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Michael Joseph Mansfield (March 16, 1903 – October 5, 2001) was an American Democratic politician and the longest-serving Majority Leader of the United States Senate, serving from 1961 to 1977. He also served as United States Ambassador to Japan for over ten years. Born in New York Citymarker to Irishmarker Catholic immigrants, he was raised in Montanamarker, where he graduated from the University of Montanamarker in Missoula (then called Montana State University). Mansfield represented the state of Montana throughout his political career.

Early childhood

Mansfield was born in New York City, but moved to Montana at an early age. He was raised in Great Fallsmarker. Mansfield traced his roots in Ireland to Lowhill, County Laoismarker, and it was from there that his ancestors immigrated from Ireland to the United States.

Military service

Mansfield left home in 1917, before completing the 8th grade. He joined the United States Navy at 14 years of age on February 23, 1918. Ten months of Mansfield’s nineteen months of World War I Navy service were spent overseas. He subsequently spent one year in the Army. He was the last known veteran of the war to die before reaching the age of 100.

On November 10, 1920, Mansfield enlisted a third time, now in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the Western Recruiting Division at San Francisco until January 1921, when he was transferred to the Marine Barracks at Puget Sound, Washington. The following month, he was detached to the Guard Company, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California. In April, he boarded the USAT Sherman, bound for the Philippinesmarker. After a brief stopover at the Marine Barracks at Cavitemarker, he arrived at his duty station on May 5, 1921, the Marine Barracks, Naval Station, Olongapo, Philippine Islands. One year later, Mansfield was assigned to Company A, Marine Battery, Asiatic Fleet. A short tour of duty with the Asiatic Fleet took him along the coast of China, before he returned to Olongapo in late May 1922.

That August, Mansfield returned to Cavite in preparation for his return to the United States and eventual discharge. On November 9, 1922, Marine Private Michael J. Mansfield was released on the completion of his enlistment. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, his character being described as “excellent” during his two years as a Marine.


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 University of Montanamarker from 1930 to 1934, becoming a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. 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 University of Montana and a member of the American Federation of Teachers.

Congressional service

Portrait of Mike Mansfield.
He served as a member of the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1943 until 1953 and in the United States Senate from 1953 until 1977. During his tenure in the Senate, he served as the majority leader from 1961 to 1977; he is the longest serving majority leader in the history of the Senate.

An early supporter of Ngo Dinh Diem, Mansfield had a change of heart on the Vietnam issue after a visit to Vietnam in 1962. He reported to President Kennedy on December 2, 1962, that US money given to Diem's government was being squandered and that the US should avoid further involvement in Vietnammarker. He was thus the first American official to comment adversely on the war's progress.

During the Johnson presidency, Mansfield became a frequent and vocal critic of US involvement in the Vietnam War.

He hailed the new Nixon administration, especially the "Nixon Doctrine" announced at Guammarker in 1969 that the US would:
  1. honor all U.S. treaty commitments against those who might invade the lands of allies of the United States;
  2. provide a nuclear umbrella against threats of other nuclear powers;
  3. supply weapons and technical assistance to countries where warranted but without committing American forces to local conflicts.

In turn Nixon turned to Mansfield for advice and as his liaison with the Senate on Vietnam. Nixon began a steady withdrawal of U.S. troops shortly after taking office in January 1969, a policy supported by Mansfield. During his first term, Nixon reduced American forces by 95%, leaving only 24,200 in late 1972; the last ones left in March 1973.

During the economic crisis of 1971, Mansfield was not afraid to reach across the aisle to help the economy. He said:
"What we're in is not a Republican recession or a Democratic recession; both parties had much to do with bringing us where we are today. But we're facing a national situation which calls for the best which all of us can produce, because we know the results will be something which we will regret."

Mansfield introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The controversial Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research (through ARPA) to projects with direct military application.

An earlier Mansfield Amendment, offered in 1971, called for the number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe to be halved. On May 19, 1971, however, the Senate defeated this amendment by a vote of 61–36.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan

Mansfield retired from the Senate in 1976, and was appointed Ambassador to Japanmarker in April 1977 by Jimmy Carter, a role he retained during the Reagan administration until 1988. While serving in Japan, Mansfield and his wife were highly respected; he is still a household name there to this day. Mansfield is particularly renowned for describing the United States-Japan relationship as the 'most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none'. Mansfield's successor in Japan Michael Armacost noted in his memoirs that, for Mansfield, the phrase was a 'mantra.' While in office, Mansfield also fostered relations between his home state of Montana and Japan. The sister city of Helena, capital of the state, is Kumamoto-shi on Kyushu.

After his retirement as ambassador, Mansfield worked as an advisor to Goldman Sachs on East Asian affairs.


The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Memorial Library at the University of Montanamarker, Missoulamarker is named after him and his wife Maureen, as was his request when informed of the honor. The library also contains the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, which is dedicated to Asian studies, and, like the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, "advancing understanding and co-operation in U.S.-Asia relations."

The Montana Democratic Party holds an annual Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner named partially in his honor.

Mansfield retired in 1989. In that year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He received the United States Military Academy'smarker Sylvanus Thayer Award. In 1990, Japan conferred Ambassador Mansfield with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers. This is Japan's highest honor for someone who is not a head of state.

Burial at Arlington

Ambassador Mansfield died at the age of 98 on October 5, 2001.
 Remarks by Col. James Michael Lowe, USMC, October 20, 2004.

The burial plot of Senator and Mrs. Mansfield can be found in section 2, marker 49-69F of Arlington National Cemetery.

See also


  1. Laois Map and Towns
  2. "Economic Crisis: 1971 Year in Review,"
  3. Testimony of Ambassador to Japan-designate John V. Roos before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 23, 2009
  4. Campi, Alicia. "The Role of Mike Mansfield in Consolidating Mongolia's International Status and in Establishing Diplomatic Relations with the United States," The Mansfield Foundation. May 17, 2007.
  5. Coming Soon!


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