The Assassination of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal with David Martin

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The Assassination of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal with David Martin
The Assassination of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal with David Martin

“The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”
~Sun Tzu

By Catherine Austin Fitts

This week, I discuss the assassination of James Forrestal with economist, researcher, and author David Martin. Martin just published the best work to date on Forrestal’s death: The Assassination of James Forrestal. Read my book review here.

James Forrestal rose from an entry-level position to serve as President of Dillon, Read & Co. Inc. on Wall Street. Forrestal was nominated to be Undersecretary of the Navy by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 where he led the national push for industrial mobilization during World War II. He was named Secretary of the Navy in May 1944 (then a cabinet-level position) and became the first Secretary of the newly created Defense Department under Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S. Truman, after the passage of the National Security Act in 1947.

After Truman’s reelection, Truman forced Forrestal to resign on March 28, 1949. Forrestal was then essentially placed under house arrest at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he was murdered in the early morning hours of May 22, 1949, shortly before his brother was expected to arrive to assist him in leaving the institution.

It was the National Security Act of 1947 that created the CIA—but the Agency’s powers were expanded dramatically a month after Forrestal’s assassination. The CIA Act of 1949 was passed by the House on March 7, 1949, by the Senate on May 27, 1949, reported and agreed to by the joint conference committee from June 2-7, and signed into law by President Truman on June 20, 1949. It authorized the CIA “to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures” and exempted it from many of the usual limitations on the use of federal funds. The Act (Section 6) also exempted the CIA from having to disclose its “organization, functions, officials, titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed.” And it created a program called “PL-110” to handle defectors and other “essential aliens” outside normal immigration procedures, as well as give those persons cover stories and economic support.

Forrestal’s death is a case study in fake news and the use of the media to kill a man’s name, making it easier to kill the man. If you look at the policies that Forrestal argued for—against the creation of the state of Israel and for greater transparency regarding the black budget—we would be living in a different world today if he had remained as the Secretary of Defense. Indeed, it is more than possible that there is a direct connection between Forrestal’s death, the deaths of a series of politicians over the following two decades—including Senator Joseph McCarthy, President John Kennedy, and Senator Robert Kennedy—and the steady rise of “secret monies for secret armies” and funds disappearing from the U.S. Treasury.

Truth matters. David Martin’s hard work and persistence have laid bare the dirty tricks used to protect Forrestal’s assassins, including the claim that Forrestal’s death was a suicide. Using primarily information provided in the Navy’s official investigation, which had been kept secret for 55 years until he obtained it through the Freedom of Information Act in 2004, Martin demolishes the notion that Forrestal’s fall from a 16th-floor window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital was an act of suicide. Martin has spent years interviewing and accessing the detailed accounts of numerous parties in and around Forrestal in the months before he was killed. As I read Martin’s book, I was inspired by the miracles that occur when one good man keeps digging and never gives up.

You can learn more about Dave’s work at

This week in Let’s Go to the Movies, check out the news clip of Forrestal on the day he resigned as Secretary of Defense that Martin refers to in our discussion:

Forestal Out - Johnson In (1949)
Forestal Out - Johnson In (1949)

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Get the Book:

The Assassination of James Forrestal by David Martin

Related Reading:

Wall Street Lessons: Dillon Read’s James Forrestal