CBC Digital Archives

Robert McNamara: 'We were wrong'

"We were wrong, terribly wrong." Those are the damning words of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, about his nation's role in the Vietnam War. McNamara's job was to suggest a wartime military strategy to those presidents. But in his 1995 book Reflections: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, he candidly admits that America's strategy was misguided. In this interview from CBC-TV's Midday, Brent Bambury asks McNamara about his memoir, and what he learned from his experiences as defense secretary.

• Robert McNamara was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1916. He died on July 6, 2009 in Washington.

• McNamara was secretary of defense from 1961 to 1968. It was the longest tenure for anyone since the creation of the position in 1947.

• In 1968, McNamara took over as head of the World Bank. His term lasted 13 years. His goal for the bank, according to the Associated Press, was based on "the belief that improving life in rural communities in developing countries was a more promising path to peace than the buildup of arms and armies."

• In 2004, American filmmaker Errol Morris released his documentary called The Fog of War. In it, McNamara talked about his life in international politics and offered his wisdom about the nature and conduct of modern war. The film won an Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: May 18, 1995
Guest(s): Robert McNamara
Interviewer: Brent Bambury
Duration: 12:18

Last updated: February 13, 2012

Page consulted on April 16, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Canada's Secret War: Vietnam

Vietnam may have been America's war but Canada was heavily involved -- for and against. Canada...

Boat People: A Refugee Crisis

They were prepared to risk everything. In the years following the Vietnam War, over one millio...

Why they fled: The fall of Saigon

Refugee Francis Win remembers the arrival of the North Vietnamese communists in Saigon.

Refugees and their sponsors look back 25 year...

In the year 2000, a reunion in Ottawa between refugees and their sponsors. And Peter Tran loo...

Returning to Vietnam, 15 years later