Serving the First Five Secretaries of Defense

(Ashburn, Va.) - Ashby Ponds resident Bill Vitale recently shared experiences from his remarkable career with his friends and neighbors at the Ashburn retirement community.  He spent more than 40 years working for the U.S. Government; the first five with the first Secretaries of Defense in the country’s history.  Vitale’s experiences provided him the opportunity to meet Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, among others. 

From 1948-1953, Vitale served as an Air Force Enlisted Administrative Aide for the first five Secretaries of Defense: Forrestal, Johnson, Marshall, Lovett, and Wilson.  When interviewing for the position, a senior staffer asked him how he had arrived for the interview without a wrinkle in his uniform. “I told the man I had chosen not to sit down on the bus that took me to the Pentagon. I guess he liked that answer because I got the job,” said Vitale. He was only 20 years old.

During his presentation at Ashby Ponds, Vitale displayed a flag that once flew on the limousine of General George Marshall, the third Secretary of Defense, along with personalized, autographed photos of all five Secretaries for which he served.  While working with General Marshall, he recalls carrying and delivering the order relieving General Douglas MacArthur of his duties as General of the Army in Korea, though it was unbeknownst to him at the time.

Later in his career, Vitale spent several years in the FAA’s office of the administrator and ultimately became responsible for the supervision of both Washington Dulles and Washington National Airports.  In 1979, he was appointed director, office of airport standards, and oversaw the creation of hundreds of FAA standards.  In one last career move, he was appointed executive secretary of the Department of Energy and served there for nine years before retiring in 1989. 

Formerly residents of Fairfax, Bill and his wife now live at Ashby Ponds retirement community.  He is in the midst of writing and compiling his stories and experiences for an autobiography. 

About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 18 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia (approximately 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.).  The community is home to over 850 residents and has over 120 resident-run and resident-driven clubs and groups, an indoor pool, a fitness club, transportation services, 24-hour security, and flexible dining options. More information about Ashby Ponds can be found at www.ericksonliving.com.