Maxwell Taylor

Maxwell Taylor was born on August 26, 1901, in Missouri, and graduated from West Point in 1922. He taught at West Point between 1927 and 1932, and during World War II was commonly credited with playing a chief role in the development of airborne warfare. He was with the 82nd Airborne Division in North Africa and Sicily and commanded the 101st Airborne Division at the Normandy invasion. After the war, Taylor spent four years, between 1945 and 1949, as commandant of West Point. He commanded the Eighth Army in Korea, and became commander in chief of the Far East Command in 1955. In June 1955, Taylor became chief of staff of the United States Army and served until 1959. During the late 1950s, troubled that the army would be overshadowed by the nuclear powers of the United States Air Force, Taylor began advocating the "flexible response" theory, which argued that a deterrence policy based entirely on nuclear weapons would leave the United States unable to deal with conventional crises around the world. Taylor wrote The Uncertain Trumpet in 1959 calling for a diversified military capability and counterinsurgency work.

President John F. Kennedy read the book, and on July 1, 1961, Taylor became the president's military adviser. Kennedy sent Taylor and W. W. Rostow to Vietnam in October 1961 on a fact-finding mission, and their report advocated the commitment of several thousand combat troops to aid the government of Ngo Dinh Diem in stopping the Vietcong. Between 1962 and 1964, Taylor served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then spent a year as ambassador to South Vietnam. He worked urgently in 1964 and 1965 to return South Vietnam to civilian rule after the assassination of Diem, and late in 1965 he became a special adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson made Taylor a member of the Senior Advisory Group studying the Vietnam problem in 1968, and Taylor became a stanch advocate of a continued American military presence in the country. Taylor left government service in 1969 to serve as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He died April 19, 1987.