Maxwell Taylor graduated from West Point in 1922, and helped organize the first Army Airborne Division in the early years of World War II. In 1943, Taylor was cited for bravery for risking his life by crossing enemy lines a day before the Allied invasion of Italy to discuss the possible seizure of Roman airfields with Italian leaders. Taylor also led the 101st Airborne Division during assaults on Normandy and the Netherlands.
In 1953, he directed the UN forces and was commanding general of the 8th Army in Korea. Appointed Chief of Staff in 1955, he became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, then US Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1964.
Taylor urged President Johnson to expand American involvement in Vietnam, and was thus one of the most important influences on the expansion of the war.