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Who killed James Forrestal

Daughter of Key Witness Surfaces

David Martin

October 11, 2017


I received the following email message on September 26, 2017:


I started reading your article on the Forrestal death.   I got to the part about Edward Prise's story being irrelevant.   He was my father and I can tell you he lived in fear of something happening because of information he knew about the case.   We grew up hearing whispers between our parents in reference to this matter but were not allowed to ask for details.   Even up until a year prior to my father's death in 1991 he had called me and was in fear that he was going to be questioned again about the issue.   It might have been irrelevant to you but it was not irrelevant to my family, it was always a shadow in our lives.


This very brief communication is probably a good deal more revealing than the sender realized. Edward William Prise was the Navy hospital apprentice who attended former Secretary of Defense James Forrestal on the 16th floor of the Bethesda Naval Hospital during one of three eight-hour shifts. His shift was from four PM until midnight. Forrestal went out the window of the kitchen across the hall from his room shortly before two AM, May 22, 1949, during the shift of the person who had relieved Prise, hospital apprentice Robert Wayne Harrison. Most important, Prise had been on the job from the beginning of Forrestal’s almost seven-week confinement and would have had a very good idea of everything that was going on. Harrison had only started the job the night before.


If the story we are asked to believe by the press and the court historians, that Forrestal committed suicide by attempting to hang himself outside that window but ended up dying otherwise when the bathrobe sash he was using for a noose somehow “gave way” is true, then why would Prise have lived in fear for the rest of his life because of things that he knew? In fact, if one were to believe the 1992 account of Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley in Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, Prise should have been among the least likely to have anything to fear. After all, they cite him as their most important witness in support of the suicide story, the guy who, from his observations of Forrestal during his fateful last shift, just knew in his gut that Forrestal had killed himself.


You can read their account and why I call it “irrelevant” early in part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” The really important witnesses, I reasoned, would have been the people on the job at the time Forrestal went out the window, almost two hours after Prise had gone off duty, not Prise. What they had to say would have been in the hearings of the review board convened by the head of the National Naval Medical Center, Admiral Morton C. Willcutts. Not only do Hoopes and Brinkley fail to give us the accounts of those witnesses, they don’t tell us that there was any such review board, and, what is even worse, by not telling us about any such board they don’t tell us that the board’s work had very suspiciously been kept secret.


As it has turned out, I was wrong to think that Prise was an insignificant witness. He must have been very significant, indeed, but we are, unfortunately, unlikely ever to learn what he knew that was so important. His importance is exhibited by the great efforts that our thoroughly corrupt press and the Navy authorities made to prevent the public from knowing that he even existed. The press at the time never mentioned his name, and they even went so far as to lie about when Harrison’s shift began, saying that it started at nine PM instead of midnight. Who would have cared about the observations of someone who had been gone from the premises for almost five hours? They also failed to tell us that Harrison, unlike Prise, was new to the job. In 2014 I wrote an article describing the press participation in the cover-up entitled “The Forrestal Murder and the News Media” without mentioning this telling bit of legerdemain on their part. One may now add it to the list of charges against them.


The biggest indicator of how important Prise must have been is to be found in part 2 of “Who Killed James Forrestal?” in my analysis of Prise’s testimony before the Willcutts Review Board, which I was able to obtain with my third Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We see there, for starters, that his testimony contradicts what Hoopes and Brinkley say about his experience. He does describe Forrestal pacing the floor, but he made little of it, and he makes no mention of Forrestal declining a sleep inducing sedative because he was planning to stay up late and read.


The most revealing thing of all, by far, though, is that the Willcutts Report spells his last name as “Price.” The misspelling, as I explain in my analysis, is obviously intentional. The preparers of the report did not anticipate that they would be able to keep it secret for 55 years, and just like their co-conspirators in the news media, they didn’t want to take the chance that an independent truth seeker might track down this person who might give them the straight scoop as to what really happened to Forrestal.


So why would Hoopes and Brinkley finally let the cat out of the bag in 1992 about the existence of Navy hospital apprentice Edward William Prise, James Forrestal’s closest confidante during his forced confinement on the 16th floor of the main tower of the Bethesda Naval Hospital? That brings us to the second major revelation in Prise’s daughter’s letter. In 1991 Prise, she tells us, was “in fear that he was going to be questioned again about the issue.” And who, dear reader, was working on a book about Forrestal’s life and death at that time, likely talking to anyone they could find? Prise died in that same year. Hoopes and Brinkley could then put any words in his mouth that they wanted without fear of being contradicted.


Townsend Hoopes, like the two people who greeted Forrestal when he arrived at the airport near Hobe Sound, Florida, before being shipped up to the hospital at Bethesda, Robert Lovett and Artemus Gates, was a member of Skull and Bones at Yale University. Hoopes died in 2004.


Douglas Brinkley was only 31 years old when, as a professor at Hofstra University, he collaborated with Hoopes on their Forrestal biography. He has since gone on to a quite successful career and is very much in demand by the mainstream media for his historical insights. One might say that Hoopes helped him to make his bones with their collaboration on the Forrestal biography. Brinkley is now a professor of history at Rice University. If you have any questions for him related to this article, or perhaps to some still unanswered questions that I put to him previously about Edward Prise, you can reach him at

David Martin

October 11, 2017




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