"Craig McNamara has written an important book that should be read by every American if we are ever to truly heal from that war." ––Ron Kovic, Vietnam Veteran and author of Born on the Fourth of July

An unforgettable father and son story that confronts
the legacy of the Vietnam War across two generations.

Craig McNamara came of age in the political tumult and upheaval of the late 60s. While Craig McNamara would grow up to take part in anti-war demonstrations, his father, Robert McNamara, served as John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense and the architect of the Vietnam War. This searching and revealing memoir offers an intimate picture of one father and son at pivotal periods in American history. BECAUSE OUR FATHERS LIED is more than a family story —it is a story about America.
Before Robert McNamara joined Kennedy’s cabinet, he was an executive who helped turn around Ford Motor Company. Known for his tremendous competence and professionalism, McNamara came to symbolize “the best and the brightest.” Craig, his youngest child and only son, struggled in his father’s shadow. When he ultimately fails his draft board physical, Craig decides to travel by motorcycle across Central and South America, learning more about the art of agriculture and the pleasures of making what he defines as an honest living. By the book’s conclusion, Craig McNamara is farming walnuts in Northern California and coming to terms with his father’s legacy.
BECAUSE OUR FATHERS LIED tells the story of the war from the perspective of a single, unforgettable American family.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


“Craig McNamara has written a courageous and moving memoir about his fractured relationship with his father, Robert McNamara, a microcosm of the heartbreaking divisions that sundered the nation during the Vietnam War. It is an unsparingly honest account about father and son, a powerful story of love, loss and resilience that sheds new light on one of the most convulsive periods in American history.” —Philip Taubman, former New York Times Washington bureau chief and Moscow bureau chief
“Craig McNamara has written an intimate personal story about the afterlife of America’s disastrous Vietnam experience. His attempts to understand his own father, one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century, have created a new chapter in that history. His voice is as morally focused as any that resisted the war.” —Daniel Ellsberg
“Anyone who lived through the sixties remembers the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, and the intensity of feelings about the role he played in the prosecution of that war. Indeed, rightly or wrongly, it became known as McNamara's War…This is a story — an unknown story — about their [Robert and Craig’s] relationship and how the hurt of the conflict in Vietnam, a national sorrow, spilled over into a personal relationship…A story about a generational conflict as well as an international conflict, and an important book in our understanding of that now-distant era.” —Errol Morris, director of The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
"This memoir is both fascinating and heartbreaking. Craig McNamara has taken the monumental figure of his father, Robert McNamara, and brings him to life in a profoundly intimate way. This is not just a beautifully written book about the past history of our country, it tells an urgent story about the present. Through the experiences of his becoming an activist and travelling the world, we deeply understand Craig's passionate commitment to equity and sustainability.” —Alice Waters, author of Coming to My Senses
“Craig McNamara, in this heartfelt memoir, shares the story of his coming of age, haunted by the horrors of the Vietnam War and his father's role in it.  Hobnobbing at the White House, war protesting in Berkeley, motorcycling to Chile and even living on Easter Island, then becoming a walnut farmer in Northern California—McNamara recounts an absorbing tale of father and son, bound together but deeply separated by different lives and understandings of truth and loyalty. The telling is clear and candid.”—Jerry Brown
“Craig McNamara has given us a profound, wrenching, brave, and essential memoir – a must read for anyone who wants to understand the tragedy of the Vietnam War and why its echoes are still being felt in America today. He carries the painful burden of being the son of Robert McNamara -- architect of a war he knew at the time was unwinnable -- with tremendous grace. Craig’s humanity, generosity of spirit, and compassion come through on every page of this intimate, devastating and revelatory journey into a dark time of promises broken, illusions shattered, lives lost.” —Lynn Novick, co-director and producer of The Vietnam War
“Craig McNamara’s memoir is an emotional revelation from a tragic time in history with many parallels to the present. Despite the painfully felt influence of his father, Craig has preserved in these pages a hopeful and loving vision of life. This is a moving, remarkable book.” —Rose Styron
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