Former U.S. Senator, Montana,
and Senate Majority Leader
US; member of the US House of Representatives 1943 - 53, US Senator 1953 - 77, Senate majority leader 1961 - 76, US ambassador to Japan 1977 - 88 The son of a grocer, Mansfield dropped out of school before completing eighth grade. During the First World War, at the age of 14, he enlisted in the US Navy and served as a seaman second class. He then enlisted as a private in the army; after serving for one year he joined the Marines and as a private first class saw two years' service in the Philippines, China, and Siberia. From 1922 to 1931 he worked as a miner, and then as a mining engineer, in Butte Montana. Concurrently he attended Montana School of Mines, 1927 - 8. He graduated BA in 1933 and MA in 1934 from Montana State University, Missoula. In 1933 he joined the faculty of the university as a professor of Far Eastern and Latin American history.
Mansfield, a Democrat, launched his political career in 1940 when he made an unsuccessful attempt to gain election to Congress. He remained in his academic post until 1942 when on his second attempt he was elected representative of the 1st Montana District. He was re-elected to the next four congresses. During his ten years in the House he was a prominent member of the foreign relations committee.
Elected US Senator for Montana in 1952, Mansfield served for twenty-five years in the Senate during the high summer of the Democrat's ascendancy. He became assistant majority leader 1957 - 61 and majority leader 1961 - 77. During his first term in the Senate he attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring the activities of the CIA under closer Senate scrutiny. In the early 1970s, before the full extent of the Watergate scandal had become known, he favoured a constitutional amendment that proposed introducing a single six-year presidential term. In the wake of Vietnam, and at the height of the Watergate furore, he supported the War Powers Resolution 1973 limiting presidential authority to wage undeclared wars. Mansfield was a prominent member of the Senate's prestigious Foreign Relations committee.
During his time in Congress, he visited the People's Republic of China on four occasions, served as presidential representative in China in 1944, and US delegate to the United Nations Assembly in Paris 1951 - 2. He retired from the Senate in 1976 but not from public service. In 1977 he became a member of a commission seeking information about US servicemen missing in Indochina. The same year he was also appointed by President Carter to the post of US ambassador to Japan. He remained in post during Reagan's presidency, finally retiring in 1988.