Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who served two presidents during one of the most controversial wars in American history, died Monday at age 93.
McNamara died in his sleep at his home in northwest Washington, according to The Associated Press. His wife Diana said he had been struggling with worsening health for some time.
McNamara had been president of Ford for just a few weeks when he accepted John F. Kennedy's invitation to join his inner circle in 1961. He served as secretary of defense in both Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson's administrations, becoming known as a policymaker during the Vietnam war.
During his seven years in the cabinet -- the longest any defense secretary has ever served -- he spearheaded the build-up of military forces in Vietnam. When the war was over, 58,000 Americans were dead and the nation was deeply divided.
McNamara also played a key role in such major crises as the Bay of Pigs conflict and the Cuban missile confrontation, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union stood on the edge of nuclear war.
After keeping silent about the unpopular war for a long time, McNamara finally spoke out in his personal memoir, "In Retrospect." His book examined his misgivings about mistakes he and other top officials had made during Vietnam. In later years, McNamara called American involvement in the war "wrong, terribly wrong."
His tenure in office was chronicled in the Academy Award-winning documentary, "The Fog War," which captured McNamara's reassessment of his wartime decisions during Vietnam in a series of interviews.
After stepping down from his Pentagon post, McNamara took a high-profile position as the fifth president of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981, fully devoting his efforts and energy to helping the world's poorest nations.
McNamara is survived by three children and his second wife, the former Diana Masieri Byfield, whom he married in 2004.