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Robert McNamara Dead at 93


Legend Member
Silver Member
Nov 4, 2005
Most of you probably have no clue who he was.


Robert McNamara at a cabinet
meeting in November, 1967.

Robert McNamara was one of a group of 10 men, who served in the Army Air Corps as a team of statistical and quality control experts, under Tex Thornton. Thornton discovered a mess in the army and built his team to do statistical analysis of logistics and cleaned up the war effort.

After the war, the 10 had become such a well-oiled machine that they talked about going into business together. Thornton thought better of it, and offered the entire group to the highest bidder - all ten or no one.

Henry Ford II had taken over the ailing Ford Motor Company after his father's death in 1943 and needed the help. He hired the Thornton group. All ten began crawling through every operation at Ford, asking questions about why things were done the way they were done. At Ford, they became known as The Quiz Kids for their relentless questioning.

In time, their results were put into play and the reforms they brought about turned Ford Motor Company around from a money loser to a money maker. At that point, they became known as The Whiz Kids.

Robert McNamara was one of those ten Whiz Kids. He became president of Ford in 1959 but served for only two months. He was tapped by President John F. Kennedy to be the Secretary of Defense.

McNamara became a controversial figure, because he was the architect of the United States' Viet Nam strategy that resulted in dividing the country along bitter lines. Toward the end, he realized that constant escalation was not working but it was too late to do much about it.

He served under LBJ and after the election of Richard Nixon, McNamara moved on to be the president of the World Bank.

Years later, McNamara apologized for Viet Nam and for his policies that caused the great turmoil in the country and resulted in a failed war effort.

Robert McNamara, hero of WWII, one of the Whiz Kids, and architect of the failed Viet Nam policy, dead today at the age of 93.

The rest of the Whiz Kids...

  • Tex Thornton left Ford because of conflicts with Ernie Breech, to go to Hughes Aircraft and eventually head Litton Industries.
  • Wilbur Andreson — left after two years to return to California and became an executive with Bekins Van Lines.
  • Charles Bosworth, retired as director of purchasing.
  • J. Edward Lundy, retired as chief financial officer — he remained at Ford through the 1970s and was known as one of the most powerful people in the company and as a confidant of Henry Ford II.
  • Arjay Miller, rose through finance and became Ford president in the mid 1960s. After being dismissed in favor of Bunkie Knudsen, an executive recruited from General Motors, he became the dean of the Stanford Business School.
  • Ben Mills, became general manager of Lincoln-Mercury Division.
  • George Moore, left after two years to become an automobile dealer.
  • Francis "Jack" Reith, became head of Ford of France and was a rising star. Subsequently he was the executive responsible for the awful Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and heavily involved in the Edsel, both sales failures. Reith left the company to run the Crosley Division of Avco, and committed suicide a few years later.
  • James Wright, eventually head of Ford division and the car and truck group. Retired in the early 1960s after a power struggle with executive John Dykstra.


Senior Member
Gold Member
Oct 9, 2006
Not a fan of McNamara. A great book to read to understand the damage he did is Dereliction of Duty by H R McMasters. (The book is actually an indictment of the senior military leadership for not having the guts to stand up to McNamara's military micromanagement and 'body count' strategy during Vietnam.)

[Sounds 'heavy', but if you like reading history, it's a fast and compelling read...and also provides tremendous insight into the ways of White House politics.]
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Legend Member
Gold Member
Nov 4, 2005
I kinda knew who he was, if only because one of the terminals at Detroit Wayne Co. Metropolitan Airport is the Robert M. McNamara terminal. If you have flown Northwest, Delta, or KLM into Detroit within the past 7 years, you've flown into that terminal.


Senior Member
Gold Member
Oct 18, 2007
i knew he was involved somehow in vietnam....thank you KG for reminding us of the higher points of his career (Ford)


Veteran Member
Gold Member
Jan 30, 2008
Aha! Thanks Ann for that insight. I flew out of DTW many times '97 to '04, but never knew why the terminal was called the McNamara! I have to admit I didn't know anything about him (or had even heard of him before today), but then again, I'm "fairly" young, and not raised in this country...