(CNN) - Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, a key architect of the U.S. war in Vietnam under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, has died at age 93, according to his family.
McNamara was a member of Kennedy's inner circle during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war.
A native of San Francisco, McNamara studied economics at the University of California and earned a master's degree in business from Harvard. He was a staff officer in the Army Air Corps during World War II, when he studied the results of American bombing raids on Germany and Japan in search of ways to improve their accuracy and efficiency.
After the war, he joined the Ford Motor Company and became its president in November 1960 -- the first person to lead the company from outside its founding family. A month later, the newly elected Kennedy asked him to become secretary of defense, making him one of the "whiz kids" who joined the young president's administration.