Melvin Joseph Maas
Major General Melvin J. Maas, USMCR
Born(1898-05-14)May 14, 1898
Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedApril 13, 1964(1964-04-13) (aged 65)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Place of Burial
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1917–1925, 1941-1952
Rank Major General
Service number0-4104
Commands heldAwasa Air Base
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsSilver Star
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart
RelationsLTC Patricia Bennett, USMC (daughter)

Melvin Joseph Maas (May 14, 1898 – April 13, 1964) was a U.S. Representative from Minnesota and decorated Major General of the United States Marine Corps Reserve during World War II.

Early years

Melvin Joseph Maas was born in Duluth, Minnesota, on May 14, 1898. He moved with his parents to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1898.[1] Educated in public schools, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 6, 1917, as a private. He underwent flight training and was designated a Naval aviator in the Marine Corps. He served briefly in Haiti and, during World War I, flew reconnaissance missions over the Atlantic Ocean while stationed in the Azores.

Political career

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After the war, Maas served with the Marine Corps until 1925, when he received a Marine Corps commission and left active service, subsequently transferring to the Marine Corps Reserve. During that time, he also finished his studies at St. Thomas College in St. Paul and graduated in 1919. Maas later attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and subsequently joined his brothers in the insurance business.

During Prohibition, Maas became involved in the anti-Prohibition platform, calling for the modification of Prohibition to allow beer and wine drinking. He subsequently ran for Congress in 1926 and defeated incumbent Oscar Keller. He became the youngest member of Congress at age twenty-eight on November 2, 1926. Maas was subsequently elected as a Republican to the 70th, 71st, and 72nd Congresses (March 4, 1927 – March 3, 1933). He ran unsuccessfully for renomination in 1932.

A Gunman in the House Gallery

Maas as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives

On December 13, 1932, a 25-year-old department store clerk, Marlin Kemmerer, from Allentown, Pennsylvania, pulled a gun in the House visitors' gallery and demanded to address the House regarding the nation's economic depression.[2]

As members fled the chamber, Maas stood his ground and shouted to the man that no one was allowed to speak in the House while carrying a weapon and demanded that he throw it down. The man did so, was promptly arrested, and escorted from the House Chamber by police. For this act of courage, Maas received the Carnegie Medal.[2]

Maas was re-elected to the 74th, 75th, 76th, 77th, and 78th Congresses (January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1945). During the 1930s, Maas served as Commander of the Reserve Marine Squadron in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[3]

World War II

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USMCR Squadron, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Melvin J. Maas in the center, c. 1931

During World War II, Maas was recalled to active service as a Colonel and assigned to the staff of Admiral William Halsey Jr. in the summer of 1941. He was later transferred to the staff of Vice Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, commander of Task Force 17. Maas later participated in the Solomon Islands campaign with that unit.

He was later transferred to the staff of the South West Pacific Area Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, where he was appointed Marine Corps observer. Maas served under MacArthur in Australia and later participated in the New Guinea campaign.

During the final phase of the Battle of Milne Bay at the beginning of September 1942, Maas volunteered as an observer and auxiliary gunner on a bomber plane for a reconnaissance mission. During the eight-hour flight, he helped disable an enemy airdrome and participated in dropping food and supplies to an isolated US Army outpost. For his efforts during the mission, Maas was decorated by the army with the Silver Star on September 3, 1942.[4]

Maas continued to serve in the South Pacific until the fall of 1942, when he was ordered back to the United States for further duty in Congress. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1944 to the 79th Congress and returned to active duty with the Marine Corps. He later participated in the Battle of Okinawa and was appointed commander of Awasa Air Base in May 1945. In this capacity, Maas was decorated with the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his efforts as base commander. He was subsequently wounded by an enemy bomb in the face. This caused permanent damage to his optic nerve that later led to his total blindness.

Postwar career

Maas was a special advisor to the House Naval Affairs Committee in 1946. From 1947 to 1951, he was assistant to the chairman of the board of the Sperry Corporation in New York City. He retired from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1952, at the rank of major general.

In 1949, he became a member of the President's Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped; he served as chairman from 1954 to 1964.[5] He had been stricken with total blindness in August 1951.[6]

Maas was a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, until his death in Bethesda, Maryland, on April 13, 1964. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Here is the ribbon bar of Major General Melvin J. Maas:

Bronze star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Naval Aviator Badge
1st Row Silver Star Legion of Merit with Combat "V"
2nd Row Purple Heart Navy Presidential Unit Citation with one star Reserve Special Commendation Ribbon Reserve Good Conduct Medal with two stars
3rd Row Haitian Campaign Medal World War I Victory Medal with aviation clasp American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three service stars
4th Row American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon Armed Forces Reserve Medal


Correspondence, reports, photographs, diaries, and professional papers are available for research use.[7]


  1. ^ "Melvin J. Maas Papers". Minnesota Historical Society.
  2. ^ a b "Marlin Kemmerer: The Depression-era gunman who tried to hold Congress hostage - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ "Mobilization of the Organized Marine Corps Reserve for World War II". Marine Corps History.
  4. ^ "Melvin J. Maas in MNopedia, the Minnesota Encyclopedia". MNopedia.
  5. ^ "Disabilities Featured List". National Archives.
  6. ^ A gunman in the House Gallery in 1932. Office of the Historian.
  7. ^ "Melvin J. Maas Papers". Minnesota Historical Society.