Robert Strange McNamara 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.
151 Facts About Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense, having remained in office over seven years.
Robert McNamara played a major role in promoting the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.
Robert McNamara 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.
Robert McNamara became a close adviser to Kennedy and advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kennedy and Robert McNamara instituted a Cold War defense strategy of flexible response, which anticipated the need for military responses short of massive retaliation.
Robert McNamara consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency.
Robert McNamara grew increasingly skeptical of the efficacy of committing American troops to South Vietnam.
Robert McNamara served as President of the World Bank until 1981, shifting the focus of the World Bank from infrastructure and industrialization towards poverty reduction.
Robert McNamara's father was Robert James McNamara, sales manager of a wholesale shoe company, and his mother was Clara Nell McNamara.
Robert McNamara graduated from Piedmont High School in Piedmont, California in 1933, where he was president of the Rigma Lions boys club and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Robert McNamara was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his sophomore year, and earned a varsity letter in crew.
Robert McNamara was a member of the UC Berkeley's Order of the Golden Bear, a fellowship of students and leading faculty members formed to promote leadership within the student body.
Immediately thereafter, Robert McNamara worked a year at Price Waterhouse, a San Francisco accounting firm.
Robert McNamara 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.
Robert 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.
Robert McNamara left active duty in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and with a Legion of Merit.
In 1946, Tex Thornton, a colonel under whom Robert McNamara had served, put together a group of former officers from the Office of Statistical Control to go into business together.
Robert McNamara had Ford adopt computers to construct models to find the most efficient, rational means of production, which led to much rationalization.
Robert McNamara placed a high emphasis on safety: the Lifeguard options package introduced the seat belt and a dished steering wheel, which helped to prevent the driver from being impaled on the steering column during a collision.
On November 9,1960, McNamara became the first president of Ford Motor Company from outside the Ford family since John S Gray in 1906.
Robert McNamara had read Kennedy's ghostwritten book Profiles in Courage and asked him if he had really written it himself, with Kennedy insisting that he did.
Kennedy and Robert McNamara rejected massive retaliation for a posture of flexible response.
Robert McNamara was a strong proponent of the blockade option over a missile strike and helped persuade the Joint Chiefs of Staff to agree with the blockade option.
When Robert McNamara took over the Pentagon in 1961, the United States military relied on an all-out nuclear strike to respond to a Soviet attack of any kind, which would kill Soviet military forces and civilians.
Robert McNamara sought other options after seeing that this strategy could not guarantee the destruction of all Soviet nuclear weapons, thus leaving the United States vulnerable to retaliation.
Robert McNamara educated NATO members on the Cold War doctrine of deterrence.
Robert McNamara later concluded that counterforce was not likely to control escalation but to provoke retaliation.
Robert McNamara took other steps to increase US deterrence posture and military capabilities.
Robert McNamara directed Hitch to analyze defense requirements systematically and produce a long-term, program-oriented defense budget.
OSD sent the DPMs to the services and the Joint Chief of Staff for comment; in making decisions, Robert McNamara included in the DPM a statement of alternative approaches, force levels, and other factors.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff favored launching air strikes against the Soviet missile sites in Cuba, an opinion that Robert McNamara did not hold and advised Kennedy against the chiefs, warning that air strikes would almost certainly be crossing the Rubicon.
Robert McNamara's staff stressed systems analysis as an aid in decision making on weapon development and many other budget issues.
Robert McNamara directed the Air Force to adopt the Navy's F-4 Phantom and A-7 Corsair combat aircraft, a consolidation that was quite successful.
Robert McNamara tried to extend his success by merging development programs as well, resulting in the TFX dual service project to combine Navy requirements for a Fleet Air Defense aircraft and Air Force requirements for a tactical bomber.
Robert McNamara insisted on the General Dynamics entry over the DOD's preference for Boeing because of commonality issues.
In February 1961, Robert McNamara spoke in favor of intervention in Laos, saying that six AT-6 planes owned by the Central Intelligence Agency could be fitted to carry 200-pound bombs in support of General Phoumi Nosavan's forces.
Robert McNamara noted to Kennedy it was quite possible that the two airfields in Laos could be seized by the Communist forces, which would cut off any USforces in Laos, thus turning the intervention into a debacle.
In October 1961, when General Maxwell Taylor and Walt Whitman Rostow advised sending 8,000 American combat troops to South Vietnam, Robert McNamara rejected that recommendation as inadequate, stating that 8,000 troops would "probably not tip the scales decisively", instead recommending to Kennedy that he send 6 divisions to South Vietnam.
In 1962, McNamara supported a plan for mass spraying of the rice fields with herbicides in the Phu Yen mountains to starve the Viet Cong out, a plan that was only stopped when W Averell Harriman pointed out to Kennedy that the ensuing famine would kill thousands of innocent people.
In late 1962, Robert McNamara ordered planning to withdraw the American advisers from South Vietnam in 1964 as according to Pentagon calculations the war should be won by then.
At the time, Robert McNamara told Kennedy: "There is a new feeling of confidence that victory is possible".
Vann, a colorful figure whose outspokenly blunt criticism of how the war was being fought made him a favorite of the media, was much disliked by Robert McNamara, who did not appreciate the criticism as he continued to insist that the war was being won.
Vann's reports criticizing Diem's regime as corrupt and incompetent were most unwelcome to Robert McNamara who contended that the reforms advocated by Vann were unnecessary.
When he of supporting a coup against Diem was first raised by Kennedy at a National Security Council meeting in August 1963, Robert McNamara spoke in favor of retaining Diem.
Robert McNamara was stoutly opposed to Kattenburg's suggestion, saying "we have been winning the war".
Robert McNamara predicted that if Diem continued his policies, that by 1965 the insurgency would be "little more than organized banditry".
On 19 December 1963, Robert McNamara reported the situation was "very disturbing" as the "current trends, unless reversed in the next two or three months, will lead to neutralization at best or more likely to a Communist-controlled state".
On 8 March 1964, Robert McNamara visited South Vietnam to report to President Johnson about how well the new regime of Khanh was handling the war.
The "greatest weakness" accordingly to Robert McNamara was the "uncertain viability" of Khanh's government, which might be overthrown at any moment as the ARVN was ridden with factionalism and intrigue.
Russell told Johnson that he should find an expert, preferably a World War Two general who was "not scared to death of Robert McNamara" to go to South Vietnam to say that the war was unwinnable and that the United States should pull out, advice that Johnson rejected.
On 5 August 1964, Robert McNamara appeared before Congress to present proof of what he claimed was an attack on the Navy's warships in international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and stated it was imperative that Congress pass the resolution as quickly as possible.
Robert McNamara was instrumental in presenting the event to Congress and the public as justification for escalation of the war against the communists.
In 1995, Robert McNamara met with former North Vietnam Defense Minister, who told his American counterpart that the August 4 attack never happened, a conclusion Robert McNamara eventually came to accept.
Robert McNamara's plan, supported by requests from top US military commanders in Vietnam, led to the commitment of 485,000 troops by the end of 1967 and almost 535,000 by June 30,1968.
Robert McNamara was forced to tell Johnson that the Flaming Dart raids had done little damage owing to the heavy clouds, which caused the pilots to miss when dropping their bombs, and more raids would be needed.
Bundy stated that for Johnson to agree to Robert McNamara's request to send more troops "was a slippery slope toward total US responsibility and corresponding fecklessness on the Vietnamese side".
Robert McNamara was not impressed with Ky, reporting to Johnson that he saw little evidence that he was capable of winning the war, and the United States would have to send more troops to South Vietnam.
Robert McNamara advised the president that by early 1966 he would have to send 100,000 more troops to South Vietnam in order to win the war, and he would need to mobilize the Reserves and state National Guards as well.
Robert McNamara warned that the increased spending would spark inflation and raise the deficit, advising Johnson to ask Congress to increase taxes to forestall those eventualities.
Johnson responded that Congress would not vote for higher taxes, leading Robert McNamara to argue that the president should at least try, saying "I would rather fight for what's right and fail than not try".
All Robert McNamara saw from his office was the smoke rising from the parking lot, but he was sufficiently troubled by the incident that he refused to discuss it with his family, all the more so because his wife Margey was opposed to the war and sympathized with Morrison's feelings, if not his suicide.
On 7 November 1965, Robert McNamara sent Johnson a memo saying that the "substantial loss of American lives" in Vietnam was worth the sacrifice in order to contain China, which Robert McNamara called the world's most dangerous nation.
Robert McNamara put in place a statistical strategy for victory in Vietnam.
Robert McNamara concluded that there were a limited number of VC fighters in South Vietnam and that a war of attrition would destroy them.
Robert McNamara applied metrics to determine how close to success his plan was.
Westmoreland had decided, with the support of Robert McNamara, to defend all of South Vietnam, believing that he could win via a strategy of attrition as he would simply inflict enough losses to end the enemy's ability to wage war.
Robert McNamara devised the "body count" measurement to determine how well the Americans were doing, reasoning if the Americans were inflicting heavy losses as measured by the "body count", it must be a sign that they were winning.
The US Army sabotaged the efforts of Kennedy and Robert McNamara to develop a more counterinsurgency role by simply declaring that the Army's basic unit, the division, was flexible enough to engage against guerrillas while promising that the traditional fondness for using maximum firepower would not present a problem as firepower use would be "discriminating".
Robert McNamara was part of this culture fostered by graduates of elite and prestigious colleges or Universities of the USA and the UK, such as Harvard, where McNamara attended to obtain his MBA; other advisors such as McGeorge Bundy attended Harvard, and Dean Rusk was an Oxford graduate.
Up to November 1965, Robert McNamara, who had been a supporter of the war, first started to have doubts about the war, saying at a press conference that "it will be a long war", which completely contradicted his previous optimistic statements that the war would be brought to a close soon.
Robert McNamara stated later that his support of the war was given out of loyalty to administration policy.
Robert McNamara traveled to South Vietnam many times to study the situation firsthand and became increasingly reluctant to approve the large force increments requested by the military commanders.
Robert McNamara went with his family for skiing in Colorado, but upon hearing that the president was open to extending the bombing pause for a few more days, he left his family at the sky lodge in the Rockies to fly to the Johnson ranch on 27 December 1965.
Robert McNamara knew that Johnson tended to listen to the advice of Rusk who saw extending the bombing pause as weakness, and wanted a meeting with Johnson without Rusk present.
At a New Year's Eve party attended by Washington's elite to welcome 1966, Robert McNamara expressed doubts about America's ability to win the war.
In February 1966, during the Honolulu conference, Robert McNamara during an "off-the-record" chat with a group of journalists spoke about the war in very jaded terms, stating frankly that Operation Rolling Thunder was a failure.
Robert McNamara stated that North Vietnam was a backward Third World country that did not have the same advanced industrial infrastructure of First World nations, making the bombing offensive useless.
Robert McNamara concluded: "No amount of bombing can end the war".
In October 1966, Robert McNamara returned from yet another visit to South Vietnam, full of confidence in public and doubt in private.
Robert McNamara told the media that "process has exceeded our expectations" while telling the president he saw "no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon".
In November 1966, Robert McNamara visited Harvard University and the car driving him to see Henry Kissinger was surrounded by anti-war protesters who forced the automobile to stop The students refused to let the car move until Robert McNamara debated their leader, Michael Ansara, the president of the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.
Robert McNamara calculated in 1967 that over the last two years, American bombers had inflicted damage on North Vietnam equal to about $300 million while at the same time, Rolling Thunder had cost the US Air Force about 700 aircraft shot down over North Vietnam whose total value was about $900 million, making the bombing campaign uneconomical.
Robert McNamara was shocked to discover that the American flag was hanging upside down in his son's bedroom as the younger Robert McNamara told him that he was ashamed of America because of him.
Robert McNamara wrote that the idea that the American forces would temporarily stabilize the situation so the South Vietnamese could take over the war themselves was flawed as the dysfunctional South Vietnamese state would never be able to win the war, thus meaning the Americans would have to stay in Vietnam for decades to come.
Robert McNamara advised Johnson not to accept Westmoreland's call for an additional 200,000 soldiers as that would mean calling up the Reserves, which in turn would require a wartime economy.
Robert McNamara wrote: "The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one".
Finally, Robert McNamara dismissed the Domino Theory as irrelevant since General Suharto had seized power in Indonesia in 1965 and proceeded to wipe out the Indonesian Communist Party, the third-largest in the world, killing hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communists.
Robert McNamara argued that with Suharto in power in Indonesia that "the trend in Asia was now running in America's favor, which reduced the importance of South Vietnam".
Robert McNamara commissioned the Vietnam Study Task Force on June 17,1967.
The task was assigned to Gelb and six officials who were instructed by Robert McNamara to examine just how and why the United States became involved in Vietnam, starting with American relations with the Viet Minh in World War Two.
In July 1961, Robert McNamara was informed by the British Defense Minister, Peter Thorneycroft, that the financial burden of trying to maintain British forces around the world was too much, and that the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was considering a withdrawal of all British forces "East of Suez" to end the British military presence in Asia.
Robert McNamara was opposed to this and the US Navy began lobby for Britain to allow an American naval base to be set up in the Indian Ocean.
Robert McNamara offered to have the United States pay $15 million US dollars annually in rent to the British government for a base in Diego Garcia, a sum that was agreeable to London.
In 1966, in a meeting with Defense Minister Denis Healey, Robert McNamara pressed for the British to remain in Asia, saying he wanted them to keep their base in Singapore.
In July 1966, Robert McNamara told Johnson that it was "absolutely essential" for the British to remain "East of Suez", citing political rather military reasons, namely that it showed the importance of the region, which thus justified the America's involvement in Vietnam.
Robert McNamara always believed that the best defense strategy for the US was a parity of mutual assured destruction with the Soviet Union.
Robert McNamara wrote of his close personal friendship with Jackie Kennedy and how she demanded that he stop the killing in Vietnam.
Robert McNamara charged that McNamara had placed too many restrictions on bombing North Vietnam to protect innocent North Vietnamese civilians.
When Robert McNamara himself appeared as a witness before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on 25 August 1967, he defended the war in very lukewarm terms that strongly suggested he had lost faith in the war, testifying that the bombing campaign against North Vietnam was ineffective, making the question of the bombing restrictions meaningless.
Robert McNamara described all of the 57 restricted targets as either of no importance such as a tire factory in Hanoi that produced only 30 tires per day or carried too much risk of hitting Soviet ships bringing supplies to North Vietnam.
Robert McNamara testified that the bombing campaign had failed to reduce the supplies coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail as the Viet Cong needed only 15 tons of supplies per day to continue to fight and "even if the quantity were five times that amount, it could be transported by only a few trucks".
Robert McNamara went on to say that the bombing raids had not damaged the North Vietnamese economy which was "agrarian and simple" and the North Vietnamese people were unfamiliar with "the modern comforts and conveniences that most of us in the Western world take for granted".
Robert McNamara stated that North Vietnamese morale was not broken by the bombing offensive as the North Vietnamese people were "accustomed to discipline and are no strangers to deprivation and death" while everything indicated the leadership in Hanoi were not affected by the bombing raids.
Robert McNamara concluded that only some sort of genocide could actually win the war, stating: "Enemy operations in the south cannot, on the basis of any reports I have seen be stopped by air bombardment-short, that is, of the virtual annihilation of North Vietnam and its people".
Privately, Robert McNamara felt that Thurmond was an "ass", saying he was a bigoted, ignorant Southern politician whose only values were a mindless militarism, a fervent belief in white supremacy and a fondness for marrying women far younger than himself.
Robert McNamara felt that it was beneath him to be questioned by Thurmond, which explained why he was notably truculent in his answers to him.
Stennis wrote the committee's report which accused Robert McNamara of having "consistently overruled the unanimous recommendations of military commanders and the joint chiefs of staff", whom Stennis wrote had proposed "systematic, timely and hard-hitting actions".
Stennis damned Robert McNamara for putting in bombing restrictions to protect North Vietnamese civilians and claimed that the war could be easily won if only Robert McNamara would just obey all of the advice he received from the military.
Johnson told Kearns: "Every day, Bobby [Kennedy] would call up Robert McNamara telling him that the war was terrible and immoral, and that he had to leave".
On 21 October 1967, Robert McNamara saw the March on the Pentagon anti-war protest from his office in the Pentagon.
Robert McNamara witnessed hippie girls placing flowers in the guns of the DCNational Guardsman standing in front of the Pentagon.
Robert McNamara described the scene as "hellish" as the hippie girls bared their breasts to tempt the Guardsman to "make love, not war" while other hippies spat in the faces of the Guardsmen.
On 31 October 1967, Robert McNamara wrote Johnson a memo which he sent the next day saying that the war could not be continued as it "would be dangerous, costly in lives and unsatisfactory to the American people".
Robert McNamara's recommendations amounted to his saying that the strategy of the United States in Vietnam which had been pursued to date had failed.
Robert McNamara later stated he "never heard back" from Johnson regarding the memo.
The President's announcement of Robert McNamara's move to the World Bank stressed his stated interest in the job and that he deserved a change after seven years as Secretary of Defense.
For example, Stanley Karnow in his book Vietnam: A History strongly suggests that Robert McNamara was asked to leave by the President.
On 17 November 1967, a story in the Financial Times of London based on leaked sources in Washington stated Robert McNamara was going to be the next World Bank president, which came as a considerable surprise to Robert McNamara.
When Robert McNamara refused to resign, Kennedy told him that he should turn down the World Bank presidency and join him in criticizing the war, which Robert McNamara refused to do.
Johnson knew that Robert McNamara was concerned about poverty in the Third World, and that the possibility of serving as World Bank president would be too tempting for Robert McNamara to resist.
Robert McNamara left office on February 29,1968; for his efforts, the President awarded him both the Medal of Freedom and the Distinguished Service Medal.
Robert McNamara's last day as Defense Secretary was a memorable one.
Shortly after Robert McNamara departed the Pentagon, he published The Essence of Security, discussing various aspects of his tenure and position on basic national security issues.
Robert McNamara did not speak out again on defense issues or Vietnam until after he left the World Bank.
Robert McNamara served as head of the World Bank from April 1968 to June 1981, when he turned 65.
In March 1968, McNamara's friend Senator Robert Kennedy entered the Democratic primaries with aim of challenging Johnson.
Robert McNamara praised Kennedy's "shrewd diplomacy", saying he had "remained calm and cool, firm, but restrained, never nettled and never rattled".
Robert McNamara was attacked for the tape with the New York Times in an editorial lambasting him for his "poor judgement and poorer taste".
Robert McNamara instituted new methods of evaluating the effectiveness of funded projects.
One notable project started during Robert McNamara's tenure was the effort to prevent river blindness.
In 1972, Robert McNamara visited Santiago to meet President Salvador Allende to discuss the latter's policy of nationalization, especially of the copper mining companies.
The meeting with Allende concluded with Robert McNamara ending all World Bank loans to Chile.
In 1974, Robert McNamara visited Santiago to meet Pinochet and agreed to the World Bank resuming loans to Chile.
Craig Robert McNamara, who was visiting the United States at the time of the coup and chose not to return to Chile was outraged by the decision to resume the loans, telling his father in a phone call: "You can't do this-you always say the World Bank is not a political institution, but financing Pinochet clearly would be".
Robert McNamara fils feels that his father's claim that he had to cease loans to Chile because the Allende government's nationalization policy was an "economic" matter that fell within the purview of the World Bank, but human rights abuses under Pinochet were a "political" matter that was outside of the World Bank's purview was disingenuous and dishonest.
From 1981 to 1984, Robert McNamara served on the Board of Trustees at American University in Washington, DC.
Robert McNamara was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1981.
In 1982, Robert McNamara joined several other former national security officials in urging that the United States pledge to not use nuclear weapons first in Europe in the event of hostilities; subsequently he proposed the elimination of nuclear weapons as an element of NATO's defense posture.
In 1993, Washington journalist Deborah Shapley published a 615-page biography of Robert McNamara titled Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara.
In November 1995, Robert McNamara returned to Vietnam, this time visiting Hanoi.
Neu wrote his impression was that Robert McNamara was a figure who thought in the short term while Giap thought in the long term.
Robert McNamara maintained his involvement in politics in his later years, delivering statements critical of the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Robert McNamara married Margaret Craig, his teenage sweetheart, on August 13,1940.
Robert McNamara was an accomplished cook, and Robert's favorite dish was reputed to be her beef bourguignon.
Robert McNamara is the owner of Sierra Orchards in Winters, California.
Daughter Kathleen Robert McNamara Spears is a forester with the World Bank.
When working at Ford Motor Company, Robert McNamara resided in Ann Arbor, Michigan, rather than the usual auto executive domains of Grosse Pointe, Birmingham, and Bloomfield Hills.
In September 2004, Robert McNamara wed Diana Masieri Byfield, an Italian-born widow who had lived in the United States for more than 40 years.
Robert McNamara was married to Ernest Byfield, a former OSS officer and Chicago hotel owner, thirty years her senior, whose first wife, Gladys Rosenthal Tartiere, leased her 400-acre Glen Ora estate in Middleburg, Virginia, to John F Kennedy during his presidency.
Robert McNamara is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, with the grave marker commemorating his wives.