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The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Robert McNamara stated that any military commander who is honest with himself has
done what? And what should commanders do as a result? Robert McNamara stated that any
military commander that is honest with himself will admit that he has made mistake sin the
application of military power, and that he has killed his own people and others as a result of his
mistakes. As a result, he thinks commanders should


What are some of the jobs Robert McNamara held? Some of the jobs McNamara has held
were that he was in the Army in WW2, served 7 years as Secretary of Defense and 13 years as
President of the World Bank.


What did McNamara’s silver calendar commemorate? His silver calendar was given to him
by President Kennedy and it commemorates the dates the dates from October 16th to October
28th, 1962 that the United States were faced with a very real threat of Nuclear War.


What is McNamara’s first lesson? McNamara’s first lesson is: Empathize with your enemy.


How did Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson illustrate this lesson? Llewellyn Thompson
illustrated this lesson by explaining to President Kennedy that he thought that by negotiating
with Khrushchev, it would allow Khrushchev to take credit for saving Cuba. He empathized
with how this would benefit Khrushchev and how they would benefit, rather than just the
United States.


What is Lesson #2? McNamara’s second lesson is: Rationality will not save us


How many warheads were on Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis? There were 162
warheads on Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Did Castro recommend that nuclear warheads be used? Was he willing to allow Cuba to
be destroyed? Castro was willing to use the nuclear warheads and told Khrushchev to use
them if an attack was made by the United States. Castro was also willing to accept the
consequences and destroying Cuba.


What was McNamara’s earliest memory? McNamara’s earliest memory was of a city
exploding with joy on Nov 11, 1918 when he was two years old. He remembered the tops of
street cars being crowded with people cheering and kissing, celebrating the end of World War


What kind of school did McNamara attend as a young boy? McNamara attended a school
that was in a small shack but had a diverse student population.


During what era was McNamara in college? McNamara attended college during the Great


What is Lesson #3? McNamara’s third lesson is: There’s something beyond one’s self.


What office did McNamara serve under when he was in the Air Force? In the Air Force,
McNamara served under the office of Statistical Control.


(00:30:50) What is lesson #4? McNamara’s fourth lesson is: Maximize efficiency.


What was the B-29 designed to do? The B-29 aircraft was designed to be able to bomb from
high altitudes and destroy targets more effectively and efficiently.


McNamara says while under General Curtis LeMay their focus was on efficiency – not for
killing but for what? McNamara said their focus was on efficiency – not for killing, but for
weakening the adversary by focusing on target destruction.


What did LeMay decide to do with the B-29 to maximize efficiency? LeMay decided that to
maximize efficiency with the B-29, he would bring down their flying altitude from 23,000ft, and
instead fly them at 5,000ft and use them to bomb areas like fire bombs.


What was LeMay’s response to the angry pilot who lost his wingman? LeMay’s shot and
killed angry pilot who lost his wingman.


What is Lesson #5? McNamara’s fifth lesson is: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.


(00:47:00) Where did McNamara go to work after WWII? McNamara went to work at Ford
Motor Company after WWII.


What is Lesson #6? McNamara’s sixth lesson is: Get the data.


(00:54:00) What job did JFK offer McNamara when he was first elected president? When
JFK was first elected president, he offered McNamara a job as Secretary of Treasury, and later
Secretary of Defense when he told JFK he had no experience as Secretary of Treasury.


What was McNamara’s net worth as president of Ford? What was he going to be paid as a
cabinet member under Kennedy? As President of Ford, McNamara’s net worth was 800,000
with stock options worth millions. He was going to be paid 25,000 dollars a year salary as a
cabinet member under Kennedy.


How did McNamara’s wife find out he had accepted a cabinet position? McNamara’s wife
found out he had accepted a cabinet position by an announcement from President Kennedy live
on television.


What happened in 1963 that kept the US in Vietnam when Kennedy and his cabinet were
attempting to withdraw? In 1963, McNamara was advising Kennedy to withdraw all military
personnel from Vietnam by 1965 but in 1963 there was a government coup in South Vietnam.


Where is President Kennedy buried? President Kennedy is buried at Arlington National


Who replaced JFK as president? Vice President Lyndon. B Johnson took over to become
President when President Kennedy was assassinated.


What was the concern over completely withdrawing from Vietnam? The concern with
completely withdrawing from Vietnam was that the area would completely fall to communists.


What is Lesson #7? McNamara’s seventh lesson is: Belief and seeing are both often wrong


Were American ships indeed torpedoed in August 1964 in an incident known as the Gulf
of Tonkin incident? The American ship Maddox. was indeed torpedoed by North Vietnamese.
Shells found were clearly identifiable as North Vietnamese.


What did the Gulf of Tonkin lead to? The Gulf of Tonkin incident lead to bombing attacks on
targets in North Vietnam. This also lead to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which gave complete
authority for the President to take the country to war at any time.


How many more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam than were dropped in Western
Europe during WWII? There were two to three times as many bombs dropped on North
Vietnam than there were dropped in Western Europe during WWII.


(1:18:00) Why does McNamara think the US was unable to empathize with the North
Vietnamese? McNamara thinks the US was unable to empathize with the North Vietnamese
because they didn’t know them well enough to empathize them.


According to McNamara, how did North Vietnam see the war? McNamara believed the
North Vietnamese saw the war as a civil war in which they were fighting for their
independence. North Vietnam believed the US was aiming to replace the French as a colonial
power and to keep South Vietnam as a colonial interest.


What is Lesson #8? McNamara’s eighth lesson is: Be prepared to reexamine you reasoning.


What is Agent Orange? Why was it used? Agent orange was a chemical that strips leaves off
of trees. It was a toxic chemical and killed many people afterward. This chemical was used to
suppress the North Vietnamese food supply.


(1:25:00) What is Lesson #9? McNamara’s ninth lesson is: In order to do good, you may have
to engage in evil.


McNamara told a story about General Sherman in the American Civil War just before he
burned Atlanta – what did Sherman say to the mayor of Atlanta? How was this story
relevant to the point McNamara was making? Sherman told the mayor of Atlanta that war is
cruelty. This is relevant because LeMay and those in power during the Vietnam war, were doing
the best they could to save the nation, save South Vietnam and the world as a whole. Sometimes
decisions are made that are cruel, but necessary in war time.


How many people did McNamara say protested at the Pentagon during the Vietnam War?
What does he say about the protesters? McNamara said that 20,000 people protested at the
Pentagon during the Vietnam war. He said that no rifles would be loaded with those men
protecting the pentagon without his approval.


What is Lesson #10? McNamara’s tenth lesson is: Never say never.


According to McNamara, who bears the responsibility for the management of wars? Do
you think this position absolves him of his role as Secretary of Defense? * According to
McNamara, the responsibility of the management of war lies with the President.

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