Robert McNamara

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LBJ and Robert Mcnamara at the Johnson Ranch.[1]

Robert McNamara (1916-2009) was a businessman and the Secretary of Defense for U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and was largely responsible for mishandling the Vietnam war.[2][3] He resigned when it became clear that his strategy for the war was not working and went on to lead the World Bank. McNamara later admitted his strategy was incorrect.

Born in San Francisco, McNamara attended the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University. After serving in World War II McNamara joined Ford Motor Company, which he would eventually lead. He is credited with overseeing the design and production of its very successful Ford Falcon (1961), which was an affordable, plain-looking vehicle having terrific gas mileage a decade before that became an issue. The Falcon sold more than 1.5 million vehicles in merely its first two years,[4] but critics complained that it was a "granny" car designed by a guy who wears "granny" glasses (McNamara).

After a successful stint at Ford, President John F. Kennedy appointed him Secretary of Defense. McNamara was one of the leading architects of the successful solution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. But he was also one of the leading architects of the ill-fated Vietnam War, right down to the efforts to intentionally mislead Congress about the Gulf of Tonkin incident.[1] His strategy in Vietnam of wearing down the North Vietnamese with heavy losses proved ineffective. McNamara later said that the strategy he had employed was based on the faulty notion that the Vietnam War was not a Civil War but a global conflict. He was also an early supporter of the space program.

After his tenure at the Defense Department, he became the President of the World Bank, where he promoted programs to fight hunger. He published his memoirs in 1995. McNamara died in 1993, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He also selected the site for John F. Kennedy's grave at Arlington, on the request of Kennedy's widow Jackie Kennedy.


  1. Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam – May 8, 1998 by H. R. McMaster.