Talk:Robert McNamara

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Complete white wash on Gulf of Tonkin[edit]

There not a single mention that McNamara was informed within hours that the second attack in the Gulf of Tonkin had never happened and had been a result of radar glitches in bad weather and over eager sonar operators hearing their own ships propellers. This information was given to McNamara, but he never informed Johnson that it was not a real attack. This led to the escalations of war on false information. See "gulf of Tonkin incident" for a list of references. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:17, 13 September 2009 (UTC)

"Gulf of Tonkin: McNamara admits It didn't happen" Heavenlyblue (talk) 23:36, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Also: Heavenlyblue (talk) 00:27, 18 January 2013 (UTC)

A Serious Question Regarding Point of View[edit]

Article after article on Wikipedia reflects nothing but the point of view of Political Correctness. But, if I -- a Vietnam veteran -- were to add my experientially informed point of view to this article (which I have not), it would be instantly deleted by some young person who had taken a 3-credit course in the history of Southeast Asia. Therein reposes many of the problems with Wikipedia.

Suggestive statement[edit]

"On November 2, 1965, protestor Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's Pentagon office, after dousing himself in gasoline. After witnessing this, McNamara increased the bombing of South Vietnam with napalm three fold during 1965 and 1966." -- That's a pretty absurd statment. It suggests that McNamara decided to increase napalm attacks because of the apparent effectiveness he witnessed.

Agreed. It's quite absurd and beyond just suggestive. I doubt he looked out and thought "People burning... now there's an idea!" The two are unrelated. It could be phrased that the person had done this to protest the use of incendiary weapons in Vietnam, but that despite such dramatic protests, the use of napalm increased. But even that would be a bit suggestive, as I do not know if Morrison had that intention.DrBuzz0 19:31, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Uncredited sources for page[edit]

An earlier version of this page seems to have been lifted in large parts from his official government bio which can be seen at: . I have no idea if that material can be considered to be in the public domain or not. But at the very least it should be mentioned as the source.

His official bio is very POV on many controversial subjects and I'm almost sure it reflects his own input. That should be kept in mind as changes are made to give some sort of balance. 17:26, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Chief architect of Vietnam War?[edit]

Kennedy started our involvement, Johnson escalated it. McNamara may have been wrong in his recommendations and in some of his actions, but the two Presidents he served are ultimately responsible. Making him out to be "the bad guy" is too simplistic, and deflects too much of the blame from Kennedy & Johnson.2601:6C3:4101:2367:36CF:9A1E:EF70:5B4C (talk) 22:06, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
He is considered the chief architect of the Vietnam War.

Oh? Who considers him this? This statement, cut from the introduction, is not substantiated anywhere further down in the article. Perhaps it's just the contributor's own POV.

Surely he helped escalate the US campaign at one point, perhaps that was what was meant. But "architect" implies more than this. AFAIK, the war predated both McNamara and the man who appointed him. --Uncle Ed 22:42, 14 Jan 2004 (UTC)

  • I think that it is a fair assessment that he was the "architect" of the Vietnam War. The policy implemented by LBJ was the one forcefully advocated by McNamara. The disasterous troop rotation policy was McNamara's plan. He personally had to approve bombing targets. He was responsible for the formulation & micromanagement of the "stalemate" war policy. McNamara was more responsible for the way the US was involved in that war than any single individual. If he had a conscience, he would have eaten a bullet 30yrs ago.-- Achilles 22:16 30 May 2005

This bias has NO PLACE in an honest discussion about this man who above everything was regarded as fiercely loyal to his commanders in chief and a very patriotic American. (talk) 14:07, 4 June 2012 (UTC)

That would just emerge unscathed from the other end after 24-36 hours. Preisler 16:04, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Given McNamara's incompetence, probably so.-- Achilles 22:58 3 June 2005

Wow a lot of biased bullshit going on here. McNamarra was hardly incompetent from his curriculum vitae, more competent than most of the people commenting here. And where is it stated he "forcefully advocated" the Johnson escalation? He SERVED his commanders in chief. He was loyal and fiercely patriotic to the United States of America. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:59, 4 June 2012 (UTC)

The perspective that McNamara is the chief architect of the Vietnam War strikes me as just that, perspective or POV, and not a fact. Anyone interested in exploring this topic should consider viewing "The Fog of War" (Sony Picture Classics 2003).

Above unsigned comment by on 14:34, 29 October 2005

Nobody should trust what he says in Fog of War to be the truth. He was the chief architect in that he overruled the JCS and senior military leadership repeatedly. He directed the military to implement his ideas like building the line of fortifications along the DMZ (which was cancelled immediately on him leaving office). If you want the full story, you will have to hunt up accounts by his critics of his Vietnam strategy from years ago. He will deny being the chief architect. But that leaves the question for him "if you were not the architect, who was?". He will not answer that question. It always ends up that the Vietnam War just kind of happened and nobody was responsible. That makes people who were around the DOD in that era really mad because McNamara's civilians were supposed to be about systems analysis, tracable decision making and perfect science-based decisions.
Not true, he says in FOW, and i quote "it's the presidents responsibility." Which is true, "architect" is perhaps a poor word choice, as he was certainly prominent in strategy, but nonetheless was not the final approval for anything he did. Listening to the actual white house recordings used in the movie, particularly the first one where he speaks to LBJ he felt ambivalent about the whole war but nonetheless did the job that the president asked him to do. If that makes him and him alone the "architect" so be it, but i'd disagree.--Cptbuck 06:46, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
Ultimately, it is always the President's responsibility. But officials cannot absolve themselves of their own responsibilites by saying that. And I would be careful about FOW. You are hearing some tapes but not necessarly everything. And look carefully at dates. The problem with McNamara's role in the war is that he has wanted for years to absolve himself of any responsibility for the ultimate failure in Vietnam. This is a person who made his career on scientific decision analysis and yet when asked he can't explain his own decisions with regard to Vietnam. The man can't even give a straight answer about leaving office. The answer always come out that a) he is absoutely right in everything he did b) he can't explain why the war happened c) he can't explain the strategic decisions he *personally* made with regard to Vietnam and d) its all Lyndon Johnson's fault. Even in FOW, he was more concerned about damaging his image than in being honest about anything. What many people (including officers who served during the Vietnam era) have always wanted from the man is an honest accouting of why he did the things he did as Secretary of Defense.

Vietnam War[edit]

I think the article is pretty good. Systems 3D, a pet McNamara project is missing, but it is hard to find online.

I think the guy who set fire to himself probably belongs someplace, but in an article on McNamara? Why? There's people everyday protesting a cabinet level officer someplace. Doubtless, some of them have died doing this. Big headlines at the time. Result: No big deal. Sells a lot of ink/videotape/whatever. But it probably belongs someplace. If you documented protests against every cabinet level officer, there wouldn't be room for much else. Since suicide is not a common Western way of protesting, a good case might be made for insanity, anyway. He could have protested anything: flouridation, civil rights, whatever would give him a headline that day. Might as well go out with a bang! Student7 00:57, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Um, if you watch The Fog of War, McNamara raises the topic of and spends a fair amount of time talking about this one protestor. In fact, out of all the people who protested at the Pentagon during his tenure as defense secretary, this guy is the one he remembers. The incident seemed to have affected him greatly, and I think it definitely belongs in the article. Cheers, Skinwalker 12:54, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Also in the complete unedited Fog of War you will see McNamarra defiantly asserting that Kennedy was going to exit Vietnam had he not been assassinated. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:56, 4 June 2012 (UTC)

Bombing of Tokyo[edit]

I have removed the statement about 100,000 civilians being killed in one night, with the loss of only one US airman. While factually correct according to McNamara himself in the Fog of War documentary, it is not directly relevant here, and should be noted in the Bombing_of_Tokyo_in_World_War_II article, which is linked to here. The reason I say this is that the statement is made without context or elaboration, and therefore constitues POV - the implication is that McNamara may have been personally responsible for this. The rightness or otherwise of that argument makes for a valid discussion, which can be mentioned in this article (preferably under a seperate heading), but it is only fair to to so if the discussion is complete and adheres to our NPOV principle. I'll be happy to help anyone wanting to elaborate on this part of McNamara's career. Amelia Hunt 01:06, Dec 20, 2004 (UTC)

I have rewritten the segment stating that RSM helped plan the Tokyo fire raid and influenced B-29 operations. He did neither--he was a statistiction reporting to DC on the growing effectiveness of LeMay's command. Similarly, I've inserted a transitional paragraph describing DoD's detiorating relationship with the joint chiefs in the 1962-65 period of Vietnam, and provided parenthetical sources for both. (It's easier than trying to insert footnote numbers in the text.) B Tillman 6-20-06.

Berlin and troops[edit]

The article said "The Berlin Blockade in 1961 demonstrated to McNamara the need for more troops." This is nonsense. The Berlin Blockade occurred in 1948-9; in 1961 the Berlin Wall was constructed. It's not clear how either of these demonstrated a need for more troops; some justification should be given if the statement is reinstated in an historically correct form. -- BenHutchings 22:18, Mar 1, 2004 (UTC)

Rather than calling it the "Berlin Blockade", the events of 1961 leading up to the construction of the Berlin Wall would be better called the "Berlin Crisis of 1961". There were a number of events surrounding the construction of the Berlin Wall that are not mentioned in the history books. There were some very tense military confrontations across the boundary between the two armies. There was real concern that minor fighting might break out. More troops were seen as needed after because US power in europe was seen as greatly inferior in conventional terms to the other side at the time.

South Vietnam[edit]

I reverted edits by, who had changed this--

In practical terms, this meant training and equipping U.S. military personnel, as well as such allies as South Vietnam, for counterinsurgency operations. Later in the decade, U.S. forces applied these counterinsurgency techniques with mixed success in Vietnam.

--to this:

In practical terms, this meant training and equipping U.S. military personnel, as well as such allies as our South Vietnam puppet dictatorship', for counterinsurgency operations. In South Vietnam, for instance, where America's puppet dictator enjoyed no support whats'oever, this meant fighting and terrorizing the vast majority of the population.

Personally I don't think this is an unfair characterization of what happened in South Vietnam, but really, it doesn't need to be in this article. The nature of the South Vietnamese government is already discussed in South Vietnam, and the brutality of "counterinsurgency operations" was already highlighted earlier in the same paragraph ("terror, extortion, and assassination"). And the language is clumsy (you don't mean "no support whatsoever", you mean "no popular support" - the regime was supported by factions of the South Vietnamese elite as well as by the U.S.) and sloppy in a way that is more soapbox than encyclopedic. Hob 16:06, 2005 May 23 (UTC)

Comments on Iraq War[edit]

I reverted edits by who had added this section-

-Comments on the Iraq War

"McNamara has been critical of the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.1"

This is pure political propaganda which does not conform to the NPOV.

Achilles 19:23 31 May 2005

I disagree completely. McNamara is a well-known figure in the sphere of international politics and his opinion about the Iraq war ought to be fair game in an article about him. The only POV is McNamara's, and that's a good thing. I'm adding that change back. I admit that it was added in a clumsy manner before, so I'll try to integrate it into the main body of the text. If anyone can edit it in better, please do so. Deleuze 12:09, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • If his opinion on the Iraq War is relevent, then why not his opinion on the Reagan Adm defense/Cold War policies? He was wrong on that, as he has been on all such issues for the past 40yrs. After his disgraceful performance on Vietnam, the Kennedy clique reingratiated McNamara back into their circle by pretending that LBJ forced him to do all those things, & by McNamara's parroting the Ted Kennedy line (on defense/international affairs) ever since.
Asking for McNamara's opinion of the Iraq War is like asking Jack the Ripper for his opinion on proper etiquette when consorting with prostitutes.The man was the most dangerous fool ever to hold high office in the US. -- Achilles 02:00 2 June 2005

Encyclopedias are places for impartial and objective fact, not biased opinion. If you think that McNamara was the "most dangerous fool ever to hold high office in the US," then perhaps you should focus your efforts on contributing to other Wikipedia articles. Above unsigned comment by, 14:40, 29 October 2005

Achilles (and Jerzy, who just reverted Deleuze's edit), you're missing the point. McNamara's opinion of the Iraq war is notable because it was noted: especially after the release of the Morris movie, most mentions of McNamara in the press included some variation on the theme of "Isn't it ironic that the guy who was certain we could win in Vietnam is currently against U.S. intervention; does he know something we don't?" McNamara's technocratic approach to the war was also frequently compared to Rumsfeld's. Even if one has no respect for his judgment, his opinion on current events is certainly something a reader of this article might be expected to wonder about. It would certainly be notable if Richard Nixon had become an ethics professor in his later years, even if he were bad at it.
But I think Achilles makes good points in the first paragraph above ("If his opinion..."), even if they were meant sarcastically. Changes in McNamara's public views and reputation over time are worth noting, particularly the shift toward the "LBJ made him do it" story which is represented in The Fog of War. Hob 05:26, 2005 Jun 2 (UTC)
  • The evidence from (at the time) Undersecretary of State George Ball was that McNamara was THE voice, in the meetings, FORCEFULLY urging a continuous, gradual, escalation of the war. HE was the man LBJ listened to. McNamara also cleverly kept his lines open to the Kennedy brothers-probably, a continuation of his lifelong naked ambition. McNamara's arrogance, & godlike certainty in his own infallibility led to his belief that he could micromanage a war of the size & complexity of Vietnam-- everything from the disasterous troop rotation policy, to personally selecting the bombing targets. Victory was NEVER a goal of his, stalemate was. Why ANYONE would pay ANY attention to ANYTHING that man has to say is a mystery to me. -- Achilles 06:23 2 June 2005
  • Achilles, I understand and even agree with you to a certain extent in regards to McNamara's performance, but what you're presenting is about as POV as it comes. McNamara has had a fairly clear position on certain subjects since the 80's and his position on the Iraq war is just another facet of that. It's bizarre to claim that a high profile figure's opinion on topics he has had involvement with is irrelevent in an article about him and the only reason I can see you giving is personal animus. The central purpose of this article shouldn't be a critical discussion of his statements, but rather presenting them as they are. First put the facts out there, then sort them out. I'm reverting Jerzy's edit. Deleuze 07:34, 2 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Deleuze- Fine. I've added to your edit by pointing out the last time he was critical of an Administration (Rep, of course) was during the Reagan years. You're damn right about the personal animus though. That bastard was, IMO, MORE responsible for what happened in Vietnam than anyone, including LBJ. In many countries, the man would have been irredeemably disgraced, or, quite possibly, imprisoned/executed.-- Achilles 22:19 2 June 2005
  • Works for me. Expanding his career post-68 is a good thing. Deleuze 06:23, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)

hello, I contributed some martial arts stuff and got some great feedback - here I got put down (and edited out) for writing that my father, Capt. (USN) Henry Easterling was fired when he told Gen. Maxwell Taylor that we were losing the war in Vietnam. Taylor of course told his boss and within two weeks we were in Coronado. The Navy seemed annoyed at the Pentagon for this and gave me father a great job, captain of the flag ship of a fleet, but also told him that he'd pissed off the Sec. and had better plan on NOT making admiral. I don't know if there is any place here to tell these stories, but it's too bad, because it's the same type of thing that Rummy did to Shinseki and White (and lots of the brass promoted under Clinton's term). The egomania is the disease. One other thing I sure would like to see in the McNamara page is the number of KIA AFTER he realized that we couldn't win... I've heard it is in the tens of thousands. I don't know how to, or if this should be part of this (though I certainely think that his views on Iraq are important) Pat Easterling,

World Bank tenure[edit]

RSM's time at the World Bank saw many changes under his supervision, arguably more important in effects than the V.War. I don't claim the ability to represent that period accurately, but would like to see that properly tackled. -- Wreford

On the subject of whether or not McNamara resigned from the Defense Department before heading up the World Bank, I didn't see any sources cited on the page to indicate that he did in fact resign, and on the subject it is noted that McNamara himself was not clear about this. David Halberstam, in his book "The Best and the Brightest" portrays it like this: "Without checking with McNamara, Johnson announced in November 1967 that his Secretary of Defense was going to the World Bank. The move came as a surprise to the Secretary and he did not know whether or not he had been fired. The answer was that he had been." I don't know if Halberstam's assessment there is accurate, but someone might want to look into that or cite a source which clearly shows that he did indeed resign before heading to the World Bank. -Owen

And to quote McNamara himself writing in "In Retrospect" (page 311, 1st ed. hardcover) -- "I do not know to this day whether I quit or was fired. Maybe it was both." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:33, 20 March 2009 (UTC)


Is his middle name really Strange? He must have been teased at school because of it. =) This reminds me of a policy Amiga Power once took. If a reader signed his/her first or middle name with only an initial, they replaced it with a made-up name, like Cryogenics or Walfordsalad. JIP | Talk 10:39, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Yes, mother's name before marriage was Clara Nell Strange -- 09:25, 18 July 2005 (UTC)
I've added that info to the article, it would be great if you could provide a reference. Maikel 11:56, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Will this do as a reference to his middle name?: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:55, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Strange is a fairly common Anglo-Saxon family name. Gwen Gale (talk) 15:57, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
His mother was born Clara Nell Strange, now cited in the article. Gwen Gale (talk) 16:26, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Campaign contributions[edit]

I'm wondering about the encyclopedicness of the external link posted by anonymous user User: that links to a page showing the political contributions made by the subject of the article. The anon has evenhandedly posted the equivalent link on numerous biographical articles of persons both on the left and the right (e.g. Molly Ivins, Robert McNamara, Theodore Olson, Alex Kozinski, and several others), but despite saucing both the goose and the gander having these links in the articles doesn't seem right. Yes, it's factual; yes, it's verifiable; yes, it's interesting; but it still seems like a sly bit of POV, particularly for each individual article viewed in isolation. I haven't removed any of the links but I'm curious how others see this.

I've posted this question on the talk pages of all four articles mentioned above in hopes that a wider spectrum of editors will see and comment. -EDM 05:01, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

Its been removed from this article on the grounds that it doesn't contribute anything and amounts to advertising for a website. 15:10, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Recent statements about nukes[edit]

  • Apocalypse Soon, Foreign Policy, May/June 2005 - "I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous".

Status of this article: a note of caution[edit]

Readers, treat this article with caution. A significant portion of the topical coverage presented below shows signs of bias, opinion, and unsubstantiated fact. Few if any ciations are offered for ideas presented below. This page is not of sufficient quality to be used in academic research of any kind, or even to guide academic research.
Above unsigned comment by, 14:47, 29 October 2005

Uhhh, that's kind of true of the entire Wikipedia in case you didn't notice. God help anyone who relies on the Wikipedia as a reliable first source.--Wiarthurhu 18:47, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Evaluating McNamara - NPOV[edit]

This section is loaded with uncited, POV statements. --TrustTruth 05:43, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

If anything is to be done, the entire section should go. 21:52, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

IIIIII Like it. Keep it. The F-111 was just a disaster, not to mention the whole Vietnam mess. Might be written to be a little more self-contained like an "on the other hand" viewpoint section so that it doesn't clash so unnaturally. The piece is full of uncited statements, but some for this section would help. I threw in links to the F-111 article. --Wiarthurhu 18:46, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I'll throw in a detailed edit summary later, but I couldn't resist. The shadow cast by the accountant's approach to fighter design was so thoroughly discredited. that's why the F-16 and F/A-18 were designed to be multi-role, the F-14 and -15 picked up multi-roles. Every fighter in development is multi-role, and the JSF is essentially a modern version of the TFX project (attracting many of the same criticisms, too). Thoroughly discredited? Many people say he was ahead of his time. --Mmx1 19:09, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

The TFX project and the decision-making in it were a disaster. It wasn't the idea of a multi-role fighter that was wrong, it was how McNamara went about making decisions that was wrong. To make a successful multi-role fighter, you have to build a fighter that meets everyones requirements. If, as in the case of the TFX, you accept a fighter design that so compromised that it fails to meet anyones requirements, you (as DOD) know this, and you (DOD) push the program through because the project has great financials associated with it, thats what was being described as totally discredited. Every project since the TFX has had the benefit of that experience as a negative lesson and the fighters have also had the benefit of never having another McNamara running things.
Well, that's a much more accurate and NPOV description than "the accountant's approach to fighter design was so thoroughly discredited", etc. And secondly, it wasn't clear (at least to DoD) that it failed to meet anyone's requirements until the aircraft took shape and began flight tests that proved it. The Admirals and Generals believed that off the get-go, but you can't say much definitive about what is so far an idea (and a heavily hyped one from the manufacturer. Once the tests demonstrated its deficiencies, the cancellations followed shortly after. --Mmx1 16:49, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

Pet projects[edit]

The clearly POV characterization of the nuclear arms race and Vietnam as being among McNamara's "pet projects" is a) puerile b) unsupported and c) gone. Allenc28 12:16, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

Dude, they were his pet projects--Wiarthurhu 19:38, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
Can you support your assertion? Allenc28 03:58, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

TFX - time to fisk[edit]

Few will recall that it was McNamara who directed the Air Force to adopt the Navy's F-4 Phantom and A-7 fighters. But he is best remembered in aviation history as the father of the debacle that was the TFX / F-111 dual service fighter project. His experience in the corporate world led him to believe that adopting a single type for different missions and serivce would save money. He even insisted on the General Dynamics entry over the DOD's preference for Boeing because of commonality issues. The F-111 pioneered perhaps too many new technologies such as swinging wings and pylons, afterburning turbofans and even the only operational ejecting crew escape cabin. Popular media heralded the fighter than could fly slow and fast, fly farther with more payload, and shoot down planes from farther away from any other plane.

A product of the age of missles, the one item missing from the laundry list that was the TFX specification was the decisive factor in all previous air battles, maneuverability. Starting in 1965, US pilots in supersonic jets in Vietnam were shot down by post-Korean vintage Mig-17s in alarming numbers. Grumman dutifully reported that the F-111 would be "unable to cope" in a dogfight, and was much less maneuverable than the F-4 that was then tasked with downing MiGs. The Navy's F-111B would prove an utterly embarrasing and expensive failure, cancelled and replaced by the . The Air Force F-111 suffered extensive problems and accidents before it was effective in the single role of medium bomber. A lasting legacy of the F-111's lesson in how not to build a fighter would be that the US would ultimately develop not one, but 4 more new highly successful air superiority fighters essentially similar to the F-4 in payload and speed. The shadow cast by the accountant's approach to fighter design was so thoroughly discredited that planners stripped multiple roles from both the F-15 Eagle and F-14 Tomcat until the 1990s. The F-111 project is often remembered as one of the most spectacular failures in aviation history, at least in terms of its initial cost saving objectives. However, it is a somewhat fitting footnote that the Australian Air Force will proudly fly their F-111s long after the retirement of the naval TFX replacement, the F-14.

  • well, first the florid use of language is amateurish and paints the wrong picture.
  • "A product of the age of missles" true, but not the reason the TFX failed. "age of missiles" is not an encyclopedic term - it's colloquial and inaccurate.
  • "decisive factor in all previous air battles, maneuverability". Um... no. Armament, speed, power. The Zero was more maneuverable than most U.S. fighters, but it could be defeated with boom and zoom tactics, with fighters that were better armed and more survivable. Ultimately, training trumps all machine aspects - U.S. pilots survived more shootdowns and were able to learn from their mistakes. The Zero, with its unprotected fuel tanks...didn't, and towards the end of the war more and more experienced Japanese pilots were dying and their fresh replacements of far less quality. But I digress.
  • "utterly embarrasing and expensive failure" let's source this before introducing such florid language. I agree....but the encyclopedia should take more neutral stance on such issues
  • "nimble F-14 Tomcat" nimbler than the F-111, yes. Was that the reason the F-111B was cancelled, not completely, nor was it even a large part of its opposition.
  • "The shadow cast by the accountant's approach to fighter design was so thoroughly discredited that planners stripped multiple roles from both the F-15 Eagle and F-14 Tomcat until the 1990s." Utterly wrong depiction. Actually, it didn't do much for perceptions. Civilians still wanted combined programs, Generals still wanted their own projects. Fight continues today; seems like the civilians are gaining the upper hand. Shortly after the TFX was cancelled, the 1970's saw the development of the multi-role F-16 and F/A-18.

In short, the old version of this paints a largely inaccurate picture and is written and exudes a heavily anti-McNamara POV.


Currently, this is full of weasel words and POV. I'm going to deleteall of it except for sourced statements in a month (if I get the time and lose my laziness). :) Anyways, it's been currently unchanged for a month and a half, so I hope the critics get a source soon. In any case, the POV tag will be gone in a month.

Experienced users, feel free to tell me this is inappropiate behavior but give a good reason.Hadoren 06:04, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

The entire section should probably go. McNamara is a very controversial figure and if the end result of your changes is a glowingly positive one-sided account of how great he is, sources or not, that is strong POV and will not be acceptable. The reason that section is there in the first place is because this page was originally lifted from the very POV official government bios of Secretaries of defense. All the positive sourced quotes that make up the evaluation really came from there. [1]. I dont know if the DOD stuff is copyrighted, but this article is using huge portions of it uncredited. If you want to fix the section, you need to take on strengthening the other side of the argument rather than removing it.
Given the misrepresentation in this page, I've thought several times about dumping all of the lifted text and starting over. But its not a high priority for me at the moment. 21:21, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
Another problem in that section is the misrepresentation of Hanson Baldwin's views on McNamara. Baldwin was very critical of McNamara over the years and presenting a totally positive evaluation under his name is incorrect. I've added one quote (with citation) for some degree of balance.
Time's up. Other than one source about Baldwin, there's been absolutely no change. But feel free to remove the whole section if you want to. Hadoren 03:00, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Ford Motor Company[edit]

In "The fog of war" McNamara says that he started research in Ford to reduce traffic fatalities, introducing the use of collapsible steering wheels, padded dashboards and seat belts.

He also mentions that the Ford Falcon was his personal project, originated by market research about who was buying VW Beetles in the USA in the 1950´s.

I think that all this facts should be mentioned, abut I am also afraid thta my english is not good enough.

I also think that a new section of "Ford Motor Company career" split from the "Early life" section.Randroide 16:17, 11 October 2006 (UTC)


Despite supporting Kennedy in 1960 and became his SoD please remember he was, at this time, officialy registered as a Republican 13:13, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes, he was a Republican. This from Time Magazine 1960:,9171,895133-1,00.html

Only nominally, according to McNamara: "Lie many people, [John] Ken [Galbraith] probably thought I was a Republican. The press had identified me as one from time to time because when I had registered to vote in California at age twenty-one, I had registered Republican for no other reason than that my father was." -- "In Retrospect", 1st ed hc, pg 15. Arguably indicative of non-partisan leanings. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:39, 20 March 2009 (UTC)


Why do this article mention nothing about McNamara's frequent attempts to dismantle the U.S. military through out the 1960's? 22:37, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Infobox photo[edit]

I think that Image:Robert McNamara 1961.jpg might be a better choice for the infobox than the one that's currently there. They're both free images with part of his face obscured, but this one just seems more attractive to me. Anyone have any thoughts? -Hit bull, win steak(Moo!) 16:33, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

Mac the Knife[edit]

McNamara's name appears in Mack the Knife (disambiguation) but no mention of the nickname appears in this article. It would be nice if one Wikipedia page corroborated another, wouldn't it? Yeah. Fat chance of that, though. It is Wikipedia after all. Where fact is voted on. -- 20:16, 26 August 2007 (UTC)

Trivia section links to biased/political external sources[edit]

Regarding the link (presently number 4) under the Trivia Section:

"A picture of McNamara's 1995 meeting with General Vo Nguyen Giap hangs in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, near pictures of John Kerry, Elmo Zumwalt, Warren Christopher, and other American dignitaries who visited Vietnam after normalization of relations between the two countries. [3] [4] (see photo #10 (Giap incorrectly identified as Mao)"

This links to an incredibly biased anti-John Kerry website. The article is particularly misleading in that it sort of tricks the reader into navigating to that site. I would have never intentionally gone to that site, but I was steered there on the grounds that I was looking at pictures of McNamara. mlhwitz 19:47, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

X Programs relevant?[edit]

Should we say something of the X programs? connects "McNamara" with the end of series of "X programs" that included "X-1 gave us supersonic flight" and "X-3 Stiletto gave us the F-104 Starfighter". True history or false rumour, I don't yet know ... McNamara = Secretary McNamara and us = USA, I presume. -- Pelavarre 02:12, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:Fogofwar.jpg[edit]

Nuvola apps important.svg

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Links to Zionism[edit]

There is a single incident listed, which is the attack on USS liberty, which is a highly controversial incident with many unclear details. However, it is all presented here as undisputed facts. A reference to the USS Liberty Incident would be in place here, as well as other references to his alleged links to zionism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:25, 20 March 2008 (UTC)


The allegations about zionistic trends is a pure violation of WP:BLP and WP:OR and has been removed. Before readding it, please familiarize yourself with the policy and make sure to cite the appropriate sources.Balloonman (talk) 05:53, 22 March 2008 (UTC)


Well, hopefully, you'll get this message. I cannot seem to send you an email, although I will admit I am new to Wikipedia, but you do seem to repeatedly remove my "Links to Zionism" entry. You call it a clear violation of various wikipedia policies.

I was not aware that the truth is in violation of Wikipedia Policies.

The time and dates I entered in my entries were right on the money.

The source is actually a set of interviews with survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty, whose video's just happen to be on You Tube. While 'the facts around the liberty' that Wikipedia may wish exposed may be in question, the collected interviews of the survivers of the U.S.S. Liberty, spoken by their own mouths while on camera are rather explicitly trustworthy sources. Besides, what's to prevent you from deleting the entry if I simply transpose the text of the video onto the wikipedia entry. Are the words of actual witness's insufficient for Wikipedia?

Do respond, or you will be deleting this entry from Wikipedia for quite some time.

FearNoTruth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by FearNoTruth (talkcontribs) 22:10, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

First, YouTube is not considered a reliable source. Videos from YouTube is not a reliable source. Second, your research into the subject constitutes Original Research. You need to find a reliable third party source that says what you allege. Third, your exposition on the facts, is violating the Neutral Point of View/BLP guidelines. Issues that may be derogatory about a person are required by WP:BLP to be deleted on sight unless they can be substantiated via reliable sources. As for your threat to keep adding the text to the article. You can be blocked and the page can be protected if necessary. I am not opposed to the material being in there, ASSUMING that it is done so via reliable sources and according to wiki-policy.Balloonman (talk) 22:39, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

The only reason why WP considers it a violation is because it wants to hide any zionism, since it(WP) has some zionism connections. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:39, 4 April 2009 (UTC)


Is there a source for this? I just read "In Retrospect" and the parts where he talked about his childhood and President Kennedy's election I got a strong impression that he was Catholic. Starzaz (talk) 21:14, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

"But in the end, most of the cost savings were illusionary. Every base he closed resulted in a new construction project elsewhere to expand another base, relocation of forces projects and other related spending. The actual cost savings through consolidation of installations was often minimal or in some cases negative."

A lot of the text in this piece is taken verbatim from the McNamara biography on the DOD website (found at, but these three sentences were added without any citation. Gaintes (talk) 19:37, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Involvement in USS Liberty Incident[edit]

Who thinks that the section entitled "Involvement in USS Liberty Incident" is blatantly POV? TuckerResearch (talk) 21:41, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

His children[edit]

I couldn't find any where in the article Robert McNamara's children's name's. does anyone have any idea what they were/are?

~Another McNamara~ —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:15, 6 August 2008 (UTC)

The caption on one of the photo pages (photo dated 1981) inside "In Retrospect" lists his children as 'Kathy' and 'Craig'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:44, 20 March 2009 (UTC)


Robert McNamara was a Republican who served in the cabinets of two Democratic Presidents. How this rare cross-party appointment doesn't get a single mention in his entire bio comes across as strange (no pun intended - Strange is his middle name) to me. If you check, for example, controversial cabinet members such as Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld, you'll see they're listed as Republicans. Bob McNamara should at the very least get "Republican" listed next to his religion in his infobox. In accordance with WP:BOLD, I'm making the edit. Sadistik (talk) 15:11, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

McNamara does not appear to have self-identified as Republican, if you go by his statement early in 'In Retrospect' where he notes that John Kenneth Galbraith probably *thought* he was; he'd registered as one merely because his father was a Republican. He appears to cast himself as a basically non-partisan military man / business executive / civil servant. (talk) 08:51, 20 March 2009 (UTC)

Cancelling Ford's Edsel wording[edit]

I am confused about the following sentence: "He eventually succeeded in ending the program, which continues to be seen as one of the largest blunders in automotive history, in November 1959."

Which thing was seen as a blunder, the idea of building the Edsel in the first place or McNamara's cancelling of it? (talk) 22:44, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

Did he cancel chrome plating on M-16 rifle?[edit]

Years ago I saw some documentary in which he was blamed as over ruling military experts about the need for chrome plating of M-16 rifles, which lead to them jamming up with a high frequency. Anyone with information as to the truth of this? (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 21:22, 9 June 2009 (UTC).

sounds like rummy (don rumsfeld) overruling the generals on how many troops needed for iraq warCinnamon colbert (talk) 15:04, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

Missing refs[edit]

why is Dispatches by M Herr and the best and the brightest by Halberstam not on the ref list ? The fist is key to undestanding the Vietnam war, surely the defining event of McNamaras life, and the other has a lot of bio material.Cinnamon colbert (talk) 20:13, 11 June 2009 (UTC)


The article begins.

Robert Strange McNamara was born in Oakland, California. His father was Robert James McNamara, sales manager of a wholesale shoe company. His mother was Clara Nell Strange McNamara, whose maiden name was given as her son's middle name.[4][5] Both parents were of British ancestry.

I was just wondering where this came from ? McNamara is a traditional Irish name, completely of Gaelic origin, he even describes himself as 'That damn Irish man" in the Fog of war and is listed in Irish-Americans_in_the_military, is there something amiss?

My account is new, and I can't edit yet, but I'm pretty sure he is of Irish decent. —Preceding unsigned comment added by CormacGuerin (talkcontribs) 17:32, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Cited sources say "British," Britain means not only England, but can also mean Scotland, and at the very least, Northern Ireland. Gwen Gale (talk) 17:37, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes of course, he is however to the best of my knowledge not of British ancestry.

The cited sources say his parents (plural) were of British ancestry. Strange (his mother's) is an English name. His father could easily have had ancestors from Ulster (which is indeed mostly British) and/or may also have had other English or Scots ancestors on his father's side. McNamara is an Irish name and he called himself Irish but as I said, it could have been McNamaras from Ulster, who may even have married Brits. Hence, RM could have been, say, as little as 1/16th Ulster Irish (that 1/16th would still be British) through his paternal (father's) line. More sources on this are indeed welcome, but there is no blatant conflict in having all British ancestors, carrying the name McNamara and calling oneself "Irish." If you want to carry this further, you'll need to cite some reliable sources. Gwen Gale (talk) 22:52, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
There is no more reliable a source than his own mouth, and he refers to himself quite blatantly as Irish in 'The Fog of War' as someone mentioned earlier. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:42, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
As I've already said, one can be Irish and call oneself Irish and have parents whose ancestry was wholly British. To this day, about a third of Eire's Irish population lives in British Northern Ireland. Either way, so far, the cited sources say his parents' ancestry was British. Without further reliable sources, there's not much more to talk about here. Gwen Gale (talk) 10:49, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

By that rationale all the Irish Catholics who immigrated to this country are "British", which they really arent. Anyway, he explains his father's family background in this interview. Irish immigrants fleeing the famine. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:36, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

No, I didn't say all Irish Catholics who immigrated to the states would be taken as British, I said Irish who emmigrated from Ulster could be called British. However, the pith is, the article cited two reliable sources which said his parents were British. As we know, reliable sources can be flawed, moreover when they deal with topics brushing on the political. Thanks for the new source. Gwen Gale (talk) 23:44, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
Updated. Gwen Gale (talk) 00:00, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Now this is only a guess, but given that RM was Secretary of Defence for the first Irish Catholic president of the US, which was somewhat controversial then, the flaws in the sources may stem from that time, owing to the propagandists not wanting the public to be aware that both the president and his SoD were of Irish ancestry. Gwen Gale (talk) 00:06, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

To add to this discussion, McNamara was born before Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; even though he wasn't born in either of those places, it's certainly possible his family members felt quite strongly about which way they would refer to themselves. Also, more people born in Irelands (both) have left the island than still live on it, even 150+ years after the famine. It is even possible that more people born there and still alive today live somewhere else, and on a recent visit there, I was told verbally (with no proof offered) that over 44 million people could get an Irish (Republic) passport because either their parents or grandparents were born there. That's 9 or 10 times the current population of the island.

The question of what "Irish" means, and what "British" means or might have meant, is not something for us to adjudicate here.  Frank  |  talk  18:02, 8 July 2009 (UTC)


Will someone who has edit capabilities on this article please fix "emmigrated"? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:44, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Done.  Frank  |  talk  17:49, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Someone tried to throw him overboard from a ferryboat in 1972[edit]

Wow, just wow. (talk) 04:50, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Nguyen Van Troi tried to assassinate McNamara in May, 1963, and was executed for the attempt by the South Vietnamese. I'm curious to know how McNamara felt about a man of 17 years old specifically trying to kill him... then, and later in life when he look back on his Vietnam policy as in error. Did he ever meet Troi? Did he ever make any comments of record on the matter? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:15, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Admission of Crimes Against Humanity[edit]

Mcnamara's drafting of men with low mental ability, known as project 100,000, reduced the number of men drafted from middle class families whose parents would have been far more effective resistors to government policy. This was a crime against humanity of the most cynical and destructive sort. His position that ex-cabinet members must leave the stage of public discussion seems very convenient, when thirty years later he admitted lying about the rationale for maintaining the war (secret information that he admitted in 1995 did not exist). Had he protested the war from 1968 onward, well over half the lives lost by all sides in Vietnam might have been saved. Since he admitted lying and the project 100,000 is a matter of public record, the conclusion that he was a willful war criminal who committed crimes against humanity and focused much of it on persons of poor intelligence and little political influence is inescapable.

The present Wiki article does not address this with the strength justified by his admissions.

This writing draws on published work of Joseph Galloway and the New York Times as well as my memory living through the times.

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:11, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Ford Motor Co.[edit]

The "Early life and career" section of this article mentions nothing about McNamara's working for the Ford Motor Company and eventually becoming its president. The article makes it appear as though McNamara did nothing between World War II and becoming Secretary of Defense. I suspect that the article may once have had some content about his experience at Ford; if so, it should probably be restored to the article. --Metropolitan90 (talk) 22:44, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

"Black Mac"[edit]

I have heard old vets (advisors) to Vietnam speak of McNamara as being referred to as "Black Mac" by (now) North Vietnam, and that they knew he was the brains behind some of the deadly devices the US used there, and that they had targeted him for assassination. This seems like a far-reaching goal. Perhaps a more significant adddition to this article would be from the perspective of a Vietnamese editor (here on wikipedia) that could reference any materials from Vietnam's perspective at that time (~1959 - 1965). Another way of saying this is that the current article reads almost entirely from the perspective of the West and mainly from a US POV. Bridgettttttte (talk) 05:22, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

As a side note, perhaps the Viet Kong were unable to hit McNamara, and instead successfully assassingnated JFK. That would explain the extreme reaction of President Johnson to the build up of 500,000 men in Vietnam. Before McNamara died last year, he stated his polices concerning the "domino effect" of communist takeover of South East Asia were incorrect. Bridgettttttte (talk) 08:01, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

Zombie slayer?[edit]

Someone keeps editing the page to add "zombie slayer" in the introduction. Is anyone aware of Mr. McNamara's history with the undead? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:51, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Call of Duty: Black Ops. He's a playable character in zombie mode. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:39, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Just wanted to say that I love how his role in the game is described. He and "several former Presidents of the United States make common cause with Fidel Castro against attacking zombies." Priceless. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:00, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

Hee, hee. Music to a copyeditor's ears. Lucky for you it's priceless, or you'd be getting my bill. EEng (talk) 00:39, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Not appropriate for such an article, if readers want to find out more about his role in the game then that's up to them but don't put it in the same article about his role in the Vietnam War... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:45, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

Perfectly appropriate. The article is about the man, not just his Vietnam role, and that he appears in a promiennt video game 50 years later says something about his place in popular consciousness. EEng (talk) 21:28, 15 September 2013 (UTC)


His SecDef Bio is so much larger than his WB bio.Phd8511 (talk) 14:08, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

assassination attempt '63[edit]

There's no mention in the article of McNamara's attempted assassination in South Vietnam. (talk) 18:03, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

TFX fighter-bomber scandal[edit]

I believe a section on the TFX fighter-bomber scandal involving Secretary McNamara needs to be added to the article. On November 24, 1962 Secretary McNamara awarded a six billion dollar contract was awarded to General Dynamics, a Texas and New York defense contractor, rather then to Boeing, a Washington and Kansas contractor. The charge of corruption was awarding the contract for political purposes, electoral votes, in a general election. The Pentagon had reccomended that Boeing make the TFX fighter-bombers since Boeing was technically superior and less expensive. Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric had legal representation interest in having awarded General Dynamics the contract. Secretary of the Navy Fred Korth was forced to resign for having financial connections with General Dynamics. Both Korth and Gilpatric were found culpable for conflict of interest in awarding the TFX fighter-bomber contract to General Dynamics. Cmguy777 (talk) 18:37, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

Video game (again)[edit]

This discussion transferred from elsewhere, and regards [2]

Making sure that I understand you correctly: a play written about Robert McNamara isn't germane to an encyclopedia article about Robert McNamara, but fictionalized versions of Robert McNamara included in mass-market video games that are not expressly about Robert McNamara are important enough to merit inclusion. Is that correct? Absurdist1968 (talk) 22:11, 15 June 2014 (UTC)

In these specific cases, yes and yes, and here's why. A fictional or semifictional treatment of a subject tells us what the playwright thinks of the subject, not anything factual about the subject. The exception would be if the work has significantly affected, or reflects, the subject's place in history or popular perception and, in general, a threshold test for that is whether the work itself is notable i.e. has itself been the subject of significant commentary, which doesn't appear to be the case here.
A good example is lobotomy. There are lots of schlock books and films which use lobotomy or some kind of brain surgery as a plot device, but there are a few e.g. Suddenly Last Summer and Cuckoo's Nest and maybe (but maybe not) Frances, which have powerfully affected public perception of the topic, and therefore are part of understanding the topic.
It doesn't tell us much about McNamara that he has been depicted in one more serious, but non-notable, play aimed at people interested in history and politics; that he appears in them is to be expected. However, in my opinion is does tell us something about McNamara that the makers of an extremely popular video game thought that members of its target market might find attractive or fun, even a little bit, a McNamara character. One could argue that such a character placement is just a private joke of the game's makers -- that happens a lot -- but given the age cohort of game designers, even that tells us something about the extent to which McNamara persists in popular consciousness.
And no matter what, we certainly don't include the name of a non-notable actor who happened to play the role. That whiffs strongly of promotionalism.
EEng (talk) 23:35, 15 June 2014 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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wildly successful Edsel[edit]

Uses the phrase "such as the wildly successful Edsel."
I don't think the Edsel qualifies as a success, much less widely successful. Thisdaytrivia (talk) 18:40, 19 February 2017 (UTC)

Removed this. Joegoodfriend (talk) 20:58, 20 February 2017 (UTC)

Nuclear Strategy[edit]

When McNamara took over the Pentagon in 1961, the United States military relied on an all out-nuclear strike to respond to a Soviet attack of any kind. This kind of strike would lead to the death of Soviet military forces, and also civilians. This was the same nuclear strategy planned by the Strategic Air Command (SAC), led by General Curtis LeMay. When “McNamara saw how the SAC planned to use the nuclear arsenal, he was appalled”[1]. McNamara sought for other options after seeing how this strategy could not guarantee the destruction of all Soviet nuclear weapons leaving the United States vulnerable to retaliation. McNamara’s alternative in the doctrine of counterforce was to try and limit the United states nuclear exchange by only targeting enemy military forces. This concept was used to prevent retaliation and escalation by holding Soviet cities hostage to a follow up strike. McNamara later concluded that counterforce was not likely to control escalation but likely to provoke retaliation.

One reference section and two notes sections in this article[edit]

As of this iteration of this article, there are two notes sections and one reference section. Is there a reason for this? Could these be consolidated? Any comments, let's discuss. Thanks KConWiki (talk) 14:10, 16 April 2017 (UTC)

  1. ^ Scoblic, Peter. "Robert McNamara’s Logical Legacy | Arms Control Association".