Neil H. McElroy

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Neil Hosler McElroy was born on October 30, 1904, in Berea, Ohio. The son of schoolteachers, McElroy spent his youth near Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1925, he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics. He then returned to Ohio, where he accepted a position in the advertising department of Procter and Gamble. In 1948, McElroy became president of the company.

Although McElroy had no real experience in government and defense matters, in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed McElroy as Secretary of Defense. In all likelihood, Eisenhower did this because of McElroy's excellent managerial skills. Also, Eisenhower, a former general in the United States army, played a very active role in establishing the United States' defense policy. Eisenhower wanted someone who could implement the president's defense strategy, not conceive of his or her own plan.

McElroy assumed office on October 9, 1957. The Cold War dominated McElroy's administration of the Department of Defense. Following the Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik, many Americans believed that the United States had fallen behind the Soviet Union in its missile technology. McElroy immediately authorized the manufacture of numerous missile systems and began to deploy these warheads in Europe to assuage American fears. McElroy's success in missile development was rather remarkable, especially since the Congress reduced the Department of Defense's budget during this period.

Upon becoming Secretary of Defense, McElroy agreed to remain in this position for only two years. He resigned from the office on December 1, 1959, and returned to Procter and Gamble. McElroy became this company's chairman of the board of directors. He died on November 30, 1972, in Cincinnati.

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