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The Fog of War: Robert McNamara and Vietnam – Film History Livestream
November 12 @ 10:00 am - 12:15 pm EST
For Veterans Day weekend we invite you to join our film history livestream program featuring ” The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara”.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare. It was directed by Errol Morris and features an original score by Philip Glass. The title derives from the military concept of the “fog of war”, which refers to the difficulty of making decisions in the midst of conflict.
The film was screened out of competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature of 2003. In 2019, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Robert Strange McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and the eighth United States Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense, having remained in office over seven years. He played a major role in escalating the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis.
He was born in San Francisco, California, graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School and served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. After the war, Henry Ford II hired McNamara and a group of other Army Air Force veterans to work for Ford Motor Company. These “Whiz Kids” helped reform Ford with modern planning, organization, and management control systems. After briefly serving as Ford’s president, McNamara accepted appointment as Secretary of Defense.
McNamara became a close adviser to Kennedy and advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy and McNamara instituted a Cold War defense strategy of flexible response, which anticipated the need for military responses short of massive retaliation. McNamara consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency. During the Kennedy administration, McNamara presided over a build-up of US soldiers in South Vietnam. After the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the number of US soldiers in Vietnam escalated dramatically. McNamara and other US policymakers feared that the fall of South Vietnam to a Communist regime would lead to the fall of other governments in the region.
McNamara grew increasingly skeptical of the efficacy of committing American troops to South Vietnam. In 1968, he resigned as Secretary of Defense to become President of the World Bank. He served as President of the World Bank until 1981, shifting the focus of the World Bank from infrastructure and industrialization towards poverty reduction. After retiring, he served as a trustee of several organizations, including the California Institute of Technology and the Brookings Institution. In his later writings and interviews, he expressed regret for the decisions he made during the Vietnam War.
Film History Program
Our film history program will have two parts.
The first portion of our two-part program (approximately 30 minutes) will be a brief overview of the film including its historical context, plot summary, things to look for, accuracy, etc.
The second portion of our two-part program will be a full screening of the film.
During the screening you are welcome to join your fellow participants in a live online discussion of the film via Zoom.
The Vietnam War, also known in Vietnam as the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from approximately 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 – 47 years ago today, thus the date of our program on the anniversary. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries becoming communist in 1975.
Your host for this program is Robert Kelleman, the founder/director of the non-profit community organizations Washington, DC History & Culture and Dallas-Texas History & Culture.
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Washington, DC History & Culture
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Experience the history and culture of Dallas, Texas – and the world!
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