Robert McNamara

Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara official portrait.jpg
8th United States Secretary of Defense
In office
January 21, 1961 – February 29, 1968[1]
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
DeputyRoswell Gilpatric
Cyrus Vance
Paul Nitze
Preceded byThomas Gates
Succeeded byClark Clifford
President of the World Bank Group
In office
April 1, 1968 – July 1, 1981
Preceded byGeorge Woods
Succeeded byTom Clausen
Personal details
Robert Strange McNamara

(1916-06-09)June 9, 1916
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 6, 2009(2009-07-06) (aged 93)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican (until 1978)[2]
Democratic (1978 onward)[2]
Margaret Craig
(m. 1940; died 1981)

Diana Masieri Byfield (m. 2004)
Children3 (including Craig)
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
Harvard University (MBA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceSeal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1940–1946
RankUS Army O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel
UnitUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg U.S. Army Air Forces

Robert Strange McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and the eighth United States Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He played a major role in escalating the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.[3] McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis.[4]

He was born in San Francisco, California, graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School and served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, Henry Ford II hired McNamara and a group of other Army Air Force veterans to work for Ford Motor Company. These "Whiz Kids" helped reform Ford with modern planning, organization, and management control systems. After briefly serving as Ford's president, McNamara accepted appointment as Secretary of Defense.

McNamara became a close adviser to Kennedy and advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy and McNamara instituted a Cold War defense strategy of flexible response, which anticipated the need for military responses short of massive retaliation. McNamara consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency. During the Kennedy administration, McNamara presided over a build-up of US soldiers in South Vietnam. After the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the number of US soldiers in Vietnam escalated dramatically. McNamara and other US policymakers feared that the fall of South Vietnam to a Communist regime would lead to the fall of other governments in the region. In October 1966, he launched Project 100,000, the lowering of army IQ standards which allowed 354,000 additional men to be recruited, despite criticism that they were not suited to working in high stress or dangerous environments.

McNamara grew increasingly skeptical of the efficacy of committing US soldiers to Vietnam. In 1968, he resigned as Secretary of Defense to become President of the World Bank. He remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense, having remained in office over seven years. He served as President of the World Bank until 1981, shifting the focus of the World Bank towards poverty reduction. After retiring, he served as a trustee of several organizations, including the California Institute of Technology and the Brookings Institution. In his later writings and interviews, he expressed regret for the decisions he made during the Vietnam War.

Early life and career

Robert McNamara was born in San Francisco, California.[3] His father was Robert James McNamara, sales manager of a wholesale shoe company, and his mother was Clara Nell (Strange) McNamara.[5][6][7] His father's family was Irish and, in about 1850, following the Great Irish Famine, had emigrated to the U.S., first to Massachusetts and later to California.[8] He graduated from Piedmont High School in Piedmont in 1933, where he was president of the Rigma Lions boys club[9] and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. McNamara attended the University of California, Berkeley and graduated in 1937 with a B.A. in economics with minors in mathematics and philosophy. He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity,[10] was elected to Phi Beta Kappa his sophomore year, and earned a varsity letter in crew. McNamara before commissioning into the Army Air Force, was a Cadet in the Golden Bear Battalion at U.C. Berkeley [11] McNamara was also a member of the UC Berkeley's Order of the Golden Bear which was a fellowship of students and leading faculty members formed to promote leadership within the student body. He then attended Harvard Business School, where he earned an M.B.A. in 1939.

Immediately thereafter, McNamara worked a year for the accounting firm Price Waterhouse in San Francisco. He returned to Harvard in August 1940 to teach accounting in the Business School and became the institution's highest paid and youngest assistant professor at that time.[12] Following his involvement there in a program to teach analytical approaches used in business to officers of the United States Army Air Forces, he entered the USAAF as a captain in early 1943, serving most of World War II with its Office of Statistical Control. One of his major responsibilities was the analysis of U.S. bombers' efficiency and effectiveness, especially the B-29 forces commanded by Major General Curtis LeMay in India, China, and the Mariana Islands.[13] McNamara established a statistical control unit for the XX Bomber Command and devised schedules for B-29s doubling as transports for carrying fuel and cargo over The Hump. He left active duty in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and with a Legion of Merit.

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