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James V. Forrestal. [left to right]James V. Forrestal and Captain Joy Bright Hancock. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Forrestal, James Vincent (15 February 1892–22 May 1949), secretary of the navy and first U.S. secretary of defense, was born in Matteawan, New York, the son of James Forrestal, a construction contractor, and Mary Ann Toohey, a schoolteacher. Raised in a small-town Irish-Catholic community, Forrestal attended Dartmouth College in 1911. In 1912 he transferred to Princeton University, where he developed social and business connections with the Protestant establishment. He withdrew before graduating with his class, possibly over a dispute with a professor. He held a number of sales jobs before a Princeton alumnus arranged for him to join the Wall Street investment firm of William A. Read and Company. The First World War interrupted Forrestal’s rising career as a bond salesman. During the war he served as a lieutenant junior grade in the Aviation Division of the newly created Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. In 1926 he married Josephine Ogden, a ...