Maxwell Davenport Taylor (August 26, 1901 - April 19, 1987) was an American soldier and diplomat of the mid-20th century.
Taylor's rise to the highest echelons of US government began under the tutelage of General Matthew B. Ridgway in the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division when Ridgway commanded the division in the early part of World War II. His diplomatic skills resulted in his being sent on a mission to attempt to persuade the Italian forces to surrender. While that mission ultimately failed, Taylor's efforts made him noticed to the highest levels of the Allied command. After 101st Airborne Division commander Major General Bill Lee sustained serious injuries in a parachuting accident, Taylor was given command of the division.
Taylor participated in D Day with the paratroopers dropped in the Cotentin peninsula (82nd & 101st Airborne Divisions) (west of Utah beach) a few hours before the first landing waves, with the objectives of clearing Carentan and securing the highway to Cherbourg. He held command of the 101st Airborne Division for the rest of the war, but missed out leading the division from Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge because he was attending a staff conference.
Later, he was the commander of allied troops in Berlin from 1949 to 1951. In 1953, he was sent to the Korean War. From 1955 to 1959 he was the Army Chief of Staff, succeeding his former mentor, Matthew B. Ridgway. During his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, Taylor attempted to guide the service into the age of nuclear weapons by restructuring the infantry division. Observers such as Colonel David Hackworth have written 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.
General Taylor retired from active service in July 1959. President John F. Kennedy recalled Taylor to active duty as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 1962-1964. He again retired and became Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1964-1965, succeeding Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. He was Special Consultant to the President and Chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, 1965-1969; was President of the Institute of Defense Analysis, 1966-1969.
General Taylor died in Washington, D.C., on 19 April 1987.