A biography of the founder of the U.S. national security system traces his life from his childhood in upstate New York to his military career
This engrossing biography recounts the life of one of twentieth-century America's most celebrated--though ultimately tragic--public figures, a man who mastered both Wall Street and Washington. James Forrestal was a brilliant financier and military organizer, and he was the first United States Secretary of Defense.Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley follow Forrestal through his Irish upbringing in upstate New York--he was the son of immigrants--through Princeton University to his success on Wall Street during the Roaring Twenties, to his Gatsbyan life of privilege on Long Island, to his pivotal role in rebuilding the obsolescent U.S. navy during World War II, to his career as the architect of the national security state, and, finally, to his collapse and suicide at the age of fifty-seven.The authors portray Forrestal's large and crucial role in American efforts to complete the military victory of World War II, restore a shattered postwar world, and confront the ominous new Soviet challenge. But they also describe the bitter interservice rivalry over the unification of the armed services, and how the savage attacks on Forrestal by columnists Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell, as well as rebellious navy and air force officers, led to his descent into paranoia and self-destruction. In the end he became prey to hallucinations and distressingly erratic conduct, and was relieved by President Truman from a job that had become his life support system. A few months later he jumped from a window of Bethesda Naval Hospital.Hoopes and Brinkley probe deeply into Forrestal's contradictory inner life--his unfortunate marriage to Josephine Ogden, an intelligent but troubled and willful alcoholic; his cynical attitude toward society and wealth, yet his eagerness to embrace all their trappings; his inability to deal with adversity; his complex, elusive personality, which made it impossible for him to truly love another human being. Interwoven through the text are vivid portraits of Forrestal's contemporaries: Franklin Roosevelt, Admiral Ernest King, Harry S. Truman, George Kennan, Stuart Symington, the bankers Clarence Dillon and Ferdinand Eberstadt.