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Robert McNamara

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Robert McnamaraRobert Strange McNamara was the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. Born in San Francisco, he taught business administration at Harvard from 1940 to 1943, served in World War II, and was 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 November 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 President Kennedy’s secretary of defense. McNamara introduced modern management techniques in the Defense Department 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. Although he at first supported escalation of the Vietnam War, growing doubts about the war led McNamara to resign from the cabinet. From 1968 to 1981 he was president of the World Bank. McNamara wrote The Essence of Security (1968), One Hundred Countries, Two Billion People (1973), and The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (1995).

—Courtesy of Highbeam Encyclopedia

Recommended Reading

Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara by Deborah Shapley.

Click here to view Supplemental Reading to Robert McNamara on Amazon.