Who Killed James Forrestal? Part 6
The Mendocracy Versus the Citizenry
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3:20
After having ignored the long-delayed publication of the official proceedings of the Navy board of investigation into the violent death of the first U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal (Willcutts Report), the American opinion-molding industry has at last broken its five-year-long silence. What we wrote in Part 5 early last year, “…historians, journalists, and other authors have continued to write about Forrestal's death as if there were no public Willcutts Report, repeating important ‘facts’ from now-discredited secondary sources,” has become obsolete. Some of the discredited “facts” are still there, but in his book published later last year, Nicholas Thompson in The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War perpetuates the myth of Forrestal’s suicide and explicitly acknowledges the Willcutts Report as one of his sources.
One could have hardly found a more representative member of the American establishment opinion-molding club to do the silence breaking than Thompson. Here’s what they say about him on the web site for his book:
Nicholas Thompson is a senior editor at The New Yorker, a contributing editor at Bloomberg Television, and the author of “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War.”
Prior to The New Yorker, Mr. Thompson was a senior editor at Wired, a senior editor at Legal Affairs and an editor at the Washington Monthly. He has written about politics, technology, and the law for numerous publications, and he currently writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review. He is a frequent guest on CNN’s American Morning, NBC’s Today Show, and Live with Regis and Kelly. He has also appeared multiple times on every other major cable and broadcast news network. He is also currently a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and an official panelist on CNN International’s “Connect the World” with Becky Anderson.
Not surprisingly, his book has been heavily publicized and widely distributed. I recently discovered the paperback version prominently displayed at the Union Station branch of the national chain of B. Dalton bookstores. The book’s web site lists favorable quotes from reviews in The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Post Book Review, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek, Time Magazine, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, The National Review, Booklist, Library Journal, The Daily Beast, Talking Points Memo Café, and the major British weekly, The Economist.
One can even watch Stephen Colbert giving him a book-promoting softball interview on his popular Comedy Channel show, The Colbert Report. Not since James Carroll, with his 2006 book on the Pentagon, has an author been given so great an opportunity to spread untruths about the violent death of the leading U.S. opponent of the creation of the state of Israel. The following is from pp. 88-89 (He has endnotes in which the source is given for particular passages. We show them in parentheses.):
Forrestal lasted six weeks in the hospital, until the night of Saturday, May 21, 1949. According to a report long kept secret, he spent most of the evening pacing. At 12:20, he got a cup of orange juice and said he was going to bed; at 12:35, he got up to grab a cup of coffee; ten minutes later, he was apparently asleep. At 1:30, he popped out of bed and the corpsman on duty asked if he wanted a sleeping pill. Forrestal said no, but the corpsman went to ask the doctor whether he could have one anyway. When he returned, Forrestal was gone. (Admiral M.D. Willcutts, "Report on the Death of James Forrestal," part 2, p. 176.)
Lower in the building, people heard a thud. Forrestal's body, dressed in pajamas, was found facedown [sic] on the asphalt and cinderblock ledge outside room 384. He had plummeted thirteen floors, bouncing off other ledges as he fell. His bathrobe sash was tied tight around his neck (ibid. part 1, p. 62); upstairs, a razor blade (ibid. p. 81) was found near his slippers. He had tried to hang himself and then either jumped or fallen out the window. At some point that evening he had copied out lines from a translation of Sophocles' Ajax, where the Chorus laments, "Better to die, and sleep/The never-waking sleep, than linger on/And dare to live when the soul's life is gone."
In the first paragraph, the part about Forrestal pacing the floor does come from the Willcutts Report. To this writer’s knowledge, it had not been reported elsewhere in the mainstream press or books. It can be found in the testimony of the orderly on duty before midnight, Edward Price/Prise. The coffee and orange juice drinking after midnight are also reported for the first time in the Willcutts Report, but the exact times given here can only be described as spurious. Navy nurse Regina M. L. Harty and hospital apprentice Edwin Utz agree that Forrestal had coffee at around 1:00 am. He apparently had orange juice twice, once when Price/Prise was on duty and again shortly before he had the coffee, but the orderly at that time, Robert Wayne Harrison, could not recall the time. The news that Forrestal popped out of bed at 1:30 can’t be found in anyone’s testimony, nor can the revelation that Harrison was absent from Forrestal’s room because he had gone to inquire about a sleeping pill. Harrison testified that at 1:45 he looked in on Forrestal, and he was apparently sleeping in a darkened room. He said he was absent when Forrestal disappeared from the room because he had gone down the hall to write in the nurse’s log.
Thompson is most disingenuous in the beginning of that second sentence, “According to a report long kept secret….” Kept secret? Why would the government want to keep such a report secret? He doesn’t even speculate. And how was the secrecy ended, why was it ended, and when, exactly, was it ended? The reader must guess about all of that.
It’s pretty clear that he does not want people to know that the report was held back for 55 years and would most likely still be secret but for the efforts of this writer. I first announced the fact that the report was available to the public in Part 2 of this series, published in September of 2004. Simultaneously, the Seeley Mudd Manuscript Library of Princeton University, which houses Forrestal’s papers, posted a copy of the report that I had sent them to their web site.
And why did the Navy keep the report secret? In 2003 I drew the common-sense conclusion that it was because they had something to hide. As it turned out, with the release of the report some months later, I was quite right, in spades. That’s apparently something that Thompson doesn’t want you to know, either.*
In his second paragraph, quoted above, the description of the surface upon which Forrestal landed clearly comes from the Willcutts Report, except that Thompson has not read very carefully. It is from the testimony of the autopsy doctor, Captain William M. Silliphant, who once describes the surface as “asphalt and cinder rock” and again as “asphalt and cinder-rocks,” not “cinderblock,” as Thompson has it. The bouncing off several ledges is original with Thompson, and is preposterous on its face if you think about it. The review board, without any testimony to support it, says at one point that he first struck a ledge of the fourth floor. Thompson’s mention of the discovered razor blade—also from Willcutts Report testimony—is obviously strategic, meant to convey the impression that Forrestal was accumulating a veritable arsenal of self-killing devices. Also strategic is Thompson’s tired old account of the supposed morbid poem transcription by Forrestal. From the first day that Forrestal’s death was reported, that poem has been placed on center stage as evidence of Forrestal’s suicidal intentions. In spite of the manifest evidence of its lack of authenticity, Thompson keeps it there.
Nurse Turner’s Crucial Testimony
As with his first paragraph, what’s really important is what Thompson leaves out. To know about the razor blade, he had to be familiar with the testimony to the Willcutts review board of the nurse, Lieutenant Dorothy Turner. Her name had appeared in contemporary newspapers only as the person who heard Forrestal land on the third floor roof. What the press did not tell us is that she had rushed upstairs and was the first person to get a good look at Forrestal’s lighted vacated room. Here is part of what she said:
So I went up to tower sixteen and told Miss Harty there was a man’s body outside the galley window and he wasn’t mine. We both went into his room and he wasn’t there and we noticed the broken glass on the bed and looked down and noticed the razor blade and told him he was missing (sic) and she said it was one forty-eight.
Broken glass on the bed!!?? How could anyone ignore that fact as if it were insignificant? But Thompson is not alone; the review board ignored it as well. They completely pass over the mention of the broken glass, asking only about the razor blade that she had mentioned (and slippers that she had not) in the recorded transcript:
Q. You said you saw his slippers and a razor blade beside them; where did you see them?
A. The bed clothes were turned back and towards the middle of the bed and I looked down and they were right there as you get out of bed.
In her answer, Lt. Turner drops another bombshell in the context of what the review board had been shown up to that point. She is testifying on the third day of the proceedings. On the first day, the board had gone to see Forrestal’s hospital room. On the second day, it had heard the testimony and examined the photographs of the vacated room. One can see from the photographs of the room that there are no bed clothes on the bed, turned back or otherwise.
No one on the board had a thing to say about the inconsistency, nor does Thompson. Surely it must have dawned upon at least one of the Navy doctors—all employees of the National Naval Medical Center with no qualifications as criminal investigators—the moment they laid eyes on that room that something was seriously amiss. It bears no resemblance whatever to a room that has been lived in for almost six weeks and hastily abandoned in the middle of the night, that is, to the room that Lt. Turner saw.
As I note in Part 2 of this series, the board must have their marching orders because, not only do they know what not to ask Lt. Turner, they know what not to ask the photographer, as well. In contrast to their questioning of the first photographer, the one who photographed the body, they don’t ask when the room photographs were taken. Had they done so, they would have had to have asked him why there was a delay of several hours, as is evident by the bright sun streaming in the windows. They also don’t ask the first photographer, who showed up promptly, if he had also taken room photos, and if not, why not, and if so, what they showed.
After Thompson makes a complete muddle of an attempt to explain why there was a bathrobe sash tied around Forrestal’s neck, he shows that he must have marching orders as well with his reference to the famous poem transcription. From the Willcutts Report, he must know that the account by Forrestal biographers Arnold Rogow and Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley that the corpsman (Harrison) looked in on Forrestal at 1:45 and saw him transcribing the poem is a complete fabrication. Harrison testified that at that time the room was dark and Forrestal was apparently sleeping. Furthermore, he said, the room was dark the whole time that he was on duty and Forrestal did no reading or writing. Thompson knows now that he can’t just parrot what the “definitive” biographies have said, so he has the unseen writing occurring at some time earlier in the evening. As others have done, he then quotes from the particularly morbid last lines of the poem that occur well past the purported transcribed lines.
The big problem with this continued invocation of the transcription as though it amounted to some sort of a suicide note is that, as I show in Part 3, Forrestal didn’t do any transcribing of a Sophocles poem that evening or any evening. The handwriting of the transcription is clearly that of someone other than Forrestal.
Now one might argue that since no one in the “mainstream” has picked up on it, Thompson might simply be ignorant of the fact that the transcription is bogus, because he is unaware of my web site. That is not very likely because the Wikipedia site for Forrestal has linked to my handwriting samples for several years now, and one would think that simple curiosity alone would have made him check out Forrestal’s Wikipedia page. It might not have the last word on a subject, but for most serious writers of non-fiction these days, Wikipedia is one of the first stops to make.
Bad Psychology and Bad References
There is further evidence that Thompson has marching orders, that he is not his own man, and the evidence involves that Forrestal Wikipedia page. To get to it we must quote Thompson some more, going back to the bottom of page 87 when he first broaches the subject of Forrestal’s supposed breakdown. Note that he makes it entirely the result of the strains of fighting the Cold War:
In Kennan’s view, at least, Forrestal ultimately went too far. He helped Kennan considerably in setting up the Office of Policy Coordination. But reflecting back decades later, Kennan would lament OPC’s growth and blame the Pentagon for it. He wanted it small and elite; Forrestal and the Pentagon wanted black propaganda offices franchised in embassies worldwide. “There is no method, there is no way except the method of worry, of constant concern, and of unceasing energy that will give us our security,” (Jeffrey Dorwart, Eberstadt and Forrestal, p. 149) the defense secretary said in 1947.
The constant concern eventually devoured Forrestal: by the late 1940s, he had begun a slow-motion nervous breakdown. Isolated and profoundly alarmed, he saw demons everywhere. Nitze’s sister once found him in the bushes near the Plaza Hotel in New York. She asked what he was doing. Watching people, he said. I am just watching people going about their business. (Paul Henry Nitze, Tension between Opposites, p. 97)
In March 1949, the president replaced Forrestal as secretary of defense. Soon, he had become completely paranoid. Zionists were trailing him and the Soviets had bugged beach umbrellas all over Miami. Early that spring, he was committed to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where the doctors began treating him with psychotherapy and insulin injections. (Willcutts Report, part 1, p. 35) They considered, but rejected, using electroconvulsive therapy. (ibid. p. 41)
In contemporary newspaper accounts, through the 1992 book, Driven Patriot, The Life and Times of James Forrestal, those making the suicide argument gave prominent place to the pressures and press attacks that Forrestal had suffered on account of his opposition to the creation of the state of Israel. With its 1999 article written upon the 50th anniversary of Forrestal’s death, The Washington Post began a trend of Soviet-style airbrushing of that out of history. Thompson continues the trend; there’s no trace of the big Israel dust-up in his account, making Forrestal’s legitimate concern that he was being trailed and bugged by Zionist agents look all the more loony.
Concerning Forrestal’s supposed imaginary demons and paranoia, one may contrast Thompson’s spin on the story showing Forrestal’s quite normal penchant for people-watching with these words from p. 426 of Driven Patriot: “…colleagues at the Pentagon, including members of his inner staff, failed to recognize [his decline]. 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.”
Those observations, which I note in Part 1, are echoed by his closest aide, Marx Leva, who told his Truman Library oral history interviewer the following:
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.
Note, furthermore that Thompson has no reference for the fantastic claim that Forrestal said that “Soviets had bugged beach umbrellas all over Miami.” Doubtless, he has taken liberties with an account in Driven Patriot and elsewhere of Forrestal’s conversation with Robert Lovett at Hobe Sound, Florida. The Driven Patriot reference is Arnold Rogow’s biography of Forrestal, but Rogow has no reference. A Department of Defense oral history interview of Lovett has nothing about bugged beach umbrellas, only Forrestal telling Lovett that “they’re really after me.” All the indications are that he was right.
The final sentence about the medical treatment at Bethesda is meant to suggest that Forrestal badly needed it. It comes from the testimony to the Willcutts board of the lead doctor, Captain George Raines. Bear in mind that this is the same man, as I observe in Part 2, who volunteered that the handwriting of the transcribed poem looked like Forrestal’s. Note further that, as I reveal in my letter to historian Douglas Brinkley, Captain Stephen Smith, “second in rank and authority to the psychiatrist in charge of the case believed throughout its course that Forrestal was wrongly diagnosed and treated. But he also thought that Forrestal was recovering despite the treatment…."
Now let’s look a little more closely at Thompson’s Willcutts Report references. The first one in the first paragraph cited above is “part 2, p. 176.” The only public copy of the Willcutts Report available when Thompson’s book came out in September of 2009 was the one online at the site of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library of Princeton University. It does not have a “part 1” and “part 2.” Rather, it displays the report as “First Half” and “Second Half.” The second half is simply a collection of unnumbered nurses’ records and various exhibits. The body of the report itself is all in the library’s first half. Scrolling to the bottom, one can see that it is only 61 pages in length and that it does not have a “part 1” and a “part 2.” No regular member of the public looking for Thompson’s citation would find it.
The same thing can be said for all of his other references, that is, as of the time that the Thompson book was published. The page numbers are not right for the Willcutts Report, proper, as one sees it at the Seeley Mudd site. They do work, however, if one converts the entire file to html from the pdf file that one sees at the Seeley Mudd site. Then the computer program generates its own page numbers, starting with the various solicited endorsements included before the review board’s actual work begins. Thus, when the Willcutts Report is telling us on its page 1 what happened on the first day, Thompson’s copy is already up to page 28. He apparently does not realize that he is using a sort of insiders’ copy that has been generated for him by someone else. (Heaven only knows how that first page reference came about.) Otherwise, he would have made his references in accord with the version one sees at the library site.
At this point things really begin to get interesting. On May 14, 2008, an extremely eclectic and copious contributor to Wikipedia who uses the signature “JDPhD” inserted a section to the page on James Forrestal entitled “Psychiatric Treatment.” The timing corresponds quite well to the period when Thompson’s book would have been in preparation. The purpose is clearly the same as Thompson’s, to make Forrestal look insane, and the reference is to the page numbers for Captain Raines’s testimony as they would appear in an html version. This “JDPhd,” like young Nicholas Thompson (assuming that he is not Thompson, himself), obviously doesn’t realize that he is referring people to a version of the Willcutts Report to which he and some privileged few others might have access, but the public does not.
Watching this malevolent bumbling, I am reminded of conversations with the late Bernard Yoh, a former intelligence operative for Nationalist Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek: ”Yoh denied to me that he had ever worked for the CIA, saying that he thought they were too stupid for him to have anything to do with them….” Also coming to mind is the young Jeff Redfern character, of “Red Rascal” fame, in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip. As a product of Yale University, Trudeau should have some familiarity with the elite covert political world.
Other Voices Weigh In
We know how the page numbers work out when the entire Willcutts file is converted to htm/html, because early in February 2010, the proprietor of the web site ARI Watch put an htm version up on his page. There you can see the same page numbers as they appear on the Mudd Library version as well as the computer generated page numbers, which show up in faint print bracketed by italics. The site is extremely valuable, not just because it makes things much easier to find in the report, but because the ARI Watch proprietor, who uses the pseudonym of “Mark Hunter,” has an introduction with his own analysis of the report.
To demonstrate the utility of the htm version as a research tool, we might try checking on the assertion by Thompson and a host of other journalists and historians that Forrestal suffered from paranoia by using “edit/find” on the computer’s toolbar. The words “paranoia” and “paranoid” come up only in the editor’s commentary, not anywhere in the Willcutts Report itself. The testifying doctors, who were questioned at much greater length than the witnesses to the actual physical evidence, never used either word or any word close to them in meaning.
Psychologist Arnold A. Rogow, in his very influential 1963 book, James Forrestal, A Study of Personality, Politics, and Policy, wrote “Raines diagnosed Forrestal’s illness as involutional melancholia, a depressive condition sometimes seen in persons who have reached middle age.” It sounds very precise and clinical. He follows it up with a long discussion explaining how that condition manifests itself. You can do your edit/find on Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” to read it. But if you try searching either the rare term, “involutional,” or the more common word, “melancholia,” on the Willcutts Report itself, neither one comes up. All one will find are the various forms of the poorly defined diagnosis, “depressed.” Dr. Raines never used that impressive sounding mumbo jumbo expression when testifying before his fellow doctors on the Willcutts review board.
Having communicated with him only through email, I do not know who “Mark” is, but I am grateful to him for indexing my articles on his web site, and every serious student of history should be grateful to him for this latest work on the Willcutts Report. With his introduction, Mark covers some of the same ground that I do with my Forrestal series, but even when he does, he does so with fresh insights and a slightly different perspective. His work and mine are more complementary than repetitious. Some of his information or insights are completely new:
· The Navy corpsman Edward Prise was not the only one to have his name misspelled, apparently intentionally to conceal identity. Through someone who first contacted me, whom I passed along to Mark for a telephone interview, we learn that a key witness who was among the earliest to see Forrestal’s vacated room was known by her co-workers as “Margie Hardy,” not “Regina M. L. Harty.” That the common name of “Hardy” would be misunderstood as the unheard-of name of “Harty” by accident is very, very hard to believe.
· The Willcutts Report has no mention of any other patients on the floor, but neither does it say that he was the only patient on the 16th floor. At any rate, none are called as witnesses before the board. Mark notes that the use of one or more fake patients would have been the ideal way to pull off Forrestal’s assassination.
· The board established that broken glass was found on Forrestal’s bed after he vacated it, and that it was not seen previously by Forrestal’s attendant/guard. Although the guard was asked if he heard any unusual noises in the kitchen through whose window Forrestal exited, he was never asked if he heard any unusual sound, like glass being broken, emanating from the bedroom.
· It was never established how far Forrestal’s body lay from the building.
Mark also references the research work of a friend of mine, Hugh Turley:
Forrestal’s chauffeur was a Navy enlisted man named John Spalding. Now living in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, in 2008 at the age of 87 he revealed in a recorded interview (“Handwriting Tells Dark Tale?” by Hugh Turley, Hyattsville Life & Times December 2008) how the Navy treated him right after Forrestal’s death. He was called into the office of Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly. “He had a big map and he said where do you want to go for duty … You are going to leave tonight.” Mr. Spalding decided on the base at Guantánamo, Cuba. (In 1949 Havana was a famous vacation spot, so this is not as strange as it would be today.) Monroe Kelly and his aide Lieutenant James A. Hooper made him sign a statement swearing that he would never speak to anyone again about Forrestal. Also in the interview Mr. Spalding said that Forrestal had never appeared depressed, paranoid or in any way abnormal in his presence.
An Organized Crime Angle?
Other citizens have asked probing questions about the Forrestal case and helped me improve my understanding of what happened. This is part of an email exchange with someone using the initials “AJ”:
Great Article on Forrestal! Do you see the Nexus of Forrestal to Operation Underworld and Murder Inc? Is it Possible Meyer Lansky was behind the Death of Forrestal?
See Details on Murder Inc Canary that could not fly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9fPDezbOdM
Story Starts with Capone Syndicate (aka Bronfman-Lansky Syndicate established by John Torrio setup by Rothschilds)
Legacy of Murder Inc …The Canary that could not fly Abe (Is the Forrestal situation a repeat of this?)
Abe Kid Twist took a leap out of a bldg. Analysis states Frank Costello paid off the cops to throw him out the window (Aka the Canary that could not fly) Nov. 12, 1941
The Formation of the Syndicate 1929 Atlantic City Conference here they setup Murder Inc
Under control of Meyer Lansky and Lucky with Albert Anastasia as a Murder Inc Leader
… From Brooklyn there was Albert Anastasia
Thank you very much for your very informative email…the answers are a conditional "yes" and a plain but unenthusiastic "yes."
Concerning the first "yes," it is conditional upon the insertion of the word "possible" in front of "Nexus," in the manner of your second question.
Your reference for the connection between Harry Truman and the mob is "The Meet, the Origins of the Mob and the Atlantic City Conference" by John William Tuohy in the March 2002 AmericanMafia.com:
Next to Dalitz sat Lou Rothkopf and Leo Berkowitz and Abe Bernstein, the leader of the Purple gang out of Detroit. To his right, sat Johnny Lazia, who had come as a representative of Tom Pendergast and his political-criminal organization. The national syndicate would later use the Pendergast contact to work its way into Harry Truman's White House.
My reference is the 2001 book by Gus Russo, The Outfit, The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America:
...Gus Russo describes the first national meeting of the country’s major crime lords that took place at the Hotel President in Atlantic City, New Jersey, May 13-16, 1929. Present were Albert Anastasia, Dutch Schultz, Louis Lepke, Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, Longy Zwillner, Moe Dalitz, Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, and Al Capone.
“Of particular note was the presence of the notorious Kansas City machine politician Tom Pendergast, the sponsor of Harry Truman, future president of the United States.”
You may notice discrepancies between the two
accounts. Tuohy says the Atlantic City conference was in 1927.
Russo gives the impression that he knows what he is talking about because he
gives the exact dates of a meeting lasting several days, but in 1929.
Russo characterizes this as the first national meeting of the major mobsters,
so it's pretty clear that they're talking about the same meeting.
I think your source is probably better than mine. Tuohy says that Truman's mentor, Tom Pendergast, sent Johnny Lazia as his representative. Russo says that Pendergast himself was there. Now that I think of it, that strikes me as highly implausible. I would think that a man like Pendergast would not have taken the chance that he might have been photographed in such company.
I might suggest a better source than either for establishing a good link between Truman and the Mob. That is the 1992 book, Double Cross, by Sam and Chuck Giancana. Here on pp. 161-162, is the recollection of the conversation of his younger brother, Chuck, with Chicago mobster Sam "Mooney" Giancana (The co-author with Chuck is not the mobster, himself, but his Godson of the same name.). The conversation takes place on the eve of the 1948 presidential election, Chuck speaks first:
"Isn't it for sure that Truman will get in?"
"Well, let's put it this way...Dewey won't win, even if he does. Get my point?"
"Yeah." Chuck hesitated. "But really what difference does it make? ...Like you said before, they're all alike."
"Well, not this time. Luciano still hates
Dewey for puttin' him in jail in the first place.... Costello's worried
that the self-righteous son of a bitch has a short memory, probably doesn't
even know how to conduct business. We'd have to give Dewey a few lessons
and I got a feelin' he's a slow learner," Mooney said smiling.
"But Truman, well, he can bullshit all he wants about bein' a common
man--people eat that up--but the truth is, he grew up with our boys in Kansas
"Really...I didn't know that. How come nobody talks about it?"
"Christ, because it's just like Chicago out there. They had a mick mayor, Pendergast, on the take big time...loved to bet on the ponies. And they got the Italians for muscle and to make money with the rackets. So, fact is, Truman owes everything he's got to us. Pendergast made him a judge and then, with the Italian muscle behind him, got him to the Senate. When the forty-four election came up...Kelly here in Chicago got him on the ticket with Roosevelt. Shit, Chicago got Roosevelt and Truman nominated and elected. We were good to Roosevelt; he was good to us. He died and Truman's been our man in the White House ever since. It's smooth sailing with him there."
"I thought he was a schoolteacher or somethin'. He always seemed clean.... I know what you said before, but I guess I didn't know he was really connected."
Mooney sighed. "Jesus, I guess you think General MacArthur was a choirboy out there fightin' for America, too? Like I always told you, 'Give me a guy who steals a little and I'll make money.' "
He shook his head. "Well, there's connected, Chuck, and then there's connected. We pull the strings...so, shit, yeah...if they can be bought, they're connected."
Chuck took a drink and thought for a moment. "So Dewey would just fuck things up...or at least make things more'--he searched for the right word--"more uncertain?"
"Exactly. So now, think you'd like to place a bet? Truman or Dewey? Take my advice and put your money on Truman?"
My point in
demonstrating the connection of Truman to organized crime is that it would have
made him very easy to blackmail, and, consequently, if powerful and ruthless
people wanted James Forrestal dead he would not have been able to prevent
it. Yours seems to be that the technique of throwing someone out a window
suggests the mob at work. I'm sorry, but I think one might just as well
say that the use of a gun suggests the mob at work. It is well known
within the clandestine communities of the world, with the United States and the
old Soviet Union being leaders in the field, that throwing someone from a high
place is one of the best ways to make a murder look like an accident or a
suicide. In the case of the United States, see here, here, and here on my web site. Two deaths
from falls connected to the Alger Hiss case that were likely Communist murders,
according to Cornell Simpson, were those of Laurence Duggan and W. Marvin
Smith, the Justice Department lawyer whose testimony before the House Committee
on the Un-American Activities gave the committee its first important evidence
of Hiss's perjury. I believe the Communists used the method on the Czech
I would imagine that the Mob might have looked with favor upon Forrestal's murder and could have lent an operative or two for the actual commission of the deed, but I can't see any compelling reason for any of them to be the prime mover. Your links and the excerpt from Double Cross, remind me that they really hated Thomas Dewey, and Forrestal was known to have met with Dewey in expectation that Dewey would defeat Truman in the upcoming election, but that is hardly a reason for them to want to kill him.
That is not to say that I am not receptive to any convincing evidence suggesting that organized crime wields much more power than is generally believed. See, for instance, my review of the book, Sons and Brothers, and my articles, "The Real Monkey Business" and "Burdick, Mitchell on Hart, Rice." Percy Crosby, the subject of my latest article, also counted organized crime among his adversaries along with FDR and his Communist supporters. On that point, be on the lookout for a new book coming out on Crosby entitled Skippy vs. the Mob.
As for Meyer Lansky in particular being involved in Forrestal's murder because of Lansky's support for Israel, I see that as a bit of a stretch. Anyway, if the feds were never able to make anything stick on the slippery Lansky, I certainly couldn't. I also think that the jury is still out as to whether Lansky even played any significant role in assisting Israel in comparison to any number of other rich and powerful Americans.
Through further reading, I have learned that both sources are partly wrong about the Atlantic City conclave. John William Tuohy is wrong about the date; it was 1929, not 1927. And as I suspected, my source, Gus Russo, is wrong about the attendance at the meeting of Harry Truman’s mentor, Pendergast. “Boss Tom Pendergast of Kansas City sent a surrogate, John Lazia,” according to Lucky Luciano, who was also there. Russo was on the money about the date, though:
The convention would be held in Atlantic City, where Nucky Johnson ruled supreme and the delegates could come and go as they pleased without attracting attention or suspicion, and where Johnson could insure that nothing would be lacking to cater to all their pleasures and tastes.
The only question was a date, and that was easily resolved. Meyer Lansky was getting married early in May 1929, and his friends concluded that Atlantic City would be an ideal place for a honeymoon, so that pleasure could be mixed with business….
Then, in May of 1929, Lansky married Anna Citron, a devout, old-fashioned Jewish girl whose father was a moderately successful produce dealer in Hoboken, New Jersey (and who, as a wedding present, put his new son-in-law on the payroll, thereby giving Lansky a respectable front and an opportunity he would later turn to his own end). In the second week of May they journeyed for their honeymoon to Atlantic City.
-- Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, pp. 103-104
In the Kid Twist case, one reads that his body was found some distance from the base of the building, giving the lie to the official story that he had fallen while climbing down sheets tied to a radiator. One is tempted to conclude that the Willcutts Report avoided the question of the exact body location for similar reasons. However, there may be an outcropping on the building like a bay window at the fourth level that Forrestal glanced off before landing on the third floor roof. If that is the case, he would likely have been propelled some distance from the building, and the precise location of the body would hardly tell us anything. I visited the hospital in late October of this year in search of answers. The kitchen window that Forrestal went out of is at the top inner corner of the right wing of the building in this picture. Unfortunately, trees obscure the roof of the third level. Until we can return to the scene after all the leaves have fallen, we won’t know if there is a bay window on the back that mirrors the one on the front.
In the final analysis, this matter of the location of the body is a small issue, particularly in comparison to all the powerful evidence indicating murder that has been uncovered so far. The important thing is that there are citizens who are still trying to figure out, in a systematic, sensible way, what happened that night at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. They are also trying to get as much information before the public as possible so that people can study the facts for themselves and make up their minds for themselves. Their efforts may be contrasted with those of the professional knowledge brokers, like those we encountered in Part 5 who are running from the latest and best evidence, or now like Nicholas Thompson, who has clearly bent the new evidence to a propagandistic purpose.
November 4, 2010
*The release of the report might have been a fluke. I twice filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the report with the National Naval Medical Center, following their procedures to the letter. My request was, quite illegally, ignored both times. The law requires a response of some kind within 20 business days, with the possibility of a 10 day extension. I was on the verge of filing a FOIA law suit when I happened upon a Navy web site that allowed for online FOIA requests, which I made in a matter of minutes. Within a couple of weeks I received a letter from the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Office promising me the report, and, indeed, it did arrive forthwith. The rest is history, except that it’s not yet history to the historians and other major opinion molders, the Thompson work notwithstanding.
After Nicholas Thompson’s mendacious little sally into the official investigation of James Forrestal’s death, nothing seems to have changed in the world of our court historians generally. In his even more recent biography of George Kennan, George Kennan: An American Life, the man often touted as America’s leading Cold War historian, Yale history professor John Lewis Gaddis, writes that Forrestal “had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide.” After a book-promoting speech of his at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, I asked him how he could write that, in light of the revelations of the Willcutts Report on Forrestal’s death. He claimed ignorance of any such report, in spite of the fact that Thompson’s book is listed in his bibliography. See my article about our exchange here.
October 6, 2012