McNamara, Robert Strange

McNamara, Robert Strange

(măk`nəmâr'ə), 1916–2009, U.S. secretary of defense (1961–68), b. San Francisco, grad Univ. of California, Berkeley (B.A., 1937), Harvard (M.B.A., 1939). He taught (1940–43) business administration at Harvard, served in World War II, and was (1946–60) an executive of the Ford Motor Company, where he was responsible for many of the managerial and product changes that enabled the company to regain its high rank among the nation's corporations. In Nov., 1960, he became the first president of the corporation who was not a member of the Ford family, but he resigned shortly afterward to become (Jan., 1961) President KennedyKennedy, John Fitzgerald,
1917–63, 35th President of the United States (1961–63), b. Brookline, Mass.; son of Joseph P. Kennedy. Early Life

While an undergraduate at Harvard (1936–40) he served briefly in London as secretary to his father, who was
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's secretary of defense. After Kennedy's assassination (1963), he continued in the office under President Lyndon JohnsonJohnson, Lyndon Baines,
1908–73, 36th President of the United States (1963–69), b. near Stonewall, Tex. Early Life

Born into a farm family, he graduated (1930) from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State Univ.), in San Marcos.
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Analytical and cerebral in his approach, McNamara introduced modern management techniques in the Defense Dept. and asserted civilian control over the defense establishment. He also shifted U.S. military strategy away from heavy reliance on nuclear weaponry and strengthened conventional fighting capacity. He was a strong advocate for the escalation of the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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, was widely considered the conflict's primary architect, and came to personify the war for much of the American public. However, his growing doubts about the war eventually forced McNamara to resign from the cabinet. From 1968 to 1981 he was president of the World Bank, where he dedicated himself to the amelioration of global poverty. He wrote The Essence of Security (1968), One Hundred Countries, Two Billion People (1973), the controversial In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (1995), and Argument without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (1999). Despite his many other achievements, McNamara is nearly exclusively remembered—and continues to be widely vilified—for his fateful role in the Vietnam War.


See biography by D. Shapley (1988); studies by D. Halberstam (1993), P. Hendrickson (1997), and J. G. Blight (2005); E. Morris, dir., The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (documentary film, 2003).

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