November 28, 2019
How stealing a US Marine trophy lead to the downfall of a politician
If you saw the movie Flags of Our Fathers, you will know that the Sec.
of the Navy James Forrestal, while on a ship near Iwo Jima, demanded the
Marines hand over to him the first US flag raised on Mt. Suribachi. The
movie is fairly accurate because it comes from a book by an historian
who is the son of one of the flag raisers. Forrestal
got the flag so the Marines had to raise a second flag which is the one
that is in the famous photo of five Marines and one Navy Corpsman
raising the flag. So Forrestal already had the value of his first flag
lessened as it wasn't nearly as famous as the second flag raised and
photographed and whose image was placed in newspapers worldwide. But
Forrestal's problems didn't end there. By the way, both flags today, as
Brett may well know, reside in the US Marine Museum in Quantico,
James Forrestal was very helpful to the wording of the surrender terms of
Japan, indicating that the Japanese military should surrender but the
Emperor would not surrender his position in his central role in Japanese
culture and society. A few years later, Forrestal became the first Sec.
of Defense under Truman in 1947 (before then, the office was called
Secretary of War). But he had differences with Pres. Truman. With the
1948 Presidential election coming up, the Republican Thomas Dewey was
considered a "sure thing" to defeat Truman. But a major investigative
journalist and radio commentator named Drew Pearson, famous in earlier
years, uncovered that Forrestal was secretly negotiating with Gov. Dewey
to become his Sec. of Defense. An angry Harry Truman quickly fired
Forrestal and when Truman won the 1948 election in a major upset,
Forrestal had lost all his future job prospects with both parties. Why
didn't Forrestal wait until a day after the 1948 election to see if he
should be contacting Gov. Dewey? Who knows. But here is where the story
gets even worse for Forrestal.
James Forrestal got depressed after losing his job and was treated by
well known doctors. And then he was sent to the tall Naval hospital
building in Bethesda, Maryland, a building that is now the central part
of the recently moved Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They
put Forrestal on the 16th floor, a bad place for a very depressed
patient because they could possibly find it a tempting and convenient
location to jump from. This was built before central air conditioning was invented, so all the windows could be opened. I don't know what was the cause of what next
happened but the fact is that Forrestal went out a 16th floor window and
died. He also left behind a weirdly nerdy academic suicide note which
was a translation of a poem about the suicide of the hero Ajax, a major
figure from Homer's classic book The Iliad (concerning the Trojan War).
This sounds a little too artsy for me to believe it was a actual
suicide note that Forrestal wrote himself, even though he had an Ivy
League education. And I can't prove if this event was a suicide or not. I
just have my doubts.
Forrestal had many enemies in government and he knew
quite a bit of inside information for someone walking around as a
civilian with a grudge.
In 1955 they named the first super aircraft carrier the USS Forrestal.
It didn't have nuclear power but served for many years and was scrapped
There are morals to this story.
1-Don't steal major war trophies from the US Marines. It's bad karma.
2-As for Forrestal's fights and intrigues behind Pres.Truman's back that
blew up in his face, there is a saying: ""Whom the gods would destroy
they first make mad" (as in make crazy).
Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at
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Great story Dana! Glad you posted it.
Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at November 29, 2019 07:57 AM (CfS0g)
Jack posted it, Tim. I just encouraged him to do it. And we had some e-mail discussion about it.
Posted by: Dana Mathewson at November 29, 2019 04:15 PM (LVmqo)
Oops; sorry Jack! I actually knew that; was tired and had a slip-o-the-neuron.
Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at November 30, 2019 03:41 AM (Jjg4P)
Sounds like the latest designer cocktail. What's in it? More to the point, does AOC know how to mix it?
Posted by: Dana Mathewson at November 30, 2019 02:12 PM (LVmqo)
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