This fascinating memoir by former Secretary of the US Navy, Paul R. Ignatius, provides important insights into many of the key events of the twentieth century. The Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, and Vietnam are recalled from the author's perspective, first as a teenager in the 1930s, then as a naval officer in the 1940s, a defense department consultant in the 1950s, and a Pentagon official in the 1960s.
There are new details on Robert McNamara's managerial innovations, the growth of the Army under President Kennedy, and the enormous effort to provide construction, supplies, and ammunition for the Vietnam War. The book includes vivid accounts of McNamara, Clark Clifford, Cyrus Vance, General Creighton Abrams, Admiral Thomas Moorer, and many others. There are high moments when Medals of Honor are awarded, low moments when the USS Pueblo is capture by the North Koreans, and perplexing moments over whether to praise or damn Admiral Hyman Rickover. Other significant events covered are the Pentagon Papers case, the illegal strike of the air traffic controllers, and controversial efforts to deregulate the airlines, the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, and Carter's attempt to lessen US dependence on middle-eastern oil.
At the same time we are offered intimate glimpses into Ignatius's private life including how his grandfather's poems of freedom forced him to leave his ancestral home in Armenia; and how his own children openly opposed the Vietnam War. In the final chapter, he looks at the civil rights movement and efforts to gain equality for women revealing them to be events of lasting importance to him.
Paul R. Ignatius, a naval officer in World War II, was Secretary of the Navy from 1967 to 1969. During his eight years of service in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he was Under Secretary of the Army and Assistant Secretary of Defense. Following his government service, he became president of The Washington Post and then served as president of the Air Transport Association followed by board chairman of the Logistics Management Institute. He lives in Washington, D.C.