JFKWHP-ST-A5-20-61: Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, 12 October 1961

Robert McNamara was named Secretary of Defense in 1961, shortly after he had accepted the prestigious post of President of the Ford Motor Company. McNamara built on his reputation as a financial and managerial expert, and went on to become a top national security and foreign policy advisor to both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In his own words, McNamara described his goal as Secretary of Defense, “to bring efficiency to a $40 billion enterprise beset by jealousies and political pressures while maintaining American military superiority.” Mr. McNamara spent his first few years in the Defense Department attempting to reverse the reliance on nuclear deterrence that had been established during the Eisenhower administration. He advocated the development of a broader choice of deterrent forces. In later years, as attention shifted to Vietnam, McNamara found himself in the center of a quagmire that he had helped to create. In 1968, he resigned as a result of dissatisfaction with the deteriorating situation in Vietnam and became President of the World Bank, a position he held until 1981. He later become an outspoken advocate for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.

1916 Born, San Francisco, California

1937 B.A., University of California, Berkeley

1939 M.B.A., Harvard University

1940 Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard University

1943 Army Air Forces, England

1946 Manager, Ford Motor Company planning and financial offices

1949 Comptroller, Ford Motor Company

1953 Assistant General Manager, Ford Motor Company

1957 Vice President in charge of car and truck divisions, Ford Motor Company

1960 President, Ford Motor Company

1961-1968 Secretary of Defense, Kennedy Administration

1968-1981 President, World Bank

2009 July 6, Died


The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office, 1968.
One Hundred Countries, Two Billion People: The Dimensions of Development, 1973.
The McNamara Years at the World Bank: Major Policy Addresses of Robert McNamara, 1968-1981, 1981.
In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, 1995.


"Robert S. McNamara." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2003.