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 Advisor of President John F. Kennedy. He was seen as a pivotal figure in the changing of U.S. foreign policy, including recommending support for 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 assumed the presidency in November, 1963. The negative repercussions from the coup and the John F. Kennedy assassination, which occurred later in the month, led to Forrestal's retirement from government service in 1965. Speculation at the time suggested that he left the White House because of his decreasing influence in the administration of Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

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


Forrestal was born in New York City on November 26, 1927 to James Forrestal and Josephine Forrestal. His father served as Secretary of the Navy before becoming the first Secretary of Defense in 1947.[2]

In 1946 Michael Forrestal graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. He received a commission in the United States Navy, and was appointed an assistant naval attaché in Moscow under W. Averell Harriman, the Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He later served as secretary of the Quadripartite Naval Directorate, part of the post-World War II Allied Control Council that administered Berlin. From 1948 to 1950 he was deputy director of the East-West Trade Division of the U.S. European Cooperation Administration.

Forrestal attended Princeton University, and completed his law degree at Harvard Law School in 1953.[1] He practiced with the New York City firm of Shearman & Sterling, and became a partner in 1960.[1] By 1978 he had become the firm's senior partner.

From 1962 to 1965 Forrestal was a member of the senior staff of the National Security Council, where he specialized in Asian affairs and participated in the deliberations and decisions that led to increased U.S. military presence in Vietnam.

Forrestal was a longtime trustee of Phillips Exeter Academy and served as the board's president. In addition, he was a longtime patron of the Metropolitan Opera, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Association's executive committee.

Death and burial[edit]

Forrestal died in New York City on January 11, 1989. He suffered an aneurysm while chairing a meeting of the Lincoln Center board of trustees. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near the graves of his parents and his brother Peter. Michael Forrestal never married or had children.


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