Robert S. McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Sometimes known as the “Author of the Vietnam War”, he played a major role in escalating the United States involvement in the war. I never liked the guy and likened him to a weasel. Nor did I like his boss, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who I considered to be a crude and vulgar man.
was born in San Francisco, California, graduated from UC Berkeley and
Harvard Business School and served in the United States Army Air
Forces during World War II. After the war, Henry Ford II hired
McNamara and a group of other Army Air Force veterans to work for
Ford Motor Company. These "Whiz Kids" helped reform Ford
with modern planning, organization, and management control systems.
After briefly serving as Ford's president, McNamara accepted
appointment as Secretary of Defense.
became a close adviser to John F. Kennedy and advocated the use of a
blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy and McNamara
instituted a Cold War defense strategy of flexible response,
consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon
into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and
the Defense Supply Agency.
with the Kennedy administration, it was McNamara who presided over
the build-up of the US military in South Vietnam. After the 1964 Gulf
of Tonkin incident, the number of US soldiers in Vietnam escalated
dramatically. Eventually he grew skeptical of the efficacy of
committing US soldiers to Vietnam and in 1968 he resigned as
Secretary of Defense to become President of the World Bank. At least
he deserves credit for admitting he was wrong. But, let me tell you
what he did that lead to over 58,000 Americans, many of them my
friends, and who know how many Vietnamese, getting killed for
Gulf of Tonkin incident, also known as the USS Maddox incident, was
an international confrontation that led to the United States engaging
more directly in the Vietnam War. It involved
involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the
Gulf of Tonkin. The whole
incident, which occurred in President Johnson's first year as
president, was fake.
August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, while performing an
intelligence patrol was
pursued by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats and
Maddox fired three warning shots and the North Vietnamese boats then
attacked with torpedoes and machine gun fire.
National Security Agency claimed that a Second Gulf of Tonkin
incident occurred on August 4, 1964, but that was simply not true.
The second incident was the result of an overzealous US Navy radar
operator and ghost image on the radar, and some politicians took advantage of this non-incident for their own purposes.
Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005), a Navy Vice Admiral,
who served as a pilot and was awarded the Medal of Honor in the
Vietnam War during which he was a prisoner of war for over seven
years flew missions during both events confirmed that there were
no North Vietnamese boats during the second “incident.” In a
2003 documentary McNamara even admitted the second Gulf of Tonkin
attack never happened. In 1995, former Vietnam People's Army General
Vo Nguyen Giap also claimed “absolutely nothing" happened.
McNamara told President Johnson that a US Navy
vessel had been attacked and urged retaliation. The President agreed.
Johnson ordered Maddox and another ship, the Turner Joy, to stage
daylight runs into North Vietnamese waters, testing the 12 nautical
miles limit and North Vietnamese resolve. The outcome of these two
incidents was that Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,
which granted President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to assist any
Southeast Asian country whose government was considered to be
jeopardized by "communist aggression". The resolution
served as Johnson's legal justification for deploying US conventional
forces and the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam.
August 2, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon the orders from the
Maddox's captain were to open fire if the Vietnamese boats approached
within ten thousand yards. Five minutes later the Maddox fired three
rounds to warn them off and the gunboats turned around. The Johnson
administration lied about this fact and insisted that the Vietnamese
boats fired first.
before midnight, on August 4, 1964 President Johnson interrupted
national television to make an announcement in which he described an
attack by North Vietnamese vessels on two US Navy warships, Maddox
and Turner Joy, and requested authority to undertake a military
response. Johnson also referred to the attacks as having taken place
"on the high seas," suggesting that they had occurred in
international waters which was not true.
whole mess started when some fast patrol boats were quietly purchased
from Norway and sent to South Vietnam. In 1963 three young Norwegian
skippers were recruited by a Norwegian intelligence officer, who
unknown to them, was working for the United States.
agreed to a job involving sabotage missions against North
Vietnam. The missions themselves originated from the office of
Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Jr., CINCPAC in Honolulu, who received his
orders from the White House.
the sabotage attacks began, Hanoi lodged a complaint with the
International Control Commission which oversaw the terms of the
Geneva Accords, but the US (meaning Johnson and McNamara) denied any
involvement. Four years later, Secretary McNamara admitted to
Congress that he and Johnson lied.
Regarding the Maddox incident, Oregon Senator Wayne Morse smelled a rat. He attempted to raise
awareness about possible faulty records of the incident involving
Maddox. He supposedly received a call from an anonymous informant
urging Morse to investigate official logbooks of Maddox, but the logs
were not available before President Johnson's resolution was
presented to Congress. Morse tried to warn Congress to be wary of
President Johnson's conniving, but nobody believed him because he had
no hard evidence. After the United States became more deeply mired
in the war his claim began to gain support. When Morse ran for
re-election in 1968 he was defeated.
abound. Various government officials and even embers of the Maddox's
crew have suggested the whole scheme was designed to provoke the
North Vietnamese and escalate US involvement. It's also been claimed
that American politicians and strategists had been planning
provocative actions against North Vietnam for some time. American
diplomat George Ball told a British journalist after the war that "at
that time...many people...were looking for any excuse to initiate
to Raymond McGovern, a retired CIA officer, the CIA, President
Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and National Security
Adviser McGeorge Bundy all knew that the evidence of any second
attack on the evening of August 4, 1964, was highly doubtful. He
also claimed Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were eager to
widen the war in Vietnam.
his book, Body of Secrets, James Bamford, who spent three years in
theNavy as an intelligence analyst, writes that the primary purpose
of the Maddox "was to act as a seagoing provocateur—to poke
its sharp gray bow and the American flag as close to the belly of
North Vietnam as possible, in effect shoving its five-inch cannons up
the nose of the communist navy.... The Maddox' mission was made even
more provocative by being timed to coincide with commando raids,
creating the impression that the Maddox was directing those