The Forrestal Murder and the News Media
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Welcome to the American aquarium
Where life can be lived without care.
If you swim only where you're supposed to,
You won't even know that you're there.
But thanks to my curiosity
An upsetting thing came to pass:
I followed the trail of a mystery
And I discovered the glass.
I wrote those lines in 1998. At that point I knew virtually nothing about James V. Forrestal, whom President Harry Truman had appointed as America’s first Secretary of Defense in 1947 after the creation of the Department of Defense by the National Security Act of the same year. I had recently read David McCullough’s biography entitled simply Truman, which has a short section on Forrestal’s decline and “suicide,” and had simply taken it at face value. About the only other thing I knew about the man at the time was that an aircraft carrier had been named after him.
The “mystery,” whose trail I followed almost as soon as it happened was the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr., in July of 1993. In that case I had been quickly struck by the odd news coverage. There was almost no curiosity or skepticism exhibited by anyone in the news profession. They called his death by gunshot to the head an “apparent suicide,” though it really wasn’t the least bit apparent.
I had lived in Northern Virginia and worked in Washington, DC, since 1982, and I had never heard of Fort Marcy Park off the George Washington Parkway where Foster’s body had been found. How would Foster, who had arrived in Washington only a few months before, even know about that obscure park, and why would he even have reported to work that day if he was bent on suicide, I wondered? My curiosity aroused, I began to follow the news coverage very carefully, and one of the results is my six-part dissection of the case, largely directed at the news media, entitled “America’s Dreyfus Affair: The Case of the Death of Vincent Foster.” Later I wrote, with a much more pointed title, “The Press and the Death of Vincent Foster,” which has an addendum bringing the press cover-up up to date as of the summer of 2013. My “Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression” also grew largely out of my experience with the Foster case, as did a number of my other articles on the subject of the subversion of the Fourth Estate in our country.
Forrestal’s Murder More Obvious than Foster’s
On more than one occasion, Foster was described as the highest level official to take his own life since Secretary of Defense James Forrestal in 1949. Forrestal had gone out a window on the 16th floor of the main tower of the Bethesda Naval Hospital where he had been confined. As the evidence mounted that Foster had not killed himself, I began to wonder more about Forrestal. Then I stumbled upon the book Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity by Neal Gabler at a local used bookstore and my interest in the Forrestal death surged. I learned from Gabler that the influential columnist and radio personality Winchell was Jewish and a fierce Zionist partisan and that he, along with the even more influential columnist and radio personality Drew Pearson, had engaged in what can best be described as a smear campaign against Forrestal.
Forrestal was the strongest anti-Communist in the administration, and had the very leftist Pearson been the only one attacking him one might easily conclude that it was his anti-Communism that made him a target. But Winchell was well known as a politically conservative anti-Communist. His motivation, we also learned from Gabler, was that Forrestal, even more than Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was perceived by the Zionists—and probably rightly so—as the leading opponent of the creation of the state of Israel. I knew that Zionists had assassinated the UN mediator over Palestine, Count Bernadotte, and British minister of state in the Middle East Lord Moyne, that they had bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and that assassination had remained one of their favorite tools.
That was more than enough to raise my suspicions about the Forrestal death. Had I known at the time that the Zionists had also attempted to assassinate British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin and even President Truman my suspicions would have been raised to the level of near certainty that something very foul was afoot, and that the Zionists were likely behind it.
The very fact that there was a press campaign against Forrestal, led by the two most prominent columnists in the country, is evidence of press complicity in his ultimate demise that surpasses their culpability in the Foster case. In the latter case the press promoters of the suicide thesis claim that criticism of his role in the travel office matter had induced Foster’s fatal depression, but that is a patent absurdity. Such criticism had appeared in only one editorial in the Wall Street Journal, and it amounted to no more than a mild chiding. In Forrestal’s case the press hullabaloo was sufficient to bring pressure upon President Truman to speed up the date of Forrestal’s planned departure from the administration. Truman’s abrupt request for his resignation apparently came as a surprise to Forrestal, and there is evidence that he did not take it well.
Forrestal’s Odd Change in Behavior
The strange funk into which Forrestal appeared to fall on the very day of his resignation ceremony and led to his commitment to Bethesda Naval Hospital, however, remains a mystery. It can hardly be described as the culmination of a growing depression. In Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” I note that several of his closest co-workers had said that up to that point he seemed perfectly normal. The abruptness of the onset and the great inconsistency with his normal behavior, in itself, suggests that he might well have become the victim of some sort of mind-altering drug. That suspicion is greatly increased by the fact upon admission to the hospital the pupils of his eyes were constricted. In spite of the fact that barbiturates in the blood can cause such a constriction, the doctors made nothing of the phenomenon and apparently performed no blood test. I did not learn these facts until I received the long-suppressed official investigation of his death, which I detail in Part 2 (more about that later). At any rate, his curious behavior was sufficient to get him flown down to the estate of Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett at Hobe Sound, Florida, where his wife was already vacationing.
Drew Pearson would later ascribe bizarre behavior to Forrestal while he was there. This is from pp. 455-456 of Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley:
Pearson had, in fact, decided to fire his heaviest ammunition in a radio broadcast on April 9. He charged that Forrestal, awakened by the sound of a fire siren (on the night of April 1 at Hobe Sound), had rushed out of his cottage screaming, “The Russians are attacking.” He defined Forrestal’s condition as “temporary insanity.” In subsequent newspaper columns he asserted that Forrestal made three suicide attempts while in Florida — by drug overdose, by hanging, and by slashing his wrists. According to a later statement by [Navy psychiatrist Captain George] Raines, all of these assertions were lies.
Here is what I have to say about that in “Oliver Stone on James Forrestal”:
New York Times reporter Arthur Krock is too kind to Pearson in his speculation about the origins of the “Russians are coming” story. This is from page 256 of his 1968 Memoirs (The “Z” to whom he refers is clearly Ferdinand Eberstadt, as we are able to deduce from other sources.):
After dinner Forrestal went to bed and slept soundly, and Z and Forrestal’s former aide, Rear Admiral John Gingrich, watched him through the night. He slept so soundly, with the aid of a sedative, that he did not hear a siren blow at about six o’clock in the morning. After noting that this had not awakened Forrestal, Z went down to the beach for a swim. He thinks that whoever was reporting to Drew Pearson saw Z come out of the house at that point, and that this gave rise to Pearson’s statement that Forrestal had rushed out of the house when the siren blew, thinking Russians had attacked the United States.
The important point here is that Pearson’s calumny, as with many previous and afterwards, was allowed to stand at the time by America’s press. It stuck so firmly that the charge made it into popular culture, as reported on Wikipedia and continues to be repeated as fact in books such as Oliver Stone and Simon Kuznick’s Untold History of the United States and journalist James Carroll’s House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of Pentagon Power.
After Forrestal spent a few days at Hobe Sound the decision was made that Forrestal should be transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital. It is not clear who made the decision, but famed psychiatrist William Menninger and the chief psychiatrist at Bethesda, Raines, had been dispatched to the scene and they gave their blessings to the move.
Why Lock Him in a Hospital…on the 16th Floor?
Looking back on the decision with some objectivity, one must wonder if this short-term bout of anomalous behavior on Forrestal’s part really merited hospitalization and treatment with drugs. There is a good deal less inclination these days to put people in hospitals or other institutions for mental or emotional problems than there was then, and one can hardly imagine sending a family member off to a hospital for no more odd behavior than Forrestal exhibited. The worst of it, we have seen, was actually made up by the press. Furthermore, as we show in Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” what has been described as paranoia on his part was his thoroughly justified belief that he was being followed and bugged by people who genuinely wished him ill. From every indication, he was being followed and bugged.
Even worse—and more suspicious—than the decision to send him off to confinement in a hospital was the decision to house him on the 16th floor of the main building at Bethesda. In Part 1 we also show that that was not a medical decision, but came from “downtown.” That means that the White House was behind it. Putting a supposedly “suicidal” person on the 16th floor with windows all around makes no sense whatever, no matter how many safety precautions they might claim that they took. From all that transpired later and from all that we have since learned, it looks for all the world like he was being set up to be thrown down to his death, with suicide as the explanation.
In Part 1 we identify arch-Zionist and likely Communist agent David Niles as the man at the White House who likely orchestrated the murder. In Part 4, we have further revelations about the enormous power that Niles wielded, that is, until he finally went too far and was forced to resign after it was discovered that he was leaking important military secrets to the new government of Israel. Forrestal was long dead by that time, though.
Forrestal was admitted to the hospital on April 2, 1949. He went out the completely insecure window of a kitchen across the hall from his room some seven weeks later on May 22.
Indications are that the press was largely quiet about Forrestal during the period of his confinement, with the exception of that Drew Pearson “Russians-are-coming” slander, which occurred a week after the hospital admission, although we do have this from Charles Higham in his book, Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949:
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.
John Loftus and Mark Aarons with Higham given as the source also repeat that last sentence in The Secret War against the Jews. Higham has no source and it is quite possible that he made it up. Certainly, Forrestal had no such screaming fit or anything like it at Bethesda. Higham is also flat wrong, even according to the mainstream script, to say that Forrestal was “suffering from advanced paranoid schizophrenia.” He might have gotten the paranoia part from Zionist Arnold Rogow’s psychological autopsy entitled James Forrestal, a Study of Personality, Politics, and Policy, but the advanced schizophrenia part is made from whole cloth. On the other hand, from what we have seen of the press that Forrestal was getting at the time, it is possible that something like it might have gone out in some news organ somewhere. If so, it is more likely to have been on Drew Pearson’s Sunday night broadcast than in print.
The press credulity about Forrestal’s “suicide” was, if anything, even greater than in Foster’s. On its face, there was more that should have piqued their skepticism. There was a belt of a bathrobe around his neck. What was it doing there? Does anyone really believe that a person would try to hang himself out a 16th floor window? Could he have really been so addled that he would not realize that the leap itself would be quite sufficient to kill him? Yet, from the very first reports, they didn’t even bother to put the “apparent” in front of “suicide” as they did in the Foster case. It looked like he was trying to hang himself out of the window, they said with a straight face, and the biographers and historians have duly repeated the absurdity ever since.
In the subsequent days they might have had a little more excuse to call it a suicide when Admiral Morton Willcutts, the head of the National Naval Medical Center, Admiral Leslie Stone, the officer in charge of Bethesda Naval Hospital, Montgomery County Coroner Frank Brochart, and Captain Raines all publicly proclaimed that it was a suicide. No one in the press at the time asked on what basis they had made such a determination. Might he not have been already dead or rendered unconscious before he went out the window? Had there been any sort of police investigation?
The Touted Poem
Instead of asking such questions, the newspapers seized upon a morbid poem by Sophocles that he was said to have been reading just before he left his room, a few minutes before 2:00 am.
Here is the headline and the first two sentences of the New York Times announcement of Forrestal’s death on Monday, May 23:
Forrestal Killed in 13 Story Leap
Nation is Shocked
He Was a War Casualty as If He Died at Front, President Declares
Copied a Poem on Death
Had Seemed to Be Improving in the Naval Hospital–Admiral Orders Inquiry
Washington May 22 - James Forrestal, former Secretary of Defense, jumped thirteen stories to his death early this morning from the sixteenth floor of the Naval Medical Center.
Suicide had apparently been planned from early evening. He declined his usual sleeping pill about 1:45 this morning. A book of poetry beside his bed was opened to a passage from the Greek tragedian, Sophocles, telling of the comfort of death.
It continues later:
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.
That New York Times report had to have been in a later edition of the paper that day because, a few paragraphs down, it also had this passage: “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.”
The early editions of the newspapers only said that a book containing the poem was found in his room open to that page. Other newspapers besides The Times reported that the copying stopped in the middle of the word “nightingale,” and later writers like the aforementioned John Loftus and Hoopes and Brinkley would make a big to-do about that. It seems that that had been the code name of a clandestine operation by the U.S. government that used former Nazi sympathizing Ukrainians to spy upon and commit sabotage against the Soviet Union. These authors speculate, improbable as it may sound, that Forrestal must have suddenly been overcome with guilt by the word association with this terrible thing with which he had been associated so he stopped what he was doing and rushed out and killed himself. (Well, he didn’t exactly rush, according to the received truth. He took the time to fashion a hangman’s rope with his belt tied around his neck and then to the kitchen radiator.)
Other reports stressed lines copied from the poem that suggest a more obvious motive for suicide, bleak despair. This is from The Washington Post of the same day:
From a book of verse found lying open on a radiator beside his bed he had copied several verses of Sophocles’ “Chorus from Ajax.” In firm and legible handwriting these lines stood out:
“When Reason’s day sets rayless–joyless–quenched in cold decay, better to die, and sleep the never-ending sleep than linger on, and dare to live, when the soul’s life is gone.”
At this point, The Post had gone a bit overboard in selling the suicide story. Elsewhere in the same newspaper, the entire poem is reproduced with the part that they said Forrestal transcribed in italics. The italicized lines stop in the middle of the word “nightingale,” which is several lines before those that they say stood out “in firm and legible handwriting.”
This whole episode is very much like the torn-up memo to himself that the authorities belatedly told us they had found in Vince Foster’s briefcase (all of whose contents had been removed previously with the briefcase then shown to be empty with no such note seen). In each case, the public was meant to be distracted from the fact that there was no actual suicide note. In its place both times a substitute was presented that was intended to reveal the victim’s unhappy state of mind, which, by a bit of a stretch the press interpreted as suicidal.
Unlike with the torn-up note in the Foster case, though, the story of the verses from “Chorus from Ajax” didn’t originate with anyone in the government. The newspaper accounts at the time never cite anyone; they just say that the book and the transcription were “found.” They don’t say who found them and they don’t say who told the newspapers that they had been found.
In a 2004 eulogy to United Press Washington correspondent Ruth Gmeiner, The Washington Post would apparently answer the question as to who found the book, but would really only deepen the mystery by writing that “Gmeiner sweet-talked her way into the 16th-floor room of former secretary of defense James V. Forrestal” and found the fateful book open to the fateful poem, the significance of which, The Post said, her editor quickly recognized after she had spirited it away from the crime scene, apparently unbeknownst to investigators.
Her surviving son, who was the source of the information for The Post, told me by phone that he was simply relating family lore. I then asked him what he knew of the transcription, and he told me that he had never heard of any transcription. (His father was the UP editor, who later left his wife for Gmeiner á la Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn.) The thoroughly incredible story is related in more detail in Part 2 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?”
Back to the aftermath of the Forrestal death, the execrable Drew Pearson quickly weighed in on his Sunday evening broadcast with the claim that Forrestal had made four previous suicide attempts, three at Hobe Sound and the last at the hospital. The claims were completely without foundation. No one has ever produced any evidence to support them, but even today they persist as “several prior attempts at suicide” on the Arlington National Cemetery web site.
The Review Board Convenes, Report Delayed
On Tuesday, May 24, the newspapers announced that Admiral Willcutts had appointed a review board to look into the tragic incident. Here is how The New York Times reported it:
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.
Notice that the newspaper was saying that Forrestal had “jumped” only a day after it had reported on the belt around his neck and had speculated that he had tried to hang himself outside the window. The belt would have had to have been very long, indeed, for Forrestal to have performed any sort of jumping maneuver.
The board had completed its work on May 30, but then it proceeded to sit on it. By the time it released to the public a short summary of its findings on October 11, the incident was old news. In the editorial wisdom of The New York Times, it merited only a small item in the back pages of the front section on Oct. 12. It is a classic example of the American press at its very worst, so I repeat it in its entirety from Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?”
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.
What had been a “jump” in the newspaper back in May was now a “leap” in the heading of the Gray Lady’s buried-away article and was once again a “jump” in its summing up paragraph. Please notice, though, that the review board describes Forrestal’s descent from the window very carefully as simply a “fall.” That leaves completely open the question of what might have precipitated the fall. With so much time to prepare its release, the board, one can be quite certain, did not leave the question open as a matter of inadvertence.
Clearly, they realized at some point that they lacked anything like persuasive evidence that Forrestal had propelled himself out of that window, so they made no such determination. That was left up to the press, and that’s what the press did, hoping no one would notice. Maybe lots of people noticed, but we have to depend upon the press to tell us that, too, so we’ll never know.
What we do know is that it is wrong to say that “officially” Forrestal committed suicide. In effect, then, the Forrestal equivalent of the Warren Commission on his death, the Willcutts Review Board, did not come to that conclusion. It concluded only that he died from a fall and that the Navy wasn’t to blame. In his 2009 volume 1 of Zionism, the Real Enemy of the Jews, entitled The False Messiah, erstwhile British journalist Alan Hart summed up the amazing state of affairs this way, “In other words, the notion that Forrestal committed suicide was a media assertion—a Zionist-driven assertion?—and nothing else.”
He somewhat overstates the case because, as we have seen, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy government officials did say flatly that Forrestal had committed suicide, but without any real basis to do so. Rather than pointing that fact out, the press did everything in its power to sell the suicide story. Hart would have been completely accurate had he replaced “and nothing else” with “in the final analysis.”
As bad as the fact that what the review board called a fall, it called a leap and a jump, is that The Times now made no mention of the belt that was around Forrestal’s neck. The board’s summary conclusion ignored it, so the newspaper did, too. The board said nothing about releasing any of the supporting evidence behind its findings, including the testimony of witnesses, and America’s great free press, led by The Times, just shut up about it. They remain shut up about it to this day.
Imagine if the Warren Commission had only released a five-sentence summary of its findings. That’s what we were presented with in the Forrestal death case, and for America’s press, and for the country’s officialdom, that was just fine. No clamor was raised for release of the Willcutts Report in any quarter, to this writer’s knowledge, and the subject was simply allowed to die.
So dead was the subject, in fact, that when Hoopes and Brinkley produced their comprehensive, highly acclaimed, and generally praiseworthy biography of Forrestal they completely omitted any mention of any official inquiry into his death. In their chapter on Forrestal’s death they relied primarily on the 1963 book by Rogow and, what Rogow did not make up á la Drew Pearson, he got mainly from the inadequate press coverage of the day.
About all that Hoopes and Brinkley produced that was new on the Forrestal death came from a manuscript of an aborted book by Time magazine editor John Osborne. When I wrote my critique of the treatment of Forrestal’s death given by Driven Patriot, as part of Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal” in 2002, I had not located Osborne’s manuscript. In 2005 I learned that it was among the late Osborne’s papers at the Library of Congress. Reading the manuscript only partially between the lines, one can see why it never got to the publication stage. Osborne says that he interviewed “every person known to have been with Forrestal after his collapse and now alive and available..." and yet the only person he could cite who seemed to support the suicide thesis was the one Osborne source that Hoopes and Brinkley used, the Navy corpsman who had been on duty attending to Forrestal only up until two hours before the fatal fall.*
Osborne also found that the Bethesda doctor "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….”
I emailed Brinkley in August 2005 for his reaction to these findings and other much more important ones of mine (discussed later) that undermine the suicide thesis, and he is yet to respond.
Post Adds New Lie to Old One
After having pretty much blacked the subject out after its brief flurry in the days after Forrestal’s violent death, the press broke its silence with the lead story in The Washington Post’s Style section on May 23, 1999. Once again, that poem by Sophocles was brought to the forefront. “When America’s first secretary of defense dove from a 16th-floor window at Bethesda Naval Hospital precisely half a century ago, he left a poem, a mystery, and 50 years to understand what he’d been trying to tell us,” read the subtitle to the article. One really didn’t need to read much farther to get the message that the long article intended to convey.
As we note in our analysis in Part 3 of “Who Killed James Forrestal,” there was a Pravda-like shift in emphasis on what might have been the cause of Forrestal’s supposed poor mental and emotional state. The article mentions that Forrestal had made enemies, but then leaves the clear impression that those enemies were primarily within the government over the issue of military reorganization (yawn). His opposition to the creation of the state of Israel is mentioned in just one sentence and then the subject is changed so quickly that one could easily miss it. One would never have a clue that The Post had written back on May 23, 1949, in the wake of the death:
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.
The New York Times, in its first report on Forrestal’s death, had written, “He was widely denounced by persons who felt that he favored the Arabs over the Jews, and Mr. Forrestal was said to be particularly distressed by a statement that ‘he cared more for oil than he did for the Jews’,” but such things were now down the memory hole.
Upon careful reexamination of that 1999 Post article, we have found something else of considerable interest. The author Alexander Wooley, who was not a regular Post writer, gave a very detailed description of Forrestal’s 16th floor room at Bethesda:
For one who had lived in great wealth, his hospital room was simply furnished—a narrow bed, a straight-back chair, an Oriental carpet on the floor, a rotating fan on the wall by a closed window. Closed and locked. Three windows in the room, all securely locked.
Where did he get that? I may be wrong, but none of the newspapers published in the wake of Forrestal’s death had any photographs of Forrestal’s hospital room as I recall from my research. Wooley even has a detailed description of the kitchen across the hall from the room:
He went across the corridor to a small lab-like kitchen, with locked filing drawers, white tile walls, stainless steel and glass cabinets. There, above a radiator, an open window. He pulled out a screen, stepped onto the sill, leaped into the void.
Mr. Wooley certainly could not have researched the article by going over to Bethesda and checking out the rooms for himself. Everything would have changed. It was not preserved as a museum. But his descriptions are quite accurate. He only failed to note the second straight-back chair and an easy chair.
But how do I know? Check out the “Forrestal Crime Scene Photographs.” These are official photographs taken by John Edward McClain, “hospital corpsman chief, U.S. Navy.” It certainly looks like Wooley had them in front of him when he wrote his descriptions.
But how did he get them? They’re part of that long-suppressed Willcutts Report on Forrestal’s death. It wasn’t released until 2004, five years after Wooley wrote his piece.
Now you don’t think the government would conspire with friendly news media, sharing things with them that it keeps from the public in furtherance of a cover-up, do you? If not, check out the quotes from Michael Isikoff, Mike McAlary, and Dan E. Moldea, with which I begin “The Press and the Death of Vincent Foster.”
55-Year Secrecy Broken, Press Silent
But how did I manage to get those official photographs of the last room in which Forrestal was seen alive and the one from which he plunged to his death? It was something of a miracle. Twice, by mail, I had followed all the proper procedures for requesting of the Freedom of Information officer of the National Naval Medical Center a copy of the Willcutts Report. Twice, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires a response of some sort within twenty workdays, I was ignored. I was preparing to begin a FOIA lawsuit, but one night when surfing the Net I happened across the Judge Advocate General’s page for the Navy and found there a form for submitting a request electronically. It took me only a few minutes to fill it out, and within about a week I received a letter in the mail from the JAG office telling me that the report—yes, the one that had been kept secret for 55 years—would be on its way shortly. They were true to their word.
After I had analyzed it and was prepared to post the results of my analysis online, I shared it in CD form with some key organizations. My most gratifying response came from the repository of Forrestal’s documents, the Seeley Mudd Manuscript Library of Princeton University. It posted the entire report online and even sent out a press release announcing its new availability, giving me credit both on its site and in the release for having FOIAed the report out after more than a half century hidden away.
One can see pretty quickly from my analysis why the report had been kept secret, but for that one must know of its existence. At this point the press showed its full hand, that is to say, its complicity in the Forrestal destruction. The nation’s newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and television stations all ignored the press release. As far as they were concerned, there was no new information available on Forrestal’s death.
The most important new information, to my mind at the time, was in Part 2 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” In the Foster case, the press and the authorities stressed the lack of any obvious signs of a struggle as evidence that Foster had had no assailant and therefore must have killed himself. But in the Willcutts Report and the accompanying photographs, the signs of a struggle are the first thing that spring out at you. There was broken glass on Forrestal’s bed, as reported by the first person to see the vacated room with the lights turned out, and there was another chunk of broken glass on the carpet at the foot of the bed as one can see in one of the photographs.
Poem Transcription a Fake
As much time and care as I took with my analysis as reflected in Part 2, I had overlooked the most important discrepancy between what the Willcutts Report reveals and what the press told us about Forrestal’s death. Among the nurse’s notes that accompanied the witness testimony was a handwritten transcription of some lines from “Chorus from Ajax” by Sophocles. It is mentioned only once in all the testimony of witnesses that took place over several days, and that is when Captain Raines is asked if he can identify the clinical record set before him. He states that he can, that it is Forrestal’s nursing record. Then he volunteered the following: “The only portion I don’t recognize is this poem copied on brown paper. Is that the one he copied? It looks like his handwriting.”
Even if it were a forgery, I figured that it would be sufficiently expert to fool the average person. For his part, Capt. Raines was clearly just doing his part to embellish the suicide story. There is no reason to believe that he would have been the least bit qualified to render such a judgment. But I didn’t think that I would either, and if we should find an expert to tell us it was not Forrestal’s handwriting, the authorities, I figured, could find one who would declare that it was.
Nevertheless, a little after a month of posting my analysis of the Willcutts Report, I decided to see if there might be some obvious difference between the handwriting on the transcription and Forrestal’s. What I discovered shocked me. They could hardly be more different. Here is how I describe the differences in Part 3 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?”
The most obvious difference is that Forrestal writes his words and letters almost straight up and down, while the poem transcriber writes with a more conventional consistent lean to the right. Forrestal, on the other hand, is more conventional in how he writes his small r’s, making either a single hump or an almost imperceptible double peak, while the transcriber has a very distinctive exaggerated first peak in almost every one he makes. The transcriber is a very conventional “archer” in the manner in which he makes his small m’s and n’s. Forrestal, on the other hand, is a typical "swagger," sagging down between peaks, as opposed to rounding over arches.
Of all the things that the press is ignoring by covering up the 2004 release of the Willcutts Report, the fact that someone else wrote that celebrated “suicide-inspiring” transcription is probably the most important. That “someone else” would obviously be in league with the assassins.
A person reading the Willcutts Report uncritically might not readily see how it undermines the suicide thesis. Its purpose, after all, was to allay suspicions about the death. After compiling its testimony and writing its conclusions, the Navy went to the trouble of getting written endorsements of its work from prominent doctors. It was meant to be public. But at some point, someone came to the realization that it would not stand up to scrutiny, so they kept it secret.
Professor David Kaiser, Harvard educated historian teaching at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, who specializes in the mid-20th century, demonstrated that, when read superficially and uncritically, the Willcutts Report is not, prima facie, fatal to the suicide thesis. Here he responds, in a tone of condescension, to my email faulting him for ignoring the report in his online glorification of Drew Pearson along with his conclusion that Forrestal had, indeed, committed suicide:
I do not think, however, that there is much to be gained from our discussing the issue, since your interpretations are a bit too creative for me. Your email states that the report casts doubt on Forrestal’s suicide, but I can’t see that it did that in the slightest—the only doubt seemed to be about whether he purposely jumped out the window or was trying to hang himself.
I responded immediately as you see below. The full exchange is in Part 5 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” I guess he really did see nothing to be gained—at least for him—by discussing the matter further, because he never responded.
Dear Professor Kaiser,
May I take it, then, that with regard to whether or not Forrestal committed suicide, you consider of no consequence the revelations that:
1. the handwriting of the transcribed poem, which, for the press, served as his suicide note, does not resemble Forrestal's at all
2. that broken glass was on his bed and on the carpet at the foot of the bed
3. that Forrestal's room was not photographed until many hours after he was found dead and that when it was it did not resemble the room that the nurse who first got a good look at the vacated room described. The photos show a bed with nothing but a bare mattress and pillow on them, whereas Nurse Turner testified that, as one might expect, "The bed clothes were turned back and towards the middle of the bed and I looked down and [the slippers] were right there as you get out of bed." No slippers or any other sign that the room had been occupied are evident in the photographs, either.
4. that the influential biographer, Arnold Rogow, apparently fabricated the story that the guard saw Forrestal transcribing the morbid poem when he last looked in on him, because the guard testified that when he last looked in the room Forrestal was apparently sleeping and the lights had been off and Forrestal apparently did no reading or writing during the guard's time of duty which began at midnight
5. that the influential newspapers reporting on the death apparently fabricated the story that the transcription ended in the middle of the word "nightingale" or, depending on which article in The Washington Post you read, the transcription included the lines, “When Reason’s day sets rayless–joyless–quenched in cold decay, better to die, and sleep the never-ending sleep than linger on, and dare to live, when the soul’s life is gone.”
6. that the findings of the Willcutts Report were not issued until several months had passed and then, the findings did not include the conclusion that Forrestal had committed suicide
7. that photographs of Forrestal's body were first withheld from the FOIAed material on the grounds that they might disturb Forrestal's surviving loved ones, and when told that there were no surviving loved ones the Navy changed its story and claimed that they were lost
8. that the book from which Forrestal supposedly copied the damning poem does not appear in official evidence nor is the supposed discoverer of either the book or the transcription ever officially identified
9. that the Willcutts Report was kept secret for 55 years, when its whole purpose was to clear the air and establish the facts publicly concerning the nature of Forrestal's death?
In my haste I left off one of the biggest points. That is that the review board’s work was hardly a substitute for a proper investigation. One can see that quite clearly from reading my entire Part 2. The members of the board were a group of Navy doctors; they were not police investigators, not even military police. When the nurse Dorothy Turner described the deserted bed that she saw with the bedclothes half turned back, the board had in its possession the photographs taken by hospital corpsman McClain of a bed with a bare mattress, but they didn’t ask anyone about the contradiction.
They could also see that in one photograph there is a chair at the foot of the bed when it is not there in another photograph. Nothing is supposed to be moved at a suspected crime scene, but obviously things were. The members of the board showed no curiosity about that and lots of other things. Someone was in charge of the handling of the crime scene, but we never learn who that was and that key person was never questioned.
Perhaps there are still some things I have missed. The proprietor of the ARIWatch.com site who uses the pen name of “Mark Hunter” has put together a very useful searchable htm version of the Willcutts Report that includes some new insights in his introduction. He also has some commentary on the Nurse’s Notes, which I did not analyze in Part 2. Readers are invited to share with me anything they might find of significance that Mark or I might have overlooked.
Minor Break in Mainstream Silence
While the mainstream press has now ignored the Willcutts Report for a decade, a member of their community, Nicholas Thompson, a senior editor of The New Yorker, broke the silence in 2011 in his book The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. My analysis of his thoroughly dishonest, selective use of the report to support the old suicide-from-depression thesis makes up most of Part 6 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” As one might expect, he doesn’t begin to get close to any of the 10 points that I have raised above.
Most notably, Thompson furthers the propaganda line begun by The Washington Post with its 50th anniversary article. He completely fails to mention the opposition from the Zionists and from the press on account of Forrestal’s resistance to the creation of the state of Israel even as a possible cause of the supposed depression.
Thompson’s treatment of the Willcutts Report, for good or ill, seems to have had no effect whatever on America’s opinion molding crowd. Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for biography for his own book about Kennan, and the Thompson book is in his bibliography. Gaddis makes the usual claims about Forrestal’s “suicide,” but in my exchange with him when he was on his book promotion tour, he claimed total ignorance of the Willcutts Report and its public availability. With the press blackout of the matter, he can get by with such a claim, however unlikely it might be. One can read about our exchange here.
Thompson the journalist and Gaddis the academic historian are at the pinnacle of their respective professions. It is hardly a coincidence that they should purvey the big lie about Forrestal’s death.
Erstwhile Journalists, Others, Carry the Ball
Alison Weir and Alan Hart can best be described as “former professional journalists” and Lyndon B. Johnson biographer, Phillip F. Nelson, is a retired businessman from the insurance profession. It is also hardly a coincidence that these authors, along with UFO specialist Michael Salla, are the only people, to my knowledge, who have made any mention of my discoveries concerning Forrestal’s death in any published book. Weir, Hart, and Nelson , swimming against the establishment’s propaganda current, like the present writer see a very strong connection between Forrestal’s anti-Zionist stance and his likely assassination. My review of Weir’s Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel is here, my review of Hart’s Volume I of Zionism, the Real Enemy of the Jews entitled The False Messiah is here, and my review of Nelson’s LBJ, from Mastermind to “The Colossus” is forthcoming. Salla’s book is entitled Kennedy’s Last Stand: Eisenhower, UFOs, MJ-12,& JFK’s Assassination. I mention it somewhat dismissively in my article “James Forrestal and John Kennedy.”
The subtitle of Part 6, with parenthetical explanation, is “The Mendocracy (Regime of Lies) Versus the [Honest] Citizenry.” Weir, Hart, and Nelson can be placed in the latter category. There is little doubt as to where Kaiser, Thompson, and Gaddis belong.
* I was able only to locate Forrestal’s Navy driver, John Spalding, and took part in the interview session related by Hugh Turley here. Spalding greatly admired Forrestal, being most impressed with his down-to-earth nature and frankness in dealing with him. He said that Admiral Monroe Kelly called him in on the day Forrestal died and gave him his choice of bases out of the country to which he was to be transferred immediately. He was also made to sign a paper saying that he would never talk to anyone about Forrestal.
November 11, 2014