McNamara, Clifford, and the Burdens of Vietnam 1965-1969: Secretaries of Defense Historical Series, Volume VI.

Author:McCue, Joe
Position:Book review

McNamara, Clifford, and the Burdens of Vietnam 1965-1969: Secretaries of Defense Historical Series, Volume VI. By Edward J. Drea. Washington, D.C.: Defense Department, 2011. Photographs. Maps. Diagrams. Pp. 694. $68.00 ISBN: 978-016088135-0

This book is a detailed history of bureaucratic decisions, discussions, and issue resolutions at the Department of Defense (DoD) from the lens of the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) during 1965-1969. The two SecDefs were Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford. Most of the book centers on the four years (1965-1968) of McNamara, with fleeting comments on the change of leadership at DoD when Clifford took the reins in 1968. Drea identifies the agreements and disagreements throughout the highest levels of Federal Government during this time when the country was faced with the growing concern over appropriate military and political actions during the Vietnam War.

From an air power perspective, Drea describes the issues, discussions, and ultimate decisions made by President Johnson, and the means and methods employed by McNamara during Congressional and DoD debates on a host of military aircraft systems. For example, there is a detailed analysis of McNamara's testimony to Congress for future funding of defense needs, as well as a description of an ongoing debate within DoD concerning procurement of F-111 aircraft. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had one perspective on F-111 procurement; Secretary McNamara had another, wanting to procure a "common" aircraft to satisfy both Air Force and Navy missions. This debate resulted in cancellation of the F-111B (the intended Navy variant) and subsequent research and development of the heralded F-14A. Additionally, there were spill-over discussions concerning retiring "older" B-52 aircraft to be replaced by the yet-to-be-developed FB-111. The Air Force was not favorably disposed to morphing the F-111 into a strategic bomber replacement. There were ongoing discussions on B-52 flight operations in Vietnam, as well as the urgent need for procurement of additional 500- and 750-lb general purpose bombs used by B-52s in their escalating role in the Vietnam War. Another interesting force structure and funding debate was whether to procure additional SR-71 aircraft, as requested by the JCS. SecDef and the OSD staff won that debate, and SR-71 procurement was truncated at a...

To continue reading