Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators — House Members With Military Service

Daniel Inouye of Hawaii/tiles/non-collection/1/11-8-Inouye-PN2016_02_0011e.xml Image courtesy of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute Daniel Inouye was one of many Hawaiians to join the famous Japanese-American “Go for Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team that fought bravely in Italy and France during World War II.
In 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded former Representative and longtime Senator Daniel K. Inouye the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The President remarked that Inouye “taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard.”

This Edition for Educators focuses on some of the House Members who served in the United States military before turning their attention to serving in Congress.

Veterans in Congress

Daniel Inouye of Hawaii
A Representative and Senator, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii joined the U.S. Army in 1943 as a member of the 442nd “Go For Broke” Regimental Combat Team. Because of his Japanese ancestry, Inouye was initially denied entry into the military. After reapplying, Inouye served valiantly in Europe before being severely injured during heavy combat in Italy; as a result of his injuries, Inouye’s right arm was amputated. Inouye spent 20 months in U.S. Army hospitals before being honorably discharged and retired as a captain on May 27, 1947. He earned a Distinguished Silver Cross, Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart, as well as 12 other medals and citations for his military service, including eventually the nation’s most distinguished award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Parren Mitchell of Maryland/tiles/non-collection/1/11-8-Mitchell-2002_014_003-2.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
A member of the segregated “Buffalo Soldiers” during World War II, Parren Mitchell of Maryland went on to chair the House Small Business Committee from 1981 through 1987. The 92nd Infantry Division took as its motto “Deeds, not Words.”

Parren Mitchell of Maryland
Representative Parren Mitchell of Maryland graduated from Douglass High School in Baltimore in 1940. Two years later, Mitchell joined the U.S. Army and served as a commissioned officer and a company commander with the 92nd Infantry Division “Buffalo Soldiers.” Mitchell earned a Purple Heart during his World War II service in Italy. Following his discharge from the Army in 1946, Mitchell used the benefits granted in the GI Bill of Rights to enroll in Morgan State College in Baltimore. He later served 16 years in the House.

Wayne Grisham of California
Representative Wayne Richard Grisham of California entered the U.S. Army Air Corps after he graduated from high school. Grisham served as a fighter pilot during World War II. His plane was shot down over Europe and he spent days in a German hospital before U.S. soldiers rescued him. Grisham earned a Purple Heart for his service.

William Anderson of Tennessee
Representative William Robert Anderson of Tennessee graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942 and served in the Navy for 20 years. During that time, he worked aboard the first atomic submarine, the USS Nautilus. On August 3, 1958, as part of the secret “Operation Sunshine” under the leadership of Commander Anderson, the Nautilus became the first vessel to travel across the waters beneath the North Pole.

Mel Maas of Minnesota/tiles/non-collection/1/11-8-MelMaas-PA2016_02_0010c.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives Once a Marine, always a Marine: in 1932, Mel Maas of Minnesota talked down a gunman in the House Gallery, then remained with the gentleman following his arrest. For his actions, Maas later received a Carnegie Hero Fund silver medal, honoring civilians who risk their lives for others.
Heather Wilson of New Mexico
In 1998, Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico became the first female veteran of the armed services to win election to Congress. A pilot like her father and grandfather before her, Wilson graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served for 11 years in the Air Force. Wilson also was a Rhodes Scholar and worked for the National Security Council before running for the House.

Melvin Maas of Minnesota
Representative Melvin Maas of Minnesota graduated from St. Thomas College in St. Paul and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1919. An aviator, Maas fought in both World War I and World War II. During his eight non-consecutive terms in the House, Maas continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, eventually retiring with the rank of Major General in 1952.

Additional Resources

Women Members with Military Service
This chart details the expanding group of women veterans in Congress and touches on the history of Congresswomen’s involvement in the armed forces.

House Records Search
For primary documents on veterans in the House of Representatives, see our House records on Veterans.

George Andrews of Alabama
Learn about the career of Representative George Andrews of Alabama through his son, George Andrews III, and daughter, Jane Andrews Hinds. Andrews was elected to the House while serving in the U.S. Navy. In the audio clip below, Hinds recounts that first election.

Jane Andrews Hinds, Daughter of the Honorable George and Elizabeth Andrews of Alabama Interview recorded July 21, 2017 Transcript (PDF)

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.