Max E. Taylor
U. S. Army
C.O. of Co. C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, Americal Division, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, Americal Division
Audio Samples

A native of Childress, Texas, Captain Taylor, or Max, was introduced early to martial life. The Texas Panhandle town was home of Childress Army Airfield in World War II. "I was really heavily influenced by the war. I was eight years old when WWII started. I was used to seeing soldiers. But I got interested in the Marines because I went to the barbershop with my daddy and I saw these two guys in green uniforms. They were really sharp. Spit-shined shoes and Sam Brown belts and all that. That's when I really got down the idea I was going to be a Marine," he recalls Max was born to Lonzo B. Taylor, a foreman at a cotton compress, and Velma Kimbrough Taylor as the youngest of three children. He had a brother and sister, L.B. Taylor, Jr. and Jo Evelyn Carpenter, who live in Midland, Texas and Dayton, Texas respectively. His father grew up in Oklahoma, when it was still Indian Territory and played with Choctaw boys. He served in the Navy in World War I. Max's brother served in World War II in the army. Max worked as a paperboy by age 9, and also at a theater concession stand. "Everybody worked during the Depression. You just had to exist. We were raised to work," he states. On a small scholarship, he entered the University of Texas in 1951, but his grades suffered, so he quit and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Max took boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, where he was named a squad leader by the second week. "It just seemed like that I just kind of blossomed once I got in there," he says. Sent to Korea in 1953, he was still a private first class but was acting platoon sergeant at age 20 in Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Max remained in South Korea for 14 months, returning home a Meritorious Corporal (promoted ahead of time). Stationed at Marine Barracks at Naval Ammunition Depot, McAlester, Oklahoma, he made Meritorious Sergeant. Max re-enlisted in December of 1955. He served as a drill instructor from 1956 through 1958 in San Diego, heading up seven recruit platoons. All seven were the honor platoons. After two years as a D.I. he graduated from Recruiters School and served twice as a recruiter, first in Tulsa, then in Lawton, Oklahoma. He struggled as a public speaker, so he joined Toastmasters. The organization gave him confidence, helped his salesmanship skills. "It really has changed my life. So the two things that I attribute to my success are Marine Corps discipline and Toastmasters. He is still a member after 50 years. On 19 August 1961 he married Bobbie Jane Garrett of Cale, Arkansas. They would have one son, John and one grandson, Zachary. Max spent "half a tour" in Vietnam, serving 93 days aboard a ship off the coast and going to land "any day". In 1965 he returned to recruiting, this time in Augusta, Georgia, then left the Marines in 1966 as a gunnery sergeant. He soon wanted to return but would have to give up two ranks, whereas the army offered him his old rank. He served as an Army recruiter, then was promoted to first lieutenant and a year later, to captain. He served in a basic training regiment at Fort Bragg in 1969. He went on to Special Forces school at age 37, then to ranger school at 39. "Like to have killed me," he quipped about the tough training. In Ranger school he lost 35 pounds. In August of 1970 he was sent to Vietnam and to the Americal Division as captain of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, based at LZ Center. Once, he and the company were stranded on an island between two overflowing streams during monsoon. The company survived four days without food until an intrepid helicopter pilot flew through the fog and dropped C-rations "like manna from heaven". Morale was bad in the company when he arrived, he says, after a battle in which 18 men were killed. Realizing he needed help, he began praying. "I learned that I could be calm if I just sort of turned it over to God. I learned to trust God in Vietnam," he says. Although his company took no casualties while he was commander for six months, it was always woefully undermanned. "I doubt if we had more than 40 people at any one time," he remarks of an infantry company whose strength usually ranges between 80 and 250 soldiers. He spent the rest of his tour commanding Headquarters Company at LZ Center. He was in worse danger there than in the field, he remarks, because of a drug gang that operated brutally and openly. Its leader threatened to kill him if he came out at night. Taylor was instrumental in disrupting the drug ring that saw heroin and marijuana flown in by helicopter from Chu Lai. Max left Vietnam in August (he believes) of 1971. "I sure was proud to get out of there," he says. He returned to Fort Bragg and 5th Special Forces. He was saved from the RIF (reduction in force) procedure after Vietnam because he had more than 18 years in service. "They got rid of 30,000 captains," he remarks. Max retired in 1974. Meanwhile he completed his college degree at Campbell University at Buies Creek, North Carolina, earning a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences and a teacher's certificate. After moving to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he taught GED subjects for five years at Arkansas's Tucker Prison. He then spent 23 years in the U.S. Post Office in Texarkana, Texas. He began hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail in 1991, until he completed the entire route at its northern terminus in Maine in 1994. "I've always been a goal setter," he says about his determination to hike the trail. "It's good therapy for me after Vietnam."