6th Secretary of Defense of the United States, sworn in by Dwight D. Eisenhower, October 9, 1957

born October 30, 1904
Berea, Ohio
died November 20, 1972
Cincinnati, Ohio


Career Track

  • 1925: advertising, Procter and Gamble
  • 1948: president, Procter and Gamble
  • 1955-1956: chairman of the White House Conference on Education
  • 1957: Secretary of Defense
    "I conceive the role of the Secretary of Defense to be that of captain of President Eisenhower's defense team."
    Just five days before McElroy took office, the Russians successfully launched the first artificial earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik. This success indicated that Russia was ahead of the United States in missile technology and began the worries of the "missile gap"; a worry which would extend into and have much influence over the term of the next Secretary of Defense, Thomas S. Gates. As a result of the Sputnik launch, McElroy ordered that several new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) systems be into fast-paced development to be deployed in Europe, where their shorter range could reach Russia. He also ordered development of the longer-range minuteman ICBM missile system which would be deployed in underground silos across the United States and operational by the early 60's.
    "the weapons of the future may be a great deal closer upon us than we had thought, and therefore the ultimate survival of the Nation depends more than ever before on the speed and skill with which we can pursue the development of advanced weapons."
    McElroy also, in light of Sputnik launches, announced the formation of ARPA and that this organization would lead projects for space exploration, including earth orbiting satellites, space probes, and lunar probes. They focused on lunar probes, feeling that getting to the moon would push the United States far ahead of Russia. Project Mona, which would launch five probes to the moon, was the most ambitious of these projects.

    The space race was on.

    When Eisenhower asked McElroy to be his Secretary of Defense, McElroy made it known he would only give two years to the appointment, and true to word he resigned the position on December 1, 1959. It was assumed his successor would be his deputy Secretary of Defense, Donald A. Quarles, but he died in May, 1959, and the Eisenhower appointed Thomas S. Gates to the office. McElroy returned to Procter and Gamble as chairman of the board and lived outside of the public eye until he died in 1972.
  • 1965: Chairman of the board, Procter and Gamble

references: http://www.defenselink.mil, http://www.laafb.af.mil/SMC/HO/EOAFRFS.HTM, http://www.rocketry.com/mwade/project/redstone.htm, http://www.arpa.gov/, http://spaceviews.com/1998/04/article1a.html

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