Taylor graduated from the Army War College in 1940 and served on the staff of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In July 1942, Taylor became chief of staff of the 82nd Airborne Division as a colonel. In December he was advanced to brigadier general and assumed command of the divisional artillery. He fought in Sicily and, in September 1943, carried out a mission behind enemy lines to Rome, determining that a planned airborne drop there was not feasible.
In March 1944, Taylor assumed command of the 101st Airborne Division. Promoted to major general in March 1944, he participated with his division in the Normandy invasion and then in Operation market-garden, the failed attempt to seize a crossing over the Rhine at Arnhem, in which he was wounded. He was in Washington when the Battle of the Ardennes (also known as the Battle of the Bulge) began on 16 December 1944 but rejoined his division on 25 December and fought with it in the remainder of that battle and in the Ruhr.
In September 1945, Taylor became superintendent of West Point and initiated a number of curriculum changes. Between 1949 and 1951 he headed the Berlin Command. In 1951 he was promoted to lieutenant general and became deputy chief of staff for Operations and Training. In February 1953 he assumed command of the Eighth Army in Korea as a full general. He was then commanding general of the Army Forces Far East in 1954 and commander in chief of the Far East Command in 1955.
Taylor served as army chief of staff during 1955–1959. His views differed sharply from President Dwight D. Eisenhower's strategy of massive retaliation. Taylor urged greater emphasis on conventional forces and the ability to fight limited wars, which later became known as flexible response. Retiring in 1959, he expressed his views publicly in his book The Uncertain Trumpet, which caught the attention of John F. Kennedy.
President Kennedy brought Taylor from retirement to serve as his military advisor during 1961–1962. Taylor advocated the dispatch of 8,000 U.S. ground combat troops to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). Kennedy then appointed Taylor chairman of the JCS, a post he held during 1962–1964. Named by President Lyndon Johnson as ambassador to South Vietnam (1964–1965), Taylor urged escalation of the war through bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) as a means to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. For the remainder of his life, he defended U.S. policies in Vietnam and blamed America's defeat there on the media. He was president of the Institute for Defense Analysis during 1966–1969 and president of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during 1965–1970. Taylor died in Washington, D.C., on 19 April 1987.
Spencer C. Tucker
Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.; Kinnard, Douglas. The Certain Trumpet: Maxwell Taylor and the American Experience in Vietnam. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1991.; Taylor, John M. General Maxwell Taylor: The Sword and the Pen. New York: Doubleday, 1989.; Taylor, Maxwell D. Responsibility and Response. New York: Harper, 1967.; Taylor, Maxwell D. Swords and Plowshares. New York: Norton, 1972.; Taylor, Maxwell D. The Uncertain Trumpet. New York: Harper, 1959.