born February 15, 1892
Matteawan (now called Beacon}, New York
died May 22, 1949
Jumped to his death from the 16th floor of the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
- 1916: bond salesman - William A. Read and Company (an investment banking firm)
- 1923: partner - William A. Read and Company
- 1926: vice president - William A. Read and Company
- 1938: president - William A. Read and Company
- 1940: special assistant to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- 1940: undersecretary of the Navy
- 1944: secretary of the Navy
- 1944: delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York
- 1947: Secretary of Defense
Forrestal was not the President's first choice as Secretary of Defense, Truman would have preferred to place the Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson, into the newly founded office, but Patterson wished to return to his private life and Forrestal was appointed Secretary of Defense -- a position he helped create as part of the Department of the Navy's unification committee which helped bring about the National Security Act.
Forrestal primarily focused on the unification of the armed forces to ensure a greater efficiency of the military defense structure. To accomplish this, The National Security Act of 1947 established Department of Defense to replace the National Military Establishment (NME). The Army (responsible for ground warfare), Navy (responsible for sea based warfare and aviation), and Air Force (responsible for land-based aviation) became military departments headed by their respective secretaries, each of whom were under the authority of the Secretary of Defense. This act also established the National Security Council, a group made up of the president, the Secretaries of State, Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board.
The unification of the military was a policy which some embraced as enhancing the overall defense readiness of the United States, however many military leaders felt as though the power of each service branch was being reduced -- their ability to decide the best way to deal with warfare was being compromised. Some believe that these conflicts led directly to Forrestal's resignation from office, and the depression which led to his admission to Bethesda Naval Hospital and his eventual suicide.
- The world's first super carrier (not counting the halted USS United States) was christened the USS Forrestal (by Mrs. James V. Forrestal) in his honour.
- "This memorial to James Forrestal, as a spontaneous tribute to his lasting accomplishments in providing for national security and his selfless devotion to duty, was erected by thousands of his friends and co-workers of all rank and stations." - Plaque on a bronze bust of Forrestal at the entrance to the Pentagon
- Many ufologists believe that James V. Forrestal was assassinated as part of a conspiracy to hide evidence of the existence of UFOs. Evidence presented to back up this theory:
- Harry S. Truman allegedly had Forrestal investigate the Roswell Incident as a part of Majestic-12, a group of 12 scientists and military leaders (a top secret document was mailed to a Hollywood movie producer outlining these facts).
- Forrestal believed he was being followed by Israeli agents. His discomfort at this belief led Forrestal's brother to attempt to remove him from the Bethesda Naval Hospital the day before he was "assassinated". Forrestal's medical records are still sealed
I don't want to comment on these theories. For more information about Majestic-12, see http://www.ssivanic.hr/~gogo/majestic.htm
references: http://www.defenselink.mil, http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/NSC/html/nschome.html, http://www.politicalgraveyard.com, www.britannica.com, http://www.truman.edu/academics/studentresearch/nsa1947.html, http://www.forrestal.org, http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/myst/myst20b.html, http://www.ssivanic.hr/~gogo/majestic.htm