Robert S. McNamara, the Kennedy-Johnson-era defense secretary, will be most remembered as a man instrumental in sending hundreds of thousands of Americans to fight in Vietnam, and who was haunted by his decision for the rest of his life.
McNamara, who died Monday at his Washington home at age 93, became one of the favorite targets of protesters as the war, launched as part of the nation’s ongoing effort to stop communist aggression, tore apart the United States in the 1960s.
“He became emblematic of what that war was about, both the hope and the disappointment that set in,” presidential historian Robert Dallek said.
McNamara, a San Francisco native, had come to Washington in 1961 to run the Defense Department for the Kennedy administration. After World War II he had gone to work at the Ford Motor Co., where the “whiz kid” rose quickly through the ranks, a rare influential outsider in that family-run firm.
Just a year older than the 43-year-old president, McNamara was to be a symbol of the Kennedy administration’s youth and vigor, and someone who would apply his modern, analytical management techniques to the Pentagon.
The two men also shared a view that “flexible responses” to world crises were preferable to threatening massive retaliation, through limited wars if necessary. Despite resistance from the Pentagon ranks, McNamara went about trying to change U.S. military culture to better prepare the armed forces for such conflicts.
One of the first “flexible responses” was the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, an effort that McNamara said 40 years later was “dumb.”
His reputation as an executive remained intact, however, and today even critics laud his efforts to revamp the Defense Department and contain the Soviet threat during the Kennedy years.
via Robert McNamara, Vietnam War architect, dies at 93 – Politics AP – MiamiHerald.com.
Vietnam War stats from wikipedia:
Total dead: ~1,177,446
Total wounded: ~604,000+