James Vincent Forrestal (February 1892 – May 1949) was a strong supporter of naval battle groups centered on aircraft carriers.
In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated Forrestal for the newly established position of Undersecretary of the Navy.
For ~ four years as undersecretary, Forrestal proved highly effective at mobilizing domestic industrial production for the war effort.
During WWII Forrestal toured battle sites in the Pacific and Europe. Four days after the invasion of Iwo Jima he was onshore watching the Marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi.
In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Forrestal the first United States Secretary of Defense.
In 1949, frustrated with Forrestal’s opposition to the partition of Palestine and to his military economization policies, as well as concern about his mental condition, Truman asked Forrestal to resign.
Diagnosed with severe depression of the type “seen in operational fatigue during the war,” Forrestal entered psychiatric treatment at the National Naval Medical Center (now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) in Bethesda Maryland.
in the early morning of May 22, 1949 his body, clad only in pajama bottoms, was found on a third-floor roof below his sixteenth-floor hospital room.
Forrestal allegedly left a written statement (touted in the press as a suicide note) that was part of a poem from Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax.
Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar,
Wander around thee yet,
And sailors gaze upon thy shore
Firm in the Ocean set.
Thy son is in a foreign clime
Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,
Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,
Worn by the waste of time–
Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save
In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….
Woe to the mother in her close of day,
Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,
When she shall hear
Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!
“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–
No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail
Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–