Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 4

Records of the Committee on Armed Services and Its Predecessors

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

4.1 Three of the original standing committees of the Senate were the Committee on Military Affairs, the Committee on the Militia, and the Committee on Naval Affairs—all of which were authorized on December 10, 1816, with the approval of a resolution introduced by James Barbour of Virginia. The Committees on Military Affairs and Naval Affairs met during each Congress until 1947, when committee reforms contained in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (Public Law 79-601) merged them into the Committee on Armed Services. The Committee on the Militia was in effect terminated by a Senate resolution of December 16, 1857, when it was not reconstituted at the beginning of the first session of the 35th Congress. The Committee on Military Affairs thereafter assumed responsibility for legislative matters affecting the militia.

4.2 A fourth standing committee, the Committee on Coast Defenses, was also responsible for a segment of national defense from its establishment on March 13, 1885, until its termination on April 18, 1921.

4.3 There are no published histories of any of these committees, although activities of the Armed Services Committee have been summarized annually in committee prints since 1970. Each committee's records are described separately below.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Military Affairs, 14th-79th Congresses (1816-1946)

refer to caption

Claim for Wife's Pension in the Case of Harriet W. Pond with Enclosed Petition from Clara Barton dated July 13, 1865. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

4.4 The records of the Committee on Military Affairs consist of nine series, totaling 131 ft. These include committee reports and papers, 1816-47 (2 ft.); committee papers, 1847-1946 (84 ft.), including records of an investigative subcommittee; petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1816-1946 (36 ft.); legislative dockets, 1849-91 and 1907-1937 (40 vols., 5 ft.); executive dockets, 1864-1909 (14 vols., 1 ft.); nomination registers, 1903-33 (9 vols., 1 ft.); minutes, 1877-1932 (18 vols., 2 ft.); rough minutes, 1893-99 (2 vols., 3 in.); and rough committee journal, 1887-89 (1 vol., 1 in.). The series of dockets and minutes are incomplete.

Records of the Committee on Military Affairs, 14th-36th Congresses (1816-1861)

4.5 There are three series of records for the pre-Civil War period: Committee reports and papers, 1816-47 (2 ft.); committee papers, 1847-61 (2 ft.); and petitions and memorials and resolutions of state legislatures referred to the Committee, 1816-61 (6 ft.). For each Congress, there are at least some records in each of these series. The committee reports and papers include original committee reports, many of which are printed as part of the Congressional Serial Set beginning with the 15th Congress (1817); correspondence from executive agencies relating to legislative matters; and bills and resolutions with accompanying papers. The committee papers include the same types of records, without original committee reports. The petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures are sometimes accompanied by supporting correspondence and other records.

4.6 Many of the earliest committee records relate to claims and pension requests resulting from wartime service of volunteers, militiamen, and regular Army enlisted men and officers, as well as their widows, other family members, and legal representatives. Records of claims may include petitions or memorials, committee reports, and legislative case files with accompanying correspondence or other documents to support the claim and may pertain to events of the Revolutionary War, the "quasi-war" with France, the Barbary pirate conflict, the War of 1812, the Seminole Indian war, the Black Hawk Indian war, other lesser Indian confrontations, and the Mexican War. Claims were also filed by civilians whose property may have been expropriated or otherwise used during a military action and by disgruntled contractors seeking additional compensation. The claims may be based on alleged destruction or loss of personal property during war and remuneration for moneys or property expended to support a military action or on peacetime accidents and routine activities of the Army or militia that resulted in some property loss. Some claimants sought restitution in the form of bounties or land grants.

4.7 While claims and pension files are chiefly of genealogical value to researchers today, a number of them relate to events or individuals, or include records, of larger historical significance. For example, in 1828 a Kentucky militiaman sought compensation for his unit's role in putting down Aaron Burr`s attempt to liberate Mexico and make Louisiana an independent republic (20A-D8). The claim of Revolutionary War Col. Henry Livingston contains, as exhibits, the original certifications of his military service signed by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Benedict Arnold from the mid-and-late 1770's (21A-D10). Records relating to claims also document the territorial history of Florida (25A-D9). Some notable military leaders who filed claims that were referred to the committee include Winfield Scott (20A-D8, 20A-G10), George E. McClellan (35A-E7), and John Charles Fremont (32A-E7).

4.8 Another form of claims file concerns inventors seeking payment for inventions and other innovations with military applications, such as John Lloyd's flammable liquid, "Greek fire" (17A-D9, 17A-G8), John Balthrope's improved gun carriage (21A-G11), Hall's gun improvements (27A-G10), and J.M. Hoge's cryptographic communication system (36A-E8). Sometimes the petitions or reports on them are accompanied by drawings. In the instance of Hoge's innovation, the file includes an enthusiastic endorsement by the Secretary of War and several samples of the cipher.

4.9 A number of records relate to military construction, including fortifications, armories, depots, barracks, and roads. The competition for military facilities, particularly a western armory, was very intense. A graphic example of what a community might submit to convince Congress of its suitability is the project prospectus of the Cairo Canal Company of Cairo, IL, complete with diagrams (26A-G10). Another file contains a unique, detailed listing or schedule of property to be acquired for an expansion of the Harpers Ferry, VA, armory (29A-D8).

4.10 Numerous other records relate to the settlement of accounts, equalization of officers' pay and emoluments, restoration of rank, and real estate transactions, such as the return of the Battery section of Manhattan to the city of New York (16A-G8), the government's purchase of George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon (30A-H9), and alleged fraud in the purchase of military land at Point Lime, CA (35A-E7).

4.11 Miscellaneous records include petitions opposing use of bloodhounds in the Seminole Indian war (26A-G10.1) and protesting the British destruction of the steamboat Caroline at Schlosser, NY, in 1837 (25A-G11.2); muster rolls of Kentucky volunteers in 1836 (24A-G9); a statement of West Point expenses (15A-D7); a status report on army desertion (20A-D8); a report on a system of improvement of artillery (26A-D8); and three committee legislative docket books, 31st-34th Congresses (1849-57).

4.12 Related to the records of the Committee on Military Affairs are those of the following select committees of the Senate: Select Committee on Memorials of Revolutionary Officers, 1825-26 (19th Cong.), and Select Committee on Revolutionary Officers, 1827-28 (20th Cong.), both concerning officer compensation; Select Committee on a Military Asylum Near the District of Columbia, 1858 (35th Cong.); and Select Committee To Inquire into the Facts Attending the Invasion and Seizure of the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry, 1859-60 (36th Cong.), which investigated John Brown's attempted takeover (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1196). Except for the Harpers Ferry records, these select committee records are very limited.

Back to Records of Military Affairs

Records of the Committee on Military Affairs, 37th-56th Congresses (1861-1901)

4.13 There are committee papers (27 ft.) and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State and territorial legislatures (16 ft.) for this period. The committee papers include legislative case files relating to specific bills and resolutions, executive communications and reports chiefly from the War Department, messages from the President usually transmitting a report from the War Department, and miscellaneous reports and letters received by the chairman. The petitions and memorials are similar to those of the pre-Civil War period and are sometimes accompanied by supporting documents. There are also 22 legislative docket books for the 38th-51st Congresses (1863-91); 14 executive docket books for the 38th and 44th-60th Congresses (1864, 1875-1909); minute books for the 45th-48th and 53d-54th Congresses (1877-85, 1893-97), and 1 volume each of a rough journal, 50th Cong. (1887-89), and rough minutes, 53d-55th Congresses (1893-99).

refer to caption

One of three photographs showing the damage done to Fort Sumter, ca. 1864. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

4.14 Senate involvement in the military operations of the Civil War are not, contrary to what one might expect, well documented by the records of the Military Affairs Committee. For the role of Congress in such matters, the manuscript reports and publications of the Joint Select Committee on the Conduct of the War in both Record Groups 46 and 128 and the Congressional Serial Set, are better sources. One file of the Military Affairs Committee dealing in some depth with field operations concerns its investigation of the misconduct of Gen. Louis Blenker of the New York volunteers, and is interesting for its information about camp life and sutlers serving the Army of the Potomac (37A-E7). During the war, the Senate received petitions seeking compensation for war-related damages, such as those inflicted by guerilla forces in Kansas (38A-H10), and those from merchants and other businessmen suffering from reduced transportation facilities between New York and Philadelphia (38A-H10.4), from ministers and pacifist religious groups seeking exemptions from conscription (38A-H10.2), and from the troops themselves for a pay increase (38A-H10.3). As the war came to a close, benefits for disabled veterans, such as a national home and civil service jobs, were sought from Congress (38A-H10.5).

4.15 The ramifications of the war were felt by the committee after Appomattox, as the committee received numerous petitions and memorials claiming service-connected injuries, alleging personal damages, and seeking soldiers' and widows' pensions and land as remuneration for military service (numerous Congresses). Many petitioners sought homes for war orphans and disabled veterans, even Confederate veterans (49A-H15.1). The Senate was petitioned frequently to change or correct individual military service records by passing a law removing a desertion charge, overturning the decision of a court-martial, or obtaining an honorable discharge, which might then entitle the soldier to veterans benefits. While these files may be chiefly of genealogical interest, some, such as those concerning black soldiers and their officers (38A-H10.5, 45A-E11, 48A-H15.1), may have broader historical significance. Such records exist for most Congresses into the 1880's, and some led to the introduction and passage of private bills. Other effects of the Civil War on the business of the committee are reflected in its consideration of proposals for battlefield memorial parks and national cemeteries, such as Gettysburg (38A-H10.5) and Fredericksburg (55A-J21.2, 56A-F21), unsuccessful Government attempts to acquire the Rand-Ordway photographic collection documenting the war (49A-E16, 49A-H15.1), and publication of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (48A-H15.1).

4.16 Other military conflicts of the late 19th century are less well documented. There are a few unpublished Military Affairs Committee records concerning the conflicts with the Spanish but little or none on concerning conflicts with Indians through the end of the 56th Congress. Most voluminous are exhibits accompanying the "Report of the Third Auditor on the California Indian War Claims," concerning events in that State in 1857-58 (53A-F15, oversize). Petitions for increased military protection were received on occasion from such areas as Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas (40A-H12.3, 41A-H12, 46A-H13.1). The committee also considered bills to compensate veterans and heirs of soldiers killed in the war with Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe (48A-E13) and to permit enlistment of Indians (52A-F16), and a memorial, signed by Gens. John Pope and George Crook, to authorize brevet promotions for Indian service (47A-H15.2).

4.17 A large number of bills, petitions, and memorials for this period relate to military organization, personnel, and other administrative matters. Included in this broad category are records relating to the establishment and improvement of the Signal Service (37A-E7, 47A-H15.1), hospital and ambulance corps (37A-H9.3, 38A-H10.1) and veterinary corps (55A-J21, 56A-J24.2), and the upgrading and expansion of the Army Medical Corps (43A-H12) and dental surgery staff (56A-F21, 56A-J24.4). Also in the medical area, the records document attempts by homeopathic surgeons to obtain limited professional recognition by a guaranteed percentage of medical officer appointments (37A-H9.2) and to end discrimination against them by the medical corps (47A-H15.1), and efforts to allow the use of female nurses in military hospitals (55A-F17, 56A-J24). Military chaplains also sought from Congress greater status and responsibility within the Army (51A-J16), as did Army engineers and ordnance officers. Bills and memorials relating to adjustment of accounts and contracts, pay increases for officers, and requests from servicemen to be placed on either the retired list or restored to active duty are scattered throughout the records. One petition from several citizens of Indiana opposed S. 59, 47th Cong., to place General and former President U.S. Grant on the retired list (47A-E13).

4.18 The construction and improvement of military roads, forts, arsenals, and armories and the disposition of military real estate, including abandonment of military posts and the granting of rights of way to railroads through military reservations, constitute another major subject category of the records. After the war, there generally was less need for military facilities in the East, such as the Harpers Ferry armory (39A-E7,-H10.2), and greater need in the West. Occasionally, legislative case files, Presidential messages, and executive communications include maps and architectural drawings or blueprints of the facilities, such as plans for the conversion of a building at Fort Leavenworth to a military prison (43A-E10), a map of the Presidio in San Francisco (44A-E9), a drawing of the Perth Amboy bridge (46A-E13), and drawings of renovations of several military facilities (47A-E13).

4.19 The committee's records also document scientific developments and technical innovations applicable to military activities. Dr. William T. G. Morton claimed in his petition (37A-H9.4) to be the discoverer of a "practical anathesia" (ether), a claim that had been the subject of the Senate Select Committee on Claims to Priority of Discovery of the Use of Ether in Surgical Operations, 32d Cong., 2d sess., for which no other records have been preserved. Other technical innovations documented in the records include the military use of balloons (37A-E7), portable canvas boats (44A-H11.1, 45A-H12), a counterpoint battery for protection of cannon for coast defense (47A-H15.2), and Leonard smokeless powder (53A-J20). The records also document the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition to the Arctic in exhibits submitted to the Senate by the four enlisted men who survived (54A-F17).

4.20 Other subjects documented by these records include military education at West Point (42A-E10) and in the public schools (54A-J22, 55A-J21.2); interaction between the labor movement and the military, including objections from musicians unions to public appearances by military bands (45A-H12, 50A-J15, 52A-J16.1); and the use of troops in labor disputes in Illinois (50A-J15) and Idaho (56A-J24.4). Temperance advocates petitioned for abolition of liquor sales on military posts and in Government buildings (50A-J15, 54A-J22.1, 55A-J21.1, 56A-J24.3). The records also include a petition from Clara Barton to obtain military surplus in Washington to assist freedmen (41A-H12) and copies of charters and catalogs of black colleges and academies, such as Fisk University (41A-E10).

Back to Records of Military Affairs

Records of the Committee on Military Affairs, 57th-79th Congresses (1901-1946)

4.21 Beginning with the 57th Congress, the legislative case files of the committee are no longer part of the committee papers, but rather were maintained in the series papers supporting bills and resolutions. Legislative dockets, 1907-37 (15 vols., 3 ft.) record committee action on bills and resolutions referred to the committee. Because legislative case files previously constituted the bulk of the committee papers (49 ft.), what is generally left, at least until 1940, are original reports, printed executive communications, and original Presidential messages, such as Wilson's recommendation of the permanent rank of general for John J. Pershing (66A-F14). Some records deal with the committee's investigation into the Brownsville Affray, a violent confrontation between some black soldiers of the 25th Infantry and civilians in Brownsville, TX in 1905; the file contains numerous exhibits, including maps and bullets (60A-F15), in addition to the printed record (59A-F19, 61A-F18). In the records of the 71st Congress (1929-31), a list of mothers and widows entitled to make a pilgrimage to European cemeteries to visit the World War I gravesites of their sons and husbands is arranged by State and county and includes each person's address, soldier's name and unit, and other information (71A-F17, oversize). From the mid-1920's to the early 1940's, however, the committee papers consist chiefly of a small number of annual reports from such groups as the American War Mothers, the Belleau Wood Memorial Association, and the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice.

refer to caption

Liquor a Foe in the American Home, ca. 1943 in petitions referred to the Committee on Military Affairs during the 78th Congress (SEN78A-J14). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

4.22 With the beginning of World War II, there is a corresponding change in the emphasis of the committee's work and, likewise, its records. Concern for the defense of the Panama Canal was the subject of an executive session of the committee on July 10, 1940 (76A-F15). War Department reports on cost-plus contracts, disposition of military surplus, land and equipment acquisitions, and lists of persons commissioned from civilian life who had no prior military experience form a substantial part of the committee papers for the 76th-79th Congresses. Most voluminous are records accumulated by the committee following the report of the President's Commission on the Deferment of Federal Employees; 38 feet of the total 49 feet of committee papers for the 1901-46 period are listings of persons who received occupational deferments from the draft (78A-F19, 79A-F18). In addition to this series, there are minute books for the committee through 1932 and, among the records of the Committee on Armed Services, legislative calendars for the 75th-79th Congresses.

4.23 The committee papers also include records of the subcommittee investigating the disposal of surplus property, 1945-46 (79A-F18, 6 ft.). Pursuant to S. Res. 129, 79th Cong., the subcommittee continued an investigation of terminated war production contracts started under S. Res. 198, 78th Cong., and expanded it to include the disposal of Government property under the Surplus Property Act of 1944. Joseph C. O'Mahoney of Wyoming chaired the subcommittee. The records include correspondence of the chairman and subcommittee counsel with numerous agencies and businesses, hearing transcripts and exhibits, and printed matter. The records are arranged alphabetically by subject; all subject headings are listed in a preliminary inventory of the subcommittee's records. In 1947, jurisdiction for this investigation was transferred to the newly created Committee on Expenditures in Executive Departments, a predecessor of the Committees on Government Operations and Governmental Affairs.

4.24 The petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee (14 ft.) concern a wide variety of subjects. Between 1901 and 1917, the principal subjects are the establishment of a volunteer retired list for Civil War veterans (60A-J85, 61A-J63), strengthening the National Guard (59A-J74, 62A-J56) and Army Medical (64A-J53, 65A-J34) and Dental Corps (64A-J52), improving the status of military chaplains (58A-J50, 60A-J87), the Gardner Resolution (House) proposing a national security commission to investigate military preparedness of the Army and Navy on the eve of World War I (63A-J59, 63A-J62), and the anticanteen law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages on military property (57A-J46, 58A-J49, 59A-J71, 60A-J83, 62A-J55, 65A-J40). Also included are petitions concerning completion of the Alaskan cable extension (57A-J47, 58A-J51); a government annuity for Clara Barton (57A-J47); the Brownsville Affray (59A-J72, 60A-J87); a request for troops by the Douglas, AZ, chamber of commerce during the Mexican border crisis in 1912 (62A-J57); and military training in civilian colleges (64A-J54).

4.25 During and immediately following World War I, the subjects of the petitions concern military preparedness (64A-J56,-J57), an arms embargo (64A-J55), exemptions from military service (65A-J36), aliens and the draft (65A-J43, 66A-J45), establishment of moral zones around military camps (65A-J37), veterans benefits (65A-J35, 66A-J43), universal military training (65A-J39, 66A-J44), and demobilization of the Army (65A-J43, 66A-J45).

4.26 From the late 1920's through 1946, petitions, memorials, and resolutions referred to the committee in each Congress reflect support for and opposition to improved national defense, especially air power and the draft, as well as demands for improved veterans benefits. The records also illustrate public sentiment about persons of Japanese descent in the United States (78A-J15) and the impact of World War II on certain professions and occupations (77A-J14). Of continuing interest was the issue of prohibiting liquor sales or consumption on military installations (78A-J14).

4.27 The most complete source among the records of the Senate for information on its activities relating to the conduct of World War II are the records of the Special Committee of the Senate to Investigate the National Defense Program, 1941-48. This committee, also known as the Truman Committee, was the principal investigative body of the Senate concerned with the war effort. The records are fully described in an inventory of the records of the special committee, which includes a complete list of folder titles as an appendix.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on the Militia, 14th-35th Congresses (1816-1857)

4.28 The few extant records of the Committee on the Militia (3 in.) include committee reports and papers for the 15th and 26th Congresses (1 in.) and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the Committee for the 18th, 20th-25th, and 28th-30th Congresses (2 in.). For several Congresses, there is only a single document.

4.29 The subjects of the records include exemptions from militia service for such groups as New York Shakers (18A-G8, 21A-G12), improved training (20A-G11), development of a uniform militia system and reorganization of the militia (22A-G11, 23A-G10, 25A-G12, 26A-G9), claims (23A-G10, 24A-G10), creation of separate militia units for Washington and Georgetown, DC (28A-G10), and support for the use of Jenks' improved firearm (30A-H10). There are no records of the committee after 1850.

4.30 The committee was terminated by a Senate resolution adopted December 16, 1857, and its functions were officially assigned to the Committee on Military Affairs, which until 1868 was named the Committee on Military Affairs and the Militia. Actually, for many years before 1857, matters relating to specific militia units were often referred to the Committee on Military Affairs.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs, 14th-79th Congresses (1816-1946)

4.31 The records of the Committee on Naval Affairs (54 ft.) are arranged in seven series, including: Committee reports and papers, 1816-47 (2 ft.); committee papers, 1847-1946 (19 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1816-1946 (17 ft.); legislative case files, 1941-46 (15 ft.); unpublished public hearing transcripts, 1935-44 (5 vols., 6 in.); executive session transcripts, 1939-46 (7 vols., 10 in.); and legislative calendars, 1943-46 (1 in.).

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs, 14th-36th Congresses (1816-1861)

4.32 For the pre-Civil War period, the records include committee papers and reports, 1816-47 (2 ft.), committee papers, 1847-55 (1 ft.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1816-61 (9 ft.). There are no committee papers for the 34th-36th Congresses. Like the Committee on Military Affairs for the same period, this committee's records include original committee reports, many of which are printed in the Congressional Serial Set, and a variety of correspondence and related documents supporting bills, resolutions, petitions, and memorials. A substantial number of records also concern claims, pensions, relief from some form of administrative action of the Navy, and accounts of naval agents and ship pursers. Sometimes entire crews of vessels petitioned for compensation; e.g., the surviving crew of the brig Somers, following an unsuccessful mutiny by other crew members (30A-H11.1, 32A-H13.1). On matters roughly paralleling the construction and expansion of armories and forts, the Committee on Naval Affairs also concerned itself with the construction and improvement of navy yards, particularly dry docks, and other facilities.

refer to caption

Highly Important Improvement in Ocean Steam Navigation and Every Purpose of Steam Pamphlet, dated 1860 (HR34A-G12.2). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

4.33 The early records of the committee are rich sources of information on scientific explorations and technical innovations, illustrating the Navy's important role in such activities in the early 19th century. Numerous records relating to the officers and crew of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-42, under command of Charles Wilkes, and other expeditions are found among the petitions and memorials of the committee. Many of these concern claims for losses suffered on the Wilkes Expedition (26A-G11, 27A-G11.1, 28A-G11, 28A-G11.3). The memorials of explorer and sealer Edmund Fanning advocated a South Pole expedition and documented his own oceanic travels from 1792 to 1832 (24A-D11, 24A-G11.1). Exploring expedition officer Lt. Robert F. Pinkney petitioned the Senate to prevent further dissemination of Wilkes' report on the expedition on the grounds that it damaged his reputation (32A-H13.3). In the early 1850's, several prominent scientists, explorers, and scientific societies asked Congress to support private efforts to search for British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin (32A-H13.3, 33A-H13.1, 34A-H13.1). Also relating to expeditions and proposed expeditions are documents concerning a Pacific exploration bill (20A-D9), exploration of the Bering Straits and routes to China (32A-E8), and compensation of artists on the Perry expedition to Japan and China (35A-H10, 36A-H10).

4.34 Several prominent 19th-century scientists and inventors made claims or asked the Senate to consider sponsoring tests and, if successful, adopt their particular equipment or innovation. Among these were Samuel Colt for his invention of a submarine battery (28A-G11), John H. Roebling for a test of the efficiency of wire rigging over hemp (28A-G11.3), and B. F. Sands and William Greble for adoption of their process for taking ocean soundings (34A-H13.1). Several others proposed various solutions for preventing boiler explosions on steamships (23A-G11, 28A-D9) and improvements in the construction of naval vessels and dry docks. Commodore James Barron, perhaps better known for his surrender of the frigate Chesapeake to the British frigate Leopard in 1807 and his fatal duel with Stephen Decatur, invented an improved system of Navy signals. A substantial file of correspondence and printed material documents his efforts to justify special compensation (25A-G13).

4.35 Naval Affairs Committee records also document certain aspects of the social history of the U.S. Navy, such as the abolition of corporal punishment by flogging with the cat-o'-nine-tails (30A-H11, 31A-E9, 31A-H12); reform of the "spirit ration," liquor supplied to seamen by the Navy (25A-G13.4, 26A-G11, 30A-H11, 36A-H10.2); and education on board Navy ships (36A-H10.2).

Back to Records of Naval Affairs

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs, 37th-56th Congresses (1861-1901)

4.36 The records include committee papers (16 ft.) and petitions, memorials, and resolutions from State legislatures referred to the Committee (6 ft.). The committee papers consist of legislative case files and supporting documents (correspondence, court of inquiry transcripts, printed reports, graphic material) and reports and correspondence from the Secretary of the Navy and other officials of the Navy Department. The petitions and memorials are similar to those of the pre-Civil War period, and many are accompanied by supporting documents. There are no committee papers for the 39th Congress, and very few for the 37th, 38th, and 51st Congresses.

4.37 A substantial part of the committee`s records, as usual, concern claims of one kind or another. Petitions and memorials seeking passage of private bills granting a pension to the widow of an inventor of a nautical warfare innovation, a prize for crews of ships successfully capturing enemy vessels in wartime, and recognition and promotion of a naval officer for some extraordinary service-connected mission are examples of such records.

4.38 Equally numerous are petitions and memorials relating to the administration of the Navy Department, such as requests for officers pay increase or for names to be added to or removed from the Navy's retired list (numerous Congresses), reorganization of the Navy engineers (54A-J24) and of the medical department (40A-H14), and protection of Navy doctors from the arbitrary conduct of superior officers (41A-H13). Petitions favoring labor reforms—such as the 8-hour workday in navy yards (39A-H12.2, 40A-H14), investigation into navy yard abuses (54A-J24.1), and construction of all Government vessels in navy yards (56A-J26)—were also referred to the committee. Another common type of memorial were those from citizens hoping to obtain for their community a major naval facility, such as a navy yard or naval station, or for an improvement to an existing facility, such as a new kind of drydock. In instances where a bill was introduced, additional records may also be available, such as the report of the Pearl Harbor Board accompanying a bill to establish a naval station there (56A-F23).

4.39 Senate interest in naval operations is not greatly apparent from the surviving records, but in certain instances the records may be excellent sources. The unsuccessful claim of Representative Robert Smalls of South Carolina, a black Member of Congress during Reconstruction, for an indemnity for the capture of the steamer Planter during the Civil War (44A-E10) and the claim of Capt. David McDougal of the Wyoming, who sank several Japanese vessels during a confrontation in the Straits of Shimonoseki in 1863 (40A-H14, 42A-H15), are well documented, as is the history of the ironclad Monitor and its crew's request for compensation (43A-E11,-H14, 47A-E14, 48A-E14, 52A-F17). Surprisingly, there are few records relating to the sinking of the Maine (55A-J23).

4.40 A number of records concern certain technical innovations proposed and/or adopted that modernized the U.S. Navy. Several were developed during the Civil War; after the war they were the basis of claims, either by the inventor or his heir. Among these are Hartt's "screw elevator" for raising cannon on warships (40A-E9) and Col. James H. Ward's improved gun carriage (41A-E11). Possibly the richest source of information among committee records on naval activities is the nearly 8 feet of copies of reports, correspondence, and specifications relating to the construction of the Navy's first four steel warships—the Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Dolphin (49A-E17, 50A-F16). Another symbol of the modern Navy, the torpedo boat, is also well documented, and the committee's records include engravings of an apparent prototype and a report on the use of such vessels by other nations (48A-E14, 56A-F23).

4.41 The records of the committee also reflect interest in Navy-sponsored exploration of the world and general promotion of scientific inquiry. Included among the records are the report of Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt's 2-year circumnavigation of the globe in the Ticonderoga (46A-E14), records relating to the rescue of Lt. A. W. Greely and the survivors of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition (48A-E14, 48A-H16, 49A-E17), and petitions from Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Howard Universities supporting the selection of a professional astronomer to operate and a committee of scientists to oversee the construction of the new Naval Observatory (47A-H17).

Back to Records of Naval Affairs

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs, 57th-79th Congresses (1901-1946)

4.42 Records of the Naval Affairs Committee for most of this period appear to be incomplete. There are fewer than 2 feet of committee papers, with no papers at all for the 66th, 68th-70th, and 73d-76th Congresses and not more than a single file or document for several others. The papers include originals of reports that were printed, original resolutions, original Presidential messages, and some correspondence, chiefly with officials of the Navy Department. Unpublished reports include one from the Commissioner of Navy Yards and Stations, May 1917, shortly after U.S. entry in World War I (65A-F14, oversize), and periodic reports on contracts for aircraft parts and petroleum during World War II (77A-F21, 78A-F21, 79A-F20).

4.43 More complete are the committee's records for the mid-1930's through the mid-1940's. These include unpublished public hearing transcripts, 1935-44 (5 vols., 6 in.) and executive session transcripts, 1939-46 (7 vols., 10 in.); legislative calendars, 1943-46 (1 in.); and legislative case files, 1941-46 (15 ft.), concerning particular Senate or House bills or resolutions referred to the Naval Affairs Committee for the 77th-79th Congresses. The Naval Affairs Committee did not retire its legislative case files for the 77th-79th Congress to the Secretary of the Senate at the end of each Congress, as was the customary practice of Senate committees at that time. Legislative case files of the committee, 1901-40 (57th-76th Congresses), are in another series, papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

4.44 The subjects of petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures that were referred to the committee (2 ft.) include labor conditions in navy yards, such as the battleship appropriation bill that repealed the 8-hour workday (61A-J68); adoption of the Taylor system of shop management in navy yards (62A-J59); requests for ship and naval facility construction, such as torpedo boats (60A-J92), battleships (60A-J93, 61A-J67), and west coast naval bases (64A-J60); pay and personnel issues, such as equal treatment of chaplains compared to other naval officers (57A-J49); enlargement and modernization of the Navy (60A-J94, 70A-J34); preservation of the frigate Constitution (59A-J77, 68A-J44); and raising the Maine (61A-J69). The committee also received 15,000 signatures on a petition requesting that the results of the board of inquiry's investigation of the Pearl Harbor disaster be made public (79A-J17).

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Coast Defenses, 49th-67th Congresses (1885-1921)

4.45 The Committee on Coast Defenses was established on March 13, 1885, by Senate resolution at the beginning of the 49th Congress. While it is unclear precisely why the committee was created, naval warfare was undergoing major changes during the mid-1880's as a result of the development of steel-hulled warships and torpedo boats, and perhaps the Senate was becoming increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of the U.S. coastline and major port cities. The committee was terminated on April 18, 1921, as part of a major committee reorganization of the Senate committee system.

4.46 There are committee papers, 1891-1901 (2 in.), for the 52d, 54th, and 56th Congresses and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1885-1911 (3 in.), for the 49th through 62nd Congresses, excluding the 51st, 57th-58th, and 61st. The committee's period of greatest activity was the 1890's, when it considered proposals to provide for the testing and manufacture of new weapons, such as R.J. Gatling's steel, high-power rifled guns for coast defense (52A-F5), the Berdan ironclad destroyer (52A-F5), and the Lewis Range and Position Finder (54A-F6). Its other concerns centered around the purchase of land and appropriations for coastal fortifications. There is also a report of the damage to coast defenses near Galveston, TX, by the hurricane of 1900 (56A-F5). Most of the petitions and memorials referred to the committee were sent by mercantile organizations and major port city governments.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Armed Services, 80th-99th Congresses (1947-1986)

4.47 One of the major consequences of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 was the merging of the Committee on Military Affairs and the Committee on Naval Affairs into a single committee responsible for defense matters. This new committee was the Committee on Armed Services.

4.48 Under Senate Rule XXV, the committee`s jurisdiction in 1947 included common defense generally, the War and Navy Departments and military and naval establishments (shortly to be reorganized into the Department of Defense), soldiers and sailors homes; pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the armed services; selective service; size and composition of the military services; forts, arsenals, ammunition depots, military reservations, and navy yards; maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal and administration, sanitation, and government of the Canal Zone; conservation, development, and use of naval petroleum and oil shale reserves; and strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

4.49 Most records of the Committee on Armed Services are described at the file-folder or box level in an unpublished finding aid available to researchers at the National Archives. There are 439 feet of records for the Armed Services Committee, 1947-1968.

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

4.50 Sometimes referred to as bill files or dockets, the legislative case files, 1947-68 (128 ft.), document committee action on bills and resolutions referred to it. Arranged by Congress and thereunder by type and number, the case files include drafts of proposed bills, staff memorandums, transcripts of hearings (printed and unprinted), committee reports, conference committee reports, correspondence, and, if enacted, a copy of the act as approved by the President. The correspondence is principally that of the chairman and committee staff with other Members of Congress, the Defense Department and other Federal agencies, State and local officials, private organizations, and the general public. Also included are bills in draft form and requests for bills originating in the executive branch and referred to the committee (known as executive referrals), bills proposed but not introduced, and bills referred to other committees.

4.51 The major subjects of the records include military manpower matters (e.g., universal military training, the draft, National Guard and Reserves); military construction; administration of military justice; organization of the military and defense establishments; civil defense; and military spending authorizations.

refer to caption

Message of President Harry S. Truman nominating James V. Forrestal of New York to be Secretary of Defense on July 26, 1947. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

4.52 Presidential messages and executive communications ("messages, communications, and reports"), 1947-68 (16 ft.), include reports submitted to the Senate either because they were mandated by law or in response to a Senate request made to an executive agency. (Legislative proposals typically found in this series in the records of other committees are instead contained in the series legislative case files, under the heading "executive referrals.") The records are arranged by Congress, thereunder by record type, and thereunder chronologically by date of referral. No records of these types for the 82d and 89th Congresses have been transferred to the National Archives.

4.53 Nominations for promotions in the military service and high-ranking civilian and military positions in defense executive agencies require the advice and consent of the Senate. Such nominations are first referred to the committee, where they are reviewed and reported on for full Senate consideration. The majority of nominations are for comparatively routine promotions, and documentation of these cases is limited to nomination reference and report forms and resumes of each nominee's military service. Armed Services Committee nomination records, 1947-68 (27 ft.), are arranged by session of Congress, thereunder by branch of service, and thereunder chronologically by date of referral. Nominees for higher level military and civilian positions with the defense establishment are in a "special" category. Correspondence and staff memorandums may be included as documentation supporting or opposing such nominees. Testimony held in executive session, endorsements from organizations, committee votes, and other information not made public are closed until 50 years old, but records made public previously are open.

4.54 The committee's executive session and unprinted public transcripts, 1947-64 (61 vols., 14 ft.), contain unprinted transcripts of closed hearings, committee meetings, and public hearings of the full committee and several of its subcommittees, including Real Estate and Military Construction, National Stockpile, and the Malmedy Massacre Investigation (S. Res. 42, 81st Cong.). Each volume is indexed by bill or nomination reference number or miscellaneous topic

4.55 The correspondence of the committee is arranged by Congress and may consist of as many as four major categories: (1) General correspondence, 1949-68 (166 ft.), arranged alphabetically by person or subject; (2) outgoing letters, 1955-68 (15 ft.), arranged alphabetically by name of addressee or by name of person or organization to whom the letter relates (cross-referenced to the general correspondence); (3) outgoing letters, 1955-68 (8 ft.), arranged alphabetically by name of Senator to whom the letter is addressed or to whom it refers; and (4) outgoing letters, 1957-68 (12 ft.), arranged chronologically by date sent. The correspondence of the committee for the 80th Congress and the alphabetical M through T segment of the general correspondence for the 82d Congress are not included among the records transferred to the National Archives. The correspondence file for the 83d Congress, when Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts was chairman, is far less voluminous than that for other Congresses. For the 84th Congress, there is an additional file of letters sent to Defense Department officials. These records, with the exceptions noted above for the 82d-83d Congresses, are comprehensive in their subject coverage. In addition to incoming and outgoing letters, the general correspondence includes staff memorandums and reports, associated reference material, and other records of the full committee and several of its subcommittees.

4.56 Distinct from the general correspondence files is a series of correspondence relating to war crimes investigations, 1949-50 (5 in.). The records consist of correspondence of Chairman Millard Tydings and committee staff regarding the investigation of World War II war crimes, particularly the Malmedy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge. Closely related material is contained in the records of the Subcommittee on the Investigation of the Malmedy Massacre Trials.

4.57 The Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force reported to the committee from time to time on various construction and real estate transactions for the armed services. An act of September 28, 1951, authorizing the Departments and the Civil Defense Administration to acquire real property and construct facilities, required the secretary of a military Department and the Civil Defense Administrator to reach agreement with the Armed Services Committees of both Houses on each acquisition (by purchase or lease) and disposal of real property valued at more than $25,000 per year (raised in 1960 to $50,000). The Departments regularly reported such transactions to the committee for approval; they reported smaller transactions for information purposes only. The resultant records relating to military construction, 1951-60 (12 ft.), are filed in two segments (82d-86th Congresses and 86th-89th Congresses), and into two types (reports, 1951-65, and correspondence, 1951-60). The reports are arranged by service branch, agency or type of facility, type of report (acquisition or disposal), and project number or date; they include tabulations, lists, and related correspondence. The 1951-58 correspondence is arranged by subject or name of military base; the 1959-60 correspondence by service branch or type of facility.

4.58 Resolutions of State legislatures predominate in the series petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the Committee, 1953-64 (10 in.). No such records for the 80th-82d and 89th-90th Congresses have been transferred to the National Archives.

4.59 Published at the end of each session are the committee's final legislative calendars, 1947-68 (5 in.). These publications summarize legislative action on each bill and resolution referred to it. The calendars for the 87th Congress are missing. Also included are calendars for the Committee on Military Affairs, 1937-46; the Committee on Naval Affairs, 1943-46; and calendars after the 90th Congress.

4.60 Also among the records of the committee are personnel records, 1947-68 (2 ft.). The records include confidential reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Atomic Energy Commission relating to staff security clearances, copies of committee personnel reports to the Secretary of the Senate, resumes, and related correspondence. Individual personnel files on staff members through 1981 are also included, but they are closed for 50 years from date of creation.

Back to Records on Armed Services

Records of the Committee on Armed Services, 91st-95th Congresses (1969-1978)

4.65 Records usually follow the same arrangement as pre-1968 material, including general correspondence, legislative case files, nomination files, Presidential messages, and executive communications. Subcommittee records are integrated into the overall committee file system and detailed box lists are available as finding aids.

4.66 Recently opened records of the Senate Committee on Armed Services from the 91st through the 95th Congresses document the increasingly active role in defense matters that Congress took during the 1970s. Committee records reveal the forceful role of the chairmanship, John C. Stennis (1969-81), and the committee's expansion of the annual Defense Authorization bill, imposition of new reporting requirements on the Department of Defense, creation of new subcommittees, assumption of new manpower responsibilities, emergence as a force in Senate debates over arms control and treaty obligations, and enlargement of its professional staff. The 140 linear feet of committee records for these Congresses consist primarily of correspondence, memoranda, Department of Defense and military service reports, press releases, speeches, administrative records, agendas, schedules, notes, speeches, and printed material.

4.67 From its creation in 1947, the Senate Committee on Armed Services Committee's records have been arranged by Congress and organized around a stable core of three series—Legislative Bill Files, Correspondence/Subject File, Nomination Files. These three series remain the most significant ones for the 91st through the 95th Congresses. Other series include Messages, Communications & Reports (91st Congress), Petitions and Memorials (91st Congress), Executive Communications (93d and 94th Congresses), and Military Case Files (95th Congress).

4.68 The Legislative Bill Files series (1969-78) consists of a folder(s) for each bill and resolution referred to the committee and include correspondence between the Department of Defense and the committee; correspondence to and from those testifying at committee hearings; correspondence between committee members and the chairman; correspondence to the chairman from Senators sponsoring floor amendments; correspondence from defense contractors, associations, and organizations with an interest in defense policy; floor remarks of the chairman and ranking minority member; notices to members concerning panel meetings; Department of Defense or General Accounting Office studies of weapons systems or policies that the committee requested; and staff memoranda. Each file folder contains published material relating to a bill or resolution, including a copy of the item as referred to the committee, Senate Armed Services Committee reports, reports of the committee of jurisdiction in the House, conference committee reports, and a copy of the Public Law as passed by Congress and signed by the President.

4.69 The Legislative Bill Files between 1969 and 1978 document the expansion of the annual Defense Authorization bills to include new procurement authority, the setting of average annual active duty personnel strength, determination of military training student loads, the establishment of civilian employment levels of the Department of Defense, and decisions concerning ammunition facilities. The annual Defense Authorization bills and other authorization legislation were the most significant legislative undertaking of the Senate Armed Services Committee because they established funding ceiling for defense categories that under Senate rules the Senate Committee on Appropriations was bound to observe and because they became the point of departure for Senate floor debates on highly controversial weapons systems and defense policies. The Legislative Bill Files document important Armed Services Committee decisions concerning the annual Defense Authorization bills: establishing limits on deployment of the anti-ballistic missile system (SAFEGUARD) for fiscal year 1970 (S. 2546); adopting strict guidelines for the C-5A aircraft for fiscal year 1971 (H.R. 17123); reducing the Armed Forces by 56,000 for fiscal year 1972 (H.R. 8687), cutting funding for destroyers, the Trident submarine-missile system, and the Cheyenne helicopter for fiscal year 1973 (H.R. 15495); reducing active duty forces by 156,000 for fiscal year 1974 (H.R. 9286); increasing funding for research to improve the accuracy of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for fiscal year 1975 (S. 3000); approving $5.4 billion for ship construction for fiscal year 1976 (S. 920); authorizing funds for the B-1 bomber for fiscal year 1977 (H.R. 12438); adding an additional $81.6 million in funding for a nuclear carrier for fiscal year 1978 (H.R. 5970); and increasing funds by $77.5 million for 8 C-130 aircraft for fiscal year 1979 (S. 2571).

4.70 The Legislative Bill Files document other authorization bills that the committee passed from the 91st through the 95th Congresses. The committee passed 10 annual Military Construction Authorization bills that authorized appropriations for construction projects at hundreds of domestic and foreign military installations and defense agencies and for funding of military family housing and reserve facilities. In 1977, the committee passed its first biennial authorization for funding of national security programs in the Energy Research and Development Administration (S. 1339), and in 1978 first authorized appropriations for intelligence after the bill was referred sequentially to the Armed Services Committee following the report of the newly-created Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (H.R. 12240).

4.71 In addition these authorization bills, the Legislative Bill Files document other significant defense bills that the Senate Armed Services Committee reported and that became law. The Legislative Bill Files are particularly rich sources for examining the emergence of the Selective Service System as a central issue in United States politics in the late 1960s and 1970s and the congressional struggle to replace the Draft with an All-Volunteer Force. The Legislative Bill Files document the committee's 1969 decision to report an amendment to the Selective Service Act of 1967 providing authority for the President to institute a Draft Lottery System (H.R. 14001). In 1971, the committee took a major step in the evolution from the Selective Service System to the All-Volunteer Force when it reported a bill (S. 427) extending the Draft for only two years and providing increases in pay and compensation for military personnel. In 1972, the committee reported a bill (S.1916) that provided housing allowances for armed services junior enlisted men and their families and other dependents. When the committee in 1975 reported a bill (S. 2115) granting the President increased flexibility to activate the reserves, the nation moved toward the Total Force concept embodied in the Reserve Act of 1976.

4.72 In addition to bills referred to the Armed Services Committee, the Legislative Bill Files consist of material associated with Senate resolutions concerning defense or the committee's jurisdiction. For example, the committee's records for the 94th Congress include four containers of material relating to Senate Resolution 400 that led to the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the loss of some of the Senate Armed Services Committee's jurisdiction over intelligence. These valuable records detail the committee's efforts to defend its jurisdiction and its success in retaining authorization responsibility for intelligence with military applications.

4.73 For each session of Congress, the Legislative Bill Files also include resolutions that the Armed Services Committee submitted to the Committee on Rules for approval of its budget. Material in these folders document the goals, resources requirements, staffing needs, work plans, priorities, procedures, and organization of the committee and are some of the most valuable records for tracing the committee's history.

4.74 The Correspondence/Subject Files consist of 64 linear feet of records and, for the 91st through the 95th Congresses, are the most voluminous series of Senate Committee on Armed Services records. The Correspondence/Subject Files consist of a wide variety of material dealing with all committee activities, powers, and responsibilities other than legislative and nominations. This series is of extraordinary value in documenting the relation of Congress with the Department of Defense and the military services; the role of public opinion and constituents in the making of defense policy; the role of the committee chairman, members, and staff; and the organization, operation, and administration of the committee as an institution.

4.75 Researchers will find a large volume of letters, memoranda, reports, published materials, press releases, speeches, schedules, agenda, and administrative material (vouchers, contracts, receipts, etc.) in this series.

4.76 Although this series is divided into separate Correspondence Files and Subject Files for the 92d Congress, incoming, outgoing, and internal correspondence are merged with alphabetically arranged subjects in a coherent series for the 91st, 93d, and 94th Congresses. For the 95th Congress, significant material relating to the military services are removed from the Correspondence/Subject Files and set aside in newly-created Military Case Files. For the 95th Congress, subject categories are merged in Correspondence Files.

4.77 Correspondence/Subject Files are organized by Congress and arranged alphabetically by subject. The Correspondence/Subject Files's alphabetically arranged folder titles include documents that reflect the perennial concerns of the committee: Academies, Base Closure, Central Intelligence Agency, Medals and Decorations, NATO, Panama Canal Zone, Procurement, Retirement, ROTC, and Travel. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy are significant subjects that include a wealth of documentation relating to each military service. These subjects are further subdivided into folder titles—Contracts, Court Martials, Discharges, Promotions, Reports, and Transfers—for each military service.

4.78 In addition to these reoccurring subjects of this series are folder titles that indicate materials documenting the Armed Services Committee's concern with or action on particular subject for a limited number of Congresses: Cambodia (91st and 92d Congresses); Cambodian Bombing (93d Congress); MIA (94th Congress); My Lai Incident (91st and 92d Congresses); Pentagon Papers (92d Congress); Pueblo (91st Congress); Prisoners of War (91st through 94th Congresses); Viet Nam Weekly Casualty Report (91st Congress).

4.79 The Correspondence/Subject Files are rich sources for documenting significant hearings and investigations that were not related to the committee's exercise of its legislative powers. For example, Chairman Stennis declared weapons procurement a committee priority and held the panel's first in-depth investigation of the procurement process in a series of hearings in the 91st and 92d Congresses. The Procurement and Contracts folders of the Correspondence/Subject Files for those Congresses contain material on topics investigated in the Procurement Hearings. Similarly, the Correspondence/Subject Files of the 92d Congress contain records that supported the committee's investigation of alleged violations of the rules of engagement in the air war over North Vietnam (Lavelle Investigations folder) and the 93d Congress investigation of unauthorized bombing of Cambodia (Cambodian Bombing folder).

4.80 The Correspondence/Subject Files detail the growing importance of the professional staff of the committee during the 1970s. Of particular interest are the staff files of the first two staff directors of the committee, T. Edward Braswell, Jr. (1969-76) and Francis J. Sullivan (1977-78), who were responsible for implementing the chairman's priorities and directing the day-to-day operations of the committee. The Braswell and Sullivan staff files are particularly rich sources for significant institutional developments affecting the powers of the Armed Services Committee. For example, these files feature memos that monitor in detail the origin of the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 requirements as they related to defense functions and the committee's initial response to the new congressional budget process.

4.81 All promotions in the military service and the highest ranking, Presidentially-appointed civilian and military positions in the defense executive agencies (primarily the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military services) require the advice and consent of the Senate. The records relating to the Senate Armed Services Committee's promotions and nominations are in the Nomination Files. For the 92d Congress, for example, the Armed Services Committee's Nomination Files contain documents relating to 16 top-level Presidential nominations that the committee acted upon in the first session and 12 in the second session. In addition, the Nomination Files document the committee's routine action on 47,000 nominations for military promotion in the first session and 63,000 considered in the second session. Correspondence, staff memorandums, testimony received in executive sessions, endorsements from organizations, committee votes and other information are found in the Nomination Files. Unless the committee specifically makes such material public, documents in the Nomination Files are closed to the public for 50 years after their creation.

4.82 In addition to records discussed in these files, the Senate Committee on Armed Services has archived all committee publications—hearings, reports, and prints—beginning with the 80th Congress (1947-48). The published materials of highest research value include Summary of Activities that are published as committee prints for selected sessions of the 91st through 94th Congresses and as committee reports by Congress beginning with the 95th Congress. Equally valuable for exploring the committee's records are bound, final editions of the committee's Legislative Calendar beginning with the 80th Congress.

Back to Records on Armed Services

Records of the Committee on Armed Services, 96th-99th Congresses (1979-1986)

4.83 Committee on Armed Services, 1969-86 (343 ft.): Records usually follow the same arrangement as pre-1968 material, including general correspondence, legislative case files, nomination files, Presidential messages, and executive communications. Subcommittee records are integrated into the overall committee file system and detailed box lists are available as finding aids.

Back to Records on Armed Services

Records of the Subcommittees of the Committee on Armed Services

4.61 Records of only three subcommittees of the Armed Services Committee have been transferred to the National Archives as distinct bodies of material. The records are described below:

Subcommittee on the Investigation of the Malmedy Massacre Trials

4.62 In March 1949, pursuant to S. Res. 42, 81st Cong., the committee appointed a subcommittee, chaired by Raymond E. Baldwin and including Lester C. Hunt and Estes Kefauver, to examine the investigative and trial procedures used by the U.S. Army in prosecuting German soldiers charged with the massacre of U.S. soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, near the town of Malmedy, Belgium. The subcommittee was established in response to charges that the Army had used unfair procedures in finding the defendants guilty of war crimes. The records, March-December 1949 (5 ft.), include original and printed copies of the hearings transcripts, the committee report, correspondence of Chairman Baldwin with witnesses and lawyers appearing before the subcommittee, petitions of the defendants for reconsideration of their sentences, defendants' physical examination reports, and reference material including newsclippings, photographs, and instructional materials on trial procedures.

Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee

4.63 Also during the 81st Congress, the Senate established on June 22, 1949, pursuant to S. Res. 93, a "watchdog" or oversight subcommittee for matters within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, known as the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. The only records of this subcommittee that have been transferred to the National Archives as distinct series are records of an investigation of Alaskan defenses, 1950-51 (1 ft.), and administrative records, 1950-55 (2 ft.). The records relating to Alaskan defense document an investigation by the subcommittee's Alaska Task Force, made up of Lester C. Hunt, Wayne Morse, and Leverett Saltonstall. Included are correspondence of the chairman and staff with public officials, including the Governor of Alaska, and informational material and photographs on military construction, highways, water, housing, labor, and natural resources. The Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee's administrative records include a report on the functions and organization of the subcommittee. Other information on the activities of the subcommittee may be found in the general correspondence and transcripts of executive sessions and unpublished public hearings of the full committee, and in the numerous reports it issued as committee prints.

Subcommittee on the National Stockpile and Naval Petroleum Reserves

4.64 Following a request from President John F. Kennedy and pursuant to S. Res. 295, 87th Cong., this standing subcommittee was asked to study and make recommendations on the national stockpile of strategic and critical materials. Chaired by Stuart Symington, the subcommittee examined Kennedy's contention that the stockpile program, administered by the Office of Emergency Planning and its predecessors and the General Services Administration, was a questionable burden on public funds and a possible source of excess profits. The printed record, issued as a committee print, documents 52 public hearings and is 3,900 pages long. The final report, also a committee print, was issued as a "draft" and contains both the subcommittee's recommendations and opposing views of certain members. The records, February 1962-October 1963 (29 ft.), include minutes of subcommittee meetings, transcripts of executive sessions and public hearings, summaries of testimony, drafts and printer`s proofs of the draft report, press releases, public statements and transcripts of press interviews given by Chairman Symington, and press clippings. There is also a subject file maintained by the chief counsel and a general information file. Correspondence of Symington, the chief counsel, and other staff members is scattered through the administrative and legislative proposal files.

Back to Top

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. 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. Senate