Mysterious Universe

Within the field of Ufology there are longstanding and highly controversial rumors that the May 22, 1949 death of James Forrestal – the first U.S. Secretary of Defense – was linked to the UFO phenomenon. So the story goes, while suffering from severe depression and anxiety, and ultimately spiraling into a complete nervous breakdown (as a result of his exposure to what the U.S. Government knew about UFOs), Forrestal was on the verge of revealing his knowledge of an alien presence on Earth. The theory continues that powerful figures decided such a thing simply could not be allowed to occur. The result was that Forrestal had to go. And “go,” he certainly did: out of a window. In the early hours of May 22, Forrestal plunged to his death from the 16th floor of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The big question is: was he pushed or did he jump?

Of course, there’s no hard proof in the public domain that Forrestal was briefed on the more sensational and top secret aspects of the UFO phenomenon. Although, logic dictates that he would have been briefed (at least to some degree), since he accepted the position of Secretary of Defense in 1947 – the year in which the flying saucer was “born” and when the military was indeed taking the mysterious matter very seriously. Even outside of Ufology, there are suspicions that Forrestal’s death was no suicide.

The reason why I mention all of this is because in the last couple of days the FBI has declassified a file on Forrestal which runs to close to 300 pages. I should stress that for the most part the file is focused on bureaucratic issues. That’s not to say there aren’t any interesting and intriguing entries in the file. There certainly are. You can find the file at this link. If you scroll down the file to the latter part, you’ll see the more intriguing information. One section of the file concerns Forrestal’s worries that his phone was being tapped. It was an issue brought to the personal attention of the FBI’s Director, J. Edgar Hoover.

J. Edgar Hoover

A March 28, 1949 FBI document states: “There was a party at the White House this afternoon for Mr. Forrestal and during the afternoon he remarked to [deleted] that he suspects that his phones are being tapped and asked to whom he should speak about this. [Deleted] told him Mr. Hoover was the one to talk about it and told Mr. Forrestal he would be glad to call for him. He said no, he would call Mr. Hoover himself.”

Two days later, Hoover wrote to Forrestal the following: “Dear Jim, I wanted to let you know that we have completed the check of the telephone lines and instruments in your residence and that all were found to be clear. It was a pleasure to be of this assistance to you.” Of course, most of Forrestal’s concerns about phone-tapping were very likely provoked by his increasing paranoid state. I see such paranoia time and time again in Ufology. A strange noise on the phone indicates that “they” are listening. A text that fails to arrive on time is a sign that the Men in Black are playing sinister games. And so on.

James V. Forrestal

Certainly, the most bizarre – but also intriguing – entry in the file is a letter sent to the FBI on March 9, 1952. The name of the letter-writer is deleted. The letter reads as follows: “On the Brundidge Ryan Crime Report (which is [a] television show out New York) a [deleted] said he thought and would be able to prove in the near future that James V. Forrestal was driven to insanity by placing two grams of opium and two grams of some other narcotic in his coffee each day for two weeks. He said this would drive any man into wanting suicide. I wrote [deleted] but have as yet received no answer. Would you please tell me if there is any doubt that Forrestal committed suicide naturally? I would also like to know if taking those narcotics for the prescribed length of time would cause said reaction? Pleas send the reply to the above address.”

On March 18, the FBI replied to the letter-writer, informing him or her that the letter to the FBI had been forwarded on to the Bureau of Narcotics. Those with a particular interest in all of this might wish to file a FOIA request to try and determine what the Bureau of Narcotics had to say about all of this. The file also contains a number of notable documents, including (A) J. Edgar Hoover’s congratulatory letter to Forrestal when, in 1949, he – Forrestal – took on the position of Secretary of Defense; and (B) the official notification to the FBI of Forrestal’s death. And, for those who follow the Forrestal controversy, there are enough leads and threads to keep you going for a while.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.