Maxwell D. Taylor

Last updated
Maxwell D. Taylor
Maxwell D Taylor official portrait.jpg
Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
In office
February 29, 1968 May 1, 1970
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Preceded by Clark Clifford
Succeeded by George Whelan Anderson Jr.
United States Ambassador to South Vietnam
In office
July 14, 1964 July 30, 1965
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Succeeded by Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
In office
October 1, 1962 July 1, 1964
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Lyman Lemnitzer
Succeeded by Earle Wheeler
Chief of Staff of the Army
In office
June 30, 1955 June 30, 1959
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Deputy Williston B. Palmer
Lyman Lemnitzer
Preceded by Matthew Ridgway
Succeeded by Lyman Lemnitzer
Commander of the United Nations Command
In office
1 April 1955 5 June 1955
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Deputy Williston B. Palmer
Lyman Lemnitzer
Preceded by John E. Hull
Succeeded by Lyman Lemnitzer
Governor of the Ryukyu Islands
In office
April 1, 1955 June 5, 1955
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by John E. Hull
Succeeded by Lyman Lemnitzer
Personal details
Maxwell Davenport Taylor

(1901-08-26)August 26, 1901
Keytesville, Missouri, U.S.
DiedApril 19, 1987(1987-04-19) (aged 85)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Education U.S. Military Academy (BS)
Metropolitan Community College, Missouri
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1922–1959
Rank General
Unit Engineer Branch
Field Artillery Branch
Commands Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
United States Military Academy
101st Airborne Division
82nd Airborne Division Artillery
12th Field Artillery Battalion
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart

Maxwell Davenport Taylor (August 26, 1901 – April 19, 1987) was a senior United States Army officer and diplomat of the mid-20th century. [1] He served with distinction in World War II, most notably as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed "The Screaming Eagles."


After the war, he served as the fifth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, having been appointed by President John F. Kennedy. He is the father of biographer and historian John Maxwell Taylor and of military historian and author Thomas Happer Taylor.

Early life and career

Born in Keytesville, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City, Taylor graduated from Northeast High School and attended Kansas City Polytechnic Institute. In 1918, he passed competitive examinations for Congressional appointment by William Patterson Borland to either the United States Military Academy or United States Naval Academy and then passed the Military Academy entrance examination. Taylor attended West Point, graduated fourth in his class in 1922, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served in Hawaii with the 3rd Engineers from 1923 to 1926.

Taylor transferred to the Field Artillery and, from 1926 to 1927, served with the 10th Field Artillery, receiving promotion to first lieutenant. Having demonstrated a facility for foreign languages, he studied French in Paris and was then assigned to West Point as an instructor in French and Spanish. He graduated from the Field Artillery School in 1933, and he completed the course at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1935.

Taylor was promoted to captain in August 1935 and served at the American embassy in Tokyo from 1935 to 1939, including attaché duty in China in 1937. He graduated from the United States Army War College in 1940 and was promoted to major in July 1940.

World War II

Early assignments

Taylor served on the War Plans Division staff in 1940 and took part in a defense cooperation mission to Latin American countries. He commanded the 1st Battalion of the 12th Field Artillery Regiment from 1940 to 1941, and then served in the Office of the Secretary of the General Staff until 1942. He received temporary promotions to lieutenant colonel in December 1941, colonel in February 1942, and brigadier general in December 1942.

Combat in Italy

In 1942, Taylor became chief of staff of the 82nd Airborne Division, followed by command of the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, and took part in combat in Sicily and Italy. In 1943, during the planning for the Allied invasion of Italy, Taylor's diplomatic and language skills resulted in his secret mission to Rome to co-ordinate an 82nd air drop with Italian forces. General Dwight D. Eisenhower later said that "the risks he ran were greater than I asked any other agent or emissary to take during the war." [2]

Hundreds of miles behind the front lines of battle, Taylor was forced by the rules of engagement to wear his American military uniform to prevent himself, if captured, from being shot as a spy. He met with the new Italian prime minister, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, and General Carboni. The air drop near Rome to capture the city was called off at the last minute since Taylor realized that German forces were already moving in to cover the intended drop zones. Transport planes were already in the air when Taylor's message canceled the drop, preventing the mission. His efforts behind enemy lines got Taylor noticed at the highest levels of the Allied command.

101st Airborne Division

After the campaigns in the Mediterranean, Taylor was assigned to become the Commanding General (CG) of the 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed "The Screaming Eagles", which was then training in England in preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy, after the division's first commander, Major General William Lee, suffered a heart attack. Taylor received temporary promotion to major general in May 1944.

Taylor, pictured here on the left, receiving the Distinguished Service Order from General Sir Bernard Montgomery for gallantry in action at Carentan, France, June 12, 1944. Operation 'market Garden' (the Battle For Arnhem)- 17 - 25 September 1944 B6543.jpg
Taylor, pictured here on the left, receiving the Distinguished Service Order from General Sir Bernard Montgomery for gallantry in action at Carentan, France, June 12, 1944.

Taylor took part in the division's parachute jump into Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), the first Allied general officer to land in France on D-Day. He subsequently commanded the 101st in the Battle of Normandy, including in the capture of Carentan on June 13, and the division continued to fight in the campaign as regular infantry. The 101st Airborne Division was pulled out of the line in late June, having been in almost continuous action for nearly a month, and in early July, he returned to England to rest and refit and absorb replacements, after having suffered over 4,600 casualties.

Having been brought up to strength, Taylor led the 101st in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands in September 1944. He was not present for the division's action during the Siege of Bastogne as part of the Battle of the Bulge since he was attending a staff conference in the United States. The Divisional Artillery commander, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, exercised command in his absence. Taylor called the defense of Bastogne the 101st Airborne Division's "finest hour" of the war and stated that his absence was one of his greatest disappointments of the war. [3] After Bastogne, Taylor's 101st saw little further service in the war and was sent to the United States in late 1945, where it was deactivated in November.

Post-World War II

Honor Monument at West Point TheCadetHonorCodeMonument.jpg
Honor Monument at West Point

From 1945 to 1949, Taylor was superintendent of West Point. In 1947, he drafted the first official Honor Code publication marking the beginning of the written "Cadet Honor Code" at West Point. [4] Afterwards he was the commander of allied troops in West Berlin from 1949 to 1951; when he left that post, he felt like a "Berliner," more than a decade before John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Ich in ein Berliner" speech in the city. [5] In July 1951 he was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned as the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration at the Pentagon.

In June 1953, he was sent to Korea, where he commanded the Eighth United States Army during the final combat operations of the Korean War. From 1955 to 1959, he was the Army Chief of Staff, succeeding his former mentor, Matthew B. Ridgway. During his tenure, Taylor attempted to guide the service into the age of nuclear weapons by restructuring the infantry division into a Pentomic formation. Observers such as Colonel David Hackworth have written that the effort gutted the role of US Army company and field grade officers, rendering it unable to adapt to the dynamics of combat in Vietnam.[ citation needed ]

During 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered Taylor to deploy 1,000 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce federal court orders to desegregate Central High School during the Little Rock Crisis.

As Army Chief of Staff, Taylor was an outspoken critic of the Eisenhower administration's "New Look" defense policy, which he viewed as dangerously overreliant on nuclear arms and neglectful of conventional forces; Taylor also criticized the inadequacies of the Joint Chiefs of Staff system. Frustrated with the administration's failure to heed his arguments, Taylor retired from active service in July 1959. He campaigned publicly against the "New Look," culminating in the publication in January 1960 of a highly critical book, The Uncertain Trumpet.

Return to duty

As the 1960 presidential campaign unfolded, Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy criticized Eisenhower's defense policy and championed a muscular "flexible response" policy intentionally aligned with Taylor's views as described in The Uncertain Trumpet. After the April 1961 failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Kennedy, who felt the Joint Chiefs of Staff had failed to provide him with satisfactory military advice, appointed Taylor to head a task force to investigate the failure of the invasion.

Both President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had immense regard for Taylor, whom they saw as a man of unquestionable integrity, sincerity, intelligence, and diplomacy.[ citation needed ] The Cuba Study Group met for six weeks from April to May 1961 to perform an "autopsy" on the disastrous events surrounding the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In the course of their work together, Taylor developed a deep regard and a personal affection for Robert Kennedy, a friendship that was wholly mutual and which remained firm until RFK's assassination in 1968.

Taylor spoke of Robert Kennedy glowingly: "He is always on the lookout for a 'snow job,' impatient with evasion and imprecision, and relentless in his determination to get at the truth." In January 1965 Robert Kennedy named his next-to-last son Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy (better known as an adult as "Max").

Shortly after the investigation concluded, the Kennedys' warm feelings for Taylor and the president's lack of confidence in the Joint Chiefs of Staff led John Kennedy to recall Taylor to active duty and install him in the newly created post of military representative to the president. His close personal relationship with the president and White House access effectively made Taylor the president's primary military adviser, cutting out the Joint Chiefs. On October 1, 1962, Kennedy ended this uncomfortable arrangement by appointing Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff following the previous chairman General Lyman Lemnitzer's appointment as the new NATO Supreme Allied Commander, a position in which he served until 1964. However by appointing Taylor as the 5th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kennedy broke the traditional rotation for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position between the Air Force, Navy and Army, as the preceding chairman was from the Army. [6] [7] Kennedy should have chosen either General Curtis E. LeMay, the Air Force Chief of Staff, or Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations, as Lemnitzer's successor for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position. [7] Kennedy's decision ultimately led to the diminishment of the traditional rotation for the chairman's position, and eventually resulted in the Army filling almost half of the chairmanships. [8] [7]

Vietnam War

Taylor was of crucial importance during the first few years of the Vietnam War, during his time as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later being appointed Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam. Whereas Kennedy initially told Taylor that "the independence of South Vietnam rests with the people and government of that country", Taylor soon recommended that 8,000 American combat troops be sent to the region at once. After making his report to the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff, Taylor reflected on the decision to send troops to South Vietnam: "I don't recall anyone who was strongly against, except one man, and that was the President. The President just didn't want to be convinced that this was the right thing to do.... It was really the President's personal conviction that U.S. ground troops shouldn't go in." [9]

In May 1963, mass protests and civil disobedience broke out in South Vietnam in response to President Ngo Dinh Diem's persecution of the Buddhist majority, which was met with military crackdowns, culminating in nationwide raids on Buddhist temples. [10] In the wake of the raids, the US sent out Cable 243, which called for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. to lobby for the removal from influence of Diem's younger brother and chief political adviser Ngo Dinh Nhu, and to look for alternative leadership options if Diem refused. As it was known that Diem would never sideline Nhu, it was effectively an authorisation for Lodge to encourage a military coup. [11] [12] [13] The cable was prepared and sent out over a weekend when many leading Washington figures were away, under the misunderstanding that higher authorisation had been given. Marine General Victor Krulak signed off on behalf of the military without showing Taylor, [14] who was a supporter of Diem. On Monday August 26, at the White House, Kennedy was met with angry comments by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, CIA Director John McCone and Taylor, all of whom denied authorizing the cable. Kennedy was reported to have said "My God! My government's coming apart." [15] Taylor felt insulted by the final line of the cable which asserted that only the "minimum essential people" had seen its contents. [15] During the acrimonious exchange, he condemned the cable as an "egregious end run" by an anti-Diem faction. [15] Roger Hilsman rebutted Taylor by asserting that Kennedy and representatives of departments and agencies had approved the message. Years afterward, Taylor declared "The anti-Diem group centered in State [department] had taken advantage of the absence of the principal officials to get out instructions which would never have been approved as written under normal circumstances". [16] Taylor claimed that the message was reflective of Forrestal and Hilsman's "well-known compulsion" to remove Diem. [17] He accused them of pulling "a fast one". [15] Kennedy asked his advisers if they wanted to retract the cable, but they agreed to stand by the original decision to maintain consistency. Taylor said that "You can't change American policy in twenty-four hours and expect anyone to ever believe you again." [15] Taylor also objected to two phone calls on August 24 to Washington from Admiral Harry D. Felt, the commander of US forces in the Pacific, calling for backing to the generals to remove Nhu. Felt said that the mid-level officers would not fight if Nhu was not removed. Taylor became angry that Felt had advised the State Department to move against Diem without first consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [18] Taylor then told Kennedy that Americans would not tolerate their officers selecting the president, and thus they should not usurp the cabinet in doing the same in South Vietnam. [19]

Taylor remained opposed to any moves towards the disposal of Diem. Years afterward, he said that Diem was "a terrible pain in the neck", but was a devoted servant of his country. [18] Taylor called on Kennedy to support Diem until a better leader had been lined up, pointing out that the officers were divided and therefore could not be relied on to plot and stage a coup. [18]

The junta led by General Duong Van Minh following Diem's removal lasted three months until General Nguyen Khanh toppled Minh in January 1964. Taylor and other military officials had disagreed with Minh's reluctance to carry out large-scale offensives against the communists and wanted a more aggressive approach. [20] He was known to regard Khanh as the more competent ARVN general. [21] However, Taylor changed his opinion upon being made Ambassador to South Vietnam in July 1964 when Lodge returned to the US.

In August, following widespread Buddhist protests, some senior officers, particularly the Catholic Generals Tran Thien Khiem and Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, decried Khanh's concessions to the Buddhists. [22] They plotted Khánh's removal and sought out Taylor for a private endorsement, but Taylor did not want any more leadership changes, fearing a corrosive effect on the already-unstable government. This deterred Khiêm's group from acting on their plans. [23] On September 13, another coup attempt led by Catholic Generals Duong Van Duc and Lam Van Phat started while Taylor was on a flight from the US [24] —back to Saigon and catching him off-guard. [25] The coup failed, and Taylor helped organize for Khiêm to be made Saigon's representative in Washington. [26] During the coup, Minh had remained silent, angering Khánh and keeping their long-running rivalry going. By the end of October, the Johnson administration had become more supportive of Taylor's negative opinion of Minh and eventually paid for Minh to go on a "good will tour" to remove him from the political scene. [26]

Taylor frequently clashed with General Nguyen Khanh and helped to engineer his removal, having supported Khanh's deposal of General Duong Van Minh.


Taylor received fierce criticism in Major (later Lieutenant General and National Security Advisor) H.R. McMaster's book Dereliction of Duty. Specifically, Taylor was accused of intentionally misrepresenting the views of the Joint Chiefs to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and of cutting the Joint Chiefs out of the decision-making process. [27]

Whereas the Chiefs felt that it was their duty to offer unbiased assessments and recommendations on military matters, Taylor was of the firm belief that the chairman should not only support the president's decisions but also be a true believer in them. That discrepancy manifested itself during the early planning phases of the war while it was still being decided what the nature of American involvement should be. McNamara and the civilians of the office of the secretary of defense were firmly behind the idea of graduated pressure: to escalate pressure slowly against North Vietnam in order to demonstrate U.S. resolve. The Joint Chiefs, however, strenuously disagreed with that and believed that if the US got involved further in Vietnam, it should be with the clear intention of winning and through the use of overwhelming force. McMaster contends that using a variety of political maneuvering, including liberal use of outright deception, Taylor succeeded in keeping the Joint Chiefs' opinions away from the President and helped set the stage for McNamara to begin to dominate systematically the U.S. decision making process on Vietnam.

Taylor was also criticized by Tom Ricks in his book The Generals (2012): "Maxwell Taylor arguably was the most destructive general in American history. As Army chief of staff in the 1950s, he steered the US military toward engaging in 'brushfire wars.' As White House military adviser during the early 1960s, he encouraged President John F. Kennedy to deepen American involvement in Vietnam. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he poisoned relations between the military and civilian leadership. He was also key in picking Gen. William Westmoreland to command the war there."

Second retirement

Taylor again retired from the Army on July 1, 1964, having been succeeded as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff by General Earle Wheeler, and became Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1964 to 1965, succeeding Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. He was Special Consultant to the President and Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1965–1969) and President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (1966–1969).

Afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called "Lou Gehrig's disease"), Taylor spent his last three months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, and died at 85 years of age on April 19, 1987. [1] He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. [28]

Personal life

This shot was taken on the day that Captain Thomas Happer Taylor arrived in Vietnam to begin his service there and met his father General Taylor on the same day the latter left Vietnam. General William Westmoreland is in the background. Thomas Taylor and General Maxwell Taylor meet in Vietnam.jpg
This shot was taken on the day that Captain Thomas Happer Taylor arrived in Vietnam to begin his service there and met his father General Taylor on the same day the latter left Vietnam. General William Westmoreland is in the background.

In 1925, Taylor married the former Lydia Gardner Happer (1901–1997). They had two sons: John Maxwell Taylor and Thomas Happer Taylor, the latter being a West Point graduate [Class of 1960] and Army officer.

Dramatic portrayals


Distinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Purple Heart BAR.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Arrowhead device.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Korean Service Medal - Ribbon.svg
Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Croix de guerre 1939-1945 stripe bronsepalme.svg PHL Legion of Honor - Chief Commander BAR.png Order of the Cloud and Banner 2nd.gif
Order of the Holy Trinity (Ethiopia) - ribbon bar.gif Grand Officer Ordre de Leopold.png BEL Kroonorde Grootofficier BAR.svg UK MID 1920-94.svg Grand Officer Boyaca.png
GRE Order of George I - Commander BAR.png Order of the Bath (ribbon).svg Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.png Dso-ribbon.svg
Gugseon Security Medal Ribbon.png Award-star-silver-3d.png Award-star-silver-3d.png Commendatore OMRI BAR.svg BRA Ordem do Merito Militar Comendador.png United Nations Service Medal Korea ribbon.svg

United States decorations and medals

Foreign orders, decorations and medals

(General Taylor also received a number of other foreign honors.)

Dates of rank

No insignia Cadet, United States Military Academy: November 6, 1918
US-O1 insignia.svg Second Lieutenant, Regular Army: June 13, 1922
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant, Regular Army: February 13, 1927
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army: August 1, 1935
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army: July 1, 1940
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Army of the United States: December 24, 1941
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Army of the United States: February 1, 1942
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Army of the United States: December 4, 1942
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Army of the United States: May 31, 1944
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: June 13, 1945
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: January 24, 1948
(Later changed to June 27, 1944.)
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Regular Army: July 29, 1951
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: August 3, 1951
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Army of the United States: June 23, 1953
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Regular Army, Retired List: July 1, 1959
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Retired on active duty: October 1, 1962
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Regular Army, Retired List: July 1, 1964

See also


  1. 1 2 "Gen. Taylor, war hero, ex-ambassador, dies". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 21, 1987. p. A1.
  2. Krebs, Albin (1987-04-21). "Maxwell D. Taylor, Soldier and Envoy, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  3. Cole C. Kingseed (September 1, 2003). "An American Soldier: the Wars of General Maxwell Taylor – Book Review'". Infantry Magazine.
  4. West Point
  5. Andreas Daum, Kennedy in Berlin. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 49.
  6. McMaster, Herbert Raymond (May 8, 1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Harper Perennial. p. 22. ISBN   978-0060929084.
  7. 1 2 3 McMaster, Herbert Raymond (May 8, 1998). Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Harper Perennial. ISBN   978-0060929084.
  8. Mehta, Aaron (July 25, 2019). "Senate confirms Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs". Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  9. Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy: His Life and Times pg. 705
  10. Karnow, pp. 294315.
  11. Jacobs, pp. 162–63.
  12. Karnow, pp. 303–04.
  13. Halberstam, pp. 157–58.
  14. Jones, pp. 314316.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Jones, p. 319.
  16. Jones, pp. 318319.
  17. Jones, p. 318.
  18. 1 2 3 Jones, p. 320.
  19. Jones, p. 321.
  20. Kahin, p. 186.
  21. Blair, p. 108.
  22. Moyar (2004), pp. 762–763.
  23. Moyar (2004), p. 763.
  24. "South Viet Nam: Continued Progress". Time . 1964-09-18.
  25. 1 2 Kahin, p. 232.
  26. McMaster, H. R. (1998). Dereliction of duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the lies that led to Vietnam (Reprint, illustrated ed.). HarperPerennial. p. 63. ISBN   978-0-06-092908-4 . Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  27. Arlington National Cemetery
  28. Casting Band of Brothers

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DEPTEL 243, also known as Telegram 243, the August 24 cable or most commonly Cable 243, was a high-profile message sent on August 24, 1963, by the United States Department of State to Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the US ambassador to South Vietnam. The cable came in the wake of the midnight raids on August 21 by the regime of Ngô Đình Diệm against Buddhist pagodas across the country, in which hundreds were believed to have been killed. The raids were orchestrated by Diệm's brother Ngô Đình Nhu and precipitated a change in US policy. The cable declared that Washington would no longer tolerate Nhu remaining in a position of power and ordered Lodge to pressure Diệm to remove his brother. It said that if Diệm refused, the Americans would explore the possibility for alternative leadership in South Vietnam. In effect, the cable authorized Lodge to give the green light to Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) officers to launch a coup against Diệm if he did not willingly remove Nhu from power. The cable marked a turning point in US-Diem relations and was described in the Pentagon Papers as "controversial." The historian John M. Newman described it as "the single most controversial cable of the Vietnam War."

McNamara–Taylor mission

The McNamara–Taylor mission was a 10-day fact-finding expedition to South Vietnam in September 1963 by the Kennedy administration to review progress in the battle by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and its American advisers against the communist insurgency of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. The mission was led by US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell D. Taylor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Joseph Abraham Mendenhall was a United States State Department official, known for his advisory work during the Kennedy administration on policy towards Vietnam and Laos. He was best known for his participation in the Krulak Mendenhall mission to South Vietnam in 1963 with General Victor Krulak. Their vastly divergent conclusions led U.S. President John F. Kennedy to ask if they had visited the same country. Mendenhall continued his work in the Indochina region after Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency in wake of Kennedy's assassination.

Major General Đỗ Mậu was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) best known for his roles as a recruiting strategist in both the 1963 coup that toppled President Ngô Đình Diệm and the 1964 coup led by General Nguyễn Khánh that deposed the junta of General Dương Văn Minh. He was born in Quảng Bình Province.

War in Vietnam (1959–1963)

The 1959 to 1963 phase of the Vietnam War started after the North Vietnamese had made a firm decision to commit to a military intervention in the guerrilla war in the South Vietnam, a buildup phase began, between the 1959 North Vietnamese decision and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to a major US escalation of its involvement. Vietnamese communists saw this as a second phase of their revolution, the US now substituting for the French.

Lieutenant General Dương Văn Đức (1927–1983) was an officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He is best known for leading a coup attempt against General Nguyễn Khánh on 14 September 1964. He was a supporter of the Đại Việt Quốc Dân Đảng, a Roman Catholic political movement.

1963 in the Vietnam War

The defeat of the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in a battle in January set off a furious debate in the United States on the progress being made in the war against the Viet Cong (VC) in South Vietnam. Assessments of the war flowing into the higher levels of the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. were wildly inconsistent, some citing an early victory over the VC, others a rapidly deteriorating military situation. Some senior U.S. military officers and White House officials were optimistic; civilians of the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), junior military officers, and the media were decidedly less so. Near the end of the year, U.S. leaders became more pessimistic about progress in the war.

National Security Action Memorandum Number 263 (NSAM-263) was a national security directive approved on 11 October 1963 by United States President John F. Kennedy. The NSAM approved recommendations by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor. McNamara and Taylor's recommendations included an appraisal that "great progress" was being made in the Vietnam War against Viet Cong insurgents, that 1,000 military personnel could be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of 1963, and that a "major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965." The U.S. at this time had more than 16,000 military personnel in South Vietnam.


Military offices
Preceded by
William Lee
Commanding General 101st Airborne Division
Post deactivated
Preceded by
Francis Wilby
Superintendent of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by
Bryant Moore
Preceded by
James Van Fleet
Commanding General Eighth Army
Succeeded by
Lyman Lemnitzer
Preceded by
Matthew Ridgway
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Preceded by
Lyman Lemnitzer
Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Earle Wheeler
Political offices
Preceded by
John Hull
Governor of the Ryukyu Islands
Succeeded by
Lyman Lemnitzer
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Henry Cabot Lodge
United States Ambassador to South Vietnam
Succeeded by
Henry Cabot Lodge
Government offices
Preceded by
Clark Clifford
Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
Succeeded by
George Anderson