Michael Forrestal

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For the Canadian senator, see Michael Forrestall. For other subjects which involve Forrestal, see Forrestal.
Michael V. Forrestal
Born Michael Vincent Forrestal
November 26, 1927
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 11, 1989 (aged 61)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Government aide, legal adviser
Parent(s) James and Josephine Forrestal[1]

Michael Vincent Forrestal (November 26, 1927 – January 11, 1989) was one of the leading aides to McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser of President John F. Kennedy. He was seen as a pivotal figure in the changing of U.S. foreign policy, by which means he approved the coup d'état that deposed the first president of South Vietnam, Ngô Đình Diệm.

Following the arrest and assassination of Diệm, which was backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, General Dương Văn Minh was led to the incumbency of president of South Vietnam in November 1963. This event and the John F. Kennedy assassination, which occurred later in the month, led Forrestal to eventual retirement from government service in 1965—speculated to be because of his decreasing influence in the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who had replaced Kennedy in November 1963.

Other than his political life, Forrestal was a senior partner in Shearman & Sterling and a legal adviser to the state-owned Algerian oil company, Sonatrach during the 1970s. Forrestal also had roles in the National Security Council, the German-based Allied Control Council and the U.S.–USSR Trade and Economic Council, 1978–80.[1]

Early life[edit]

Forrestal was born November 26, 1927 in New York City to James Forrestal and Josephine Forrestal; his father later becoming the first United States secretary of defense of 1947, whose inauguration ceremony had taken place earlier than scheduled.[2]

At age 18, Michael Forrestal received a naval commission after graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, an independent boarding school in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1946. He later became President of the Board of Trustees of that institution; he remained in that position until his death. His naval commission meant he was appointed an assistant naval attaché in Moscow under Ambassador W. Averell Harriman. He later attended Princeton University for a brief period of time, before later going on to read law at Harvard University for four years until 1953.[1] This qualification enabled him to gain entrance into Shearman & Sterling, an international litigation and arbitrational body, becoming a partner seven years later in 1960.[1]

Political career[edit]

Forrestal had a reputation as a high-ranking mediator within the U.S.; he frequently served as an intermediary seeking to improve relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.[1]


Michael V. Forrestal died of a ruptured aneurysm, aged 61. He lived in Manhattan. He never married or had children.


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