Michael J. Mansfield



Michael J. Mansfield, veteran of 34 influential years in the United States Congress, and who served as Ambassador to Japan from 1977 to 1988, died 5 October 2001 at the age of 98. Mansfield was born in New York City on 16 March 1903, and his family moved to Montana in 1907 where your Michael attended grammar school. He left home in 1917 before completing the 8th grade and joined the United States Navy at 14 years of age on 23 February 1918. During the First World War, ten of Mansfield’s nineteen months of service were spent overseas. He subsequently served a one-year hitch in the Army.

On 10 November 1920, Mike Mansfield enlisted in the Marine Corps at San Francisco, California. Serving in the Western Recruiting Division at San Francisco until January 1921, he was transferred to the Marine Barracks at Puget Sound, Washington, were he remained until February. At that time he was detached to the Guard Company, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California. In April of 1921, Mansfield boarded the USAT Sherman for the Philippines. After a brief stopover at the Marine Barracks at Cavite, he arrived at his duty station on 5 May 1921, the Marine Barracks, Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippine Islands. After nearly twelve months of duty at Olongapo, Mansfield was assigned to Company A, Marine Battery, Asiatic Fleet. His month long tour of duty with the Asiatic Fleet took him up and down the coast of China before he returned to Olongapo in late May, 1922.

In August 1922, Mansfield returned to Cavite in preparation for his return to the United States and eventual discharge from the Marine Corps. On 9 November 1922, Private Michael J. Mansfield was discharged upon expiration of his enlistment. Awarded the Good Conduct Medal, Mansfield’s character was described as “excellent” during his two years of service.

Mansfield returned to Montana after his discharge where he worked in the Butte mines as a miner and mining engineer until 1930. Having never attended high school, Mansfield had to read and study to take the entrance examinations to become eligible to enter college. He attended the Montana School of Mines from 1927 to 1928 and Montana State University from 1930 to 1934. At the University he was awarded the B.A. and M.A. degrees and went on to teach there for ten years. Before being elected to his first term in Congress in 1942, he was the Professor of Latin American and Far Eastern History at the Montana State University.

Congressman Mansfield served five terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 1952. While in the House of Representatives, he undertook a number of missions to other nations, particularly in the Far East, as part of his duties on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Representative Mansfield returned to China and the Philippines in 1946 on an investigation of Naval bases that included the areas where Mansfield had served twenty-five years earlier as a Marine.

It was during Representative Mansfield’s last term in the House of Representatives that he introduced legislation to insure the survival of the Marine Corps. The political battle over the status of the Corps had been raging in Congress ever since the closing days of World War II. In January 1951, with the future of the Marine Corps in apparent jeopardy, Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois and Congressman Mansfield introduced the Douglas-Mansfield Bill. This bill would have made it a matter of law that there would be four Marine divisions and four Marine air wings in the active structure of the Marine Corps.

The Senate and House hearings on the Douglas-Mansfield Bill, held in April and May 1951, focused on the status of the Marine Corps as a separate service as well as on the roles and missions of the Corps. Representative Mansfield was one of the most outspoken defenders of the Marine Corps as he emphasized that the Corps was a “separate service which has been established in law and in precedents.” He further argued for the representation of the Commandant of the Marine Corps on the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointing out that “as the head of the Marine Corps, one of the four services, (the Commandant) should have equal status with the chiefs of the other three services.”

Due to the support provided by Congressmen like Mike Mansfield, a modified version of the Douglas-Mansfield Bill was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress. Signed by President Truman on 28 June 1952, Public Law 416, 82d Congress provided for three standing Marine divisions and air wings, and coequal status for the Commandant with the Joint Chiefs of Staff when matters of direct concern to the Marine Corps were under consideration.

Later that year, in November 1952, Mansfield was elected to his first term in the Senate. He soon gained the respect and admiration of that body as he had in the House and by 1957 had been chosen Assistant Democratic Leader. Senator Mansfield’s reputation for fairness, straight talk, and candor also was evident in the wide margins of victory he enjoyed over his opponents on election day in Montana.

Senator Mansfield continued his avid interest in foreign affairs on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations making visits around the world including visits to Southeast Asia and to China on the invitation of Premier Chou-En-lai in 1972. After serving in the Senate for 24 years, 15 of which were the capacity of Senate Majority Leader, Senator Michael Mansfield retired from the Congress in 1977. He was sworn in an U.S. Ambassador to Japan in May 1977, and served in that position until he resigned in 1988 at the age of 85.

Marine Corps University