Robert McNamara Collection

Robert McNamara (1916-2009) served as the Secretary of Defense from 1961 until 1968, during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He was one of the primary architects of the Vietnam War.

After graduating from the University of California (Berkeley) and Harvard University, Secretary McNamara served in the United States Army during World War II, where he was considered a “Whiz Kid,” developing logistics models for bomber raids. Shortly after the war, he was hired by the Ford Motor Company, ultimately serving as the President of the company. McNamara was recruited by President Kennedy to serve in his administration, where he advocated for the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, he advocated for increased involvement in South Vietnam to head off further communist aggression in the region. By 1965, he had begun to question US involvement in Vietnam, which was highlighted by the release of the Pentagon Papers. In 1968, he was offered a position as the head of the World Bank and resigned as the Secretary of Defense. He remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense in United States history.

In retirement, he wrote his first book, called Blundering Into Disaster: Surviving the First Century in a Nuclear Age, in which he discusses the nuclear postures of the United States and the Soviet Union. He published his memoirs, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, in 1995. He spent much of his retirement defending his early positions on the Vietnam conflict. He passed away in 2009.

Showing 1–12 of 20 results

Showing 1–12 of 20 results