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Andrew J. May
A smiling, bald man in a suit
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th district
In office
January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1947
Preceded byVirgil M. Chapman
Succeeded byWendell H. Meade
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1933 – January 3, 1935
Preceded byFinley Hamilton
Succeeded byBrent Spence
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1931 – March 3, 1933
Preceded byKatherine G. Langley
Succeeded byDistrict abolished
Personal details
Born(1875-06-24)June 24, 1875
Floyd County, Kentucky
DiedSeptember 6, 1959(1959-09-06) (aged 84)
Prestonsburg, Kentucky
Resting placeMayo Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUnion University

Andrew Jackson May (June 24, 1875 – September 6, 1959) was a Kentucky attorney, an influential New Deal-era politician, and chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee during World War II, infamous for his rash disclosure of classified naval information that resulted in the loss of 10 American submarines and 800 sailors,[1] and his subsequent conviction for bribery. May was a Democratic member of United States House of Representatives from Kentucky during the 72nd to 79th sessions of Congress.[2]

Education and early career

May was born on Beaver Creek, near Prestonsburg in Floyd County, Kentucky, on June 24, 1875. On June 25, 1898, he and his twin brother William H. May graduated from Southern Normal University Law School in Huntingdon, Tennessee (later named Union University, Jackson, Tennessee), and was admitted to the bar the same year, commencing his law practice in Prestonsburg. May and his brother formed the law firm of May & May which was not dissolved until the death of his brother on February 20, 1921. May was county attorney of Floyd County, Kentucky, 1901–1909; special judge of the circuit court of Johnson and Martin Counties in 1925 and 1926. During this time, May also engaged in Democratic Party politics, agricultural pursuits, coal mining and banking.[2]

May was elected as a New Deal Democrat to the Seventy-second Congress and to seven succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1931 – January 3, 1947). He was Chairman of the powerful Committee on Military Affairs during the Seventy-sixth through Seventy-ninth Congresses, and a consistent supporter of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. During World War II, May became involved with Murray and Henry Garsson, New York businessmen who sought lucrative munitions contracts then being awarded by the U.S. Government.[3]

The May Incident

May was responsible for a major release of highly confidential military information during World War II known as the May Incident.[4] U.S. submarines had been conducting a successful undersea war against Japanese shipping during World War II, frequently escaping their anti-submarine depth charge attacks.[4][5] May revealed the deficiencies of Japanese depth-charge tactics in a press conference held in June 1943 on his return from a war zone junket.[4][5] At this press conference, he revealed the highly sensitive fact that American submarines had a high survival rate because Japanese depth charges were exploding at too shallow a depth.[4][5] Various press associations sent this leaked news story over their wires and many newspapers published it, including one in Honolulu, Hawaii.[4][5]

After the news became public, Japanese naval antisubmarine forces began adjusting their depth charges to explode at a greater depth.[4][5] Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, commander of the U.S. submarine fleet in the Pacific, estimated that May's security breach cost the United States Navy as many as ten submarines and 800 crewmen killed in action.[4][5] He said, "I hear Congressman May said the Jap depth charges are not set deep enough. He would be pleased to know that the Japs set them deeper now."[4][5] A report from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Submarine Fleet determined that Japanese anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces failed to uncover the maximum test depth ability of U.S. fleet submarines during the war.[6] However, the report made no finding as to whether or not Japanese ASW forces altered their depth charge attacks to deeper settings as a consequence of May's revelation to the press.[6]

War profiteering allegations

Sometime shortly before or during the U.S. entry into World War II, May became involved with Murray Garsson and Henry Garsson, New York businessmen with no prior arms manufacturing experience who sought lucrative munitions contracts then being awarded by the U.S. Government. May was known to frequently telephone army ordnance and other government officials on the Garssons' behalf to award war contracts, obtain draft deferments, and secure other favors for the Garssons and their friends. So numerous were these interventions that one ordnance official referred to them as "blitz calls."[7] After the war, a Senate investigating committee reviewing the Garssons' munitions business discovered evidence that May had received substantial cash payments and other inducements from the Garssons.[8]

Conviction and postwar life

Following news reports of irregularities concerning his conduct in office, May was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1946 to the Eightieth Congress. The bribery scandal was intensified by testimony of excessive profit-taking in the Garsson munition business, and that the Garsson factory produced 4.2-inch mortar shells with defective fuzes, resulting in premature detonation and the deaths of 38 American soldiers.[9] After less than two hours of deliberation,[10] May was convicted by a federal jury on July 3, 1947, on charges of accepting bribes to use his position as Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee to secure munitions contracts during the Second World War. Murray and Henry Garsson also received prison terms.[11] After protracted efforts to avoid incarceration,[10] May subsequently served nine months in federal prison.

However, he continued to retain influence in Democratic party politics, and President Truman decided to grant May a full pardon in 1952.[2] Unable to revive his political career, he returned home to practice law until his death.[2]

May died in Prestonsburg, Kentucky on September 6, 1959, and is buried in Mayo Cemetery.[2]

The lodge at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, was named after May by Governor Bert T. Combs.

See also


  1. ^ Don Keith, War Beneath the Waves, Penguin, 2010, p. 11
  2. ^ a b c d e Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Andrew Jackson May, URL accessed 2008-02-14.
  3. ^ Time magazine, "Murray Garsson's Suckers", August 12, 1946.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Clay Blair (2001). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. 1. The Naval Institute Press. p. 397.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Tuohy, William, America's Fighting Admirals, Zenith Press, ISBN 978-0-7603-2985-6 (2007), pp. 218-219
  6. ^ a b Norman Friedman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945. Naval Institute Press. p. 355. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
  7. ^ Time magazine, "Handy Andy", June 9, 1947.
  8. ^ Time magazine, "Still Calling Yankel", July 29, 1946.
  9. ^ Time magazine, "Garsson Sequel", September 16, 1946.
  10. ^ a b Time magazine, "Artful Dodger", December 5, 1949.
  11. ^ Time magazine, "No Taste For Liquor"[permanent dead link], August 4, 1947.

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Katherine G. Langley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 10th congressional district

1931 – 1933 (obsolete district)
District abolished
Preceded by
Finley Hamilton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's at-large congressional district

1933 – 1935 (obsolete district)
Succeeded by
Brent Spence
Preceded by
Virgil M. Chapman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th congressional district

1935 – 1947 (obsolete district)
Succeeded by
Wendell H. Meade
This page was last edited on 8 April 2021, at 08:27
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