Eberstadt and Forrestal: A National Security Partnership, 1909-1949

Eberstadt and Forrestal: A National Security Partnership, 1909-1949

Eberstadt and Forrestal: A National Security Partnership, 1909-1949

Eberstadt and Forrestal: A National Security Partnership, 1909-1949

Synopsis

Jeffery M. Dorwart is associate professor of history at Rutgers University and has written books on naval intelligence and on covert American involvement in the Sino-Japanese war.

Excerpt

Ferdinand Eberstadt and James Forrestal slipped into Washington nearly unnoticed among the hundreds of businessmen who assembled in 1940 to prepare the United States for war. These two wealthy investment bankers were intimate friends, and they moved quickly to the center of the war mobilization program and into the process of building institutional structures for national security. Over the next nine years, they became major architects of the modern American national security establishment.

Forrestal served between 1940 and 1949 as undersecretary and secretary of the navy and as the first secretary of defense. Eberstadt's official positions were more modest than those held by Forrestal but more enduring and instrumental in determining the shape of American national security institutions. During the second world war he became chairman of the Amy Navy Munitions Board (ANMB) and vice-chairman of the War Production Board (WPB). After the war, Eberstadt headed the Hoover Commission Task Force on National Security. More significantly, Eberstadt designed the Controlled Materials Plan, which rationalized the nation's war resources, and prepared a blueprint for military unification that became the National Security Act of 1947. The National Security Council, National Security Resources Board, Central Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense were his "offspring," he told Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967.

Eberstadt did not greatly exaggerate his contribution. His ideas and actions made him perhaps the single most important organizer of the American national security establishment. However, Eberstadt's accomplishments depended upon his close relationship with Forrestal. Without Forrestal, Eberstadt's impact would have been no greater than that of dozens of other management and organizational experts who held key mobilization and defense posts between 1940 and 1949. Forrestal's positions in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations gave Eberstadt immediate entree to power. Forrestal introduced his best friend to the top civilian and military commanders of the American war machine. He connected Eberstadt to Washington's most important political and congressional leaders. Through Forrestal, Eber stadt . . .

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