NPR logo Robert McNamara, Vietnam War Architect, Is Dead

Robert McNamara, Vietnam War Architect, Is Dead

Robert McNamara in 1965. Getty Images hide caption

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For anyone who lived through the 1960s — and can remember it — the name Robert McNamara was a big part of it.

Secretary of defense during the Kennedy and most of the Johnson administrations, McNamara was the public face of optimism during the buildup of the Vietnam War, a conflict that took nearly 60,000 American lives and untold casualties.

McNamara died this morning at his home in Washington. He was 93.

In his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, McNamara wrote that by 1967 he had soured on the war. But he continued to express confidence that the leadership of President Johnson would help bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the conflict.

He was president of the Ford Motor Co. when President Kennedy named him to head up Defense in 1961. He stayed on after Kennedy's assassination. Weary of the war and the intense criticism of it, McNamara quit in February of 1968 — about a month before LBJ announced he would not seek re-election. He was succeeded as defense secretary by Clark Clifford.

He then headed up the World Bank, where his efforts to reduce world poverty were well received.