Robert McNamara Presidential Medal of Freedom Award Sells for $40,625 at Auction
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Presidential Medal of Freedom award
From Mother Teresa to Tony Blair, the Presidential Medal of Freedom award is the highest civilian award the US can offer. Chosen by the President, the Presidential Medal of Freedom award is given to people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary under JFK and Johnson, received the prestigious the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award with Distinction in 1968 after a tumultuous period in American history — the Vietnam War.
We auctioned his prestigious medal, which became symbolic in his career because of his and Johnson’s further and further differing of opinion in strategy as the war escalated for $40,625.
Lyndon B. Johnson bestowed this Presidential Medal of Freedom award on McNamara in 1968. His position as Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War and Cuban Missile Crisis made him one of the most high-profile, influential and controversial public figures of the 20th century.
Controversial because some considered and even blamed him for pushing a full throttle approach to the intensifying, often blurry “fog of war” that became Vietnam.
The elegant Presidential Medal of Freedom award features a white five-point star surrounded by five eagles with wings spread and a blue center dotted with stars. As a special grade of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded “with Distinction”, this is a larger medal than its counterpart, measuring 3″ in diameter.
The 2003 documentary “The Fog of War,” directed by Errol Morris, won an Oscar and masterfully helped to shed light on McNamara’s conflicted feelings in looking back at the war.
In the Transcript of the film, you can hear the humanness in his voice, the inner conflict, and this award becomes a significant testament to the somewhat harried relationship between McNamara and Johnson.
Said McNamara of Johnson, “…he awarded me the Medal of Freedom in a very beautiful ceremony at the White House. And he was very, very warm in his comments. And I became so emotional, I could not respond…Mr. President, I cannot find words to express what lies in my heart today. And I think I better respond on another occasion. And had I responded, I would have said: “I know what many of you are thinking. You’re thinking this man is duplicitous. You’re thinking that he has held things close to his chest. You’re thinking that he did not respond fully to the desires and wishes of the American people. And I want to tell you: “You’re wrong.” Of course he had personal idiosyncrasies, no question about it. He didn’t accept all the advice he was given.'”
McNamara remains an important and influential part of American history and this medal, an interesting totem to his career.