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Robert Strange McNamara Edit Profile

executive , President , secretary

Robert Strange McNamara was the eighth 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


Robert McNamara was born on June 9, 1916 in San Francisco, California.


Educated in the public schools of Piedmont, California, McNamara proved an excellent student, achieving a straight "A" average at Piedmont High School.

He continued his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in philosophy and economics and earned the unusual distinction of being elected to Phi Beta Kappa at the end of his sophomore year.

Following graduation in 1937, he was admitted to Harvard University's Graduate School of Business Administration.

Two years later, after compiling a superb academic record, he was awarded the M. B. A. degree.


After graduation he 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. In 1960 he became the first person outside the Ford family to head the company. After briefly serving as Ford's president, McNamara accepted appointment as Secretary of Defense On December 13, 1960.

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 in U. S. soldiers in South Vietnam. After the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the number of U. S. soldiers in Vietnam escalated dramatically. McNamara and other U. S. policymakers feared that the fall of South Vietnam to a Communist regime would lead to the fall of other governments in the region.

McNamara grew increasingly skeptical of the efficacy of committing U. S. soldiers to Vietnam. In 1968, McNamara 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 on July 1, 1981, he served as a trustee of several organizations, including the California Institute of Technology and the Brookings Institution.


  • Robert played a major role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis.


Margaret Craig

McNamara married Margaret Craig, his teenage sweetheart, on August 13, 1940. :
The couple had two daughters and a son.