March 1

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Mar 1, 1968:

Clifford replaces McNamara

Clark Clifford replaces Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense. McNamara, who had first taken office under President John F. Kennedy, left amid a debate over Vietnam policy precipitated by the Tet Offensive. In the summer of 1967, McNamara had become convinced that the United States should seek an end to the war through a negotiated settlement. In a memorandum submitted to President Johnson, he recommended that the U.S. freeze its troop levels, cease the bombing of North Vietnam, and turn over responsibility for the ground war to South Vietnam. Johnson rejected these proposals outright. After the communists launched the Tet Offensive in January 1968, an increasingly demoralized McNamara left Washington after eight years as Defense Secretary to become the president of the World Bank. Clifford, a successful Washington lawyer and Democratic Party powerbroker, served as Defense Secretary until January 1969, when he departed with the rest of the Johnson administration.

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