Obituary : Robert S. McNamara
Robert S. McNamara, a Chilmark visitor and property owner since the 1960s, died Monday. He was 93.
As secretary of defense Mr. McNamara drew enormous criticism for conducting America's most controversial war. Late in life, he acknowledged his own misjudgments and went on to devote himself to helping the world's poorest nations.
The former defense secretary died at 5:30 am at his home, his wife Diana told The Associated Press. She said he had been in failing health for some time.
Mr. McNamara was part of a group led by Nicholas Freydberg of Chilmark, who bought from George D. Flynn 460 acres of land in the south shore area of Edgartown known as Oyster Watcha Midlands. Later, the McNamaras, in partnership with others, bought about 40 acres in Chilmark, including what's now widely known as Lucy Vincent Beach. The group donated beach, land behind the beach and a parking lot to the Chilmark Town Association, which leased the property to the town for a nominal fee. Beachgoers shared the access to the beach with the McNamaras
Later, Mr. McNamara sold his Chilmark house and built a house he called Sandpiper Point on his Oyster Watcha property. President Clinton and his family used the house for a summer visit in 1993.
For all his healing efforts, Mr. McNamara was fundamentally associated with the Vietnam War, "McNamara's war," the country's most disastrous foreign venture, the only American war to end in abject withdrawal rather than victory.
Known as a policymaker with great faith and aptitude for statistical analysis, Mr. McNamara was recruited from the presidency of the Ford Motor Co by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, to run the Pentagon. He stayed seven years, longer than anyone since the job's creation in 1947.
His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a Stanford University student, protested against the war while his father was running it. At Harvard, Mr. McNamara once had to flee a student mob through underground utility tunnels. Critics mocked Mr. McNamara mercilessly; they made much of the fact that his middle name was "Strange."
Although Vineyarders were not widely hostile to the vacationing defense secretary, they objected to his attempts to keep swimmers and sunbathers off his south shore Chilmark property, and one evening, in 1972, while traveling to the Vineyard aboard the Islander, a Vineyard war critic attempted to push the defense secretary overboard.
After leaving the Pentagon he became president of the World Bank and devoted his enormous energies to improving life in rural communities in developing countries.
A private person, McNamara for many years declined to write his memoirs. He told Time magazine in 1991 that he did not think the bombing of North Vietnam - the biggest bombing campaign in history up to that time - would work, but he went along with it "because we had to try to prove it would not work, number one, and [because] other people thought it would work."