Image courtesy of Library of Congress
A National Guardsman patrols outside the Capitol on December 8, 1941, the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On this date, after two months of six-day work schedules and 12-hour shifts, the U.S. Capitol Police relegated a portion of their security duties to the National Guard. The attacks on September 11, 2001, forced the Capitol Police to undergo an unprecedented re-evaluation and reorganization of security on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Police immediately increased their on-duty presence, with many officers working 72-hour weeks to cover the newly expanded security barriers and restricted areas on the Capitol grounds. The necessity of their presence increased in October, when House and Senate buildings closed following the detection of letters containing the anthrax, a toxic bacteria. Members of Congress called upon House leadership to assist the roughly 1,300 Capitol Police officers protecting the Capitol. After weeks of internal debate regarding the precise nature of the Guard’s role on Capitol Hill, members of the D.C. National Guard began to arrive to relieve Capitol Police officers. In total, more than 100 National Guardsmen were involved in Capitol security. Representative Connie Morella
of Maryland recalled on the House Floor six months later that, “they watched over us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, compiling an incredible total of 207,120 hours over 150 days.” The Capitol Police returned to their pre-September 11 schedules by mid-April 2002, and the Guard ended its deployment to the Capitol. On April 23, 2002, the House passed H. Con. Res. 378, thanking the D.C. National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, and the Department of Defense for “the assistance provided to the United States Capitol Police and the entire Congressional community in response to the terrorist and anthrax attacks of September and October 2001.” Chairman of the House Committee on Administration, Robert Ney
of Ohio, who served as the bill’s sponsor, lauded the National Guard, noting that their presence allowed the House “to truly remain the people’s House by keeping our doors open and our halls safe and allowing Members of this great institution to carry on the most important responsibility of doing the people’s business.” The last time the National Guard had been called upon to protect the Capitol occurred after riots broke out throughout Washington, D.C., in 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The National Guard has protected the Capitol during three other notable occasions—the Civil War, the 1932 Veteran's Bonus March
, and World War II.