Maureen Corrigan on a letter her father received from former Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal after he was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1945:
I’ve tried to find out what I can about this letter. It seems that it was sent, as it should have been, to all discharged sailors; the fountain pen signature on my dad’s letter is probably a facsimile of Forrestal’s handwriting, made with an “autopen.” If you go on ebay you’ll see this same “vintage” letter for sale, for as low as $14.99.
Also sad is James Forrestal’s own post WWII history: He became the first-ever Secretary of Defense under President Truman, but Truman later dismissed him in March of 1949. Suffering from depression, Forrestal committed suicide two months later by jumping from a window on the 16th floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital. Many conspiracy theorists still allege that Forrestal was murdered.
Here’s what I know for certain: I knowthat when my twenty-five-year-old father received this letter, it meant the world to him. I’ll bet that, in 1945, most other discharged sailors around the country felt the same way. I’ve asked a couple of friends who served in Vietnam whether they ever received a letter of gratitude and they say “No.”
Image of the letter courtesy of Maureen Corrigan