Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 4

Records of the Armed Services Committee and Its Predecessors

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

4.1 The Armed Services Committee was created by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. This chapter includes descriptions of the records of the Armed Services Committee and the three committees that were its predecessors. Two of these, the Committee on Military Affairs and the Committee on Naval Affairs were established as standing committees in 1822. They continued to function until they were abolished by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. The Committee on the Militia, the third predecessor committee, was created in 1835 and existed until 1911 when it was abolished and its jurisdiction transferred to the Committee on Military Affairs.

This chapter provides description of the records of House committees from 1789 through 1968.

Committee on Military Affairs, 17th-79th Congresses (1822-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

4.2 The Constitution of the United States grants Congress the powers to raise and support armies, and to make rules for the administration and regulation of land forces under the command of the President. In the House, a succession of select committees considered legislation on military affairs from 1811 until 1822, w hen the House established a standing Committee on Military Affairs. Section 12 of House Rule XI covered the committee's original purview and provided that:

  • It shall be the duty of the said Committee on Military Affairs to take into consideration all subjects relating to the military establishment and public defense, which may be referred to them by the House, and report, from time to time, such measures as may contribute to the economy and accountability in the said establishment. 1

The committee assumed responsibility for affairs relating to the State militias when a rule change in 1911 abolished the Committee on the Militia.

4.3 Under the rule change of 1885 the committee was authorized to report the appropriation bills covering the military establishment, the public defense, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. The committee reported the military appropriation bills until 1920 when that power was transferred to the Appropriations Committee.

4.4 Also included in the jurisdiction of the committee were subjects, such as the establishment and care of national cemeteries and battlefields; acquisition and conveyance of lands for military reservations and improvements upon such grounds; disposition of war trophies and distribution of obsolete weapons and armament; conduct of joint operations of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps; and promotion of military aviation and Army aeronautics. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 abolished the Committee on Military Affairs and transferred its jurisdiction to the newly-created Armed Services Committee.

Records of the Committee on Military Affairs, 17th-79th Congresses (1822-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 35 vols. 34th (1855-57), 37th-39th (1861-67), 42d-43d (1871-75), 45th-69th (1877-1927), 73d-79th (1933-46)
Docket Books 70 vols. 19th-64th (1825-1917)
Petitions and Memorials 25 ft. 12th-53d (1811-95), 55th-65th (1897-1919), 67th-71st (1921-31), 75th-76th (1937-41), 78th-79th (1943-46)
Committee Papers 74 ft. 12th-79th (1811-1946)
Bill Files 97 ft. 58th-62d (1903-13), 64th-79th (1915-46)
TOTAL: 196 ft. and 105 vols. (8 ft.)

4.5 There are no minute books for the period between 1822 and 1854, but minutes do exist for most Congresses from 1855-1899. The minutes show the dates of committee meetings and identify the members and witnesses present at discussions, debates, and hearings. They record motions made and resolutions introduced; referrals of petitions, bills, and other documents; votes on bills and resolutions; and reports adopted or rejected. Many of the books after 1909 also feature typewritten entries and memorandums and letters of committee members occasionally were inserted in the volumes. Beginning with the 64th Congress, the books contain proceedings of both open and executive sessions of the whole committee and its various subcommittees. Some of the minute books were transferred to the Armed Services Committee along with the committee's jurisdictional responsibilities, and those volumes have been retired as part of the Armed Services Committee's Library Collection.

4.6 The docket books are numerous. The format consists of the date of the bill or claim considered, the name of the member who introduced a measure, and occasional remarks by the chairman on the action taken on a particular item. The docket books for the 64th Congress contain typewritten entries providing a systematic numbering scheme for bills, resolutions, and reports. Some volumes are indexed, and other volumes include alphabetically arranged lists of the subjects and bills considered.

4.7 The petitions and memorials the committee received cover a wide variety of subjects relating to the management of the Army establishment and the promotion of American preparedness. Handwritten petitions and memorials from individuals, citizens' groups, or lobbying organizations are most common, but printed memorials and resolutions from State legislatures are also numerous. Legal documents, such as testimonies or notarized papers, often accompany claims for the relief of individuals or groups. During the 58th Congress (1903-5) the committee began filing some applications for pensions, compensation, or other forms of relief, in a newly created series of records called bill files. Because such claims had accounted for a large proportion of the petitions and memorials the number of documents filed in the petitions series is considerably reduced after 1903. With claims eliminated, the petitions and memorials consist primarily of resolutions and memorials received from State legislatures, complaints from trade associations, prayers of civic and veterans' organizations, and protests from religious societies and labor unions.

4.8 Some petitions referred to in the discussion that follows predate the establishment of the standing Committee on Military Affairs during the 17th Congress. Such petitions and memorials were received by predecessor select committees.

4.9 Claims of veterans for pensions, bounty lands, or compensation for services rendered, personal property lost, or injuries sustained in wartime account for a large proportion of the petitions and memorials. Veterans of the War of 1812 prayed for committee intervention in securing and settling Indian lands "conquered by" Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison from the "faithless Indian nations" (12A- F6.1). Volunteer soldiers who served on the Canadian border similarly prayed for compensation for property losses sustained at the hands of marauding Indians (32A- G12.2, 36A-G11.1). Recurrent wars with the Seminole Indians, 1820-40, also led to claims from Regular Army officers or State militia members for relief or compensation from Congress (18A-F10.1, 29A-G10.2, 36A-G11.1). Between 1850 and 1857 members of State militias who had served in the Mexican War or had fought Indians in the Southwest, claimed compensation from Congress. The Civil War, however, produced the greatest number of veterans' claims. The records of every Congress between 1865 and 1885 contain petitions from Union veterans who either prayed for bounty lands in the West, asked Congress to amend the 1862 Homestead Act to authorize grants of 160 acres of land without the 5-year prior settlement requirement, or demanded an equalization of bounty money paid by the Government to wartime volunteers who had joined the Army at different times (31A-G11.1, 32A-G12.2, 33A-G12.1, 34A-G11.1, 41A.H7.10).

4.10 A large number of the claims are from widows or guardians of the children of deceased servicemen who asked for pensions, annuities, or other relief. For example, petitions recounting the plight of widows, mothers, and relatives of soldiers killed in the War of 1812 are among the records of several Congresses (14A-F7.2, 18A-F10.1, 23A-G11.1, 25A-G11.1, 27A-G12.1, 36A-G11.1). One petitioner, who wanted bounty land, was Maria Fabler, the widow of veteran Benjamin Fabler, a "West Indian or Mulatto" member of a regiment of black soldiers from Philadelphia, who had died in 1818 (24A-G11.1). Not all claims were war-related; Matilda B. Dunn prayed for congressional aid following the 1829 murder of her husband, Col. Thomas B. Dunn, Superintendent of the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, VA (21A.G12.1).

4.11 State legislatures and citizens' groups who backed or participated in various military actions sought compensation for expenses incurred during expeditions against the Spanish in Florida and the Southwest and the hostile Indians in the Northwest, Florida, the Southwest, and upper New York State (12A-F6.1, 13A-G7.1, 24A-G11.1, 25A-G11.1, 33A-D10.10, 35A-G12.1, 36A-G11.3, 41A-H7.1). Also among the petitions are claims from citizens who held the Army or militia forces either directly or indirectly responsible for damaged or destroyed private property (23A-G11.1, 30A-G12.1, 31A-G11.2, 33A-G12.14, 36A-G11.1). Such a claim came from Mexican rancher, Jose de Arquello of Santiago, CA, who demanded relief for extensive property losses sustained at the hands of Mexican troops in reprisal for his wartime support of the forces of the United States (32A- G12.2).

4.12 Another substantial number of petitions and memorials came from individual citizens, lobbying groups, State legislatures, and civic associations for improvements in the military establishment. Examples of these are petitions from Ohio militia (19A-G11.2), and the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont legislatures (14A-F7.3, 22A-G13.2) for a more efficient militia system. Numerous individuals like Aaron J. Booge (15A-G8.2) wanted more chaplains in the U.S. Army, a goal also sought by religious associations (16A-G11.2), 50A-H17.1, 53A-H20.1, 55A- H16.2), while aggrieved Jewish congregations asked for the repeal of legislation barring Jewish chaplains in the Union Army (37A-G8.4). Petitions called for the appointment of homeopathic surgeons in the Army (37A-G8.2, 55A-H16.3) and the creation of a chiropractic and a pharmacy corps (78A-H12.5, 78A-H12.10). Army doctors wanted the establishment of an ambulance and hospital corps (38A-G12.1), and the Samuel Hopkins Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Henderson, KY, asked for a "Women's Nursing Service" (55A-H16.4). In 1865, Union veterans from Clinton, NY, prayed for the perpetuation of the Veteran Reserve Corps (39A-H15.3).

4.13 More specific proposals for expansion of the military establishment after 1907 include a prayer from the Automobile Club of Maryland for the creation of a volunteer motor corps as part of the State militia (60A-H23.12); resolutions of the Florida legislature praying for the establishment of Army aviation schools in Florida (69A-H12.1, 70A-H9.10); and petitions from the American Legion for a division in the War Department to administer the Officers' Reserve Corps, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), and Citizens' Military Training Camps (70A- H9.6).

4.14 The subject of education in the Army figures prominently in the records. Many of the documents concern the administration and operation of the U.S. Military Academy. The select committees considered the request of Col. William Duane to have the Army adopt his textbook on the elements of military discipline as well as his Military Dictionary (12A-F6.1), while J. R. Rumville asked for similar consideration for his Drummer's Instructor, or Martial Musician (15A-G8.2). Other documents concerning the Academy include a report on an investigation of complaints of harsh discipline and official harassment of cadets (16A-G11.1); resolutions from the Connecticut legislature and from citizens groups in various States calling for the closing of the allegedly elitist and undemocratic Military Academy (28A-G13.1); and a proposal to establish a German professorship at the Academy (37A-G8.17). Other records include petitions both for and against proposals to initiate rifle practice and military training in schools and colleges (60A- H23.10, 62A-H20.2) and to establish more advanced aviation schools (62A-H20.2, 64A-H16.4, 69A-H12.3, 70-H9.10, 76A-H16.2).

4.15 Petitions and memorials involving military preparedness largely concern technological inventions and improvements of ordnance facilities, inland fortifications, and coastal defenses. Many petitions are pleas from American inventors who sought congressional approval of their inventions. During the 19th century, the committee was asked to consider the following inventions: an explosive mine for protecting ports, harbors, and navigable waters (13A-G7.1); a patented horse litter, pack saddle, and portable magazine, which was endorsed by Generals Winfield Scott and Henry Atkinson (24A-G11.1); an improved "Hand Grenade" (29A-G10.6); and other devices (14A-F7.1, 26A-G11.5, 28A-G13.6, 30A-G12.1, 32A-G12.3, 33A-G12.12, 34A-G11.3, 35A-G12.3). The petition promoting Dr. Solomon Andrews' "aerial ship" with inflatable cylinders includes a photograph of the machine (38A-G12.13). In 1904 the committee received C. Zeglen's proposals for the use of improved bulletproof cloth (58A-H16.2), and in 1939 John H. Smith of Texas asked the committee to recommend manufacture of his "Rigid Dirigible Airship" (76A-H16.2).

4.16 The construction of military facilities throughout the United States, particularly before the Civil War, was also an important part of military preparedness. State legislatures, civic associations, and former Army personnel unceasingly and unsuccessfully called upon Congress to establish a western armory (19A-G11.1, 23A-G11.1, 25A-G11.2, 26A-G11.3, 28A-G13.3, 29A-G10.1, 33A- G12.4, 36A-G11.2, 37A-G8.8). The committee did report favorably on petitions and memorials concerning the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry, the status of the armory's employees, and efforts of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad to obtain a right-of-way through Harpers Ferry (20A-G11.1, 21A-G12.1, 22A-G11.3, 27A- G12.3).

4.17 The committee also extended approval to the construction of seacoast forts, fortifications, and harbor defenses at Mobile, AL, and Pensacola, FL (18A- F10.1, 23A-G11.2, 29A-G10.3), and at New York City (17A-F9.2, 18A-F10.1). Proposals to build forts and posts to protect western frontiersmen and emigrants to California and Oregon, and to construct or improve roads to expedite the movement of troops and settlers westward also received committee consideration (27A-G12.2, 28A-G13.4, 29A-G10.3, 30A-G12.5, 35A-G12.6, 36A-G11.2, 37A-G8.7, 46A- G14.3, 55A-H16.4). In the 20th century, the Pennsylvania General Assembly called for improvements to the Frankford Arsenal at Philadelphia (63A-H19.4), and other organizations recommended improved aircraft defenses for the Pacific coast (76A- H16.6), and supported the expanded defense establishment proposed in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's military buildup plans (76A-H16.4). Numerous petitions also concern a controversy over postwar control of the Government-built World War I power and munitions plants at Muscle Shoals, AL (67A-H14.1, 68A-H13.2, 69A-H12.3, 70A-H9.5, 71A-12.1).

4.18 Another aspect of military preparedness—universal military training and the selective service—became an important issue in the 20th century. The Selective Service Act became law on May 18, 1917, and the records include petitions favoring the draft as a preparedness measure from groups such as students from Princeton University, the American Peace and Arbitration League, and the American Legion (64A-H16.3, 65A-H11.3, 68A-H13.3, 70A-H9.9, 75A-H12.2). Those who opposed conscription included 245 citizens of Belmont County, OH; virtually all professors at the University of Florida; and the Mennonites (64A-H16.3, 65A- H11.3). Members of Mennonite congregations also prayed for exemption from the law on religious grounds (65A-H11.5). After World War I, the Bridgeport, CT, post of the American Legion demanded that Congress permanently deny citizenship to all who had claimed exemption from military service in 1917 because they were aliens (67A-H14.3).

4.19 The committee also had to consider petitions and memorials concerning the Burke-Wadsworth Bill of 1940 which became the Selective Training and Service Act of September 16, 1940: the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and civic groups supported the draft, but some chapters of labor organizations such as the United Office and Professional Workers of America and the United Automobile Workers of America opposed conscription prior to American involvement in World War II (76A-H16.3). A proposed system of peacetime universal military training after the war faced bitter opposition from various church, labor, and citizens' groups (78A-H12.12), but a new Selective Service Act became law in June 1948.

4.20 Another large group of petitions and memorials pertains to the pay, promotion, and status of military personnel. Petitions about these subjects are among the records of most Congresses, including those of the 78th Congress (1943- 44), which contain petitions calling for the promotion of American prisoners of the Japanese in World War II (78A-H12.4). Some petitions concern the rank of officers and enlisted men (47A-H13.1, 55A-H16.1), while others involve proposed retirement laws for veterans (39A-H15.4, 47A-H13.3, 49A-H14.1); benefits for disabled veterans and civilian employees of the Army (60A-H23.7, 62A-H19.9, 64A-H16.2, 67A-H14.2, 70A-H9.3, 75A-H12.5); and the establishment and maintenance of an Army asylum and soldiers' homes (47A-H7.1, 47A-H13.4, 49A- H14.1). Researchers who are seeking information on the administration of the early 19th-century Army may find the document accompanying William Hobby's petition to be of interest. The disgruntled Hobby, a former clerk for the Army paymaster in Boston, MA, described his complaints in detail in his 1830 booklet, Exposition of a Part of the Frauds, Corruptions, and Improprieties Committed in the Pay Department of the Army of the United States Since the Year 1816, which he submitted with his petition (21A-G12.1).

4.21 State temperance societies submitted petitions expressing opposition to the sale and consumption of liquor in the Army (26A-G11.4, 27A-G12.3, 29A- G10.8, 37A-G8.18, 55A-H16.4). The widespread opposition and protest to the operation of canteens on Army posts led to the submission of many petitions and memorials to the committee. Methodist and Presbyterian churches, the Anti-Saloon League, and various chapters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union supported the Spaulding or "anti-canteen" bill passed in 1901 as a means to destroy the "death-trap of Satan" or "Army Beer Saloon" (56A-H16.3, 57A-H17.1, 58A- H16.1). Other organizations such as the Spanish American Veterans Association and the National German American Alliance just as vigorously demanded the repeal of the law and their efforts eventually were rewarded (59A-H17.1, 60A-H23.9).

4.22 Another subject that concerned the committee was the controversial use of the Army in labor disputes. Union-organized miners in Colorado demanded that President Theodore Roosevelt act to halt the use of State militia against them and to end their detention in "bull pens" (58A-H16.2), while citizens of Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Mining District asked the Secretary of War to allow Federal troops to remain in Osborne to end the "reign of terror" against the property interests there (56A-H16.4). Illinois socialists subsequently denounced Roosevelt's use of Federal troops in Nevada (60A-H23.12), and union workers in New York opposed a more Federally-controlled National Guard, considering it a potential weapon against strikes (62A-H20.3).

4.23 Miscellaneous petitions and memorials include complaints from victimized military personnel about unfair practices of post settlers (29A-G10.8, 37A-G8.15), and from Quakers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Indiana protesting the use of Cuban-bred bloodhounds against the Seminole Indians in the Florida War (26A-G11.2). Other miscellaneous items include demands from Indiana citizens that Confederate prisoners in Northern camps be shown the same "diabolical and hellish brutality" and "barbarous treatment" that Union prisoners received in Rebel stockades in the Civil War South (38A-G12.12); a claim for compensation for Lt. William T. Sherman, who performed special duty on the Pacific coast (31A-G11.2); and the prayer of California citizens for money to finance a military expedition against the Mojave Indians to rescue Lorenzo D. Oatman's captive sister who had become the wife of a Mojave chief (34A-G11.1).

4.24 Miscellaneous petitions and memorials received by the committee during the 20th century are highly diverse. Most representative, however, are prayers of veterans of the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the China Campaign (Boxer Rebellion) for special medals and badges (60A-H23.5); petitions from Gold Star Mothers of America for funds to enable them to visit the graves in France of their sons who died during World War I (68A-H13.1); and prayers of members of the American Bataan Club of Maywood, IL, for more substantial relief for American prisoners of war in Japan and on the Pacific islands (78A-H12.3). Another set of petitions and memorials include protests from citizens of San Diego and other California communities against the return of previously interned Japanese-Americans to their homes on the West Coast (78A-H12.8).

4.25 The committee papers consist of reports on petitions, memorials, resolutions, bills, legal documents accompanying claims, and some correspondence between committee members and War Department officials, State governors, attorneys, and private claimants. After 1899 other types of documents are in the files. These include technical publications, bound transcripts of committee hearings, and legislative calendars. The committee papers are related directly to the petitions and memorials and pertain to the same subjects. Like the petitions, the pre-1822 documents referred to below are from select committees.

4.26 Most of the committee papers relating to claims consist of committee reports on petitions, memorials, and resolutions from State Legislatures or private organizations. They cover claims of veterans for pensions, bounty lands, and compensation for services rendered, property lost, and injuries sustained in war. Widows of veterans, deceased servicemen or other military personnel sought pensions, annuities, or other relief. A typical early claims file is one for Pamela Adams, the widow of an Army officer who was killed in the Black Hawk War of 1832, which consists of a 2-page report on her petition (23A-D12.1). In sharp contrast is the substantial file relating to the claim of Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland who sought compensation for "military and other services" offered to the Union during the Civil War; she supported her claim with a copy of Sarah Ellen Blackwell's 1891 publication, A Military Genius, Life of Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland and several other documents (52A-F28.4). Also among these papers are claims pressed upon the War Department and Congress in 1854 by Mormon Governor Brigham Young, Utah Territory, for reimbursement of the Territorial government's expenses in suppressing Indian hostilities in the West—a claim rejected by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (33A-D10.5). Also included is a subsequent and equally unsuccessful prayer of the Mormon Governor for indemnification for losses sustained during the U. S. Army's punitive expedition into Utah Territory (35A-D12.3).

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H.R. 6293 Establishing the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (HR 77A-B5). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

4.27 Some committee papers concern the complex subject of the organization of the military establishment. They include bills, resolutions, and proposals to increase the efficiency and improve the organization of the militia and the National Guard (13A-D8.1, 18A-C10.2, 22A-D16.2, 36A-D14.4, 63A-F26.1, 66A-F27.1) and reports on proposed reorganizations of the Army (56A-F23.1, 64A-F24.2, 70A-F23.1, 79A-F26.1). Among the papers are bills proposing a reorganization of the Topographical Engineer Corps (12A-C6.1, 33A-D12.2, 38A- E12.2, 40A-F15.5) and the Corps of Artificers (12A-C6.1); a merger of the Marine Corps with the Army Infantry and Artillery (21A-D15.2); the creation of a special corps of sappers, miners and pontoon builders (27A-D13.3); a reorganization of the Surgeon's and Ordnance Departments (30A-D13.2); and a reduction of the number of officers in the Army Medical Corps (53A-F27.2). There are also hearings and reports relating to the establishment of the U. S. Air Service as an independent branch of the Army (66A-F27.4). Records relating to sundry Army appropriation bills are included in the committee papers for several Congresses (64A-F24.1, 66A-F27.1, 74A-F26.1, 76A-F28.1).

4.28 Also represented among the committee papers are records on education. Many of the early files concern the Military Academy, its academic program (22A- D16.2), and the need to improve its examination system (28A-D17.2, 38A-E12.4). The committee also considered the Academy's need for science professors (19A- D12.4, 44A-F20.3); a proposal to provide Academy educations for the sons of Army officers killed in the War of 1812 (14A-C7.1); a petition from graduating cadets praying that action be taken to secure them commissions (49A-F21.2); an investigation of allegations of congressional sales of cadet appointments (41A- F15.4), and a proposed Joint Resolution in 1910 calling for the special admission of Chinese students to the Academy (61A-F34.2). Some records pertain to discipline problems such as student infractions (20A-D13.4) and the dismissal of six cadets from the Academy in 1909 (61A-F34.2). Records of the 66th Congress include supporting documents for the Military Appropriations Bill in 1919 (66A-F27.1).

4.29 Other records relating to education include messages in 1911 from President William H. Taft asking for authority to send military instructors to Chile and to compensate instructors in Cuba (62A-F26.2) and a proposal in 1917 to exempt medical students from the draft (65A-F21.1).

4.30 The committee papers, like the petitions and memorials, contain records relating to technological inventions and the construction of more sophisticated military facilities. The papers include reports on such inventions as a "proposed floating battery" (12A-C6.1), a cannon-pointing device (24A-D13.1), an unsuccessful "propelling machine" intended as an improved version of the six-pounder cannon (25A-D15.2), a patented rifle (26A-D15.1), and a multicharge coastal artillery gun (48A-F21.6, 49A-F21.2). Also included are files on the contested patent claims of Robert P. Parrott and John B. Read for improved projectiles for rifled ordnance (54A-F26.1) and the testing of the Gathman Torpedo, which is documented by a printed report with photographs (57A-F23.1). Proposals for new or improved military and veterans' facilities include files on armories and arsenals (69A-F30.3) and soldiers' homes (71A-F26.1). The construction of an armory for ordnance manufacture in the West engaged the committee's consideration throughout the antebellum period (12A-C6.1, 14A-C7.1, 19A-D12.1, 23A-D12.2, 28A-D17.10).

4.31 The papers also include files on the construction of inland forts and posts for the defense of the Canadian, trans-Mississippi, and Southwest borders (21A-D12.2, 22A-D16.2, 23A-D12.2, 26A-D15.2, 27A-D13.2, 29A-D11.2, 33A- D10.6, 35A-D12.4, 40A-F15.2, 46A-F21.3) and the protection of westward bound settlers against Indians angered by the invasion of their homelands (24A-D13.2). The building of military roads west of the Appalachians also was a subject that constantly required the committee's attention given the importance of such roads to military operations and the westward movement of American settlers (19A-D12.5, 27A-D13.3, 33A-D10.11, 34A-D12.3, 35A-D12.4, 36A-D14.3, 51A-F23.1).

4.32 Records relating to military justice and discipline often include copies of proceedings of courts of inquiry and courts-martial. Such records are available in files on mutinous Tennessee militiamen (20A-D13.2), the military superintendent of the armory at Harpers Ferry (20A-D13.4), officials and cadets at the Military Academy (16A-D14.1), a Civil War officer accused of slander and voyeurism (53A- F27.3), and army officers charged with whoremongering (50A-F23.1), among others.

4.33 Of particular significance are the records concerning the case of Lt. Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of the Military Academy (Class of 1877). An 1882 court-martial dismissed Flipper for an alleged misappropriation of funds at Fort Davis, TX. Among the records are copies of Flipper's formal petition for restoration to rank and service and a 1898 brief of his case, a photograph of Flipper after his graduation from the Academy, testimonials supporting his reinstatement, letters from Flipper to members of the Committee on Military Affairs, and a favorable committee report on H.R. 9849—a bill that authorized the President to reinstate Flipper (56A-F23.3).

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Photograph of Lt. Henry O. Flipper, ca. 1877. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

4.34 Other records relating to discipline include disciplinary regulations proposed by Gen. Winfield Scott and those of the War Department (16A-D14.2, 42A-F17.2). There are also records on the trial and punishment of black soldiers involved in a riot at Houston, TX in 1917 (67A-F28.1).

4.35 Papers on pay and promotions are extensive (19A-D12.6, 20A-D13.1, 22A-D16.1, 26A-D15.1, 33A-D10.2, 38A-E12.6). So too are the papers concerning rank (19A-D12.3, 42A-F17.1, 44A-F20.3), which include a file on Gen. Scott's unsuccessful demand for full rank and privileges based on his previous honorary appointment as a brevet major general (20A-D13.3). The papers also include files on the many proposed retirement pay laws introduced in Congress (37A-E10.1, 48A-F21.9).

4.36 A great variety of other subjects are covered by the committee papers. Examples of these are: War Department contracts and accounts of purchases (45A- F21.1, 47A-F16.1); protests against the Army whiskey ration (21A-D15.2); the cost of liquor and other supplies sold by the post trader at Fort Buford, ND (43A-F17.3); desertions and resignations from the Army (22A-D16.2, 28A-D17.2); a monument to the Revolutionary War soldiers and sailors who perished aboard British prison ships, particularly the notorious Jersey (28A-D17.2); the liquidation of Fort Brown, TX (50A-F23.3, 52A-F28.2) and Fort Yuma, Arizona Territory (45A-F21.5, 48A- F21.1); and occupational deferments for Federal employees, 1943-45 (78A-F25.1).

4.37 Other miscellaneous committee papers include correspondence and reports relating to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson's execution of alleged spies Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister during his invasion of Spanish Florida in 1818 (15A-D8.1); hearings on the depletion of domestic reserves of scrap iron and steel, the commissioning of bandmasters, and the adequacy of the United States national defense (76A-F28.1); and correspondence and transcripts of hearings documenting an investigation of irregularities involving the War Department's defense contracts with firms manufacturing armaments during World War II (78A- F25.2).

4.38 The bill files (97 ft.) form the bulk of the committee's 20th-century records. They consist of copies of printed bills and resolutions and committee hearings; correspondence between the chairmen and claimants or their legal representatives, the Secretary of War, and other War Department authorities; collections of testimonials and legal documents supporting claims for relief. The files for each Congress are in two groups: the public bills are arranged numerically by bill or reservation number; the private bills are arranged alphabetically by name of person or by subject.

4.39 Many of the bill files concern applications for relief from retired or disabled servicemen, veterans, widows, or dismissed military personnel. Among the files for the 59th Congress, 1905-7 (59A-D17), is a summary of the military service records of 84 officers from the Union volunteer forces prepared for H.R. 8989, which proposed a compilation of a "Volunteer Retired List" of former Civil War officers who would be entitled to receive an annuity from the Government. Related records are in the bill files for the 60th Congress (60A-D20) under H.R. 19250.

4.40 The bill files cover many subjects. Among them is the status of blacks in the Army during the World War II period. In 1941 Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson reported unfavorably on H.R. 34 to establish a separate "colored combat unit" within the Michigan National Guard (77A-D24) because the War Department had plans to organize "additional colored combat units" as part of an effort "to establish a well balanced military force." In 1945, Stimson also reported unfavorably on H.R. 2708 proposed by black New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., to desegregate the Armed Forces (79A-D25).

4.41 Bound reports, hearings, and other printed documents from the Military Affairs Committee are among the library collection of the Armed Services Committee (see paras. 4.119—4.121).

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Committee on the Militia, 24th-67th Congresses (1835-1911)

History and Jurisdiction

4.42 Article I, section 8, of the Constitution of the United States grants Congress the power "to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions," and to provide for "organizing, arming, and disciplining" the militia. The States retained the power to appoint the officers of the militia and the authority to train the militia according to the congressionally-mandated regimen of discipline. The Constitution (Article II, section 2), designated the President of the United States as the Commander-in-Chief of the aggregate militia forces of the States when they were called upon to support the Regular Army and Navy.

4.43 On May 8, 1792, Congress passed the Militia Act authorizing the States to enroll and organize for military service all able-bodied free white citizens between the ages of 18 and 45. The War of 1812 exposed serious deficiencies in the performance of the militia forces, and in 1815, Richard H. Wilde of Georgia proposed that a standing Committee on the Militia be established. 2 The House rejected his proposal and continued to use select committees to deal with militia affairs on an ad hoc basis for the next 20 years.

4.44 The standing Committee on the Militia was created on December 10, 1815, with jurisdiction over miscellaneous aspects of the militia organization and operation in the several States and the District of Columbia. The Committee's jurisdiction included fostering greater efficiency in the militia units, encouraging rifle practice, reorganizing the militia, and issuing armaments to the militia units and later to the National Guard or voluntary militia units that replaced them.

4.45 The committee was not terminated until 1911 although it had exercised little influence after the passage of the Dick Military Act of January 31, 1903. That law, combined with other concurrent military reforms, integrated the National Guard organizations in the States with the Regular Army, largely eliminating the need for direct congressional supervision of the implementation of the now obsolete 1792 militia law. After 1911, the House Military Affairs committee assumed the functions and powers that had formerly been in the jurisdiction of the Militia Committee.

Records of the Committee on the Militia, 24th-67th Congresses (1835-1911)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 9 vols. 45th (1877-79), 49th (1885-87), 51st-52d (1889-93), 54th-56th (1895-1901), 60th-61st (1907-11)
Docket Books 11 vols. 39th-41st (1865-71), 44th-46th (1875-81), 49th (1885-87), 51st-52d (1889-93), 54th-56th (1895-1901), 60th-61st (1907-11)
Petitions and Memorials 8 in. 22d (1831-33), 26th-27th (1839-43), 29th (1845-47), 32d (1853-55), 35th (1857-59), 45th-49th 1877-89, 53d-56th (1893-1901), 60th-61st (1907-11)
Committee Papers 11in. 16th (1819-21), 19th (1825-27), 25th-26th (1837-41), 28th-29th (1843-47), 39th-41st (1865-71), 44th-46th (1875-81), 48th-49th (1883-87), 51st-56th (1889-1901), 60th-61st (1907-11)
Bill Files 2 in. 58th (1903-05), 60th (1907-09)
TOTAL: 2 ft. and 20 vols. (1 ft.)  

4.46 This committee did not produce an extensive collection of records, primarily because of its limited jurisdiction and the continuing validity of the 1792 Militia Act—a law which underwent only minor revisions from its passage until 1903. The minute books contain the proceedings of a relatively small number of the committee meetings during the Congresses that convened in the 1880's and 1890's because the committee had trouble forming quorums. The committee clerk in 1886 noted, for example, that the absenteeism of committee members contributed to "a dismal failure" at a scheduled meeting. A few of the books contain copies of committee hearings, proposed bills, and newspaper editorials concerning the committee's work. The docket books are also quite incomplete; they give the name of the bill or petition, the action taken, and occasional remarks on legislation.

4.47 Petitions and memorials comprise a large part of the extant records of the committee. They demonstrate the widespread and continuing interest of the committee members, State politicians, members of local military organizations, and concerned citizens in maintaining a strong State militia system to obviate the establishment of a large, standing Regular Army.

4.48 The bulk of the petitions, however, deals with the subject of revising the 1792 Militia Act to improve the organization, training, and equipping of the State militia forces. To many, a particularly objectionable feature of the 1792 law was its provision to enroll all able-bodied citizens between the ages of 18 and 45. Memorialists frequently called for a change in the law. A Connecticut State Militia officers' committee in January 1832 demanded a reduction in the prescribed period of enrollment, pointing out: "The call upon Minors is resented by the avarice of parents and Masters, and the last few years, of the present period of service, is irksome to those, who are military subjects" (22A-G14.1). Another memorial from the 1832 Pennsylvania Military Convention denounced the "burthensome and inefficient" military system created by the 1792 act.

4.49 For the rest of the 19th century, petitions continued to emphasize the need to improve the militia in order to increase the effectiveness of "Citizens-Soldiers" as opposed to "slave mercenary soldiers," as one Vermont State Militia delegation put the matter in 1839 (25A-G12.1). Miscellaneous petitions submitted to the committee include requests from Harper & Brothers, Publishers, of New York, and from a Philadelphia bookseller, to secure a Government contract to publish and issue to the militia copies of Gen. Winfield S. Scott's book, Infantry Tactics (26A-G12.1); prayers from State militia organizations for Government assistance in procuring military equipment and stores (26A-G12.1, 46A-H15.2); and petitions seeking recognition and appropriations for National Guard units (46A- H15.1, 54A-H21.1, 60A-H24.1). In 1881, the National Guard Association of the United States submitted a petition pointing out the absurdity of continued support for the obsolete 1792 militia law which, if enforced, would produce a militia of nearly 7 million men. The Association urged recognition of the volunteer militia organizations comprising the National Guard as the Nation's only militia force (47A- H14.1).

4.50 Committee papers consist mainly of copies of bills, reports, and other documents relating to the committee's jurisdiction as well as resolutions submitted to the committee from State legislatures and military organizations. Also, among the committee papers are scattered files of correspondence among committee members, War Department officials, militia officers, and public servants and private individuals in the States. These include an exchange of letters between various committee members and Samuel Colt, the inventor, concerning the committee's favorable consideration of Colt's waterproof cartridges and its subsequent recommendation of their use (28A-D18.1). Other subjects raised in the correspondence include the settlement of pay claims of Mississippi militia officers (29A-D12.1), the proposed 1867 national militia bill (39A-F16.1), and the 1911 pay bill (61A-F35.1). The committee papers also contain abstracts of the militia force, prepared and submitted to Congress by the Secretary of War, 1875-95 (44A-F21.1, 45A-F22.1, 49A-F22.1, 53A-F28.1). Available, as well, are resolutions from State legislatures—including Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Illinois—and militia organizations calling upon various State representations in Congress to support passage of bills to improve militia organization (22A-G14.1).

4.51 The relatively few bill files among the committee records include copies of bills providing for the establishment of public rifle ranges across the United States, the establishment and discipline of the District of Columbia militia (58A-D19), and an amendment to the Dick Act of 1903 (60A-D21). Copies of the proceedings of published hearings relating to the Dick Act, featuring testimony by representatives of the National Guard Association, are interspersed throughout the file.

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Committee on Naval Affairs, 17th-79th Congresses (1822-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

4.52 The Constitution of the United States grants Congress the power to provide and maintain a Navy and designates the President as its commander-in-chief. Select committees were appointed in the House to consider legislation pertaining to naval affairs during every Congress from 1809 until 1822 when the standing Committee on Naval Affairs was created. The jurisdiction of the committee, which remained unchanged for more than 60 years was as follows:

  • It shall be the duty of the Committee on Naval Affairs to take into its consideration all matters which concern the naval establishment, and which shall be referred to them by the House, and to report their opinion thereupon; and also to report, from time to time, such measures as may contribute to the economy and accountability of the said establishment. 3

4.53 In 1885 a House Rule change amended the committee's jurisdiction to cover all legislation relating to the Naval Establishment, including the naval appropriations bills. A 1920 change in House rules removed the jurisdiction over appropriations from the committee and returned it to the Appropriations Committee. The Naval Affairs Committee's jurisdiction then included the following: "the naval establishment, including increase or reduction of commissioned officers and enlisted men and their pay and allowances and the increase of ships or vessels of all classes of the Navy." 4

4.54 During the 20th century, the jurisdiction of the committee was expanded to include naval and marine aeronautics; the construction of aircraft carriers for the Navy; the acquisition of sites for naval facilities, and the establishment, construction, improvement, and maintenance of such facilities; the authorization of special decorations, orders, medals, and other insignia for naval personnel, and the acceptance of offices and emoluments from foreign governments; claims of personnel and civilian employees of the Navy; and legislation relating to the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, the Marine Band, the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve, the Naval Observatory, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey (in part).

4.55 The committee was abolished under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and its jurisdiction incorporated into that of the Armed Services Committee created under the 1946 act.

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs, 17th-79th Congresses (1822-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 23 vols. 38th-47th (1863-83), 50th-51st (1887-91), 55th-64th (1897-1917), 69th-70th (1925-29)
Docket Books 1 vol. 72d-74th (1932-35)
Petitions and Memorials   13 ft. 11th-74th (1809-1936), 76th-79th (1939-46)
Committee Papers 21 ft. 11-68th (1809-1925), 70th-72d (1927-33), 76th-79th (1939-46)
Bill Files 28 ft. 58th-79th (1903-46)
TOTAL: 62 ft. and 24 vols. (3 ft.)  

4.56 The minute books record the attendance of members and witnesses at committee meetings; describe the proceedings of hearings, debates, and discussions; and document votes on bills and resolutions. After 1900, most of the entries in the minute books are typewritten. In addition to providing the information given above, the 20th-century minute books record reports and petitions and memorials that the committee considered. The minute books for the period before 1899 provide the dates of meetings and individual or House resolution numbers where assigned, information that usually was recorded in docket books. Most of the minute books were transferred to the Armed Services Committee, and those volumes have been retired as part of the Armed Services Committee's Library Collection.

4.57 There are no extant docket books for any Naval Affairs Committee from 1822 to 1899. Only one docket book has been preserved for the 20th century. A thin volume covering the period between 1932 and 1935, it records the dates and times of regularly scheduled meetings of the committee, notes the members present, the assigned number of each bill, the name of the bill's proponent, and a summary of the bill's content. Occasionally, remarks were recorded concerning particular bills or the committee's actions on them.

4.58 The petitions and memorials either express public and private demands for congressional intervention in various areas of naval affairs or constitute prayers of individuals or groups seeking some special dispensation of congressional relief. Before 1899, claims form the largest single group of petitions and memorials. After 1899, many claims are in bill files. The petitions and memorials submitted or referred to the committee in the 20th century reflect significant changes in the interests of petitioners who were increasingly concerned with the economics of administering the Nation's growing Naval Establishment and the controversial aspects of American expansion abroad.

4.59 Some of the documents referred to in the discussion that follows are dated prior to the establishment of the standing Committee on Naval Affairs in 1822. Those petitions and memorials were received by various select committees on military affairs.

4.60 Among the claims petitions are numerous requests of Navy veterans and seamen seeking compensation for services rendered or injuries sustained in the performance of duty. For example, Surgeon Joseph G. Roberts prayed for prize money comparable to the shares awarded by Congress to Commodore Oliver H. Perry and his men for the capture of the British fleet in Lake Erie in 1813. Because Perry had put him in charge of the military hospital at Erie, PA, Roberts was not aboard ship at the time of the battle and did not qualify for the award (13A-G8.1). James Turnbull, a seaman on a privately armed vessel, the Elbridge Gerry, sought financial relief from Congress because while he was a prisoner in England during the War of 1812, he had been wantonly shot by a "musket ball in his left arm, which broke the bone and rendered an immediate amputation above the elbow necessary" (14A-F8.1). Veterans of the Union Navy presented petitions on their own behalf for services performed and sacrifices made during the Civil War. The officers and crew of U.S.S. Kearsarge asked for $192,000 for the destruction of the Confederate warship Alabama in 1864 (39A-H17.1).

4.61 Other petitions and memorials relate to claims of naval veterans seeking compensation for loss of personal property. Dr. Grenville M. Weeks, Assistant Surgeon aboard the ill-fated Union Navy ironclad warship Monitor, sought compensation for the loss of his medical books and personal belongings when the Monitor sank in stormy waters off Cape Hatteras, NC, in 1862. He asked for additional relief for injuries to his right hand and arm, "the first by being crushed, the latter by being wrenched from its socket," sustained when he attempted to evacuate himself and save others from the doomed ship (37A-G9.2).

4.62 Claims from veterans for pensions and from widows or close relatives of deceased veterans for financial relief constitute a considerable part of the petitions and memorials. They are found consistently in the records of the 11th through the 55th Congresses (1809-99), particularly after 1862, when Congress passed a bill granting lifetime pensions to all naval personnel disabled in the line of duty. Not all awards for military service went to members of the Armed Forces of the United States, however. In 1855, a law was passed granting 5-years pay to surviving officers who had been serving in the Texas Navy when Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845. Mrs. Sarah Brasher of Maryland cited this law when she sought the payment due her deceased son who had been a captain in the Texas Navy (35A-G14.2).

4.63 Another significant group of petitions and memorials documents the committee's responsibility for reviewing cases of naval courts-martial and making recommendations to the Secretary of the Navy and the President concerning the service status of officers and seamen who had been suspended from duty or cashiered. A midshipman cashiered for drunkenness and insubordination (21A- G14.2) and a lieutenant found guilty of "un-officer-like conduct" (34A-G12.2) are examples of naval personnel who appealed to the committee for redress. In 1932, the committee was asked to consider the case of a Navy officer in Hawaii who killed his wife's alleged rapist, a reprisal committed because the officer was convinced that the law enforcement measures taken by the civilian and military authorities were inadequate. Petitions sent to President Herbert Hoover by religious and civic groups from the officer's hometown in Kentucky and later referred to Congress and the Committee on Naval Affairs, demanded that the officer be released from custody and restored to duty (72A-H11.1).

4.64 Interest in technological advances in nautical science and engineering accounted for substantial numbers of petitions and memorials, particularly during the mid-19th century (31A-G12.4, 33A-G14.8, 36A-G12.2). Most petitioners sought contracts for the official adoption, mass production, and use or deployment of their contrivances or machines. James D. Woodside, for example, applied in 1827 for funds to test and produce his "Ship-Gauge" instrument for navigation (20A-G13.20).Other memorialists prayed for the adoption of a newly-designed steamboat (33A-G14.8); a rifle cannon (34A-G12.3); a ship timber bending apparatus(35A-G14.4); a bolt extractor, an improved lifeboat, and a brown sugar- making machine (36A-G12.1); and a battering ram (54A-H23.4). Some aggrieved inventors petitioned Congress demanding restitution for violation of patents (18A- F11.1, 19A-G13.2). As late as 1909, a petitioner requested that Congress take steps to recognize Theodore R. Timby as the inventor of the type of revolving turret used on the Monitor and other ironclad vessels (61A-H25.5).

4.65 The fervor and dedication of the great social reform crusades of the 19th century, especially in the antebellum era, are reflected in the petitions and memorials. State temperance societies insistently prayed for the repeal of the law that sanctioned the issue of the "spirit ration" to sailors—a protracted campaign of protest that ultimately resulted in congressional abrogation of the law in 1862 (26A- G13.3, 28A-G14.1, 30A-G13.3, 31A-G12.5, 32A-G13.5). Humanitarian groups meanwhile demanded an end to corporal punishment, particularly flogging, this effort culminating in legislative victory when Congress abolished the abusive practice in 1850 (27A-G14.3, 30A-G13.1, 31A-G12.2, 32A-G13.2). Before the Civil War, the Speaker of the House referred to the committee petitions from antislavery societies in the northern States. Among these were pleas for Congress to assist in establishing and maintaining a steamship line to Liberia, thus promoting the colonization of that newly-founded African republic by manumitted southern slaves and free northern blacks (31A-G12.7).

4.66 The institutional developments of the Naval Establishment through education was a major interest of the American people and the Committee on Naval Affairs. Numerous petitions concern improvements in naval education and proposals for the establishment of naval schools. Petitioners, for example, suggested that improved squadron communications would prevent collisions at sea and recommended the establishment of a board of examiners on marine signals; a copy of William H. Ward's 1858 manual Ward's Code of Signal Telegraph was submitted to bolster the proposal (35A-G14.1). Other petitioners wrote concerning the salaries of professors at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD (38A- G13.5, 45A-H19.4, 53A-H23.1), and the renovation and management of the U. S. Naval Observatory at Washington, DC (45A-H15.1, 47A-H15.1, 52A-H16.1). The 1879 Louisiana Constitutional Convention proposed the establishment of a naval and marine school at New Orleans (46A-H16.1); Pacific coast civic groups prayed in 1916 and 1919 for a naval academy and aviation school at some west coast port to complement the Naval Academy (64A-H18.4, 66A-H14.1); National Guard organizations and State legislatures proposed that the Government establish torpedo schools and submarine and aviation training stations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes (58A-H17.2, 60A-H26.4, 66A-H14.2, 69A-H13.1) to provide education on new naval weapons systems. In 1920 the Board of Aldermen and other officials of Newport, RI, protested the proposed removal of the Naval War College to Washington, DC (66A-H14.8), and in 1926, the Chicago City Council asked that the Naval Academy be removed from Annapolis to a location on Lake Michigan (69A-H13.6).

4.67 Other petitions focused on the construction, maintenance, repair, and improvement of strategic naval facilities such as navy yards and drydocks, matters of considerable concern because they affected naval preparedness and had an important economic impact on the American work force. Petitioners representing the commercial and economic interests of large cities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and on the shores of the Great Lakes constantly asked the committee to award building contracts to local firms, trade associations, or public works agencies. For example, the Philadelphia Board of Trade wanted drydock work for local citizens (25A-G13.2), while the municipal government of Brooklyn prayed for a contract to construct a drydock in New York harbor (26A-G13.2). The local demands for naval construction work continued unabated, and most Congresses before 1920 responded to these petitions by appropriating funds for the improvement of naval facilities such as yards and drydocks (57A-H19.3, 60A- H26.6, 63A-H21.8, 64A-H18.3, 76A-H18.1), as well as ships (56A-H19.1, 59A- H18.1, 63A-H21.2, 71A-H13.2), and ordnance (57A-H19.2, 58A-H17.3, 59A- H18.2).

4.68 From the early 1900's, union-organized navy yard workers and privately employed artisans competed for contract work on naval construction projects such as shipbuilding. Memorials from sympathetic State legislatures, fraternal organizations, civic groups, trade federations, and naval veteran associations regularly prayed for committee assistance in ensuring that the Government grant contract work to navy yard employees, particularly those affiliated with labor organizations, and not to private or independent nonunion or antiunion groups (57A- H19.1, 2, 63A-H21.1, 66A-H14.8, 68A-H14.2, 69A-H13.3, 71A-H13.2, 73A- H15.1). New Orleans laborers, for example, demanded that Congress require that the Department of the Navy hire only union laborers (57A-H19.4), while other groups sought higher pay based on fairer systems of seniority and skill measurement (63A-H2.1, 64A-H18.2, 77A-H14.4). Ironically, a bill proposed in 1941 by Committee Chairman Carl Vinson to expedite the naval construction program by providing for the investigation and mediation of navy yard labor disputes aroused bitter and widespread opposition. The United Mine Workers (UMW), the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), and the Park City Ladies Auxiliary of Utah were just three of the groups that denounced the Vinson bill, which was characterized by the St. Louis Newspaper Guild as the "work of anti-labor forces," because it violated the collective bargaining provisions of the Wagner Act of 1935 (77A- H14.5).

4.69 Petitioners also sought the participation of the Navy in endeavors that would expand geographic knowledge or improve communication. In 1843, for example, John Wise of Lancaster, PA, urged the committee to appropriate funds to permit the Navy to conduct an aerial circumnavigation of the earth in his "Aerostatic machine," a balloon with a seaworthy gondola (28A-G14.2). Delegates from 15 States who met in Memphis, TN, in 1849 called for the construction of a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast and the construction of either an interoceanic ship canal or railroad across Central America (31A-G12.8). In 1850, Henry Grinnell, the New York merchant and philanthropist, suggested that the Navy could gain valuable knowledge of the Arctic if 30 Navy seamen were assigned to his expedition to search for Sir John Franklin and his party (31A-G12.8), who had disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.

4.70 Many of the petitions and memorials concern naval personnel matters and recommended changes in the organization of the Department of the Navy. Officers and enlisted men petitioned for increased pay and regular promotions (36A- G12.3, 37A-G9.1, 38A-G13.2), while other petitioners urged Congress to set higher rank for Navy medical officers, to establish a more equitable system of ranking officers and enlisted men, and to improve discipline and efficiency in the Navy (25A-G14.8, 29A-G12.5, 38A-G13.3, 48A-H19.30). Petitioners also advocated a more efficient clerical corps in the Navy (55A-H19.20), the upgrading of medical services, and the improvement of standards of professional practice within the Medical and Surgical Bureaus (40A-H12.1); others recommended a fundamental reorganization of the Medical Corps (38A-G13.8) and suggested the transfer of the Revenue Cutter Service from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department (52A-H16.3). From the 1890's onward, the committee received requests to create Naval and Marine Corps reserve units (51A-H15.1, 54A-H23.1, 56A-H19.2, 60A- H26.2). After Congress established the Naval Reserve Force and the Marine Reserve Force in 1916, petitioners turned their attention to the maintenance of the units (68A-H14.3, 71A-H13.3). The reserves were reorganized in 1925 and again in 1938.

4.71 Throughout the 19th century the United States remained basically a continental power, and strategic theory and planning regarding wartime use of the Navy did not fully evolve until after the acquisition of overseas possessions following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Nevertheless, the American public recognized the necessity for the improvement of the Nation's coastal and maritime defenses. For example, petitions, including some from legislatures in the States bordering the Great Lakes, called for the construction of naval depots, stations, and vessels on Lake Erie and Lake Michigan in the mid-1860's (38A-G13.8, 39A- H17.1); the Philadelphia Board of Trade urged the development of improved seacoast defenses in the late 1880's (49A-H19.4); and various chambers of commerce in California, Oregon, and Washington asked for the deployment of torpedo vessels to guard the Pacific coast against hostile attack in the mid-1890's (53A-H23.1).

4.72 The petitions and memorials submitted or referred to the committee after 1900 reflect significantly different concerns than those expressed in the requests received in the 19th century. The acquisition of overseas territories led to increased public and private concern over the administration of the United States Naval Establishment and naval operations after 1898.

4.73 Isolationist and pacifist groups who opposed overseas expansion demanded a reduction in American naval armaments and an end to what they perceived to be United States militarism. President Theodore Roosevelt's shipbuilding program, started in the early 1900's, provoked intense opposition among large well-organized groups of educators, clergymen, and other citizens. In 1908, for example, the name of U. S. Steel baron Andrew Carnegie headed a list of nearly 400 citizens of New York City who submitted a petition to the committee denouncing Roosevelt's proposed $60,000,000 naval construction program (60A- H26.10). Form petitions signed by hundreds of theological students, Pennsylvania Quakers, political liberals, constitutional advocates, and dedicated peace groups continued to decry naval expansion in succeeding years (61A-H25.3, 62A-H22.1, 63A-H21.1).

4.74 Peace groups insisted that Congress observe the limits on naval armaments established by agreements negotiated at various international conferences. Such demands began before World War I, but naval treaties concluded at Washington, DC and London, England, in 1922, and 1930 respectively, and the Geneva Conference of 1932 elicited the bulk of the petitions (63A-H21.12, 67A-H16.2, 71A-H13.1). In 1934, several national religious organizations, particularly the Council of the Churches of Christ, unsuccessfully opposed the passage of the Vinson-Trammel bill that authorized a 5-year building and replacement program of more than 100 ships. In 1935, fleet exercises in the western Pacific prompted protests from church groups in Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York, that considered the maneuvers to be threats to world peace since they might provoke Japan (74A-H12.2). Naval participation in the proposed atomic bomb testing in the Pacific in 1946 prompted opposition from church members in Allen, TX (79A-F27.1).

4.75 Opposed to the isolationists and pacifists were the advocates of naval expansion and preparedness. Their more chauvinistic orientation is equally well represented in the petitions and memorials directed to the committee after 1898. The supposed threat posed by the Japanese militarism in the early 1900's led to calls upon the committee to pass bills improving the naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, HI (60A-H26.9). Meanwhile, private organizations such as the National Business League, the Spanish-American War Veterans, the American Legion, the Navy League, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and various labor associations advocated a substantial United States naval buildup on a two- ocean front (60A-H26.1, 63A-H21.2, 64A-H18.6, 69A-H13.2). Those groups also urged the committee to ensure that the United States achieve its full naval strength as defined by the ship construction limitations imposed by the treaties of 1922 and 1930 (68A-H14.1, 71A-H.13). Protection of the Pacific coast also was a critical issue among defense-minded advocates of naval preparedness, as numerous petitions and memorials demonstrate (60A-H26.7, 63A-H21.9, 65A-H13.4, 67A- H16.1, 73A-H15.5, 76A-H18.2).

refer to caption

Petition from the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce Regarding Improvement of Pearl Harbor, October 10, 1907 (HR60A-H26.9). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

4.76 In addition to the subjects already discussed, the committee received petitions and memorials on many other topics. During the early years of the Republic, piracy was an important issue to reform-minded Americans who considered ineffective an 1819 act that had authorized Navy vessels to convoy American merchant ships on the high seas. Some of the petitions on this subject proposed bold plans to combat maritime plundering in the Caribbean or to punish Chinese pirates in distant Asian waters (18A-F11.2, 34A-G12.3). Various charitable groups petitioned the committee to use Navy vessels to transport food to Ireland during the severe "Potato Famine" years of the 1840's (29A-G12.4), while Christian missionaries in India and the United States pleaded for similar naval assistance in shipping grain to famine-stricken South Asia in 1897 (55A-H19.3). In 1910 the Illinois Society Sons of the American Revolution petitioned for the funds necessary to complete and furnish the crypt of chapel at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, as a permanent resting place for the body of John Paul Jones (61A- H25.5).

4.77 Other petitions and memorials relate to historic ships. Among these are petitions concerning the following: The preservation of the frigate Constitution, 1913-36 (63A-H21.5, 73A-H15.2, 74A-H12.1) and of Admiral David G. Farragut's flagship Hartford, 1919 (66A-H14.5); a controversy over a permanent port for the Constellation, 1935-42 (74A-H12.1, 76A-H18.3, 77A-H14.1); and the raising of the Maine from Havana harbor so the bodies of the crew members still aboard the ship could be properly interred (61A-H25.4, 62A-H22.4).

4.78 The committee papers consist largely of copies of committee reports on petitions, memorials, and proposed House bills; correspondence between chairmen and constituents from various congressional districts, Navy Department officials, and State political figures; affidavits and testimonials supporting claims; reports from the Secretary of the Navy; statistical reports and financial statements; copies of proceedings of Navy Department courts-martial; legislative calendars; and some original maps, charts, and plans and diagrams of ships in different stages of design and construction. Some of the reports are printed in the Congressional Serial Set.

4.79 For much of the early 19th century, naval personnel and owners and captains of privately owned armed vessels, or privateers, sought bounties or prize money for enemy vessels captured during the War of 1812. Some of the committee papers document their claims (13A-D9.1, 16A-D16.1, 22A-D17.1). Privateering was abolished in 1856 by the Declaration of Paris, but, during the Civil War, Union blockaders were granted monetary awards (47A-F17.2). The use of prize money as an incentive was abolished by Congress in 1899.

4.80 Interspersed among the committee papers are documents submitted by naval officers and enlisted men who sought restoration to duty or a correction of their service record through the intervention of the committee with the Secretary of the Navy or the President. Among these are papers concerning a Commander who was tried for drunkenness on duty during the blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1863 (39A-F17.4, 40A-F17.5), and a captain who was cashiered for being absent without leave from his pestilence-ridden Florida post (48A-F23.11). Some courtroom testimony may be found in the files for may of these cases.

4.81 A substantial portion of the 19th-century documents complement and support the claims that prompted the petitions and memorials from veterans or their heirs. One example is a copy of the committee's favorable report (17A-C17.1) on an 1823 petition for financial aid (17A-F10.1) from Sarah Perry, the mother of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry who had died in 1819. Documents concerning an 1846 report on a claim from the heirs of John Paul Jones, the Revolutionary War hero who died in Paris in 1792, include excerpts from the correspondence of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (29A-D13.2). Typical of documents concerning claims for injuries sustained in war is one maimed sailor's prayer for relief and an accompanying committee report concerning his eligibility for a pension (22A-D17.1). The committee also reported on claims for losses of personal property under hostile or wartime conditions (16A-D16.2, 32A-D11.1). An 1863 letter from Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, concerned compensation for clothing lost by Union sailors who had been forced to evacuate the U.S.S. Cairo (37A-E11.4). Representative of papers concerning awards for extraordinary services rendered to the Navy is an 1858 report recommending additional compensation for Eliphalet Brown, Jr., a daguerreotypist employed as an artist on Commodore Matthew C. Perry's expedition to Japan, (35A-D13.1). The officers and crew of the Union ironclad Monitor were recommended for recognition for their participation in the battle with the Confederate ironclad, Merrimac (48A-F23.13).

4.82 The committee's concern with scientific advances in nautical and marine technology is amply illustrated by the committee papers. Typical of the inventions discussed in the records are Edward Clark's "projected floating battery" (12A-C7.2); Mrs. Sarah P. Mathers' submarine telescope (24A-D19.1); and John Ericsson's prototype battleship "Destroyer," which was armed with "submarine artillery" (48A- F23.8, 49A-F24.3). Also mentioned in the papers are other inventions, such as the following: A European-designed ship's anchor (18A-C11.2); armed steamers (27A- D14.1); live-saving equipment for American vessels (33A-D11.2, 48A-F23.9); and "Submarine Torpedo Boats" (58A-F25.1). The papers relating to some of these inventions include detailed reports providing illustrations and specifications.

4.83 The committee also heard from inventors who sought recognition for their contributions or redress for alleged infringements of their patented designs. Papers for the 29th Congress (1845-47), for example, include letters, testimonials, and other documents supporting a request from John Ericsson for recognition of his work in designing and constructing the Princeton and a claim from the heirs of Robert Fulton, designer of the steamboat, the Clermont, for services Fulton had performed for the Navy (29A-D13.2). Other records concern demands for compensation for the Navy's alleged use of patented designs for Captain Henry R. Shreve's snagboat to clear debris from rivers (33A-D11.1) and Charles Olcott's heavily armor-plated iron boat (34A-D13.1).

4.84 Committee papers also include records concerning the construction, maintenance, repair, and expansion of physical facilities. Documents relating to yards and depots, drydocks and stations, and shipbuilding projects are found for many Congresses from the 11th to the 55th (1809-99).Also included are records concerning improvements to coastal defenses on the Great Lakes, the "maritime frontier" (12A-C7.2), the east coast (16A-D16.2), the Pacific Northwest coast (34A- D13.2), and vulnerable harbors (48A-F23.9, 49A-F24.3). As early as 1899, the committee recognized the strategic value of improving the position of the Marine Corps in the Philippines and it recommended that the House vote to increase funds for new defensive fortifications and an extension of the Pacific cable, particularly that portion between Hawaii and the Philippines (56A-F26.8). Detailed maps showing the naval features of San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico, are included among the committee papers (57A-F25.1), and one file includes a committee-originated bill that favored the purchase of additional land adjacent to the American naval hospital at Yokohama, Japan (58A-25.2).

4.85 Personnel matters are extensively represented in the committee papers. Among the records are bill, printed reports on petitions, and correspondence exchanged between the Secretary of the Navy and committee members concerning the following: pay and promotion, including that for female nurses (36A-D15.3, 50A-F25.2, 55A-F26.6); discipline (21A-D17.4, 24A-D14.2, 25A-D16.3); efficiency and ranking (15A-D9.1, 38A-E13.10, 51A-F26.4); pension and retirement funds (20A-D15.3, 21A-D17.3, 23A-D13.2, 38A-E13.9). Committee members considered and reported on bills authorizing an increase in the number of officers in the Marine Corps (60A-F38.3) and the number of Navy chaplains, a measure supported by the Women's Christian Temperance Union as a means of curbing the abuse of liquor by enlisted men (63A-F28.1). For the most part, however, personnel-related records are relatively sparse among the committee papers during the 20th century because most documents concerning pay, promotion, and status are among the substantially expanded bill files after 1915.

4.86 A broad range of miscellaneous subjects characterize the committee papers in the 1800's. Among these diverse records are statements of the aggregate naval forces of the United States and Tripoli (16A-D16.2) and the United States and Spain (44A-F23.1); reports on the exploits of naval commanders during the War of 1812 (12A-C7.1); and papers on the filibustering operations of William Walker in Central America (35A-D13.4), steamer communications with China and Hawaii (30A-D14.4, 31A-D13.1), and exploration of the Arctic and South Seas (20A- D15.2, 48A-F23.6, 48A-F23.7, 48A-F23.14).

4.87 Other subjects covered include education, the Naval Academy and the Naval Observatory, expansion of the naval aviation program, organizational changes in the Navy Department, and appropriations.

4.88 Bill files comprise over half of the total volume of committee records for the 20th century. They consist of printed copies of bills or other legislation accompanied by related documents, such as messages from the President; correspondence with officials of the executive agencies, and applicants for pensions or other relief; and testimonials supporting claims. Claims for relief, or private bills, are abundant, most of them concerning either applications for pensions or pleas from naval personnel seeking correction of service records, reinstatement, or restoration to duty. For most Congresses the private bills and the public bills—those relating to naval administrative matters, equipment, and facilities—are interfiled and arranged by type of legislation, thereunder by bill or resolution number. For a few Congresses the private and public bills are filed in separate groups and arranged numerically within each group. Researchers can locate appropriate bill numbers by using the index to the Congressional Record for each Congress.

4.89 The bill files cover the full range of subjects within the committee's jurisdiction. For example, those for the 64th Congress include files for H.R. 10752, a proposal to build a naval base at Astoria, OR, and H.Res. 354, a recommendation that ships stationed in the Atlantic submit battleship target scores for congressional inspection (64A-D16). A file for the 79th Congress concerns H.R. 3402, a proposal to establish a women's naval academy (79A-D26).

4.90 A collection of bound reports, hearings, and other printed documents from the Naval Affairs Committee are among the Library Collection of the Armed Services Committee.

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Committee on the Armed Services, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)

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. 5

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 (1947-1968)

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.  

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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1. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 17th Cong., 1st sess., Mar. 13, 1822, p. 351. [Back to text]

2. Annals of the Congress of the United States, 14th Cong., 1st sess., Dec. 7, 1815, p. 380.[Back to text]

3. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 31st Cong., 1st sess., p. 1612. [Back to text]

4. Clarence Cannon, Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1935), vol. 7, p. 781. [Back to text]

5. 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. [Back to text]

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.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives