According to President Obama: "He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense...." Nope. According to the Navy:
James Vincent Forrestal was born on 15 February 1892, in Matteawan (now Beacon), New York....World War I interrupted his career in finance, however, and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class on 2 June 1917....President Harry S Truman selected Forrestal as the first secretary of defense.
So, Forrestal ran the Pentagon as the first Secretary of Defense (the Pentagon had been built during the Roosevelt administration). Forrestal's rank of "seaman" was one of the lowest enlisted ranks in the U.S. Navy. My Dad was one. (No jokes, please, about "Seaman Hyman" or about my own rank in the Army, which was "Private Hyman"!)
I don't have any position about the Hagel nomination, pro or con, though I share many of the concerns reported in the media. It's not encouraging that his former enlisted status is being puffed up in a historically false way. This is not to diminish Hagel's heroic military service one bit, or to suggest that he's the one who decided to sweep Forrestal under the rug.
Of course, the deep researchers and independent thinkers in the mainstream media have been exposing the truth to their usual degree:
Linda Feldmann, CS Monitor: Hagel "would be the first enlisted man, and the first Vietnam veteran, to head the Pentagon."
Mark Memmott, NPR: Hagel "would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon...."
Teresa Welsh, US News & World Report: "he would be the first enlisted man to serve as secretary of defense."
Blah, blah, blah.