (85A-F2.19, 7 in.)
    • Subcommittee on Transportation (86A-F2.11, 2 ft.)
    • Special Subcommittee on Development and Procurement of New Combat and Tactical Vehicles by the Department of the Army (86A-F2.12, 10 in.)
    • Special Subcommittee on Procurement Practices of the Department of Defense (86A- F2.13, 5 in.)
    • Special Subcommittee on the M-16 Rifle Program (90th Cong., 5 ft.)
    • Special Subcommittee on Enlisted Promotion Policy Review (90th Cong., 1 ft.)
    • Special Subcommittee on Anti-Submarine Warfare (90th Cong., 4 in.)

    4.118 Bill files exist for every Congress. The files average 7 feet per Congress and consist of thin tri-folded files for each bill and resolution referred to the committee. The files usually contain copies of the printed bill along with correspondence between the committee and the affected executive agencies. A typical bill file, H.R. 6501, 80th Congress, a bill to provide for the development of civil transport aircraft adaptable for auxiliary military service, consists of the following documents: A copy of the bill as introduced; a copy of the committee report (H. Rept. 2320, 80th Cong., 1st sess.); letters of comment from the State Department and the Commerce Department; letters from the Air Transport Association of America, the Aircraft Industries Association, and the Airfreight Association asking to be scheduled to appear at hearings on the bill; a transcript of the committee hearing on the bill; and a copy of a prepared statement that was presented before a hearing on the bill held before the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee (80A-D2).

    Related Records 4.119 The Armed Services Library Collection (13th-79th Congresses, 1813-1946, 96 ft.) consists of books and bound documents that appear to have been transferred to that committee in 1947 from the offices of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Committee on Naval Affairs when those committees were abolished. The collection includes a variety of published and unpublished materials.

    4.120 The Library Collection contains many congressional publications concerning the budget and the appropriations estimates prepared by the Secretaries of War and the Navy for the years 1899-1941, as well as numerous volumes of acts, resolutions or laws affecting either the Army or Navy for the years 1885-1942. Also included is a large collection of printed hearings before the military and naval committees of the House and Senate from 1898 through 1946.

    4.121 The collection includes two sets of documents that may be especially helpful in researching the records: "McKee's Compilation" and minute books. "McKee's Compilation" consists of volumes of committee reports for both the House and Senate military and naval committees. The "Compilation" volumes for the Naval Affairs Committee are complete, but those for the Military Affairs Committee are missing the earliest volumes. The original minutes and journals from the Naval Affairs Committee for the years 1863-1936 and the Military Affairs Committee for 1933-46 are included in this collection.


    1 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States, Ninetieth Congress, H. Doc. 529, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1967, p. 332.


    Guide to House Records Table of Contents

    Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.