James E. (Jimmie) Van Zandt, 87, a Pennsylvania Republican who served 11 terms in the House of Representatives and three terms as national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, died of cancer Jan. 6 at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.
Mr. Van Zandt was a retired rear admiral in the Naval Reserve who served in both world wars and the Korean conflict. He lived in Arlington.
Defeated in a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1962, he served as a special representative of the governor of Pennsylvania here until 1971 and as secretary of the steering committee of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation until about 1 1/2 years ago.
He was elected to three terms in the House beginning in 1938. He resigned in 1943 to go on active duty with the Navy, then reclaimed his House seat in 1946 and served until 1962. He was a member of the House Armed Services Committee and ranking Republican House member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.
Born in Altoona, Pa., Mr. Van Zandt joined the Navy during his senior year at Altoona High School soon after the United States entered World War I in April of 1917. During the war he served as a signalman aboard merchant convoys sailing between the United States and Europe.
After the war, Mr. Van Zandt went to work for the old Pennsylvania Railroad, but he remained in the Naval Reserve. When he was elected to Congress he was district passenger agent in Altoona.
He also became active in veterans' affairs, serving as commander of the Altoona Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, state commander for Pennsylvania, and three one-year terms as national commander of the VFW from 1933 to 1936.
His World War II service included four months duty in Hawaii and the North Atlantic during 1941 and 1942 while still serving in Congress. After resigning from Congress in 1943, he spent three years on active duty in the Pacific where he commanded landing craft. He also served in Korea during the conflict there. He retired from the Naval Reserve as a rear admiral in 1959.
Mr. Van Zandt's military decorations included the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
As a member of Congress and in later years, Mr. Van Zandt remained a forceful spokesman for the VFW and other veterans' organizations. He criticized antiwar protesters during the war in Vietnam as being "really anti-American," and he declared that "when Americans are in a fight we are there to win and right or wrong it's our country we stand for." When the war in Vietnam had ended he was one of the VFW's leading opponents of amnesty for those who had evaded the draft.
Mr. Van Zandt is survived by his wife, Esther Meisenholder Van Zandt of Arlington; and a son, James Edward II, of Falls Church.