Who Killed James Forrestal?

Go to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5, Part 6, Short Version, Synopsis


World War II had ended less than three years before. It was becoming increasingly apparent that, for all its losses, the big winner of that war had been the Soviet Union and world communism. On March 10, 1948, the body of one of the leading holdouts against the communist advance was found in the courtyard beneath the window of his office. National authorities called the death a suicide, but reports in opposition countries concluded that it had been a murder, a political assassination by the secret police.  I am speaking of Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, the last non-communist government minister of Czechoslovakia, which was the last Eastern European country not yet taken over completely by the communists.


On May 22, 1949, the body of the man generally regarded as the leading government official warning of the communist menace abroad and within the United States government, the nation’s first Secretary of Defense, James V. Forrestal, was found on a third floor roof 13 floors below a 16th-floor window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital, apparently against his will, diagnosed as suffering from “operational fatigue” and kept in confinement in a room with security-screened windows on the 16th floor since April 2, some seven weeks before. The body had been discovered at 1:50 a.m., and the last edition of the May 22 New York Times reported the death as a suicide, although the belt, or sash, of his dressing gown was tied tightly around his neck, a more suspicious happenstance than anything associated with Masaryk’s death.

Books on Forrestal


A suicide it has remained in the newspapers and magazines of the United States to the present day. Three books have also been written about Forrestal, each of which discusses his death in considerable length. The first was James Forrestal, A Study of Personality, Politics, and Policy by California political science professor, Arnold A. Rogow, published in 1963 by The Macmillan Company. If the Book Review Digest is any indicator, it was the most heavily publicized, if not the best received, of the books in question. Nineteen reviews are listed, and a few are summarized. Most take the author to task for the general shallowness of his effort and his attempt at post-mortem psychoanalysis, what some have called a psychological autopsy. None of them, however, challenge Rogow’s conclusion–which is really almost his starting place–that Forrestal’s death was an obvious suicide caused by his “mental illness,” something that Rogow dwells upon almost ad nauseam.

The second book was The Death of James Forrestal by Cornell Simpson, published by Western Islands Publishers in 1966. It is not mentioned by Book Review Digest, and presumably it was not reviewed by anyone in the American media.* Your local municipal or university library probably does not have a copy.  Through checking with contemporary newspaper sources, I have found it to be far more accurate and better documented in matters concerning the details of Forrestal’s last weeks, days, and hours, than even the celebrated third, and most recent, of the books written.  That book, in its two chapters on Forrestal’s decline and death, references Simpson’s book only once, versus 23 references to Rogow. We shall have a good deal more to say about Simpson’s efforts later in this essay.

Driven Patriot


But first, let us turn to that last word on the subject, the 587-page biography, Driven Patriot, the Life and Times of James Forrestal, by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley. This biography by a former Under Secretary of the Air Force and the current head of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, respectively, was named a Notable Book of the Year (1992) by the New York Times, although the Book Review Digest records only seven reviews in periodicals. Here is their concluding paragraph of chapter 32 entitled “Breakdown,” the paragraph that occasions their lone reference to the Simpson book:

Forrestal’s death fostered several enduring suppositions that the end was not suicide, but murder. Henry Forrestal, for one, believed “they” murdered his brother, a position based in large part on his conviction that no man of Forrestal’s courage and stamina could kill himself. The murderous ‘they’ were variously identified as “the Communists” or “the Jews,” and their nefarious work had the necessary connivance of the highest authorities in the United States government. But the facts of the case, beginning well before Forrestal entered the hospital and including the Menninger and Raines diagnoses of his illness, effectively refute the murder theory. (p. 468)

It is interesting, indeed, to learn that in this case a man as close to Forrestal as his older brother Henry did not believe that the death was a suicide, so let’s have a close look at the “facts of the case” on the night of the death, as recounted by Hoopes and Brinkley:

Apparently, Forrestal was now finding it possible to take the onset of Drew Pearson’s Sunday-night broadcasts in stride, for on Friday, May 20, two days after Raines’s departure, there was no visible sign of the anxiety that had shaken him on the approach of previous weekends. On the contrary, he seemed in high spirits. On Saturday, Rear Admiral Morton Willcutts, the commanding officer at Bethesda, watched him consume a large steak lunch and found him ebullient, meticulously shaven, and eager to greet a few scheduled visitors, among them [son] Peter. Nothing untoward occurred during the afternoon and early evening. Then, late in the evening, he informed the corpsman on duty that he did not want a sedative or a sleeping pill because he was planning to stay up quite late and read. The corpsman was Edward Prise, the most sensitive (and the one Forrestal liked best) of the three who rotated round-the-clock eight-hour shifts outside his door. One of the other corpsmen had chosen Friday to go absent without leave and get drunk, which meant that Prise was to be relieved at midnight by a substitute for the fellow who had gone AWOL; the new man was a stranger to Forrestal and to the subtleties and dangers of the situation. Prise had observed that Forrestal, though more energetic than usual, was also more restless, and this worried him. He tried to alert the young doctor who had night duty and slept in a room next to Forrestal’s. But the doctor was accustomed to restless patients and not readily open to advice on the subject from an enlisted corpsman. Midnight arrived and with it the substitute corpsman, but Prise nevertheless lingered on for perhaps half an hour, held by some nameless, instinctive anxiety. But he could not stay forever. Regulations, custom, and his own ingrained discipline forbade it.

At one-forty-five on Sunday morning, May 22, the new corpsman looked in on Forrestal, who was busy copying onto several sheets of paper the brooding classical poem “The Chorus from Ajax” by Sophocles, in which Ajax, forlorn and far from home, contemplates suicide. (As translated by William Mackworth Praed in Mark Van Doren’s Anthology of World Poetry.) The book was bound in red leather and decorated with gold.

Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar
Wander around thee yet,
And sailors gaze upon thy shore
Firm in the Ocean set.
Thy son is in a foreign clime
Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,
Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,
Worn by the waste of time–
Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save
In the dark prospect of the yawning grave....

Woe to the mother in her close of day,
Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,
When she shall hear
Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!
“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–
No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail
Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–

When Forrestal had written the syllable “night’ of the word “nightingale” he stopped his copying. It remains a speculation whether the word “nightingale” triggered what Dr. Raines later called “Forrestal’s sudden fit of despondence,” but a coincidence should not go unremarked. As discussed in Chapter 23, “Nightingale” was the name of an anti-Communist guerilla army made of Ukrainian refugees, recruited and trained by the CIA to carry on a secret war against the Soviet Union from behind the Iron Curtain. Many of the recruits were Nazi collaborators who had carried out mass executions of their fellow countrymen, including thousands of Jews, behind the German lines during the war. As a member of NSC, Forrestal had authorized the operation.

In most accounts of what happened next, it is said that the inexperienced corpsman “went on a brief errand.” However, Dr. Robert Nenno, the young psychiatrist who later worked for Dr. Raines, quotes Raines as telling him that Forrestal “pulled rank” and ordered the nervous young corpsman to go on some errand that was designed to remove him from the premises.

After writing the syllable “night” of the word “nightingale,” Forrestal inserted his sheets of paper in the book between the last page and the back cover and placed the book on the bed table, open to the poem. Then he quickly walked across the corridor into the diet kitchen. Tying one end of his dressing-gown sash to the radiator just below the window, and the other around his neck, he removed the simple screen and climbed out the window. No one knows whether he then jumped or hung until the silk sash gave way, but scratches found on the cement work just below the window suggest that he may have hung for at least one terrible moment, then changed his mind–too late–before the sash gave way and he plunged thirteen stories to his death. Only seconds after he entered the diet kitchen, a nurse on the seventh floor heard a loud crash. His broken body had landed on the roof of a third-floor passageway, the dressing-gown sash still tied around his neck and his watch still running. The Montgomery County coroner concluded that death was instantaneous.

The corpsman Prise had returned to his barracks room, but could not sleep. After tossing restlessly for an hour, he got dressed and was walking across the hospital yard for a cup of coffee at the canteen when he was suddenly aware of a great commotion all around him. Instantly, instinctively, he knew what had happened. Racing to the hospital lobby, he arrived just as the young doctor whom he had tried unsuccessfully to warn emerged from an elevator. The doctor’s face was a mask of anguish and agony. As Prise watched, he grasped the left sleeve of his white jacket with his right hand and, in a moment of blind madness, tore it from his arm. Prise was doubly crushed by Forrestal’s death; in frequent friendly exchanges over several weeks, he had come to regard Forrestal as “the most interesting man I ever met.” But more than that, Forrestal had asked Prise to work for him after he left the hospital–as chauffeur, valet, man Friday. The details had not been filled in, but Prise felt there was a genuine bond between them, and a job with a great and famous man meant a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ‘It was my one big chance,” he said later. (pp. 463-466)

This might sound persuasive to the uncritical reader. But notice what’s missing. We hear nothing from the people in the position to know, the naval corpsman and the doctor who were on duty there on the 16th floor at the time of the death. Interestingly, Hoopes and Brinkley even withhold their names, as though they are afraid that someone might track them down and find out what they saw and heard that fateful night. We also hear nothing from the nurse who was supposed to be in charge of that floor that night. Instead, we get a psychiatrist, who later worked for the supervising psychiatrist who was in Montreal at the time of the fall and an “intuitive” naval corpsman who, by his own words here, had left for the night well before the fall occurred.

We might note, as well, that the name of this Edward Prise appears in none of the contemporaneous accounts of the death in the major newspapers I consulted, and his story appears to contradict some of the basic facts in those stories. For instance, news accounts place the time of the declining of the sleeping pill at 1:45 am, not much earlier in the evening as Prise tells us. The news accounts also note nothing irregular or unusual about the corpsman who was on guard at the time of the death. He is named as Apprentice Robert Wayne Harrison, Jr., and he is nowhere described as a substitute for the regular person on duty. By those early accounts, it was not a case of an inexperienced corpsman not recognizing danger signals who allowed himself to be wheedled into leaving his post. Rather, the guard, according to the hospital, had simply been relaxed from 100% of the time to checks on Forrestal every five minutes. So great had been Forrestal’s improvement, so little did anyone fear that he would commit suicide, that not only was he routinely being permitted unobserved, ready access to an easily-opened 16th-floor window, but he was also “being allowed to shave himself and...belts were permissible on his dressing gown and pajamas.” And Harrison’s guard shift did not begin at midnight as told in the Prise account, but at 9:00 p.m. as related by The Washington Post on May 23, 1949.

So, this Edward Prise story is not just irrelevant. It appears to be fiction. So where did Hoopes and Brinkley get it and why do they tell it to us? Their three references are as follows:

[John] Osborne, “Forrestal,” unpublished manuscript outline; Rogow, James Forrestal, pp. 16-17; and Lyle Stuart, Why: the Magazine of Popular Psychiatry I, no. 1 (November 1950), pp. 3-9, 20-27.

About the first reference, one can only wonder how it came to their attention. One hardly knows where to start looking for it. The second reference, for its part, flatly contradicts the Prise account:

Late on the evening of May 21 Forrestal informed the Naval Corpsman on duty that he did not want a sedative or sleeping pill and that he was planning to stay up rather late and read. When the Corpsman looked in at approximately 1:45 on the morning of Sunday, May 22, Forrestal was copying onto several sheets of paper Sophocles’s brooding ‘Chorus from Ajax,’ as translated by William Mackworth Praed in Mark Van Doren’s Anthology of World Poetry. The Corpsman went on a brief errand while Forrestal transcribed: [poetry lines repeated] (p. 17)

Notice that the person told earlier by Forrestal that no sedative will be needed and the person on duty later at the time of the tragic events are one and the same in this account. There is no Edward Prise being replaced at midnight by a pinch hitter on the job. Notice, as well, that Rogow who, as we have noted, sells the suicide thesis even harder than do Hoopes and Brinkley, is also careful not to give us Harrison’s name.. (Former Naval Corpsman Robert Wayne Harrison, Jr., if you are still alive out there, now is the time to come forward.)

We might also note that the Rogow account is also in conflict with contemporaneous news accounts with respect to the rejection of the sedative. They say that it took place when Harrison looked in on Forrestal at 1:45 and found him awake, after he had appeared to be sleeping at 1:30. Forrestal’s declining of the pill, by news accounts, even prompted Harrison to go wake up the staff psychiatrist on duty on the 16th floor, Dr. Robert R. Deen, and ask him what they should do about it. On page 16 Rogow also reveals that Hoopes and Brinkley are wrong about the steak dinner that Admiral Willcutts watched Forrestal eat. That was at noon on Friday, not Saturday, which is in agreement with the Simpson account.

Who knows what’s in that third reference for the Prise story? Why? The Magazine of Popular Psychiatry is truly obscure. According to a search at the Library of Congress, only two libraries in the country have back issues of this long-defunct periodical, and when I tried to get a copy I found that their collections did not go back to the cited premier issue.

Secret Investigation Report


So why did Hoopes and Brinkley have to reach so far for sources, especially when those sources relate, apparently, only to a very poor witness who wasn’t even around when Forrestal took his tragic plunge? What about the findings of the review board that was appointed by the same Admiral Willcutts who observed Forrestal dining on steak on Friday? Here’s how The New York Times described the board’s upcoming work on May 24:

The board will consider all the circumstances of Mr. Forrestal’s illness and of what happened in the few minutes when he was left unattended, walked out of his room into a diet kitchen and jumped. Today the board outlined the procedures it would follow and visited the scene of the death. Tomorrow it will hear witnesses, including Capt. Raines, the psychiatrist attending Mr. Forrestal.

Why, you might ask, didn’t Hoopes and Brinkley simply go to the transcript of those hearings and tell us what the most immediate witnesses had to say? At this point, the best expression that comes to mind is one frequently used by the Miami Herald’s humorous columnist, Dave Barry, “I’m not making this up.” The hearings were secret and the transcript has remained secret to this day.**

It is true that Admiral Willcutts, the head of the National Naval Medical Center, Admiral Leslie Stone, the Bethesda Hospital commandant, Dr. George N. Raines, the Navy psychiatrist in charge of the case, and Dr. Frank J. Brochart, Montgomery County (Maryland) coroner, all publicly called the death a suicide virtually immediately after it happened (in violation of the basic investigative rule of police that all violent deaths should be treated as murder until sufficient evidence is gathered to prove otherwise). But, on what basis, one might ask, did the duly appointed investigative body, Admiral Willcutts’ review board, conclude that it was, indeed, a suicide?

Dave Barry’s favorite expression is appropriate once again. I’m not making this up. The answer is that it didn’t. Here is what the investigation concluded, as reported on page 15 of the October 12, 1949, New York Times. The full article, including the headlines, is given here:

Navy Absolves All in Forrestal Leap Investigating Board Report on Death Submitted May 30, Revealed by Matthews

Special to the New York Times

Washington, Oct. 11. Francis P. Matthews, Secretary of the Navy, made public today the report of an investigating board absolving all individuals of blame in the death of James Forrestal last May 22. The former Secretary of Defense leaped to his death from an upper story of the Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland.

The text of the report declared:  

1.      That the body found on the ledge outside of Building 1 of the National Medical Center at 1:50 A.M. and pronounced dead at 1:55 A.M. Sunday, May 22, 1949, was identified as that of the late James V. Forrestal, a patient in the neuropsychiatric service of the United States Naval Hospital National Medical Center.

2.      That the late James V. Forrestal died about 1:50 A.M. on Sunday, May 22, 1949, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, as a result of injuries, multiple extreme, received incident to a fall from a high point in the tower, Building 1.

3.      That the behavior of the deceased during the period of the stay in the hospital preceding his death was indicative of a mental depression.

4.      That the treatment and precautions in the conduct of the case were in agreement with accepted psychiatric practice and commensurate with the evident status of the patient at all times.

5.      That the death was not caused in any manner by the intent, fault, negligence or inefficiency of any person or persons in the naval service or connected therewith.

The board, appointed by Rear Admiral Morton D. Willcutts, then head of the Naval Medical Center, submitted its report on May 30. The Navy announcement today gave no explanation of the delay in making the findings public.

Shortly after Mr. Forrestal’s death, Navy psychiatrists explained that their patient had reached a stage in his recovery where a necessary “calculated risk” had to be assumed in permitting him more liberty of movement and less supervision. He climbed through the window of a kitchen during the temporary absence from his floor of an orderly, who otherwise would have seen him and who could have prevented the jump.

At least The New York Times is consistent. Its very first report in the last edition of its May 22 newspaper begins, “James Forrestal, former Secretary of Defense jumped thirteen stories to his death early this morning from the sixteenth floor of the Naval Medical Center.”

But look at the Navy’s conclusions. They tell us only that he died from the injuries caused by the fall and that no one associated with the hospital or the Navy was responsible in any way for the fall. What they don’t say is what caused the fall. They don’t even venture to remind us that the sash of a hospital gown, presumably Forrestal’s, was tied tightly around the neck of the corpse, which they thoroughly establish was that of Forrestal. By not mentioning it, they are relieved of any requirement to explain, or even to speculate upon, its purpose and who might have done the tying of the sash.

Recall that Hoopes and Brinkley had said quite confidently that Forrestal had tied one end of the sash to a radiator below the window and that it “gave way,” whatever that means. All The New York Times had to say about the sash in its front-page May 23 article was as follows:

There were indications that Mr. Forrestal might also have tried to hang himself. The sash of his dressing-gown was still knotted and wrapped tightly around his neck when he was found, but hospital officials would not speculate as to its possible purpose.

And to this day no one in authority has told us what that sash was doing there. Might that be because the attempted hanging scenario is not just nonsensical, but it is impossible? If Forrestal was bent on killing himself, wouldn’t he have simply dived out the window, particularly when the attendant was likely to return at any minute? After the sash had been wrapped and tied tightly around his neck, was there enough of it left over for it to also have been tied at one time around the radiator beneath the window? Were there any indications from the creases in the sash that an attempt had been made to tie it around something at one end? How likely is it, anyway, that Navy veteran Forrestal would have been so incompetent at tying a knot that it would have come undone? Most importantly, how do we know that skilled assassins, working for people with ample motives to silence this astute and outspoken patriot (more about those people later) did not use the sash to throttle and subdue Forrestal before pitching him out the window?

The willingness of the authorities to withstand the thoroughly justified charge of cover-up by not releasing the results of their investigation, including the transcripts of witness testimony, speaks volumes, as does the extraordinarily deceptive description of the case by the likes of such establishment figures as Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley. The Hoopes-Brinkley account is replete with deceptions, but there is none greater than this withholding of the information that all the key witness testimony has been kept secret, along with the results of the investigation itself, and that the investigation did not conclude that Forrestal committed suicide. Even Arnold Rogow states in a very matter-of-fact manner in a footnote on page 19, “Both the Surgeon General of the United States and the Navy conducted official inquiries. The results of these investigations have never been made public.” (This is the only mention that I have seen of the Surgeon General’s inquiry. I submitted a Freedom of Information request for the Willcutts investigation report to the National Naval Medical Center some weeks ago, but have received no reply as of this writing.)

“Evidence” without Sources, and Sins of Omission


By leaving out the vital information that the official record of the case has been suppressed, Hoopes and Brinkley, cobbling together an account based on a hodgepodge of dubious sources, leave the reader with the impression that we know more about what happened than we really do. Take, for instance, the matter of Forrestal’s copying of a poem, interpreted as an advocacy of suicide, in the wee hours of the night. How do we know that the copying was done by Forrestal, himself, and not by someone who saw it as a clever substitute for a more difficult to compose fake suicide note? Well, Hoopes-Brinkley say that the substitute corpsman saw him copying away when he looked in on him at 1:45. And how do they know that? Their sole reference for that observation is Arnold Rogow, and, sure enough, as we see in the Rogow quote above, that’s what Rogow says, although Rogow’s observer is apparently the regular guard and not a substitute.

So how does Rogow know? We have no way of knowing, because he has no reference. In all likelihood, the Rogow account upon which Hoopes-Brinkley rely is not true. All The New York Times and The Washington Post have to say about the 1:45 encounter is that the corpsman found Forrestal awake, and he declined a sedative or sleeping pill. If the corpsman had actually witnessed him writing, with the poetry book open in front of him, the newspapers would have surely taken that opportunity to tell us, because they certainly do want us to believe that he was the transcriber. Here’s The New York Times account of May 23:

Mr. Forrestal had copied most of the Sophocles poem from the book on hospital memo paper, but he had apparently been interrupted in his efforts. His copying stopped after he had written “night” of the word “nightingale” in the twenty-sixth line of the poem.

Clearly, this is conjecture, and not based on what the corpsman had to say. This presumably copied poem by Forrestal was played up big by all the newspapers from the very beginning, because it was from that, as much or more than anything else, that the suicide conclusion that all of them immediately reached was made to seem plausible. It is highly unlikely that the newspapers would have passed up actual eyewitness evidence that Forrestal was transcribing the tragic lines just minutes before he took his fatal plunge.

So, was Forrestal the person who transcribed those lines from Sophocles, and, if he was, did he do it just before his fall from the window? The honest answer is that we do not know.***

By now it should be clear to the reader that authors of well-publicized and distributed books in the United States on James Forrestal have taken no oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Take, as well, the treatment of Forrestal’s older brother, Henry, a solid and successful businessman who lived in the family home in Beacon, New York, where they and an older brother had grown up. We have seen that Hoopes and Brinkley note Henry’s doubts about the official verdict on Forrestal’s death, but they brush him aside and make him appear a tad outrageous with his suggestion that “the Communists” or “the Jews” might have been behind it, with the connivance of the highest officials in the U.S. government. As with the missing testimony of the witnesses, how much better would it have been to hear what Henry had to say himself about this matter! The authors had access to Cornell Simpson’s 1966 book, The Death of James Forrestal, and they could have given us at least something of the flavor of the following passage:

At his home in Beacon, New York, Henry Forrestal stated to this author that James Forrestal positively did not kill himself. He said his brother was the last person in the world who would have committed suicide and that he had no reason for taking his life. When Forrestal talked to his brother at the hospital, James was having a good time planning the things he would do following his discharge. Henry Forrestal recalled that Truman and [new Defense Secretary Louis] Johnson agreed that his brother was in fine shape and that the hospital officials admitted that he would have been released soon. To Henry Forrestal, the whole affair smelled to high heaven. He remarked about his brother's treatment at the hospital, his virtual imprisonment and the censorship of his visitors. Henry Forrestal had never heard of such treatment and questioned why it should have been allowed. He further questioned why the hospital officials lied about his brother being permitted all the visitors he wanted.

He was bitter when recounting that from the first minute the officials had insisted the death was a result of suicide; that they did not even consider the possibility of murder even though there was no suicide note, though his brother acted perfectly normal when the corpsman saw him only a few minutes before his death, though the bathrobe cord was knotted tightly around his neck.

He considered it odd that his brother had died just a few hours before he, Henry, was to arrive and take James out of the hospital.

Then he repeated his belief that James Forrestal did not kill himself; that he was murdered; that someone strangled him and threw him out the window. Henry Forrestal went on to ask why the authorities did not have the decency to admit these things and then try to apprehend the murderer. He lamented the fact that the case was hurriedly hushed up in an apparent attempt to avoid a scandal.

He went on to say that he was a Democrat but nevertheless he blamed the Truman administration for covering up his brother's murder, for letting it happen, and for the way James Forrestal was treated in the hospital. He concluded that he was "damned bitter" about it all but did not know what he could do.

There is at least one other person who did not believe the suicide story. Monsignor [Maurice] Sheehy said that when he hurried to the hospital several hours after Forrestal hurtled to his death to try to learn what he could of the circumstances of the tragedy, a stranger approached him in the crowded hospital corridor. The man was a hospital corpsman, not young Harrison, but a warrant officer wearing stripes attesting to twenty years of service in the navy. He said to Monsignor Sheehy in a low, tense voice: "Father...you know Mr. Forrestal didn't kill himself, don't you."

But before Monsignor Sheehy could reply or ask the man's name, he said, others in the crowded corridor pressed about him closely, and the veteran warrant officer, as if fearful of being overheard, quickly disappeared.

What did this man know about Forrestal's death? What was it he did not dare tell even a priest?

What really happened in the hospital that fatal night? (pp. 29-30)

Hoopes and Brinkley also say matter-of-factly that Henry had visited his brother at the hospital four times. Again, they don’t tell us what we learn in the obscure 1966 Simpson book:

Henry Forrestal tried several times to see his brother in the hospital but was refused visiting rights by both Dr. Raines and [acting hospital commandant] Captain [B. W.] Hogan. He finally managed to see his brother briefly after he had informed Hogan that he intended to go to the newspapers and after he had threatened legal action against the hospital.

Henry Forrestal told this writer that when he was finally allowed to see his brother, he found James “acting and talking as sanely and intelligently as any man I’ve ever known.” (p. 9)

There is no hint from Hoopes-Brinkley that Henry was ever kept away from his brother by the hospital.

Hoopes and Brinkley do tell us of Henry’s futile efforts to persuade Dr. Raines to allow Forrestal’s friend and Catholic priest, Father Maurice Sheehy, to visit, although they don’t tell us that, in fact, Raines turned Sheehy away on six separate occasions. The different accounts of the prevention of visits by Sheehy in the two books make interesting reading. First we have Hoopes-Brinkley:

Raines did not release his patient, but he did tell Henry that his brother was “fundamentally okay.” Henry also pressed Raines to allow Father Maurice S. Sheehy, a Catholic priest, to visit Forrestal, but Raines was opposed. According to Michael Forrestal, his father had met Sheehy, “a short, dark man of the shadows,” sometime during his last months in office when “he was groping for a way back to his boyhood faith.” Forrestal had asked to see Sheehy “to help him return to the Catholic Church, almost from the first day he entered the hospital,” and concurrently he was reading Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen’s Peace of Soul. For reasons never adequately explained, Raines turned down these requests while providing assurances that everything would be possible at the proper time. Henry Forrestal, who was Father Sheehy’s ally in this undertaking, asked, “How long do you want to wait, Doctor? Delays in such cases can be dangerous. Have you ever heard of a case where being visited by a clergyman has hurt a man?” But Raines, for his own reasons, perhaps because he thought the reopening of the Catholic issue would be disquieting to the patient, or possibly because a Catholic confessional might risk disclosing sensitive national security information, continued to put him off. On May 18, Henry Forrestal and Sheehy took their exasperation to the Navy Secretary, John L. Sullivan. He telephoned Raines, who seemed to promise an early visit by Sheehy, but three days later he was dead. (pp. 462-463)

Now here’s the Simpson account:

Henry Forrestal could see no reason why his younger brother should be held almost a prisoner in the hospital. He talked again with Captain Hogan and Dr. Raines and expressed the thought that his brother should be out in the country where he could walk around in the sun and talk to his friends. He received no response to his suggestions and finally asked the doctor point-blank if his brother was fundamentally all right. Dr. Raines replied yes.

Nevertheless, when Henry Forrestal told Raines and Hogan that his brother particularly wanted to talk with his close friend Monsignor Maurice S. Sheehy, who was instructor in religion at Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., and who had been a World War II navy chaplain, Captain Hogan admitted that the patient already had requested this a number of times but said he still would not be allowed to see the priest. Henry Forrestal told this writer that the more he thought about his brother being shut up in an isolated tower room and refused permission to see Father Sheehy, the more it bothered him. Finally, he decided to take his brother into the country to complete his convalescence. Henry Forrestal made train reservations to return to Washington on Sunday, May 22, and reserved a room at the Mayflower Hotel for that day. He then phoned the hospital and told them he was arriving to take his brother.

But only hours before Henry Forrestal was due to board his train, he received the news that his brother was dead. James Forrestal, oddly, died the very day his brother had planned to take him from the hospital. (pp. 8-9)

Notice that Simpson makes no attempt to make excuses for the inexcusable policy of Dr. Raines with respect to Father Sheehy. Rather, he says, “The priest later commented that he received the distinct impression that Dr. Raines was acting under orders. One might ask, Under whose orders?” (p. 10)

When Father Sheehy contacted Secretary of the Navy Sullivan, the Secretary seemed surprised to learn of the ban on his visiting. Simpson reaches the conclusion that the orders that Dr. Raines was following came from the White House, the same as the orders that had caused him to be committed to the hospital in the first place and kept there in near isolation on the top floor for seven long weeks.

Simpson goes on to reveal that Father Paul McNally, S.J. of Georgetown University had also tried and had been prevented from seeing Forrestal by Dr. Raines, as had at least one other important friend, unnamed, who “urgently wanted to talk with him.” (p. 11)

Yet, The Washington Post reported on May 23 that “During the past few weeks, Forrestal was allowed to have any visitors he wanted to see, a medical officer on duty said, adding that no log was kept of such visitors.” Obviously, the Bethesda medical authorities, like the prominent Forrestal biographers, had taken no oath to adhere to the truth, either.

Odd Choice of Permitted Visitors


At the same time that Forrestal was being prevented visits by those he most wanted and needed to see, unwanted guests were being allowed in. These included his successor as Secretary of Defense, a man whom, according to Hoopes and Brinkley, he held in very low regard:

[Louis] Johnson was not an attractive figure physically, intellectually, or socially. As Assistant Secretary of War in the late 1930s, he quarreled with his superior, Harry Woodring, and was soon marked as a nakedly ambitious troublemaker. FDR fired him without tears. [Forrestal aide] John Kenney thought him “a miserable creature, driven to live in an atmosphere of strife and discord of his own making.” Forrestal regarded him with contempt and found degrading the idea that he might be displaced by such a man. “He is incompetent,” he told Kenney. (p. 431)

Interestingly, The New York Times of May 23, 1949, alongside its articles about Forrestal’s death is the headline, “Johnson Took Post on Forrestal Plea.” That article reported that on May 17 Louis Johnson had addressed a group called the Post Mortem Club and had told them at that time that he was reluctant to accept the post, but Forrestal had pleaded with him to take over the job from him. One might wonder if Johnson knew at that time that Forrestal would never be able to contradict him, although what is more likely is that Johnson knew that Forrestal was too big a man to do such a petty thing as to contradict him publicly over such an ultimately small matter.

Another guest who was probably unwanted, two weeks before Forrestal’s death, was the man who had actually made the decision to replace Forrestal with his own head campaign fund-raiser, none other than President Truman, himself. Townsend Hoopes also learned in a January 1989 interview of top Forrestal aide, Marx Leva, that even young Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson “managed to gain entrance to the suite ‘against Forrestal’s wishes’.”(p. 462)

This is a very strange revelation. Johnson, at that time, was a man of far lesser stature than Forrestal. It would have been extraordinarily presumptuous of him to bull his way into Forrestal’s hospital room when his visit was frankly not wanted. A likely reason why Forrestal would have considered Johnson a member of the enemy camp, albeit a low-level one, was Johnson’s great partisanship toward the fledgling state of Israel. As a Congressman, Johnson was considerably ahead of his time in that respect, at least for a Congressman outside the state of New York. We might imagine something of Forrestal’s attitude toward LBJ by noting a May 23, 1949, Washington Post article headlined, “Delusions of Persecution, Acute Anxiety, Depression Marked Forrestal’s Illness.” That article concludes as follows:

His fear of reprisals from pro-Zionists was said to stem from attacks by some columnists on what they said was his opposition to partition of Palestine under a UN mandate. In his last year as Defense Secretary, he received great numbers of abusive and threatening letters. (p. 7)

One must truly wonder why Lyndon Johnson would have wanted to go visit Forrestal in his hospital room and what on earth the two adversaries might have had to say to one another. We must wonder as well why none of Forrestal’s closest professional associates are known to have visited or attempted to visit him. One would think that men like Ferdinand Eberstadt, Robert Lovett, and Marx Leva, who, as we shall see, were at his side during his days of decline would have exhibited continuing personal concern for his well-being by periodic visits to the hospital.

Something we need not wonder about is whether Dr. Raines and the Naval Medical Center made decisions based upon what was best for the patient in this case. Clearly they did not. Their visitor policy would appear to be more closely akin to torture than to therapy, or closer to the state-serving psychiatric profession of the old Soviet Union. Here’s what the aide, Leva, had to say about it in an interview for the Truman Library:

By the way, psychiatry. He was never permitted to see the people he should have seen. I'm not sure he should have seen me, I would have reminded him of too much, but friends of his, people who loved him; Senator Leverett Saltonstall, just to mention one name, not really a political ally but just someone who really loved him; Kate Foley his secretary.

The great vice of military medicine is that you see who they want you to see. Louis Johnson came out to see him and he saw him and that was the last person that he should have seen you know. Captain Raines couldn't say no to Louis Johnson, but that's the last thing that should have been done.

----- And only a Navy doctor could put a VIP patient on the seventeenth floor (sic) you know. I mean nobody else would put anybody above the second floor with that particular illness. Who is to know whether that had gone so far? I mean he apparently was beyond being neurotic, I mean it was apparently paranoid (sic) but I didn't see it at all. It's a long way to tell you that I did not see it at all until the day after he left office.

Forrestal’s Condition

However much he might have improved, whether because of or in spite of his treatment at the Naval Hospital, one must wonder if Forrestal wasn’t a bit off in the head and therefore possibly prone to suicide, as even Leva grudgingly seems to have accepted. A number of statements made in the wake of the death could leave one with hardly any other impression. This is from the May 24 New York Times:

Captain George M. Raines, the Navy psychiatrist who had been treating Mr. Forrestal, said that the former Secretary ended his life in a sudden fit of despondency. He said this was “extremely common” to the patient’s severe type of mental illness.

And in the May 24 Washington Post, although Dr. Raines “categorically denied that Forrestal attempted suicide previously during his stay at the hospital” (which had been charged by columnist, Drew Pearson, who also said he had tried to hang himself, slashed his wrists, and had taken an overdose of sleeping pills while at Hobe Sound, Florida, where he had gone for relaxation), Raines did say:

There was a history of an alleged suicide attempt obtained by Dr. Menninger which is said to have occurred on the night before the patient was seen by him (at Hobe Sound). At no time during his residence with the Naval Hospital had Mr. Forrestal made a suicidal gesture or a suicidal attempt. His feelings of hopelessness and possible suicide had been a matter of frank discussion between the two of us throughout the course of the therapy.

Please notice the firmness of the denials of actual suicide attempts versus the extreme vagueness of the apparent affirmation of suicidal tendencies and of the “alleged suicide attempt.” Arnold Rogow also gets in on the act. Speaking of Forrestal’s stay at Hobe Sound, he says:

During the next several days Forrestal made at least one suicide attempt. As a result, all implements that can be, and have been, used in suicide efforts–such as knives, razor blades, belts, and so on–were hidden or kept under surveillance. Forrestal was at no time left alone; when he was taking a shower or shaving himself, swimming in the surf or strolling on the beach, one or more friends was always in his company. Since proximity to the ocean presented special risks, Forrestal was always accompanied in the water by a friend who was an especially strong swimmer. (p. 6)

Notice, again, that while there are many details about preventive measures taken against suicide, Rogow provides us no details at all about what he calls “at least one suicide attempt.”

Hoopes and Brinkley muddy the water still further with respect to that supposed suicide attempt with this passage.

Although Forrestal talked of suicide in Florida, Raines said, he made no attempt to kill himself. According to Eliot Janeway, however, Eberstadt told him privately that Forrestal had made one suicide attempt at Hobe Sound. (p. 456)

Here Dr. Raines apparently clarifies his earlier “alleged suicide attempt” claim, ruling it out entirely, but a somewhat less authoritative and frankly biased source is cited to bring it back into the realm of possibility, though details are still quite noticeably lacking.

Hoopes and Brinkley also say that before the decision was made that Forrestal should go to Florida to rest, he told his friend and fellow Wall Street magnate turned high government official, Ferdinand Eberstadt, that “his life was a wreck, his career a total failure, and he was considering suicide.” (p. 450) And what is their reference for that? Like their account of the witness to the transcription of the poem, it is only Arnold Rogow. Rogow says that Forrestal told Eberstadt that he was a complete failure and considering suicide, but, once again, Rogow has no reference such as an interview with Eberstadt or any writing by Eberstadt.. He has no reference again when he describes Forrestal’s transfer from the relaxing beach resort in Florida to the Bethesda Naval Hospital:

Forrestal, although he had been given sedation, was in a state of extreme agitation during the flight from Florida. Again he talked of those “trying to get me” and of suicide. At one point he raised the question whether he was being “punished” for having been a “bad Catholic’–“bad”–referring to the fact that he had not practiced his faith for more than thirty years, and had married a divorced woman. Although he was repeatedly reassured that he was not being “punished” and that no one wished him ill, much less wanted to destroy him, Forrestal’s agitation increased during the trip in a private car from the airfield to the hospital. He made several attempts to leave the car while it was in motion, and had to be forcibly restrained. Arriving at Bethesda, he declared that he did not expect to leave the hospital alive. It was not clear whether he was referring to suicide or to a conviction that he would be murdered. (pp. 8-9)

On page 454 Hoopes and Brinkley repeat this passage virtually verbatim, leaving out the part about his talking of suicide again and supplying the information that he was accompanied on this trip by Eberstadt, the psychiatrist Dr. Menninger, and by aide John Gingrich. Only the sourceless Rogow, however, is cited as a source. Maybe the more recent authors omitted the suicide talk, knowing that it would hardly ring true in such close juxtaposition to Forrestal’s manifestation of his serious Roman Catholicism. Catholics regard suicide as one of the cardinal sins.

Of particular interest are the supposed words of reassurance given by Forrestal’s traveling associates. “Efforts by his companions to assure him that no one wished him ill or wanted to destroy him were unavailing,” is how Hoopes and Brinkley put it. At this point one must ask who it is that’s off his rocker here. The unprecedented campaign of defamation to which he had been subjected, led by columnists and radio commentators Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell, ever since his position against recognition of the state of Israel had become public, and the “great numbers of abusive and threatening letters” about the matter that the Washington Post said he had received demonstrated beyond a doubt that large numbers of people wished James Forrestal ill. It is also abundantly obvious that there were a number of people who wanted to destroy him as a man of influence. The only question was how much power they might have had and how far they thought it necessary to go.

The Hoopes-Brinkley account of what transpired upon Forrestal’s arrival at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, which directly follows the account of his troubled trip, is most intriguing:

Dr. Menninger talked to Forrestal on April 3 and again on April 6, but did not see him thereafter. Responsibility had passed to Dr. Raines and the navy, but recent evidence suggests that the White House was beginning to exert its influence on physical arrangements and public relations. In 1984, Dr. Robert P. Nenno, a young assistant to Dr. Raines from 1952 to 1959, disclosed that Raines had been instructed by “the people downtown” to put Forrestal in the VIP suite on the sixteenth floor of the hospital. Dr. Nenno emphasized that Raines’s disclosure to him was entirely ethical, but that “he did speak to me because we were close friends.” The decision to put Forrestal in the tower suite was regarded by the psychiatric staff as “extraordinary” for a patient who was “seriously depressed and potentially suicidal,” especially when the hospital possessed two one-story buildings directly adjacent to the main structure that were specifically organized and staffed to handle mentally disturbed patients. Nenno added, “I have always guessed that the order came from the White House.”

If the White House was calling the shots on where Forrestal should be locked up, there is a good chance that Monsignor Sheehy’s suspicions as related by Simpson that they were also specifying the visitors he should receive were also correct.

Who Was Calling the Shots?


Concerning the extent of White House involvement in Forrestal’s treatment, the following 1968 excerpt of an interview by the Truman Library’s Jerry Hess of Harry Truman’s appointments secretary for his full time as President, Matthew J. Connelly, is of considerable interest. Connelly had previously been Truman’s executive assistant when Truman was Vice President and when he was Senator, and before that he was the chief investigator on the Senate committee through which Truman rose to prominence as chairman, the Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. The first and last parts of the excerpt are included to support other suggestions in this paper that there was a big drop-off in leadership quality in the fledgling Department of Defense when James Forrestal was replaced by Louis Johnson.

HESS: The next man who served for just a short period of time until the unification was Kenneth C. Royall. He appears again as Secretary of the Army so we'll discuss him as Secretary of the Army, if that's all right.

The next category is Secretary of Defense. Of course, the first Secretary of Defense under the unification act was James Forrestal. Why was he chosen as the first Secretary of Defense?

CONNELLY: Forrestal was Secretary of the Navy prior to the merger of the branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Mr. Forrestal had been in Washington under the Roosevelt administration, was a highly intellectual fellow, and was a good administrative officer. When the merger was completed to create the Defense Department, Mr. Truman looked on him as the superior of the other members of the military establishment and appointed him as Secretary of Defense, which office he held very successfully until an illness overtook him.

HESS: Do you recall any instances, any evidences on the job of the mental deterioration that overtook Mr. Forrestal, unfortunately?

CONNELLY: Yes, I recall Mr. Forrestal called me and told me that his telephones were being bugged, his house was being watched, and he would like me to do something about it. So I had the chief of the Secret Service detail at the White House make an investigation of Mr. Forrestal's home; I had him observe it, I had him check his phones, and found out that he was just misinformed, that it wasn't being watched, and there was no indication that there was any wiretapping in Mr. Forrestal's home. That really upset me, because I realized that the Secret Service would do a thorough job, and I told the President that I was worried that Mr. Forrestal might be a little bit wrong.

HESS: What did the President say at that time? Do you recall?

CONNELLY: He asked me what I thought and I said, "I think Mr. Forrestal is cracking up."

So he said, "Why don't we arrange to have him go down to Key West and take a little vacation?"

So, Mr. Forrestal did go to Key West. There was a repetition down there. Mr. Forrestal had hallucinations about things that were going wrong at Key West and he called me from Key West and told me that something was wrong down there. So I checked very carefully with the Navy, who supervises Key West, and Mr. Forrestal later was transferred from Key West to the naval hospital in Bethesda.

HESS: Do you recall what he thought was going wrong at Key West at this time?

CONNELLY: He thought that the same things were happening, that people were annoying him, and he felt he was under surveillance down there, he felt that he was being watched, and in other words, he was being personally persecuted. So as a result of that, we had him very quietly removed to Bethesda hospital in Washington. And history will disclose that is where he jumped out a window.

HESS: The next man to hold the position was Louis Johnson. Why was he chosen for that position?

CONNELLY: Louis Johnson was chosen for two reasons. Number one, Louis Johnson had been Commander of the American Legion. He was a perennial candidate for President. He was a very effective political organizer, and during the campaign of 1948 when things were not very good for Mr. Truman, Louis Johnson accepted the position as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. He gave up his law practice. He devoted all of his time to raising money for the campaign in '48. He was a highly successful lawyer in Washington, and Mr. Truman turned to him after the death of Mr. Forrestal to take over the Pentagon operation.

HESS: During this time, two important events took place, the cutting back of the Armed Forces and the invasion of Korea. Some people had blamed Louis Johnson for the reduction in the Armed Forces. Is that valid?

CONNELLY: That is valid. He had promised that he would cut to the bone the expenditures of the Defense Department and set out to do so, with the result that when the Korean war developed we found ourselves very unable to meet our commitments for our appearance in Korea.

HESS: Was this done strictly for reasons of economy? Wasn't it seen that this was a dangerous thing to do in the world situation at that time, or not?

CONNELLY: Well, World War II was over and Mr. Johnson thought that the appropriation for the Defense Department could be cut to reduce the overhead we had in maintaining the equipment over here and overseas, and he put on an economy program and without the Korean war at that time being imminent, he succeeded in his objectives. However, when the Korean thing developed we were too thin on supplies and materiel.

HESS: In the Korean war the North Koreans invaded South Korea, we'll get to that a little bit later, on June the 24th, on a Saturday, of 1950. Just when was the decision made to replace Louis Johnson . What can you tell me about the resignation of Louis Johnson?

CONNELLY: I don't recall.

HESS: Was that offered willingly, do you recall?

CONNELLY: I don't believe so. I think that the President by this time became dissatisfied with Johnson because of his inability to get along with other members of the Armed Forces.

HESS: How did he got along with the other members of the Cabinet?

CONNELLY: Louis Johnson was somewhat of an individualist, and Louis Johnson was not what you would call a cooperative member of the Cabinet. He was running his own show, and he didn't want any interference from anybody else, and I don't think he asked very often for opinions from anybody else.

The first thing to notice here is that Connelly’s statement apparently contradicts both the Hoopes-Brinkley and the Rogow accounts as to who was behind the decision to send Forrestal down to Florida, and later to have him placed in the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Both books have Forrestal’s friend and colleague, Ferdinand Eberstadt, as the prime mover in the decision to go down to the estate of State Department official and friend, Robert Lovett, where Forrestal’s wife, Jo, was already vacationing. As we shall see, their version is supported by the most immediate witness to Forrestal’s apparent nervous breakdown, Forrestal aide, Marx Leva. One curiosity is that, although Eberstadt did not die until 1969, six years after Rogow’s book was published and 20 years after Forrestal’s death, no one seems to have any sort of formal statement from Eberstadt directly about these matters, including Forrestal’s supposed suicide attempt at Hobe Sound or his talk of suicide. As for the decision to move Forrestal to Bethesda, Hoopes-Brinkley have it as a “tacit agreement” among several people at Hobe Sound, including Dr. Menninger, whom Eberstadt had apparently called in, Dr. Raines, who they say had been sent down at the behest of the White House (though not as the “agent” of the White House) and Forrestal’s wife. The wife, they say, had been influenced toward the Bethesda decision by a telephone conversation with Truman. Rogow says simply that Bethesda “was deemed” preferable to Menninger’s psychiatric clinic, but doesn’t say by whom.

Considering the fact that Forrestal, having been officially replaced as Defense Secretary by Johnson on March 28, was a private citizen at this point, it is certainly reasonable to assume that Forrestal’s extra-legal transportation to Florida on a military airplane and confinement and treatment in the Naval Hospital at Bethesda was not done without approval at the highest level. Therefore, the Connelly account is probably essentially correct, although some area of dispute may remain as to who was the prime mover behind the decisions that were made. What appears not to be factually correct in the Connelly account is his placing of the Florida vacation site as Key West instead of Hobe Sound. Hobe Sound is on the southeast coast of Florida, north of Jupiter and West Palm Beach and more than 100 miles from Key West. One would like to think that he just slipped up on the name, but he is so definite about the Navy’s role in everything, and the U.S. Navy does have facilities at Key West. Perhaps it was the active role of Navy doctor, Captain Raines, that caused his confusion.

As we have seen, although they don’t go quite so far as Connelly, Hoopes and Brinkley do hint at a heavy behind-the-scenes presence by the White House in Forrestal’s treatment. Not only do they suggest that the White House was responsible for Forrestal being confined to the 16th floor, but one can easily see political pressure as opposed to sound medical considerations behind the curious choice of visitors that they tell us Forrestal was permitted. Arnold Rogow doesn’t take that chance. He did, as we have seen, mention in passing, though without comment in a footnote, that the report of the official investigation was kept secret, but generally he is far guiltier than Hoopes-Brinkley of withholding vital information from the reader.

Rogow’s Psychological Autopsy


The hand of the White House remains completely hidden in the Rogow account. Rather, the voice we hear over and over is that of Dr. Raines and of the psychiatric community. One is greatly reminded of Kenneth Starr’s heavy reliance upon “suicidologist” Dr. Allan Berman and his “100% degree of medical certainty” that Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster committed suicide:

Raines diagnosed Forrestal’s illness as involutional melancholia, a depressive condition sometimes seen in persons who have reached middle age. In most cases of involutional melancholia, mental faculties in general become less acute. There is a tendency to bewail the past, and to feel that the future has nothing in store. The mind is occupied with the “might-have-beens,” and in consequence doubt, indecision, fear and anxiety readily show themselves. The glands of internal secretion begin to fail in their functioning, and the bodily health is lowered. (Here Rogow has a long footnote with three additional sources in addition to the psychiatric textbook from which he quotes.)

Although some psychiatrists regard involutional melancholia as one of the mixed states of manic-depression, and others feel that it is a form of schizophrenia, there is broad agreement that the symptoms include anxiety, self-doubt, depression, and nihilistic tendencies.

The underlying personality characteristics of a typical involutional melancholic, according to one authoritative source, include a devotion to hard work and pride in work. Many of those who develop the illness are “sensitive, meticulous, over-conscientious, over-scrupulous, busy, active people....” (same textbook reference) They have also been described as showing “a narrow range of interests, poor facility for readjustments, asocial trends, inability to maintain friendships, intolerance and poor sexual adjustment, also a pronounced and rigid ethical code and a proclivity to reticence....” (ibid.) In the treatment of involutional melancholics, suicide is always a great risk, and therefore the average patient “is best treated in a mental hospital.” (ibid.)

A percentage of involutional melancholics experience paranoid ideation; in Forrestal’s case such ideation was particularly apparent. The belief that he was a victim of “plots” and “conspiracies” antedated his visit to Hobe Sound, and despite the treatment prescribed by Raines in Bethesda, this delusion was never fully displaced in his mind. (pp. 9-10)

Rogow does mention, again almost in passing, that Forrestal’s brother, Henry, was not happy with the treatment at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, and he quotes from the December 1950 article by William Bradford Huie in the December 1950 New American Mercury to that effect. He also tells us that Father Sheehy had tried six times “during the week before [Forrestal’s] death” to see him at the hospital but “he told reporters, he was turned away by Raines because Raines did not believe that such a visit ‘would be in the patient’s best interest.’” (p. 45)

No reference is given for the Sheehy talk to reporters, but the Huie article is clear that the six attempts by Sheehy to visit took place before Henry’s last visit with Raines on May 12, ten days before Forrestal’s death, and probably over a period of time much longer than one week. Huie tells us that on April 12, “Henry Forrestal also told the doctors (Raines and Hogan) that his brother wished to talk with Father Sheehy. Captain Hogan replied, according to Mr. Forrestal:: ‘Yes, he has asked to see the Father several times. And, of course, he will.’” (p. 651)

The prevention of any meeting between Sheehy and James Forrestal was obviously not the last minute sort of thing that Rogow would apparently want us to believe it was. In a further attempt to explain things away, but in apparent contradiction to the statement that the six visit attempts were all in the week before Forrestal’s death, Rogow has this long footnote:

Huie quotes Henry Forrestal as saying to Raines in May (It was May 12. ed).: “How long do you want to wait, doctor [before Forrestal was permitted to talk with Father Sheehy]? We have waited five weeks. Delays in such cases can be dangerous. Have you ever heard of a case where being visited by a clergyman has hurt a man?” Huie also reports Father Sheehy’s statement that “Had I been allowed to see my friend, Jim Forrestal, receive him back in the Church, and put his mind at ease with the oldest and most reliable medicine known to mankind, he would be alive today. His blood is on the heads of those who kept me from seeing him.” On November 18, 1949, however, Father Sheehy issued a more temperate statement to a United Press reporter who interviewed him in Washington. In its story headed “New Argument Stirred Over Forrestal Death,” the UP reported that while Raines had declined to comment on Father Sheehy’s statement that he had been “turned away” on six occasions when he tried to see Forrestal, a “Navy spokesman” had said that the hospital had never “refused permission” for a priest to talk to Forrestal. Father Sheehy, the UP story continued, “agreed that the Navy attitude was not one of outright refusal but of believing that Mr. Forrestal’s condition did not warrant calling in a priest.” (pp. 46-47)

Say what? But what if Forrestal requested to see the priest, and did his condition warrant calling in a number of non-medical people that he was very loath to see? Sheehy, in a very short article in the January 1951 Catholic Digest entitled “The Death of James Forrestal”responding to Huie’s American Mercury article offers the opinion that “the psychiatrist in charge was acting according to his principles.” Father Sheehy, who also reveals in the article that his efforts to see Forrestal took place virtually over the whole period of the confinement, writes here in such a politically circumspect manner that one wonders what anyone could possibly have had to fear in letting him talk to Forrestal.

Rogow, for his part, even manages to come half clean with respect to doubts that Forrestal’s death was actually a suicide. Here is his one paragraph on that subject:

In addition to those who believed, with Huie, that Forrestal had been “destroyed” by persons inside and outside the government, there were those who were convinced–and who remain convinced–that Forrestal did not, in fact, commit suicide. Forrestal’s widow, in early June, 1949, in a preliminary application for payment of a $10,000 accident insurance policy held by Forrestal, claimed that her husband had met “accidental death.” A letter to the Commercial Travelers Mutual Accident Association of America, sent in her behalf by the firm of Wyllys Terry and James Terry, Inc. of New York, stated that since Forrestal’s death did not involve suicide, the policy, which was payable in the case of accidental death, should be paid in full.

A footnote then tells us that we don’t know whether or not the insurance company paid up. What’s missing here, of course, is the heartfelt cry of outrage from Henry Forrestal that we quoted earlier from the Simpson book.

To be sure, Rogow did not have the Simpson book to quote from since his book predated Simpson’s by three years, but he had something even better. He had Henry Forrestal himself. In his acknowledgments on page 375 he says, “To begin with, I owe a debt to his brother, Henry L. A. Forrestal. Without his cooperation the book would have been a much more difficult undertaking.” Also, on page 58 we have this passage: “Although his brother reports that the family supplied him with an estimated $6,000 during the three years at Princeton, Forrestal, for reasons not clear, was almost continually in financial distress.”

Clearly, Henry made himself available to Rogow and told the man everything he wanted to know. No doubt, in desperate hope of finally getting his own considered opinion that his brother was murdered out to the public, he also told Rogow everything that he wanted Rogow to know. One can only imagine the sense of betrayal he must have felt upon reading what Arnold Rogow ended up writing. The experience probably left him more "damned bitter" than ever, and ever more at a loss as to what he could do.

The Gospel According to Rogow


In the absence of an official “Warren Report” or “Fiske Report” or “Starr Report” on Forrestal’s death, Rogow’s flawed account has become the surrogate “official” version of what happened. We have seen how Hoopes-Brinkley lean on it for important evidence that is not elsewhere supported, like the naval corpsman witnessing Forrestal transcribing the Sophocles poem and Forrestal’s supposed talk of contemplated suicide to Ferdinand Eberstadt. It has also become the standard reference for accounts of Forrestal’s death in popular books like The Puzzle Palace, by James Bamford, The Agency, by John Ranelagh, and The Secret War against the Jews, by John Loftus and Mark Aarons. Otto Freidrich, in his book, Going Crazy, uses Rogow as his source and refers to Forrestal as “mad as King Lear.” (For a severe criticism of Rogow and his psychological slant see the brief but incisive “Madness and Politics: The Case of James Forrestal” by Mary Akashah and Donald Tennant, Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science, Vol. 60, 1980).

We have noted that Rogow, like Hoopes-Brinkley, leaves out the name of vital witnesses like the naval corpsman and the doctor on duty on the 16th floor on the night of May 21-22, 1949. He even goes Hoopes-Brinkley one better and omits the name of Special Assistant and General Counsel to the Secretary of Defense, Marx Leva, the man who first witnessed Forrestal’s breakdown on March 29, the day after his replacement as Defense Secretary by Louis Johnson and shortly after he was honored at a ceremony of the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives. In the course of two paragraphs Rogow refers to an anonymous “aide” or “assistant” no less than five times. In each case he is talking of Leva.

Forrestal Protégé, Marx Leva


Since it is evident that Rogow didn’t want readers to seek out Leva and hear or read for themselves what he had to say, I shall provide his account here from the previously-cited Truman Library interview by Jerry Hess:

HESS: What do you recall about the unfortunate mental breakdown that overtook Mr. Forrestal?

LEVA: Well, I may have been in the position of not being able to see the forest for the trees because I was seeing him six, eight, ten, twelve times a day and both in and out of the office. A lot of his friends have said since his death, "Oh, we saw it coming," and, "We knew this and we knew that." The only thing that I knew was that he was terribly tired, terribly overworked, spending frequently literally sixteen hours and eighteen hours a day trying to administer an impossible mechanism, worrying about the fact that a lot of it was of his own creation. I knew that he was tired, I begged him to take time off. I'm sure that others begged him to take time off.

I tried to arrange, and on one occasion did arrange, a fishing trip for him with his friend Ferdinand Eberstadt, which he canceled, he didn't take it. I tried to tell him he ought to go south, go somewhere, and rest. I did realize that. But I did not--I had no background with mental illness, I had no knowledge of how it manifested itself and I did not equate exhaustion and mental illness. I just thought he was terribly tired and he ought to take time off.

I even came up with what I thought was a very ingenious device because he told me he didn't have any under secretary; he didn't have any assistant secretaries, he couldn't leave. And I even gave him a legal opinion (I hope not written because it was not very valid), in which I said that, I think I told him this: That because the 1947 unification act didn't create an under secretary or any assistant secretaries, but did have a number of presidential appointees in the Pentagon, it would be quite all right for him to designate any one of the three secretaries as the acting Secretary of Defense in his absence because they were the next level of presidential appointees. And I said, "If you feel that Secretary Symington cannot be objective on a Navy matter and Secretary Sullivan cannot be objective on an Air Force matter, then you have Royall as a possible man, since the Army is less partisan, or if you feel that it would be an insult to one of the secretaries to have one of the others and what you want is a caretaker for a couple of weeks, you can appoint a fellow like Gordon Gray, who was my specific recommendation, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Army, or perhaps then Under Secretary" And I said, "Nobody could be insulted, everybody respects him and he is a presidential appointee. I'm sure Mr. Truman would approve, and you could just let him run the department administratively, and we can always get you on the phone when we need to," which I thought was a rather ingenious solution, but nothing came of it.

That is a long answer to your question, or a long non-answer, I did not know what was happening. Now my observation of what did happen is as follows: Louis Johnson, who I had not met before he was sworn in, was to have been sworn in on March the 31st of 1949. Forrestal apparently just thought he couldn't hold on any longer, I didn't realize that until later, and asked that this ceremony be moved up to March the 28th. It was moved up to March 28th and while Forrestal was terribly tired, it was--he spoke briefly but well. The ceremony went off fine.

I believe that either Forrestal went to an office that had been set aside for him afterwards, or he went home. In any event, we had an appointment on the Hill the next day, March 29th before the House Armed Services Committee because Chairman Vinson had said to me, "Be sure to have Mr. Forrestal there." They wanted to take note of his outstanding service, etc. So I arranged that Mr. Forrestal would be there. He came to the Pentagon.

I rode up to the Hill with him. That was the day after Johnson was sworn in, and we appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and Forrestal was sort of overwhelmed by the compliments of Carl Vinson and the ranking Republican member, Dewey Short, from the great state of Missouri. And he was a little teary eyed, I think, but he responded very beautifully and said that anything that he had been able to accomplish was because the Secretaries of Army and Navy and Air Force had been working so closely with him, etc. He made a, you know, good routine response. My further recollection at that time is that Stuart Symington said to me, "Marx, old fellow, would you mind if I rode back to the Pentagon with Jim; there's something I want to talk to him about." I don't know what it was.

I said, "Sure."

So, I rode back with Royall because Forrestal and I had driven over together. When I got back to the Pentagon I went back to my office. Forrestal had been given an office down from the Secretary of Defense a little, next door to mine. So I stuck my head in--it was next door to my office--and he was sitting there just like this with his hat on his head, just gazing. And I went in and I said, "Mr. Secretary, is there anything I can do for you?"

He was almost in a coma really. That was when I first knew and that was when I first got scared. So I said, "Do you feel faint?" I don't remember what I said.

He said, "No, no, I want to go home."

So, he got up and headed for the door and I said, "Where are you going?"

He said, "I'm going for my car." Well, he didn't have a car.

So, I ran like hell. I remember whose car I got; I got Dr. Vannevar Bush's driver, who was then head of the Research and Development Board, and I said, "Take Mr. Forrestal home and phone me when you get him there." I knew Mrs. Forrestal wasn't in town, and I told the driver to make sure that the butler knows that he's there, etc. And then I phoned, as it happened, Mr. Eberstadt who was testifying on the 1949 amendments to the unification act before the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I said, "I don't like what I see. Can I meet you?"

He said, "Yes, I'll meet you at the house."

So, I met him at the house and the butler said he had gone upstairs. I don't know, anyway--I’m sort of short-circuiting this. That wasn't exactly what happened. We first phoned the house, Eber and I got together, the butler said, "He won't speak to anybody."

Eber said to the butler, "You tell James (Eber and others of the Princeton group called him James), you tell James he can get away with that with a lot of people but not with me." And so he came to the phone and apparently babbled a lot of stuff about the Russians--apparently it was just like that. I don't know. The only further thing I knew is that I did drive to the house, I waited while Eber had the butler pack his clothes. Eber came out once and said,"Can you get a plane to take him to Florida?"

And I said, "Certainly."

And I phoned and we got a Marine plane, I think, I don't know. And so Forrestal came down and Eber sat in the back seat of my old, old Chevrolet and Forrestal sat in front with me and then the butler came running back, came running after us. He brought the Secretary's golf clubs. So I opened the trunk, we put in the golf clubs and I drove out to the private plane end (we didn't go to the military planes), private plane end of National Airport. And on the way out Forrestal said three times, the only thing he said, Eber tried to speak to him and he would say, "You're a loyal fellow, Marx." "You're a loyal fellow, Marx," three times. I remember that, I think I remember that. And we put him in the plane and I had also phoned to be sure to have a military aide there to look after him and then I said to Eber, "I hate for him to be going down there by himself but I know Bob Lovett is down there," who was a close friend.

And I said, "I'm going to phone Bob to be sure to meet the plane." So I phoned Bob and Bob did meet the plane. I never saw him after that.

By the way, psychiatry... (omit two paragraphs previously quoted)

Actually, as I understood later from Mr. Eberstadt--Mr. Eberstadt sent a plane down, chartered a plane, and sent Dr. Menninger from Topeka and wanted the Secretary to fly up to the Menninger Clinic, but Mrs. Forrestal and Mr. Truman agreed that it would be--neither of whom knew anything about psychiatry either--that there would be less stigma at being at the naval hospital.

And only a Navy doctor could put a VIP patient... (omit previously-cited paragraph)

HESS: What would be your evaluation of his general effectiveness and his administrative ability and Mr. Forrestal's overall value to the United States?

LEVA: Oh, I think he was one of the ablest public servants I have ever known. I think that he was simply tremendous in everything that he went into. I think that most people's memories have been clouded by the end of the story without any attention to the early chapters or the middle chapters.

I think in particular of a column that Arthur Krock wrote that impressed me very deeply. The day after Forrestal was sworn in, which now has us to September '47, in which Arthur wrote, in substance, "He entered on his new duties as Secretary of Defense with a measure of public respect and esteem unequaled in the memory of this correspondent." It's easy to lose sight of that. He apparently did a simply fantastic job at the Navy during World War II both as Under Secretary and as Secretary. I only got there when it was over but those who were there say that that multi-multi billion procurement program that he put together, hiring for the purpose the best and the most outstanding lawyers anywhere in the country to make sure that the country got its money's worth, and what he did on a crash basis, and I'm sure what Patterson did in a similar context in the Army, was simply a fabulous administrative achievement. I think within the limit of what one could do in the very difficult framework of starting unification, he did magnificently.

The first thing to note is that Leva’s candid, non-medical view that prior to the breakdown on March 29 the only thing noticeable about Forrestal’s condition was that he was badly exhausted and overworked. Leva was not alone in not seeing any evidence that Forrestal was actually “cracking up.” Here’s what Hoopes and Brinkley have to say on page 426:

Given the extent and pace of his decline, it is astonishing that colleagues at the Pentagon, including members of his inner staff, failed to recognize it. In retrospect they attribute their failure to Forrestal’s formidable self-control, his brusque, impersonal method of dealing with staff, and the simple fact that they saw him too frequently to note much change in his condition or demeanor.

These observations are in curious contrast to what Monsignor Sheehy wrote in his Catholic Digest article:

The day he was admitted to the hospital, Forrestal told Dr. Raines he wished to see me. The word reached me through the executive officer of the hospital. I dismissed a class, because I had seen his collapse coming on for some weeks, and knew his condition was serious. The psychiatrist told me that he wished my help, but that Jim was so confused I should wait some days before seeing him. (Pp. 40-41)

Sheehy does not elaborate. Perhaps he is talking about the growing exhaustion. Setting aside what some have seen as “paranoid” previous claims by Forrestal that some people were out to get him, because there is every reason to believe that they were, his truly strange behavior began very abruptly after that automobile ride with Secretary of the Air Force (and later Senator and Presidential aspirant) Stuart Symington. It should be noted that in their index under “Symington, Stuart, double-dealing tactics of,” they list pages 368-70, 380-83, 446, and 447. It is a relatively safe assumption that whatever it was Symington had to say to Forrestal affected the latter very, very greatly and in a very negative way. It would not have been out of character for Symington, if one accepts the Hoopes-Brinkley portrait of the man, for that to have been his intention. That impression of Symington’s motives is reinforced by the fact that, “Symington later denied the trip had occurred or that he was alone with Forrestal, but Leva and [Forrestal aide John] Ohly are insistent on that point.” (p. 447)

The Symington Revelations?


The reader may excuse me if I engage in a bit of speculation at this point as to what the subject matter of that conversation might have been. One must agree, I believe, that this speculation is at least as valid as the suggestion that the word “nightingale” in that poem by Sophocles, because that was the name of an American intelligence program to infiltrate anti-communist former Nazi sympathizers into the Ukraine, touched off such feelings of guilt in an apparently fully-recovered Forrestal that he rushed quickly across the hall, tied one end of his gown’s sash tightly around his neck, attempted unsuccessfully to secure the other end to a radiator, and then flung himself out the window, dying from the fall instead of from the intended hanging.

The key to the subject matter of the Symington conversation is to be found in the five words that Forrestal kept repeating to Leva, “You are a loyal fellow. You are a loyal fellow.” And why wouldn’t he be, one might ask, and in contrast to whom? Now I think we can see why Arnold Rogow didn’t want us to know Marx Leva’s name. Marx Leva, if you had not guessed by this time, was quite thoroughly Jewish. The best guess as to the subject matter of Symington’s conversation, I believe, is that it related to some enormity, some devastating power play by Jewish Americans that advanced the cause of Israel at the expense of what Forrestal perceived to be the interests of the United States. Forrestal was absolutely overwhelmed by the contrast between the personal and the patriotic loyalty of Leva, a man he had elevated to his current position because of his dedicated service to the American government, and the large number of prominent and less-prominent Jews who had made Forrestal’s life a hell over the past couple of years.

On the Beach


At this point let us pick up the Hoopes-Brinkley account of Forrestal’s actions at Hobe Sound:

At times he seemed more relaxed and was able to joke about the fact that his friends would not allow him to be alone even on the toilet. But his depression and despondency did not depart, nor did his conviction that “they” were lurking everywhere and determined to get him. Walking on the beach with Lovett, he pointed to a row of metal sockets fixed in the sand to hold beach umbrellas. “We had better not discuss anything here. Those things are wired, and everything we say is being recorded.” He expressed anxiety about the presence of Communists or Communist influence in the White House, which he said had driven him from office. He thought he had been marked for liquidation for his efforts to alert America to the menace, indeed, that the Kremlin planned to assassinate the whole leadership in Washington. He was convinced the Communists were planning an invasion of the United States, and at certain moments he talked as if it had already begun. (p. 451)

This passage is so close to a verbatim rendering of Rogow, whom they reference, that one could almost call it plagiarism, except that Hoopes-Brinkley have made it sound even more outlandish by adding the bit about the Kremlin’s plan to assassinate the whole leadership in Washington. Once again, when we turn to Rogow for his reference we find that he has none at all.

The story about the supposedly bugged beach umbrella sockets is quoted in its entirety in The Secret War against the Jews and it is also recounted in The Agency. It certainly does make it sound like Forrestal was pretty far around the bend while at Hobe Sound, but no evidence has been provided that it is true.

Robert Lovett is long dead, but fortunately he gave an interview to Alfred Goldberg and Harry B. Yoshpe of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Oral History Project on May 13, 1974 (Lovett was Secretary of Defense under Truman from September 1951 to the end of Truman’s term in January of 1953.).

We quote the relevant portions:

YOSHPE: It has often been said that the problems of trying to run the Defense establishment in the face of these difficulties undermined Forrestal’s health. Is there any truth in that?

LOVETT: I wouldn’t say that those problems were the ones. Jim Forrestal was a very intense man anyway, but he had himself under strict control. He was never one to show emotion–containing that all the time was what I think put such extra tension on him. I remember that he was flown down to Hobe Sound after his breakdown. They phoned me and asked me if I would meet him, which I did–as I say, he was a very dear, close friend of mine. And when he got out of the plane over at the air base, we stood under the shadow of the tail plane because it was hot as the hinges at that time of day. When he came down and he offloaded his golf clubs, bag, and that sort of thing, I said to Jim, “I’m glad you brought your golf clubs because I’m going to take every dollar you’ve got here.” Not a crack of a smile, and he finally turned to me and said, “You know, they’re really after me.”

I’d been warned, of course, by Eberstadt over the phone that Forrestal was in bad shape. But to shorten the story, he was at that time a completely different person from the one I knew. We finally got him back to Washington. Ed Shea, his roommate at Princeton, came up from Texas and stayed there with him, and slept in the room with him the whole time. But he obviously was in very bad shape.

Now part of that tension was not the result of the problems of running the Department but the fact that he had been dabbling a little bit in politics. In other words, he had been dealing with the Republican side while a Democratic appointee. Not in any sly way but simply maintaining his position–I think he wanted to continue in the job in case of the change. I believe that had something to do with it. But that, I would say, would not be for publication.

YOSHPE; Some of the material, including the Forrestal diaries, seemed to indicate that he had expected to stay on at least until May.

LOVETT: He had hoped, I think, to stay on. He was obsessed with the idea that his phone calls were being bugged and that “they” (it was hard to identify they) were some anti-Forrestal group in the Administration. They, the enemy, who was it? He was not of sound mind, in my view.

That’s it. No examples are given to illustrate Forrestal’s unsoundness of mind but the ones you see here. There is no talk of suicide and no mention of any suicide attempt. There is also no mention of suspicion of bugged beach umbrella sockets (although if one were to try to record conversations on a beach, putting bugs in pre-installed umbrella sockets would seem to be the best way to do it), nor is there any talk of Forrestal running out of his room in the middle of night claiming the Russians were attacking when a police siren awakened him. This latter tale is a story reported by Drew Pearson in his nationally-syndicated column, but dismissed as untrue by Hoopes-Brinkley. But listen to what Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Powers, has to say in The Man Who Kept the Secrets, Richard Helms and the CIA:

Less than a week after his replacement as Secretary of Defense in March 1949, Forrestal broke down completely, told a friend, “They’re after me,” and was even reported to have run through the streets yelling, “The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. They’re right around. I’ve seen Russian soldiers.” (Daniel Yergin, Shattered Peace [Houghton Mifflin, 1977], p. 208.) In May, in the Bethesda Naval Hospital outside Washington, Forrestal tried to hang himself with his dressing gown from his hospital room window, but slipped and fell sixteen stories to his death. (p. 361)

Yergin’s reference for this story, and for Forrestal’s “at least one suicide attempt” at Hobe Sound, turns out to be none other than Arnold Rogow. The idea that Forrestal slipped and fell while trying to hang himself is apparently original with Powers. In the Ranelagh and Loftus-Aarons accounts, the reason Forrestal ends up falling instead of hanging is that the sash broke, another fanciful account that these authors seem to have invented independently, that is, unless there is some propaganda-central supplying these authors. (Here we are reminded of the supposedly independent reports of authors Ronald Kessler [Inside the White House] and Judith Warner [Hillary Clinton, The Inside Story] that Vincent Foster’s pocket was where a hand-written list of psychiatrists turned up in that mysterious death case. That bit of evidence is inconsistent with the official story, which is that a search of Foster’s clothing turned up nothing—except two sets of keys after a second search of the body at the morgue.)

But we have not yet covered everything in the Lovett interview that bears upon the demise of James Forrestal:

GOLDBERG: Another issue from this same period was raised with us by a number of people. It falls right into your State Department period. That was the Palestine problem. The Defense Department had very strong views on this, and the State Department did also.

LOVETT: I was the agent in State who had to take the rap in this thing and do most of the ground work so I’ve a lively recollection. Pick some particular question –

GOLDBERG; I really wanted to ask how State looked at the National Security aspects of the issue at that time. I know how the Defense Department was looking at it, and I’ve seen a lot of the State documents for the period, too, but we’re interested in hearing about it from your level and General Marshall’s.

LOVETT: Well, you remember the American position set forth by Senator Austin at the United Nations meeting. It was, in effect, that this small country of a million and one half people, surrounded by 40 million Arabs, was non-viable unless it could be assured of an umbrella of some sort. It was on that basis that the theory of the trusteeship was developed which would give them an independent country, but place them in the hands of a group of trustees until such time as they either matured into a viable nation or until some method of living could be worked out with the Arabs.

We were ultimately defeated on that. I say we, this country’s point of view did not prevail, and it didn’t prevail because it was fought vigorously by the Israelis. Now the atmosphere was embittered, and that was the thing which caused most of the attacks on Forrestal. In my view, it was one of the principal causes for his mental condition. The constant unrelenting attacks on Forrestal. I was less visible as a government official. They were bad enough, God knows, on me. I received telephone calls at 11 o’clock at night, with threats: “we’ll get you, you so and so.” And I got telegrams from every conceivable agency–Haganah, Hadassah, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver–everybody pressuring me to do this, that, and the other thing. Give these people independence. You give them independence and they get overrun–what do you do then? So it was a sense of conscience in this country, being willing to help them and not leading them down the garden path to utter destruction. It was a very serious problem.

Compared to Forrestal, Lovett, by his own account, was relatively out of the line of fire over the Israel issue, but that did not prevent him from receiving late night threatening telephone calls and tons of pressure from all quarters. Lovett was subjected to none of the public vilification that Forrestal faced, so one can only imagine what Forrestal had to put up with privately.

Forrestal Was Bugged


Actually, we don’t have to depend completely upon imagination. This is from pages 212-213 of The Secret War against the Jews by Loftus and Aarons:

Soon after arriving in Florida, [Forrestal] tried to commit suicide. Some of the “old spies” we asked about Forrestal suspect that part of the blame for his demise rested with [Zionist leader David] Ben-Gurion, who also believed that [New York Governor Thomas E.] Dewey would be elected instead of Truman. The Zionists had tried unsuccessfully to blackmail Forrestal with tape recordings of his own deals with the Nazis, but they had much less evidence than they had against [Nelson] Rockefeller. Still, it was enough to tip Forrestal over the edge. His paranoia convinced him that his every word was bugged.

To his many critics, it seemed that James Forrestal’s anti-Jewish obsession had finally conquered him. He was admitted to the mental ward of Bethesda Naval Hospital in April 1949. At the end, Forrestal allegedly could be heard “screaming that the Jews and the communists were crawling on the floor of his room seeking to destroy him.” His suicide came in the early hours of May 22, 1949.

Whether or not Forrestal’s “every word” was bugged would appear from this revelation to be little more than a quibble over the degree to which his dealings were clandestinely monitored by his avowed enemies. After all, how would Ben-Gurion have come into possession of tapes of Forrestal’s most private business dealings except through the use of bugs and/or wiretaps? And if this account is to be believed, the fact of the monitoring had already been revealed to Forrestal by this dastardly attempted blackmail, an attempt to get Forrestal to go against what he thought was best for the nation by playing upon a hoped-for fear of revelations possibly detrimental to his own personal interests. The following passages from Hoopes-Brinkley shed more light on the underhandedness of such a proposition:

In the Palestine affair, Forrestal was, along with the entire leadership of the State Department and the military services, concerned with the protection of U.S. interests in the Middle East, which they felt would be seriously jeopardized by American sponsorship of a Jewish state. His innate patriotism led him to believe American Jews would, or should, be U.S. citizens first and thus ready to recognize and support evident national interests. He had always despised his immigrant father's pro-Irish stance and had severed his own residual ties of sentiment to the Old World. This seemed to him the clear civic duty of every American, but he paid dearly for his lack of sophistication on that point. Beyond the substantive issue, he was troubled and alarmed by the messy, sordid, fantastically disordered way in which American policy on Palestine was determined, for he was passionately devoted to orderly process. (p. 477)

Forrestal, [Secretary of State George C.] Marshall, Lovett, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were all agreed that a war in the Middle East into which American troops might be drawn, loss of Arab friendship, and long-range turbulence in the whole region were too high a price to pay for a Jewish state. They underestimated, however, the elemental force of the Zionist movement and the need of a politically weak administration for the support of Jewish votes. Ironically, although he was not, in fact, a central figure in developing and carrying out U.S. policy on Palestine, Forrestal took a disproportionate share of the heat and suffered heavier damage to his reputation from hostile press attacks than any of the others. In part, this seemed the consequence of his outspoken insistence on reasoned argument and orderly process, an inability to conceal his dismay at the sorry, fantastically disordered performance of government officials and special interest lobbyists and their feckless indifference to the consequences of their actions. It was a spectacle entailing everything Forrestal considered inimical to good government.

Events proved him wrong on two short-term calculations: (1) the U.S. recognition of Israel did not cause the Arabs to cut off the oil supply to the West, and (2) the Jews were not driven into the sea by the combined Arab armies. As to the first, it was astonishing to Forrestal–and especially the oil company executives on whose judgment he heavily relied–did not see that a cutoff was unlikely, as it would deprive the Arabs of their markets and thus of their principal revenues; their only means of selling their product was through a marketing apparatus controlled by American and European oil companies. As to the second, Forrestal’s miscalculation was shared by everyone in Washington–the White House, the State department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Congress. The fighting qualities of the fledgling Israeli army astonished the world. In a real sense, this was the factor that made recognition an acceptable, indeed nearly a painless risk for the Truman administration. If the Jews in Palestine had been in severe danger of being overrun and destroyed, U.S. recognition would have carried with it far heavier consequences, including a moral obligation to send American troops to fight alongside the Israeli army. Such an extreme situation might well have led to a cutoff of Arab oil in the context of a “holy war” against the Western Infidel, and the Arabs might well have turned to the Soviet Union for arms and political support. Either consequence would have produced corrosive divisions in the American body politic.

In the longer perspective, it is hard to fault those who in 1948 argued that sponsoring a state of Israel was not in the U.S. national interest. The United States has paid, and continues to pay, an extremely high political and economic price for its indulgent support of that nation. Instability in the Middle East over the past forty years would have existed had there been no Israel, but the unending Arab-Israeli antagonism has inexorably bifurcated the U.S. approach to the Middle East, making it impossible for Washington to define and pursue U.S. interests there without ambivalence and contradiction, or to promote the economic development of the region as a whole. A series of bloody Arab-Israeli wars has not perceptibly mitigated the hostility or the vicious complications, and these conditions continue to fuel a relentless arms buildup on both sides (including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) that makes the Middle East the most overarmed and explosive region in the world. "The melancholy outcome," Robert Lovett said in 1985, "is in the day's headline." His statement applies with equal force in 1991, even after the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War against Iraq. The Palestinians remain a permanently dispossessed people.

Forrestal, Lovett added, “warned that unless the American support of the Zionist demands guaranteed the rights of the Palestinians would be justly upheld and the boundaries of the new state explicitly drawn, the United States would alienate not alone the Arabs and the Middle East, but of the whole Moslem world...and the eventual harvest would not be a peaceful homeland for a race exhausted by persecution and massacre, but a reaping of a whirlwind of hate for all of us.”

The immediate consequence for Forrestal, however, was to become the target of “an outpouring of slander and calumny that must surely be judged one of the most shameful intervals in American journalism.” ( pp. 402-404)

Back to the passage from The Secret War against the Jews: the Rockefeller reference relates to the book’s prior revelation that Nelson Rockefeller had been coerced by Ben-Gurion into using his influence with various Latin American dictators to vote in the United Nations for Palestine’s partition, again through threatened revelation of Rockefeller’s business dealings with the Nazis throughout World War II.

“It seems likely from its sheer quantity that the information the Zionists collected on Nelson Rockefeller had to have come from a variety of sources, including wiretaps.” (p. 168)

So, it would seem that in the secret war “the Jews,” who to Loftus and Aarons are synonymous with the Zionists, are not without weapons of their own, and very sinister weapons they are, indeed.

More Zionist Weapons


We learn some more about the extent of their clandestine weaponry from Neal Gabler, the biographer of one of Forrestal’s main press tormentors, Walter Winchell. The period under discussion is 1940-1941, when, in spite of its best efforts, the Roosevelt administration, because of the overwhelming opposition of the American people, had not yet been able to involve the United States in the European war:

To Walter isolationism had now become unconscionable, a form of treason. He was determined to prove that the isolationists were not, as they claimed, patriotic Americans who happened to hold a different point of view from his own; they were Nazi collaborators, anti-Semites, and racists who cared far less about saving American lives than about ensuring Hitler’s victory. In 1940 Walter inaugurated a new feature in his column, “The Winchell Column vs. The Fifth Column,” thrashing Nazi sympathizers, and early in 1941 he replaced the “oddities” portion of his broadcast with a report of Nazi activities in this country called “The Walter Winchell Quiz to End All Quizzes...And All Quislings!,” an allusion to the Norwegian leader who collaborated in the Nazi occupation of his country. A few months later he changed the feature’s name to “Some Americans Most Americans Can Do Without.”

Every week brought new charges from Walter linking the radical right to Nazi Germany, but Walter’s prime source was not, as most assumed, the FBI; in fact, he was one of its prime sources, channeling hundreds of documents about Nazi groups to the bureau both before and during the war. Rather Walter’s most important source was Arnold Forster, the young basso-voiced attorney who, at the time he met Walter early in 1941, was New York counsel for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of the B’nai B’rith.


When it came to the radical right, Forster had one of the best intelligence-gathering operations in the country, with spies everywhere. He had even infiltrated the inner circle of Mississippi Senator William (sic) Bilbo, a vicious white supremacist and isolationist. “I was soon receiving a continuous flow of reports about the conduct of the senator against Jews, blacks, the Administration, the ‘internationalists’ and other ‘dangerous elements,’” wrote Forster, “reports that I would rewrite into column items for Winchell’s broadcasts.” It drove Bilbo crazy to see in the column or hear on the broadcast everything he said privately. (Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity, pp. 294-295)

The Winchell biographer, Gabler, by the way, is another one of those authors who draws very heavily upon Arnold Rogow in his account of Forrestal’s death. Publishing his Winchell biography in 1994, two years after the Hoopes-Brinkley biography of Forrestal, he makes explicit use of their account as well.

The ADL has continued its clandestine activity in the United States.

ADL Found Guilty of Spying by California Court

By Barbara Ferguson

WASHINGTON: The San Francisco Superior Court has awarded former Congressman Pete McCloskey, R-California, a $150,000 court judgment against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

McCloskey, the attorney in the case, represented one of three civil lawsuits filed in San Francisco against the ADL in 1993. The lawsuit came after raids were made by the San Francisco Police Department and the FBI on offices of the ADL in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, which found that the ADL was engaged in extensive domestic spying operations on a vast number of individuals and institutions around the country.

During the course of the inquiry in San Francisco, the SFPD and FBI determined the ADL had computerized files on nearly 10,000 people across the country, and that more than 75 percent of the information had been illegally obtained from police, FBI files and state drivers license data banks.

Much of the stolen information had been provided by Tom Gerard of the San Francisco Police Department, who sold, or gave, the information to Ray Bullock, ADL’s top undercover operative.

The investigation also determined that the ADL conduit, Gerard, was also working with the CIA.

Two other similar suits against ADL were settled some years ago, and the ADL was found guilty in both cases, but the McCloskey suit continued to drag through the courts until last month.

In the McCloskey case, the ADL agreed to pay (from its annual multi-million budget) $50,000 to each of the three plaintiffs Jeffrey Blankfort, Steve Zeltzer and Anne Poirier who continued to press charges against the ADL, despite a continuing series of judicial roadblocks that forced 14 of the original defendants to withdraw. Another two died during the proceedings.

The ADL, which calls itself a civil rights group, continued to claim it did nothing wrong in monitoring their activities. Although the ADL presents itself as a group that defends the interests of Jews, two of three ADL victims are Jewish.

Blankfort and Zeltzer were targeted by the ADL because they were critical of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

The third ADL victim in the McCloskey case, Poirier, was not involved in any activities related to Israel or the Middle East. Poirier ran a scholarship program for South African exiles who were fighting the apartheid system in South Africa.

At the time, the ADL worked closely with the then anti-apartheid government of South Africa, and ADL's operative Bullock provided ADL with illegally obtained data on Poirier and her associates to the South African government.

But the conclusion of McCloskey's case does not mean the end to the ADL's legal problems.

On March 31, 2001, US District Judge Edward Nottingham of Denver, Colorado, upheld most of a $10.5 million defamation judgment that a federal jury in Denver had levied against the ADL in April of 2000.

The jury hit the ADL with the massive judgment after finding it had falsely labeled Evergreen, Colorado residents 'William and Dorothy Quigley; as "anti-Semites." The ADL is appealing the judgment.

Post-Mortem Smear Artists


There are a couple of more things in the earlier Loftus-Aaron quote that need comment upon. Let us look again at the next to last sentence: “At the end, Forrestal allegedly could be heard ‘screaming that the Jews and the communists were crawling on the floor of his room seeking to destroy him.’” That is obviously a false statement, ranking right up there with this one from Jack Anderson, written in his 1979 book, Confessions of a Muckraker, The Inside Story of Life in Washington during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Years, with James Boyd:

While at Hobe Sound, Forrestal made three suicide attempts, by drug overdose, by hanging, and by slashing his wrists. On the night of April 1, the sound of a fire engine siren prompted him to rush out of the house in his pajamas screaming, “The Russians are attacking!” (p. 158. And yes, Anderson quotes Rogow extensively as well.)

Actually, the Loftus-Aarons observation is even worse, because it gives the impression that Forrestal’s mental state had continued to deteriorate while he was in the hospital, but we have seen from the observations of Henry Forrestal, Harry Truman, and Louis Johnson, and the statement to Dr. Raines to brother Henry that Forrestal was “essentially okay” and the general relaxation of his observation, that that was certainly not the case. Loftus-Aarons give as their reference, Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949, pp. 210-211. Here is what we find there:

James V. Forrestal also ended his life by suicide. In 1949 he hanged himself from the window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was suffering from advanced paranoid schizophrenia. Newspapers reported him screaming that the Jews and the communists were crawling on the floor of his room seeking to destroy him.

So the end of the trail turns out to be anonymous “newspapers,” who if they ever reported such a thing were likely making it up themselves or had had it fed to them by someone who was. We might note, as well, how greatly this report of Forrestal’s condition in his final days contrasts with the observations of the man in charge of the hospital. This is from Simpson, p. 16:

Immediately after Forrestal’s death Rear Admiral Willcutts told reporters: “We all thought he was getting along splendidly. I was shocked.” The admiral went on to say he had visited with Forrestal on Friday (before his death on Saturday night) and that Forrestal had eaten a large steak lunch. He described the former defense secretary as being up in the morning with a sparkle in his eye and “meticulously shaven.”

Finally, we turn our attention to this Secret War against the Jews sentence: “To his many critics, it seemed that James Forrestal’s anti-Jewish obsession had finally conquered him.”

Did he have such an obsession? Loftus and Aarons certainly want us to think so. In their index we find under “Forrestal, James” the sub-category, “anti-Semitism of, 156-59, 177-80, 199, 208, 213-14, 327, 365.” The primary evidence they give for the assertion are the business dealings of Forrestal’s investment banking firm, Dillon, Read, and Co., with companies in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and Forrestal’s opposition to the creation of the state of Israel, that is, his anti-Zionism. Nowhere do Loftus and Aarons tell us that founding partner of Dillon, Read, Clarence Dillon, who was Forrestal’s boss, was Jewish. He was born Clarence Lapowski in San Antonio, Texas, in 1882, the son of an affluent clothing merchant. Maybe this is the rock upon which David Ben-Gurion’s blackmail attempt foundered.

They also have passages like this: “Forrestal himself admitted that he thought that Jews were ‘different,’ and he ‘could never really understand how a non-Jew and a Jew could be friends.’” (p. 157)

The passage finds an echo in Gabler’s Winchell biography:

Forrestal had never particularly liked Jews and, according to a friend, had never understood how Jews and non-Jews could be intimates. Now he took his anti-Semitism into public policy, arguing that a Jewish state in Palestine would needlessly antagonize Arabs and jeopardize oil supplies, that the Soviets would eventually be pulled into any Mideast crisis and that American troops would eventually have to defend the Jews there. (p. 385)

If the two books sound quite similar on this point it is because they have the same source, page 191 of Arnold Rogow’s book. Turning to Rogow, we see that his source is not only typically anonymous, but Loftus-Aarons, and Gabler have used the passage very much out of context:

Here, perhaps, his views were a direct reflection of his background. While Forrestal was not an anti-Semite, his attitude toward Jews was characterized by much ambivalence. Although he maintained good relations with his New York and Washington associates who were Jewish, notably Bernard Baruch (At this point Rogow has a long footnote mainly expounding upon Baruch’s great admiration for Forrestal.), his Defense Department legal aide Marx Leva, and Navy Captain Ellis M. Zacharias, he had difficulty accepting Jews as social equals. One of his Wall Street colleagues recalls that Forrestal thought Jews were “different,” and he could never really understand how a non-Jew and a Jew could be friends. I remember an occasion when I was involved in his presence in an argument with a Jewish friend. At one point I got over-heated and I said something like “you son-of-a-bitch.” Jim was shocked that I could talk that way to someone who was Jewish. He himself was always very reserved with people who were Jews. I think there was something about them he couldn’t understand, or maybe didn’t like. (pp. 191-192)

Or maybe not. Forrestal was also very reserved with people who were not Jews. What Rogow has given us here is clearly the very subjective impression of one man, on a very tricky subject. Others have expressed a very different view of Forrestal. Here are the words of the fervent Zionist James G. McDonald, America's first Ambassador to Israel.

He was in no sense anti-Semitic or anti-Israel nor influenced by oil interests. He was convinced that partition was not in the best interests of the U.S., and he certainly did not deserve the persistent and venomous attacks on him which helped break his mind and body. On the contrary, these attacks stand out as the ugliest examples of the willingness of politician and publicist to use the vilest means -- in the name of patriotism -- to destroy self-sacrificing and devoted public citizens. (quoted by Alfred M. Lilienthal in The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace?.

And here is what Hoopes and Brinkley have to say about Forrestal's presumed "anti-Jewish obsession":

Forrestal was not in any sense motivated by anti-Semitism. He had worked in harmony with many Jewish bankers and friends, both on Wall Street and in the government. In 1951, two years after Forrestal’s death, Herbert Elliston, the editor of the Washington Post, wrote that the Zionist charge of anti-Semitism was “absurd...no man had less race or class consciousness.” Robert Lovett wrote, ‘He was accused of being anti-Semitic. The charge is false. Here I can speak with sureness.” Forrestal’s Jewish assistant, Marx Leva, thought him “patriotic, sensitive, intelligent, and just,” entirely sympathetic to the plight of the European Jews and their desire for a homeland, but unable to agree that that desire should be allowed to override every other national consideration. “He was not anti-Semitic,” Leva said flatly. Anyone, however, who expressed doubts about the primacy of a Jewish homeland became a Zionist target. Middle East experts in the State Department, who were mainly pro-Arab, were denounced as “anti-Semites.” The New York Times and its publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, were openly attacked when the newspaper in 1943 criticized Zionism as a ‘dangerously chauvinist movement” not representative of mainstream Jewish opinion. The trouble was, as Dean Acheson later observed, that the Zionist position was propelled by a passionate emotionalism which virtually precluded rational discussion. Acheson had come “to understand, but not to share, the mystical emotion of the Jews to return to Palestine and end the Diaspora,” for he saw that a realization of the Zionist goal would “imperil not only American but all Western interests in the Near East.” By pressing the U.S. government to support a state of Israel, American Zionists were, in his view, ignoring “the totality of American interests.” (pp. 390-391)

Ironically, for their rather bizarre theory that the word “nightingale” awakened feelings of guilt in Forrestal and may have prompted a sudden decision to end it all, we have this reference: “John Loftus to Edythe Holbrook, January 25, 1983 (in authors’ possession); John Loftus, The Belarus Secret (New York, 1982); and Henry Rositzke, CIA’s Secret Operations (New York, 1977). One wonders why they should think that Loftus, any more than Rogow, was an author that they could rely upon.

The Book on the Death


Now let us look at Cornell Simpson’s virtually unknown book, the one that only Hoopes-Brinkley make reference to, in this manner:

For Henry Forrestal’s concerns and the “murder-conspiracy” theory, see Cornell Simpson, The Death of James Forrestal (Belmont, Mass., 1966), and Huie, ”Untold Facts in the Forrestal Case,” pp. 643-652. (end note 70, chap. 32, p. 544)

Simpson tells us in his foreword that he completed the manuscript in its entirety in the mid-1950s but then put it aside after a previous would-be publisher decided that it was too controversial, too “dangerous” to publish. He also says that he purposely chose not to update it to maintain the “close perspective” of the era. That is a great shame, for in following this course he gave Arnold Rogow, who published his book three years before, a free pass. Simpson could have easily made it clear what a poorly-documented and poorly-argued case for the suicide theory of Forrestal’s death Rogow had written.

Quite early in Simpson we get some clarification of the oft-repeated, but vague assertion that Forrestal had made “at least one suicide attempt” at Hobe Sound. The renowned psychiatrist, Dr. William Menninger, who at the time was president of both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association, was summoned by Forrestal’s friend Eberstadt, with Forrestal’s agreement, according to Simpson.

Dr. Menninger questioned Forrestal about a reported suicide attempt supposedly made by Forrestal after Dr. Raines’s arrival at Hobe Sound, and Menninger subsequently told the Washington Post he had satisfied himself that there was nothing whatsoever to this tale:


Mr. Forrestal told me that the night before I arrived he had put a belt around his neck with the intention of hanging himself, but the belt broke. Since there were no marks on his throat or body, I consider this [only] a nightmare. Also, we never found a broken belt of any kind.

In spite of Dr. Menninger’s statement, the suicide story was later exploited by unscrupulous newspaper columnists and by a man who was present and knew its falsity. (P. 6)

One does wish that Simpson had given the date of The Post edition in which the Menninger quote appeared. The man who was present at Hobe Sound, yet later exploited the attempted suicide story, from later observations by Simpson, appears to be Dr. Raines. The Menninger statement is almost too bizarre not to be true. It also explains the vagueness of the various authors about the nature of Forrestal’s attempt (except for the specific, but false, claims of the outrageously irresponsible and vicious Drew Pearson). Were they to get specific about the means of suicide they would have to come to grips with the Menninger interpretation of the matter. Still, they can satisfy themselves that they are not lying because, against Menninger’s interpretation of what Forrestal told him and the lack of physical evidence, they have Forrestal’s own words.

One would appreciate more candor from all the authors who have written on the subject of Forrestal’s mental state. Even noted historian, David McCullough, in his widely-praised 1992 biography, Truman, repeated the mantra that Forrestal “made at least one attempt at suicide” while at Hobe Sound. (p. 739)  There is no doubt that at least for a few days the man was in a very bad way. If he could mistake a nightmare for an actual event he was clearly in need of help. There is no need for embellishment. What there is ample reason to question is whether Forrestal was ever truly suicidal, and there is even stronger reason to question whether he was anywhere near his Hobe Sound emotional state some seven weeks later. When authors so regularly go beyond known and verifiable facts to create a desired impression, readers have a very good reason to be suspicious.

By contrast, Cornell Simpson portrays Forrestal, after his rest and recovery, as not only quite normal in manner in the judgment of everyone who saw him, but also as a man with a good deal more to live for than the average person:

There are marked peculiarities in connection with Forrestal’s alleged suicide. Contrary to the impression given the public at the time, Forrestal had none of the usual reasons for killing himself. He had no financial worries. He had no personal worries. He was basically in good health.

The only possible motive he could have had for taking his life, everyone agreed, was depression over losing his job as secretary of defense and/or over the smears of newspaper columnists and radio commentators.

However, Forrestal could hardly have killed himself for those reasons either. All his life he had been a fighter. And the chorus of abuse directed at him merely “got his Irish up.” He was actively planning, as soon as he left the hospital, to start a career as a newspaperman and write a book. These projects, he had told friends, would allow him to take the offensive against his attackers and expose their real motives.

A man depressed and at loose ends may kill himself, but Forrestal was far from being at loose ends. His eager plans were two good reasons for staying alive. He had a whole new life before him, including the very career, newspaper work, that had been his first choice.

As for “depression over losing his job” as a possible suicide motive, he had intended leaving his government post soon in any event. Though it was exasperating and humiliating to be rudely dismissed by Truman, it was far from a killing blow. It did not even mean a change in his plans. (P. 15)

Corroboration that Forrestal was seriously interested in taking a big plunge into the news, that is, the opinion-molding business, is provided by Hoopes-Brinkley:

What would Forrestal do after he left? He was, he told friends, seriously interested in publishing a newspaper or founding an American magazine of political commentary based on the model of The Economist of London, which he greatly admired. Various friends in New York, including Clarence Dillon, Ferdinand Eberstadt, and Paul Shields, appeared willing, even eager, to raise the necessary money and install Forrestal as the directing head. (p. 238)

They are writing about a time period a couple of years before the press campaign against Forrestal, but he was still very well off financially and well-connected on Wall Street. A James Forrestal in the publishing business would have been a serious force to be reckoned with in American public life, perhaps a greater force than he had been as a cabinet member.

Forrestal’s writing and publishing plans provide the answer to the question, “Why would anyone bother to murder him when he had already been driven from office and disgraced by the taint of mental illness?” Had Forrestal lived and gone on with his writing plans, Drew Pearson’s lurid and irresponsible charges would have probably been all that anyone would have heard about Forrestal being “mentally ill.” There would have been no Arnold Rogow book psychoanalyzing the man.

James V. Forrestal was a formidable man who knew a great deal about the inner workings of the government under Roosevelt and Truman, and he didn’t like the direction that the country was going.

The compelling reasons for Forrestal to want to continue living were also compelling reasons for his powerful enemies to see to it that he did not. Forrestal had left his top job at Dillon, Read, and Co. in June of 1940 to become an administrative assistant to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For most of World War II he served as Under Secretary of the Navy. He became the Secretary of the Navy in April of 1944, and he was appointed the first Secretary of Defense after reorganization of the armed services in September of 1947.

All during his period of high government service, Forrestal had kept a detailed diary. It would have been a gold mine for the book he planned to write. Who knows what he might have revealed, but Forrestal was thought of as a very forceful and independent-minded person, as nobody’s yes-man? Some areas where his diaries might have been revealing were the disastrous war strategy that needlessly prolonged the conflict and invited massive communist expansion in both Europe and Asia, the wholesale infiltration of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations by Soviet agents, communists, and communist sympathizers, and the tactics employed by the Zionists to gain recognition of the state of Israel. Perhaps the underhanded means that, according to Loftus and Aarons, had worked on Nelson Rockefeller but failed on Forrestal, had also worked on some other high-level government officials.

Simpson Versus McCullough


The treatment of the question of the handling of Forrestal’s diary by the prominent historian McCullough and the little-known writer, Simpson, makes a very interesting contrast. First we have McCullough:

Questions about the tragedy persisted. Why had Forrestal, in his condition, with suicidal tendencies, been placed in a sixteenth floor room? Had his priest been denied the chance to see him? As time went on, and fear of Communist conspiracy spread in Washington, it would be rumored that pages from Forrestal's diary had been secretly removed on orders from the White House—that Forrestal, the most ardent anti-Soviet voice in the administration, had in fact been driven to his death as part of a Communist plot and the evidence destroyed by "secret Communists on Truman's staff." (pp. 740-741)

If this passage reminds you of number 3 in my “Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression,” it is with good reason.

3. Characterize the charges as "rumors" or, better yet, "wild rumors." If, in spite of the news blackout, the public is still able to learn about the suspicious facts, it can only be through "rumors." (If they tend to believe the "rumors" it must be because they are simply "paranoid" or "hysterical.")

Contrast the McCullough brush-off of suspicions with regard to Forrestal’s diary with Simpson’s long, serious treatment of the diary question:

During Forrestal's brief stay at Hobe Sound, his personal diaries, consisting of fifteen loose-leaf binders totaling three thousand pages, were hastily removed from his former office in the Pentagon and locked up in the White House where they remained for a year. The White House later claimed that the former defense secretary had sent word during his four days at Hobe Sound that he wanted President Truman to take custody of these diaries.

It is unlikely that Forrestal made such a request. The diaries are a key factor in the Forrestal story and will be discussed in detail later in this book. At this point, however, it is important to note only that all during the seven weeks prior to Forrestal's death, his diaries were out of his hands and in the White House, where someone could have had ample time to study them. The diaries referred to here are the original ones, not the censored and emasculated version that was eventually published. (p. 7).


When Forrestal resigned after nine years in the government he finally was free to expose administration personalities and policies that he had long known were aiding world Communism and sabotaging the United States. The book he could have written in 1949 would have blasted official Washington like a bomb and aroused his countrymen from the Pacific Palisades to the Maine coastline.

Since Forrestal's book was to be based to a great extent on the material he had recorded in his original three-thousand-page diaries, it is important to consider what was in those original diaries and what happened to them. The evidence indicates that the key to the whole story of Forrestal and his tragic death may lie in his diaries and the scorching material they originally contained.

A greatly censored version of the diaries eventually was serialized in the New York Herald Tribune and other newspapers and was published in book form by the Viking Press. What appeared in print, however, was only a pale shadow of the original diaries.

Between the time the White House got its hands on the diaries, seven weeks before Forrestal died, and their posthumous publication, they were subjected to censorship and evisceration from three different sources: They were examined by representatives of the White House; they were censored by representatives of the Pentagon; and, finally, they were condensed and gutted by Walter Millis under the guise of editing. (pp. 81-82)


In his editing job, Millis tossed out more than eighty percent of Forrestal's writing. There were over half a million words in the original diaries; Millis used a scant 100,000 of them. This drastic slashing was not done because of a lack of space, for Millis injected into what was supposedly Forrestal's diaries approximately 100,000 of his own words. Under the guise of "explaining, interpreting and supplementing," he frequently attempted to disparage statements of Forrestal which ran counter to the leftist line. Since the typographical distinction between Forrestal's and Millis' words is inadequate, the reader emerges from the book in a cloud of confusion as to what was written by whom.

Judging from the few deleted items, we can safely say that Millis left out of the published diaries some very revealing information. In his foreword, Millis admitted he had arbitrarily deleted large chunks of the diaries, including everything on the Pearl Harbor investigations except for a single entry, itself mutilated by deletions.

On April 18, 1945, Forrestal set down in his diary (p. 46) a list of recommendations he had just made to President Truman. Item five revealed Forrestal had ordered a further investigation of Pearl Harbor. The dots indicate material deleted by Millis.  

5. PEARL HARBOR. I told him that I had got Admiral [H. Kent] Hewitt back to pursue the investigation into the Pearl Harbor disaster.... I felt I had an obligation to Congress to continue the investigation because I was not completely satisfied with the report my own Court had made....

Note that one of the things Millis deleted here was whatever it was Forrestal recommended regarding Pearl Harbor.

Forrestal obviously suspected that Roosevelt and his brain trust had covered up something in the Pearl Harbor debacle. It is likely that as early as April 1945 he was on the trail of the policy makers at top levels in Washington, not Tokyo, who were, in effect responsible for the Pearl Harbor massacre of 2,993 American servicemen, and who, in effect, saved Soviet Russia from a planned attack by Japan by steering the Japanese war machine against the U.S.

Millis conceded that the diaries had contained "numerous entries" on the Pearl Harbor investigations. But, he added, "all have been excluded."

Furthermore, Forrestal's private diaries have contained memos and running notes or (sic) his war against Communism abroad. But there was not a single mention of Forrestal's solitary efforts in the published version.

What else did Millis delete from the diaries? Forrestal's most trusted friend, Monsignor Sheehy, has revealed that he received more than forty letters and notes from Forrestal during the years that Forrestal was secretary of the navy and secretary of defense.

"Many, many times in his letters to me," Monsignor Sheehy said, "Jim Forrestal wrote anxiously and fearfully and bitterly of the enormous harm that had been done, and was unceasingly being done, by men in high office in the United States government, who he was convinced were Communists or under the influence of Communists, and who he said were shaping the policies of the United States government to aid Soviet Russia and harm the United States!"

Yet the published twenty percent of the diaries did not contain one reference to Forrestal's conviction that there existed wholesale Communist subversion of the United States government. Instead, Forrestal was made to appear concerned only about Communism outside the United States.

In his foreword, Millis also frankly admitted he had arbitrarily deleted unfavorable "references to persons, by name...[and] comment reflecting on the honesty or loyalty of an individual..."

Who was Millis protecting by such deletions? Though Forrestal for years was preoccupied with the Communist menace, his published diaries did not once refer to any open American Communist, such as the then U.S. Communist party head, Earl Browder. Nor was there a single mention of Communist spies such as Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss--all of whom Forrestal had frequent opportunity to observe in action. Nor did the diaries contain anything derogatory about most of the other traitors with whom Forrestal had clashed again and again in his desperate battle to protect his country's interests. (pp. 83-84)


Perhaps the most important single omission from the published diaries concerned Forrestal's perpetual antagonist General George Catlett Marshall. It should be remembered that Marshall opposed virtually every anti-Communist measure preposed (sic) by Forrestal or anyone else, and that Marshall's own record was that of a long series of acts consistently beneficial to Soviet Russia and harmful to the United States. Yet Forrestal's published diaries contained no criticism of Marshall. In fact, Millis claimed in the part of the book he himself wrote that though Forrestal had "occasional" differences with the general, "he greatly admired and respected" Marshall.

There is considerable evidence that Forrestal's original diaries contained a great deal of caustic criticism and highly derogatory information on Marshall--information which would have dealt a real setback to both Marshall and his pro-Communist friends if it had reached the American people.

Monsignor Sheehy said he was astounded that the published diaries included nothing but favorable mention of Marshall inasmuch as he knew positively from conversations with Forrestal that Forrestal had distrusted Marshall. Monsignor Sheehy further said that he strongly doubted that Forrestal had ever written anything in his diaries to the effect that he "greatly admired and respected" Marshall. (p. 85)

Unfortunately, the version of the truth with respect to the Forrestal diaries that even the most serious history students are ever likely to see is that of McCullough, or maybe that of Hoopes-Brinkley, and not that of Simpson. Hoopes and Brinkley say nothing in their text about the confiscation of diaries by the White House. At the beginning of their notes on sources on p. 483 we have this:

The 1951 edition of The Forrestal Diaries (Viking Press, New York), edited by Walter Millis, was a valuable source in the preparation of this book. Prior to its publication, a number of diary entries were deleted by government censors on the grounds of national security. In recent years, however, all of these unpublished entries have been available to scholars at the Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University, at the Office of the Defense Historian at the Pentagon, and at the Naval historical Center, Washington, D.C. Citations from the complete unedited materials are identified in these notes as Unpublished Forrestal Diaries.

One wonders how these authors can be so confident, in the absence of the diaries’ author, that everything that Forrestal put into the original version is now available in complete, unedited form. The contrast between Simpson’s claim that Millis left out 80 percent of the original to “a number of diary entries” were deleted for national security purposes is also striking.

To be sure, not everything that Cornell Simpson has written should be taken at face value, either. Nowhere does he tell us how he knows with such precision that there were originally exactly 3,000 pages in 15 notebooks in the Forrestal diaries. Simpson, himself, is something of a mystery man. This book on Forrestal’s death seems to be the only one he has written, and a search of the Internet for his name turns up only references to The Death of James Forrestal. He is a very polished and skillful writer, and his knowledge of the degree of infiltration of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations seems almost like that of an insider. Many of the charges in his book, which echo those of Forrestal in his waning days in government, have been borne out by more recent discoveries. This is from The New Dealers War, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War within World War II by Thomas Fleming, 2001:

There was scarcely a branch of the American government, including the War, Navy, and Justice Departments, that did not have Soviet moles in high places, feeding Moscow information. Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, had so many informers in its ranks, it was almost an arm of the NKVD. Donovan’s personal assistant, Duncan Chaplin Lee, was a spy. (P. 319)

By count from the Venona decrypts (secret Soviet cable traffic from the 1940s that the United States intercepted and eventually decrypted, which became available to historians in 1995), there were 329 Soviet agents inside the U.S. government during World War II. The number of rolls of microfilm shipped to Moscow from the NKVD’s New York headquarters leaped from 59 in 1942 to 211 in 1943, the same year during which the American press and publishing industry were gushing praise of the Soviet Union. In the single year 1942, the documents leaked by one member of England’s Cambridge Five filled forty-five volumes in the NKVD archives. The Russian agent in charge of Whittaker Chambers’s spy ring boasted to Moscow: “We have agents at the very center of the government, influencing policy.” The OSS and the British SIS did not have a single agent in Moscow.

David Niles, the Communist


One man in particular with some dubious connections was in a very strategic position to do harm to Forrestal. That is one of the few staff aides that Truman had inherited from Roosevelt, David Niles (Others were speechwriter, Samuel Rosenman, press secretary, Jonathan Daniels, press aide, Eben Ayers, and correspondence secretary, Bill Hassett.). In the foregoing, when we have said that “the White House” may have taken some action or other with respect to Forrestal, those actions might well have been the work of Niles, Harry Truman’s famous aphorism about where the buck stops notwithstanding. The following passage from Hoopes-Brinkley, set in the period just after Truman’s surprising victory over Dewey in 1948, gives us a good introduction to Niles:

Given the timing and the circumstances, it seems likely that Truman had not yet seriously addressed the question of his Cabinet for the new term (a month before, even his staunchest supporters would have considered this a frivolous exercise, a waste of precious time and energy in a desperately uphill campaign). Nevertheless, he had developed questions and doubts about Forrestal and was beginning to consider whether it was time for a fresh man at the Pentagon. In his consideration he was strongly pushed by members of the White House staff–especially [Harry] Vaughn, [Matthew] Connelly (remember him? ed.), and David Niles–who disliked Forrestal intensely. The main points against him were resistance (as Navy Secretary) to Truman’s proposals for military unification, resistance to the Truman budget ceiling on military spending, resistance to the partition of Palestine, and his attempt to assert personal control of the National Security Council and its staff. There were more minor irritations, such as Forrestal’s proposals to create a Cabinet secretariat and an elite corps of government managers and executives. Those and other initiatives seemed to small-minded White House loyalists like efforts to enhance Forrestal’s own power and prestige, especially to give the impression that he was a kind of philosopher-king whose broad and varied talents outshone those of Harry S. Truman. (pp. 428-429)

Tracking down Cornell Simpson’s numerous references to Niles leads the reader to suspect that Niles was not just another “small-minded White House loyalist.” (The sentence fragments are in the original.):

Soviet spy Alger Hiss, fair-haired boy of the State Department, who went to Yalta as Roosevelt's advisor and who was a chief planner of the present United Nations.


Harry Hopkins, Lauchlin Currie, David Niles, Michael Greenberg, Owen Lattimore, Philleo Nash and others identified in sworn testimony as pro-Communists or outright Russian spies operating through the White House, who for years secretly influenced United States presidents and shaped policy decisions to benefit the USSR.

With characters such as the above and countless more like them dictating U.S. government policy, it is little wonder that Forrestal often felt he was the only pro-American in a nest of Communists. In December 1945 he made a brilliantly simple indictment of the wholesale treason in Washington when he told the newly elected U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R., Wis.): "Consistency never has been a mark of stupidity. If the diplomats who have mishandled our relations with Russia were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor." (p. 53)


Another was David Niles, alias Neihuss, a powerful advisor to Roosevelt and Truman. The mysterious Niles, who had an office in the White House, operated very secretively; however when various Fifth Amendment Communists were asked by congressional committees if they knew Niles, they refused to answer on the grounds that if they did so they might incriminate themselves. (p. 90)


Congressman Martin Dies of Texas, first chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, told this writer that a short time before [former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank] Murphy died, Mrs. Dies and he met Murphy at the home of the late celebrated Washington hostess, Mrs. Evelyn Walsh McLean.

"Justice Murphy was highly excited," Congressman Dies explained. "In fact, he was the most emotionally disturbed man I've ever seen. He paced back and forth, unable to sit down. He said he had recently 'gotten religion' and had returned to the Catholic church.

"And then he told us, very excitedly, 'We're doomed! The United States is doomed! The Communists have control completely. They've got complete control of Roosevelt and his wife as well. It's impossible for anyone to see him now unless the appointment is cleared by David Niles and his gang. (p. 134)


The campaign against Forrestal had a threefold purpose: to discredit Forrestal in the eyes of the American people, thereby permanently eliminating him as a public official; to harass and persecute him personally and drive him to a nervous breakdown if possible, thus wrecking his capacity to fight the Communist conspiracy even as a private citizen; to intimidate all other anti-Communists by instilling in them a fear of the terrible reprisals awaiting those who dare oppose Communism at home and abroad.

Monsignor Sheehy and others have said they suspected that the long smear campaign against Forrestal may have been secretly directed by Communists and pro-Communists in the White House itself—perhaps by the powerful David Niles. (p. 161)

Other insights into the connections and the character of David Niles are provided by the following four paragraphs of the 2000 book by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets, Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors.

Meanwhile, Josephine Adams remained active on the political scene. In October 1944 she wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt, “Last evening it was requested through [presidential assistant] D. [David K.] Niles that E. B. [Earl Browder] withdraw from the radio debate with [George] Sokolsky on the election.” Filed with the letter in the Roosevelt Library was an unidentified newspaper clipping reporting that Browder had canceled the debate with Sokolsky. The letter was marked to be shown to the President. The election was a month away. The Communists actively supported Roosevelt’s reelection, but public support from Earl Browder was not an asset in most of the country.

Niles, a mysterious political operative for President Roosevelt, had other associations with the Communists. An NKVD Venona message from New York to Moscow reported on a plan to send a husband and wife team of NKVD “illegals” to Mexico. The message said, “Through Roosevelt’s advisor David Niles–will take three-four days will cost $500.... [A]round Niles there is a group of his friends who arrange anything for a bribe. Through them Michael W. Burd [“Tenor”] obtains priority and has already paid them as much as $6,000. Whether Niles takes a bribe himself is not known for certain.” Burd was a Soviet agent and an officer of the Midland Export Corporation in New York City.

On August 2, 1944, the New York Rezindentura reported to Moscow that “Niles refused to intervene in the case explaining that he had only recently interceded for one refugee and recommended approaching Congressman [Arthur] Klein.” When this did not work, Niles intervened. And although the project was held up because Niles was busy with the Democratic convention, the matter was finally taken care of–Burd handled the paperwork.

Whittaker Chambers reported to the FBI an odd story about Niles that he had heard from a fellow Soviet agent named John Hermann in 1934 or 1935. A Soviet agent named Silverman (not George Silverman) was living in the next building from Alger Hiss. This Silverman apparently had an obviously homosexual affair with David Niles. Silverman had told Niles of the work of the underground apparatus in Washington, and Niles later threatened to expose the activities of the Communist group unless Silverman left his wife. To solve the problem, J. Peters, the head of the American Communist underground, ordered Hermann and Harold Ware to get Silverman to leave Washington, D. C. immediately. (pp. 180-181)

That James Forrestal was “disliked intensely” by the likes of a David Niles would seem to be something of which Forrestal could be justly proud.

There is something missing, however, in the portrait painted by Cornell Simpson of Forrestal as public enemy number one of the Communists. He neglects to mention that the fiercely anti-Communist columnist and radio commentator, Walter Winchell, enthusiastically joined his leftist counterpart, Drew Pearson, in the Forrestal smear campaign. The big thing they had in common was that they were both strong Israel advocates. Neither Israel nor Zionism appears in Simpson's index. He vilifies Pearson as a virtual Communist spokesman, but mentions Winchell only once, and that is favorably for his exposure of Harry Truman’s supposed lies about Truman’s former membership in the Ku Klux Klan. His only allusion to possible Zionist enmity toward Forrestal he handles defensively as follows:

Others chose to tar Forrestal with anti-Semitism when they spotted a chance to distort his stand on the Palestine partition issue. Forrestal was not anti-Semitic; he had simply urged that Truman not play domestic politics with the Palestine question and had explained his position as follows:

"If we are to safeguard western civilization in this crisis, the British and American fleets must have free access to Near Eastern oil. That is a fact, however unpleasant it may be.... I am interested in justice in Palestine, but this interest must remain secondary to my primary interest, which is the protection of America and the West from the gravest threat we have ever faced [Soviet Russia]. No minority has the right to jeopardize this nation for its own selfish interest." (p. 162)

David Niles, the Zionist


We’d never get it from Simpson, but there is very good evidence that David Niles used his power as a gatekeeper for Roosevelt and Truman at least as much for the Zionists as he did for the Communists. For evidence of that, we turn to another source, Edwin Wright. Wright was Army general staff G-2 (intelligence) Middle East specialist in Washington, 1945-46; Bureau Near East-South Asian-African Affairs Department of State, since 1946, country specialist 1946-47, advisor U.N. affairs, 1947-50, and advisor on intelligence, 1950-55. The first passage is from his 1975 work, "The Great Zionist Cover-up," originally prepared for and by request of The Harry Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.

Mr. Loy Henderson, Director of NEA (Near East-Africa Division of the State Department), on November 24, 1947, sent a Memorandum to Acting Secretary Robert Lovett to pass on to President Truman. In it is this passage, "It seems to me and all the members of my office acquainted with the Middle East, that the policy we are following in New York, (at the United Nations, where the U.S. Delegation was favoring the establishment of a Zionist Jewish State on territory overwhelmingly Arab) is contrary to the interests of the United States and will eventually involve us in international difficulties of so grave a nature that the reaction throughout the world, as well as in this country, will be very strong.--We are incurring long-term Arab hostility -- the Arabs are losing confidence in the friendship and integrity of the USA.--(It will encourage) Soviet penetration into important areas as yet free from Soviet domination" and as vast quantities of petroleum were being discovered in Arab lands, it was essential that normal and mutually advantageous relations with the Arab world should be preserved.

Before these memoranda could get to the Oval Office in the White House, they had to pass through the screening of Sam Rosenman, Political Advisor of the President, and David (Nyhus) Niles, Appointments Secretary, both crypto-Zionists. One of these memoranda was returned unopened with a notation, "President Truman already knows your views and doesn't need this." That President Truman's attitude toward the NEA had been poisoned is evident from his remarks in his Memoirs that he could not trust his advisors in the State Department because they were, "anti-Semitic." Being low on the totem pole in this group, I can testify that I have never worked with a more honest or conscientious group of men, who when they were asked their opinion gave it honestly - and were insulted for their loyalty. (pp. iv-v)

There are other telling references to Niles in the July 26, 1974, Truman Library interview of Wright by Richard D. McKinzie.

These many Israeli Government propaganda organizations did all they could to discredit those men in the State Department, whom they identified as "pro-Arab." For further details: Alan R. Taylor Prelude to Israel (Philosophical Library, 1959), especially the Chapter VIII, "The Zionist Search for American Support," pp. 77-113.] They kept whispering in his ear, "Don’t trust the State Department." The result was he did not trust the State Department, the people who knew what was going on.

David Niles was another one. He was the protocol officer in the White House, and saw to it that the State Department influence was negated while the Zionist view was presented. You get this from Mr. Truman's book, but also there are many stories that are not known.


Foreign policy cannot be operated intelligently if it's to be the football of domestic lobbies, and this was Mr. Truman's great mistake. In this issue he gave way to a domestic lobby. What did (New York Congressman) Emmanuel Cellar know about the Middle East? The answer is nothing. What did these other men, David Niles or (former Truman business partner) Eddie Jacobson know about the Middle East? Zero. The result was he listened to a group of propagandists who gave him the wrong ideas and he came across with this fatal decision that we would support a Jewish state in the area.


One day I was sitting next to Mr. Henderson , he had his notes out and was dictating to me some letters when the telephone rang. It was Mr. Niles of the White House, and Mr. Niles told him (I got the story later on) that the night before some member of the State Department had been at a dinner party and had criticized President Truman's statement on a Jewish state. Mr. Niles said, "We are not going to tolerate any criticism of the President on this issue, and you let your staff know that if this happens again they must be disciplined."

Mr. Henderson called a meeting of the staff and told them of the message of Mr. Niles. He said, "None of you people are to speak in public about this issue, because if you do we'll have to send you off to some Siberia if any of you publicly express your private opinions, even to private groups, and it gets to the White House, you will be purged."


What happened was that Clark Clifford went to Mr. Truman, evidently upon the request of [Zionist leader and first president of Israel, Chaim] Weizmann, who was also hanging around Washington. Washington was loaded with Zionists at that time, they were all hanging around there talking to their Congressmen, getting Eddie Jacobson on the job and others. They were pulling all the strings. It's very difficult for the person outside to know just what did go on, because this has not yet been published. We'll have to find, if David Niles ever publishes any documents, as to what part he played in it. I don't know that his book has come out yet.

Anyhow, through David Niles, they had a meeting of Clark Clifford, political adviser to the President; [Eliahu] Elath, at that time still called himself Epstein; and the President. On the morning of the 13th of May, Epstein argued, "Please recognize Israel immediately, because we need that recognition for legitimacy." They had quite a discussion, but Mr. [Secretary of State George C.] Marshall was never called in or asked about this at all. [F.R.U.S. 1948, Vol. V, pp. 974-77, Secretary of State’s memo of May 12, 1948 describes the acrimonious debate between Clark Clifford and Secretary Marshall.]


We were committed to certain things and we didn't know what we were committed to. As these situations unfolded, and the Secretary of State made no decisions, I can assure you of this: They were all made in the White House. Mr. David Niles knew what was going on, Emmanuel Cellar knew what was going on, but the State Department often just had these announcements coming out and they'd find out afterwards what'd been decided.


MCKINZIE: At what point was it apparent to you that you weren't supposed to say anything?

WRIGHT: The day that Mr. Henderson told us what Mr. Niles' instructions were: "Discipline these fellows if they disagree with the President." From then on we knew that we played no part in what was going on.

A final excerpt from the Wright interview reveals completely the ascendancy of the Zionist power over America’s foreign policy apparatus:

There were influences to get rid of anyone who was called "pro-Arab." They were not pro-Arab, I must insist upon this, they were acting in accordance with America's larger interests in the Middle East. The Zionists gave them the title "pro-Arab" and that was enough to destroy them. You had to be pro-Zionist or keep quiet in order to stay in the State Department, and the net result was a whole generation of officers who are simply "Uncle Toms." They don't dare to speak or publish things. They are afraid that they will be sent off to Africa, or who knows to some other part of the world, and will stay there the rest of their lives.

One of these men was Henry Byroade. Henry Byroade made a talk in Philadelphia in April 1954. Before he made this talk he had two men work with him on it. One was Parker T. "Pete" Hart, who was the head of the NE, the Near Eastern Section, and the other was myself. We went over to his house and worked out his talk. In it he made this statement: "I have some advice for both Arabs and for Jews. Israel should think of itself as a state living in the Middle East and that it must live with its Arab neighbors. The Arabs must cease to think of themselves as wanting to destroy Israel and should come to terms with Israel itself." [Fred J. Khouri The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, Syracuse Press, 1968, p. 300 adds that even the Israeli Government protested this statement]

The next morning Henry Byroade got a call from Nathan Goldman, who was in California. [Nathan Goldman was president of the World Jewish Congress and many years president of the World Zionist Organization. He acted as though he were president of a World Jewish State and had a bitter fight with Ben Gurion after 1948.] He used his first name and said, "Hank, did you make that speech in Philadelphia that was reported in the papers today?"

Byroade said, "Yes, I made that speech."

He said, "We will see to it that you'll never hold another good position."

That was the control, from California, that Nathan Goldman held over the State Department. All they had to do was go to the President or to Congress, and the demand would come for this fellow to be sent off and put in some obscure area, where he no longer would influence the situation. This has been going on for 26 years in the Department of State as the result of Mr. Truman's first decision to purge Loy Henderson.

It destroyed the efficacy of the Department of State in that particular area. The Zionists consider that they have control of the Department of State, can dictate who is going to be in it and who is going to say what policy should be. It's sort of silent terrorism that they have applied and kept up ever since.

Zionist Enemy Number One


One must wonder if James Forrestal realized the power of the forces he was up against in opposing the push of the Zionists for a state of their own in Palestine. From the treatment he received in the press, it was apparent whom they regarded as their principal enemy in the United States. If there is any doubt left, it is erased by these excerpts from Chapter 7 of The Secret War against the Jews, entitled “A Jewish-Communist Conspiracy”:

In this chapter we discuss the following allegations by our sources in detail:

·         The United States’ first secretary of defense, James V. Forrestal, was the leader of a cabal of senior State Department and intelligence officials within the Truman administration that worked behind the president’s back to block the creation of the State of Israel.

·         Forrestal was, in fact, a corporate spy for Allen Dulles within the Truman administration, while Dulles was working to elect the president’s opponent, Governor Thomas E. Dewey.

·         When the Zionists realized right before the UN vote on partition of Palestine that they might not have enough votes, they blackmailed Nelson Rockefeller, who delivered the largely hostile votes of the Latin American bloc.

The secret history of the birth of Israel has never been told before. Let us begin with the principal villain, the man who nearly succeeded in preventing Israel’s birth.


Despite deep dissatisfaction with the president [Roosevelt] and his successor, Forrestal rose through the ranks to become undersecretary and then secretary of the navy, and finally the first secretary of defense in September 1947. Truman did not realize for another year that Forrestal was quietly going mad. Virtually the entire American defense policy, indeed much of its strategy toward the Zionists, was in the hands of an extremely bigoted lunatic. (pp. 155-156)

It could hardly be clearer that the extreme animosity toward Forrestal that motivated the slander campaign in the press in 1948, and was behind the threatening letters and telephone calls in the last months of his life, is alive today in the writings of people like John Loftus, Mark Aarons, and Walter Winchell biographer, Neal Gabler.

The First Christopher Ruddy?


Curiously, though, the only suspects Cornell Simpson even considers in Forrestal’s likely murder are the Communists. His book is divided into two sections. The first is named, “Suicide or Murder?”, and he leaves little doubt in the reader’s mind that it was the latter. Section Two is titled, “Who Could Have Murdered Forrestal–and Why? The section consists of four chapters. The titles of the first three are questions: “Who Gained Most by the Death?”, “Who Gained Most by the Death (continued)”, and “Who Murders in a Matching Pattern?” The answer in each case is “The Communists and the international Communist conspiracy.” Yes, Simpson also shows that the Truman administration itself also benefitted from the death, but only because it helped conceal the degree of its penetration by Communists and the extent to which its policies, particularly those of Truman’s predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, aided the Communists.

The final chapter, in case you still don’t get the picture, is titled, “What the Communists Did to Forrestal.” These passages give one the flavor of Simpson’s summing up:

...it was the Communist Daily Worker that openly launched the vicious barrage against our first secretary of defense. And the defamation was quickly snatched up and embellished by all those newspaper columnists and radio and TV commentators who march in closed ranks behind the Communist party line.(p. 162)

After Forrestal was killed, the New York Sun reported that [Drew] Pearson’s stories depicting the former defense secretary as a mental case were picked up and published prominently in the Russian press. Here again Pearson’s smears were valuable to the Kremlin, for it is standard Communist technique to question the sanity of all anti-Communists. (p. 163)

Two days after the former defense secretary was killed, Tris Coffin, another Washington columnist, came out with a story that used a classic smear technique–the anonymous source. Coffin claimed that an unnamed informant had visited Forrestal at the hospital and had found Forrestal disheveled, deranged and obviously suicidal. Other visitors and hospital officials agreed that Forrestal had been in excellent spirits and was immaculately groomed. Coffin also claimed that Forrestal’s “wrists were bandaged,” implying that Forrestal had tried to slash them. This lie was printed the day after Dr. Raines had stated in a press release that Forrestal had not made any suicidal gestures in the hospital.

Two and a half years after the death, Time magazine reissued some of the original “suicide attempt” lies. It also implied that Forrestal’s mind had slipped, as evidenced in a habit he had developed of scratching his head while thinking.

Note that Forrestal’s enemies, even long after his death, continued to print lies designed to establish not only that he had frequently tried to kill himself but had been hopelessly out of his mind, all of which served to discredit his entire anti-Communist stand. (p. 166)

Indeed it did, but as we have seen, the Forrestal smears and misrepresentations keep coming, right up to the present day, and they are not coming from the Communists. They were neatly packaged by Arnold Rogow in a book that was published three years before Simpson’s, which Simpson chose to ignore, perhaps because he was unable to paint Rogow as a Communist or Communist sympathizer.

One must wonder why Cornell Simpson is so intent on steering his readers away from the obvious prime suspects in Forrestal’s death. It was not the Communists who were known to have threatened Forrestal, Robert Lovett, and other government officials in the last months of Forrestal’s life. And though they might have had some small influence with the American press that slandered him, distorted the facts about his last few weeks of life, and failed to raise a hue and cry about the ongoing secrecy of the investigation of his death, it was minor compared to that of the Zionists, and it is now non-existent.

Simpson actually gives himself away in the fourth paragraph of his book’s foreword:

...on November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, president Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a mysterious young American Communist recently returned from a lengthy stay in Soviet Russia. While in Russia, Oswald, according to his own writings, had been paid large sums of money by the Soviet secret police, which is the terrorist “enforcement” arm of the Soviet government and which is notorious for political assassinations both inside and outside Russia. Why the Soviet secret police would have had the future assassin of a U.S. president on its payroll never has been disclosed. (P. vii)

To be sure we have learned a great deal more about the Kennedy assassination than we knew in 1966, but it is very hard to believe that a man as perspicacious and as skeptical of the government and the press as Cornell Simpson has shown himself to be in the Forrestal death, could accept as face value the official line that Oswald killed Kennedy. Here he reminds us of no one so much as the reporter and now Newsmax.com editor, Christopher Ruddy. Ruddy, with his reports in the New York Post and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and his book, The Strange Death of Vincent Foster, has been the only American journalist to challenge the official verdict of suicide in the death of Deputy White House Counsel, Vincent W. Foster, Jr., but he scoffs at skeptics of the Warren Report and other apparent cover-ups, calling them “conspiracy theorists.” One can only conclude that Ruddy is an operative for someone, and the fiercely pro-Israel orientation of the Newsmax site strongly suggests who that someone might be. May not the same suspicion be raised of Simpson, who gives voice to the skepticism over the Forrestal death felt by many of his contemporaries, but then directs that doubt and skepticism down a rabbit trail leading away from the most likely suspects?

Seasoned Assassins


At critical moments in U.S. relations with the Arab world and Israel there has invariably been some one person who has seen the problem in full perspective, bestirred himself, and attempted to tell the story to the American public. Equally invariably, like the wolf at the head of the pack, he has been forthrightly shot down, his pen or voice stilled, and the gaping vacuum once more becomes apparent.

(Alfred M. Lilienthal, op. cit

Lilienthal was referring to techniques like character assassination and other heavy-handed methods such as those used on conscientious State Department officials, but the Communists are not the only ones "notorious for political assassination." Just eight months before Forrestal's death, members of future Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's "Stern Gang" gunned down the United Nation's chief mediator in Palestine, the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte. In November of 1944 that same organization was responsible for the murder of Lord Moyne, a high British official supervising that country's Mandate over Palestine. In July of 1946, agents of another Zionist terrorist organization, Irgun, led by another future Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, blew up the building where the British had their headquarters in Jerusalem, the King David Hotel, killing 35 people, including 17 Jews.

The most extreme of the Zionists in Israel have always had an inordinate amount of power and influence in the United States, right up to the present day. Criticism of their actions is much more prominently voiced in Israel, itself, than it is in this country.

Only a few months before James Forrestal’s confinement to the Bethesda Naval Hospital (also famous, or infamous, we might remind readers, for the autopsy of John F. Kennedy) a group of the most illustrious Jewish intellectuals in the United States were moved to warn the country with the following message:

Letters to The Times
New York Times December 4, 1948

New Palestine Party Visit of Menachem Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin's behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.

The public avowals of Begin's party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants-240 men, women, and children-and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.

The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.

During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies Seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.


Would men like Menachem Begin and his followers have hesitated at assassinating the most popular, outspoken, and powerful critic of the nascent state of Israel in the United States if given the opportunity? It certainly did not stop them when the perceived obstacles to Israeli ambitions were members of the British or the Swedish leadership and nobility. Would someone like David Niles have used his power and influence to assist the assassins, and did he have sufficient power and influence to see that the deed was accomplished? From the evidence we have presented, I believe the answer would have to be in the affirmative.

Would President Truman have countenanced such a thing? One likes to think that he would not, had it been in his power. But from his earliest days in politics as a member of the political machine, that is, the organized criminal conspiracy, of “Boss” Tom Pendergast of Kansas City, Truman had learned how to make the kinds of compromises that would leave him eventually, though President, powerless to prevent such an atrocity. (Do an Internet search of various combinations of “Truman” “corruption” “Pendergast” and “John Lazia” for evidence of the sort that you will not find heavily emphasized by Truman hagiographers like David McCullough.). We have seen the assertion, after all, by Zionist apologists John Loftus and Mark Aarons that David Ben Gurion would freely use blackmail to advance Israel’s interests.

Would America’s press have participated in the cover-up of such a heinous crime? Considering what we have learned of the role they have played in the aftermath of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King and Vincent Foster, the temptation to engage in sarcasm at this point is almost irresistible. Let us simply say that, considering who the most likely suspects would have to have been, one would sooner expect Pravda of the old days to question the official verdict in the Jan Masaryk “suicide.”

David Martin
November 10, 2002

*On April 25, 2011, we learned that the Simpson book was, indeed, reviewed in the April 1967 issue of American Opinion.  That magazine was, as was the publisher of the book itself, an organ of the John Birch Society.  See “News from the Mail Bag.”

**That secrecy was finally broken in 2004 when the author, through use of the Freedom of Information Act, was able to obtain a copy.  See our initial analysis at “Who Killed James Forrestal, Part 2.”

***In November of 2004 we determined that it was not Forrestal who did the transcription.  As revealed in “Who Killed James Forrestal? Part 3,” the handwriting is clearly not his.


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