Robert McNamara got his B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and his Masters Degree from the Harvard Business School. After serving in the military during World War II, he went to work at Ford and later became President of that company.
McNamara was asked to join the cabinet of John F. Kennedy, Jr., where he served as Secretary of the Defense. He applied a business model approach to defense issues and to war. When the U.S. escalated its involvement in Vietnam, in 1965, by sending in massive numbers of troops (reaching over 500,000 very quickly) and implementing a blanket bombing campaign in the North, that is attributed to McNamara's advice and analysis of how the U.S. must proceed in order to "win" the U.S. War on Vietnam.
McNamara is often called the "prime architect" of the U.S. War Against Vietnam and held responsible by many for the over 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans who died in that war, as well as for the decision by the U.S. to use chemical warfare on the ground, including Agent Orange, which later caused birth defects, cancer, and deaths of many U.S. veterans and their families and continues to cause high rates of birth defects and cancer in the people in Vietnam.
McNamara applied his business school approach to the war, and implemented the infamous "Body Count" (number of VietCong claimed to have been killed) as the proper measurement for the success of his plans. In 1967, with the war escalating and no end in sight, and anti-war activities increasing, McNamara "resigned" from his position as Secretary of Defense. Some say he was pushed out. He was given the position of President of the World Bank. (Just like that sleazy Wolfowitz.)
In 2003, filmmaker Errol Morris released his documentary titled "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara." It features McNamara talking about his life and mostly his involvement with war, his thoughts on the subject, his perspective long-removed from his original involvement. It is a fascinating film. Some critics rejected it as a belated effort by an old man to repair his bloody image. I thought it was a brilliant film. It won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Excerpt below.