Forrestal, James, LT

Deceased
 
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Last Rank
Lieutenant
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1955-1993, USS Forrestal (CV-59)
Service Years
1916 - 1919
Lieutenant
Lieutenant

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Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
1892
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember Forrestal, James (Secretary of Navy), LT.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Matteawan, now part of Beacon
Last Address
Arlington National Cemetery

Date of Passing
May 22, 1949
 
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified
Military Service Number
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Presidential Service Badge Office of the Secretary of Defense


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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

James Vincent Forrestal
Lieutenant, USNRF/NRFC, WWI
Secretary of the Navy - Secretary of Defense
awarded the
Distinguished Service Medal of the United States
by President Trumen, March 1949


James Forrestal (February 15, 1892 – May 22, 1949) was the last Cabinet-level United States Secretary of the Navy and the first United States Secretary of Defense. 

When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class, United States Naval Reserve Force (USNRF) on 2 June 1917.  The young sailor became enthused by naval aviation and he took flight training with British instructors from the Royal Flying Corps at Camp Borden–considered to be the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force–and at Deseronto, both in Ontario, Canada. He was commissioned as an ensign, Naval Reserve Flying Corps (NRFC) at Boston, Massachusetts, on 17 November of that year, and he gained his wings of gold as Naval Aviator No. 154 [HTA–heavier-than-air] on 6 December 1917. Soon thereafter, Forrestal served in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. Following the Armistice, Forrestal was discharged from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant, NRFC, on 30 December 1919.

Forrestal was a supporter of naval battle groups centered on aircraft carriers. In 1954, the Navy's first supercarrier was named the USS Forrestal in his honor, as is the headquarters of the United States Department of Energy. He is also the namesake of the Forrestal Lecture Series at the United States Naval Academy, which brings prominent military and civilian leaders to speak to the Brigade of Midshipmen, and of the James Forrestal Campus of Princeton University, in Plainsboro, New Jersey. 

Forrestal observed a famously punishing work schedule in the last years of his life, and rumors had circulated in the press as to his health. President Truman's unexpected decision to dismiss him as Defense Secretary on March 31, 1949 is said to have strained him to the breaking point, causing him to suffer a nervous breakdown. He was hospitalized on April 2, 19
49. On May 22, 1949 he was found dead on the roof of a covered walkway below the window of a kitchen across the hall from his 16th floor room at Bethesda Naval Hospital, a bathrobe sash knotted tightly around his neck. The press reported that he had committed suicide and the local coroner and Navy officials agreed. The circumstances of the death were reviewed, however, by a committee convened by Rear Admiral Morton D. Willcutts, the head of the National Naval Medical Center. The committee released only a brief list of conclusions several months after it had completed its work. The conclusions noted only that Forrestal "died following a fall" and that the fall caused his death. The board did not speculate as to what might have caused the fall.

The committee's full report was not released until 2004. In a review of the board's evidence and findings—solicited by the Navy and kept secret with the report until 2004—Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Winfred Overholser concluded that Forrestal "came to his death by suicide while in a state of mental depression," but the report's own conclusions were seen to have been accurately reported 55 years earlier, that is simply that Forrestal died from the fall. Debate over the exact circumstances of Forrestal's unusual death continues today, with some critics citing the U.S. government's withholding of the official report and autopsy results as well as possible signs of struggle in evidence photos as indicating foul play.


On March 28 1949 President Harry S. Truman presented the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States to James V. Forrestal at the White House. He died to months later.

   
Other Comments:

47th United States Secretary of the Navy
May 19, 1944 – September 17, 1947

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Forrestal a special administrative assistant on June 22, 1940. Six weeks later, he nominated him for the newly established position, Undersecretary of the Navy. In his nearly four years as undersecretary, Forrestal proved highly effective at mobilizing domestic industrial production for the war effort. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, wanted to control logistics and procurement, but Forrestal prevailed.

In September 1942, to get a grasp on the reports for material his office was receiving, he made a tour of naval operations in the Southwest Pacific and a stop a Pearl Harbor. Returning to Washington, D.C., he made his report to President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and the cabinet. In response to Forrestal's elevated request that material be sent immediately to the Southwest Pacific area, Stimson (who was more concerned with supplying Operation Torch in North Africa), told Forrestal, "Jim, you're got a bad case of localitis." Forrestal shot back in a heated manner, "Mr. Secretary, if the marines on Guadalcanal were wiped out, the reaction of the country will give you a bad case of localitis in the seat of your pants".

He became Secretary of the Navy on May 19, 1944, after his immediate superior Secretary Frank Knox died from a heart attack. Forrestal led the Navy through the closing year of the war and the painful early years of demobilization that followed. As Secretary, Forrestal introduced a policy of racial integration in the Navy. 

Forrestal traveled to combat zones to see naval forces in action as the Under Secretary of the Navy and as the Secretary of the Navy. He was in the South Pacific in 1942, present at the Battle of Kwajalein in 1944, and (as Secretary) witnessed the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

1st United States Secretary of Defense
September 17, 1947 – March 28, 1949

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed him the first United States Secretary of Defense. Forrestal continued to advocate for complete racial integration of the services, a policy eventually implemented in 1949.


   
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World War I
From Month/Year
April / 1917
To Month/Year
November / 1918

Description
The United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived in large numbers on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. They played a major role until victory was achieved on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers. During the war, the U.S mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military. After a slow start in mobilising the economy and labour force, by spring 1918 the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to United States entry into the war.

Although the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, it did not initially declare war on the other Central Powers, a state of affairs that Woodrow Wilson described as an "embarrassing obstacle" in his State of the Union speech. Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 17, 1917, but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various Co-belligerents allied with the central powers, thus the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The United States as late as 1917 maintained only a small army, smaller than thirteen of the nations and empires already active in the war. After the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1917, it drafted 2.8 million men into military service. By the summer of 1918 about a million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, about half of whom eventually saw front-line service; by the Armistice of November 11 approximately 10,000 fresh soldiers were arriving in France daily. In 1917 Congress gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans when they were drafted to participate in World War I, as part of the Jones Act. In the end Germany miscalculated the United States' influence on the outcome of the conflict, believing it would be many more months before U.S. troops would arrive and overestimating the effectiveness of U-boats in slowing the American buildup.

The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland and submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted U.S. units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not to waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. The U.S. rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up U.S. units to serve as mere reinforcements for British Empire and French units. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to fight in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Séchault.

Impact of US forces on the war
On the battlefields of France in spring 1918, the war-weary Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. They arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, at a time when the Germans were unable to replace their losses. After British Empire, French and Portuguese forces had defeated and turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). However, many American commanders used the same flawed tactics which the British, French, Germans and others had abandoned early in the war, and so many American offensives were not particularly effective. Pershing continued to commit troops to these full- frontal attacks, resulting in high casualties against experienced veteran German and Austrian-Hungarian units. Nevertheless, the infusion of new and fresh U.S. troops greatly strengthened the Allies' strategic position and boosted morale. The Allies achieved victory over Germany on November 11, 1918 after German morale had collapsed both at home and on the battlefield.
   
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Month/Year
April / 1917
To Month/Year
November / 1918
 
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
   
Personal Memories

Memories
When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Navy and ultimately became a Naval Aviator, training with the Royal Flying Corps in Canada. During the final year of the war, Forrestal spent much of his time in Washington, D.C., at the office of Naval Operations, while completing his flight training. He eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant and was discharged on 30 December 1919.

   
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