Pierre Speer

Pierre Speer, one of Robert McNamara’s “whiz kids” and a major Pentagon planner for three decades, died at his home in Glendale, MD on August 20. Besides his extraordinary military record, he was the proprietor of Mapleshade, a recording studio that produces some of the highest quality jazz discs on earth, with artists like pianist Shirley Horn and saxophonist Clifford Jordan. Pierre was born in Nice; his German Jewish parents had fled to France, then headed for America. Pierre entered Yale with the Class of 1957, did a five-year course in electrical engineering and took a master’s at Cornell before being tapped by McNamara. At the Pentagon, he championed the A-10 fighter plane, a cheap, low-flying and durable aircraft that many Air Force generals despised. He also advocated close air support for our ground troops and argued that trucks were more important to a war effort than any airplane. He was in constant Dutch with the uniformed military, whom he treated with contempt; one colonel, he said, “oozed mendacity.” Many of his unpopular views prevailed, and he influenced American defense policy for thirty years.