Melvin Joseph Maas – Major General, United States Marine Corps Member of Congress

Born in Minnesota, May 14, 1898, he was afflicted with arthritis, diabetes, ulcers and heart ailments, but still traveled extensively during his ten years as Chairman of a Presidential Committee on the Handicapped. He nearly became an Army officer and had received an appointment to West Point. However, in 1917, eager to get into World War I, he enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Private. He did not see combat in the war, but did learn how to fly and became forming very definite ideas about the role of air power in combat.

While serving as a Member of Congress from Minnesota, he was once addressing the House of Representatives when a deranged man in the visitor gallery jumped to his feet, gun in hand, and demanded to be allowed to address the House. Maas 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 and was prompted arrested and escorted from the House Chamber by police. His courage in that situation earned him a Carnegie Medal. Serving as a Republican, he was defeated for re-election in the Democratic landslide, led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932, but returned to the House two years later and was subsequently re-elected another four times.

He had been commissioned in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1925 and was a Reserve Colonel at the outbreak of World War II and, on his own request, he was returned to active duty.

In 1945 he was wounded by enemy bomb fragments, which caused his blindness. He returned to active duty when the Korean War broke out and was a member of the Reserve Force Policy Board. When another General once pointed out to him that he was probably the only blind general who had ever served on active duty, Maas responded, “Oh, no General, only the first to admit it.”

During his military career he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart Medal.

He died at Washington, D.C. on April 13, 1964 and was laid to rest in Section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery.

On February 21, 1997, Katherine E. (Baumer) Maas, of Silver Spring, MD, beloved wife of the late Major General Melvin J. Maas, USMC (Retired.); beloved mother of Joe Maas; beloved step mother of Marianne Catterton, Katherine Martino and the late Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Bennett, USMC (Retired.); loving grandmother of 10 grandchildren. Friends may call at HINES-RINALDI FUNERAL HOME, 11800 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD, on Tuesday, February 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. where services will be held on Wednesday, February 26 at 11 a.m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery, Thursday, February 27 at 9 a.m. The family suggests that memorial contributions may be made to the Catholic Community at Relay Building Fund, 5025 Cedar Ave., Relay, MD 21227.

Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Representative from Minnesota; born in Duluth, Minn., May 14, 1898; moved with his parents to St. Paul, Minn., in 1898; educated in the public schools; was graduated from St. Thomas College at St. Paul in 1919; attended the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis; engaged in the insurance business; during the First World War served in the aviation branch of the Marine Corps in 1918 and 1919; officer in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1925 and retired with rank of major general August 1, 1952; elected as a Republican to the Seventieth, Seventy-first, and Seventy-second Congresses (March 4, 1927-March 3, 1933); unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1932; received the Carnegie Silver Medal for disarming a maniac in the United States House of Representatives in December 1932; elected to the Seventy-fourth and to the four succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1935-January 3, 1945); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1944 to the Seventy-ninth Congress; served in the South Pacific as a colonel in the United States Marine Corps 1942-1945, while still a Member of Congress; special adviser to the House Naval Affairs Committee in 1946; assistant to the chairman of the board of the Sperry Corporation, New York City, 1947-1951; became a member of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped in 1949 and served as chairman 1954-1964; had been stricken with total blindness in August 1951; was a resident of Chevy Chase, Md., until his death in Bethesda, Md., April 13, 1964; interment in Arlington National Cemetery.


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