The Certain Trumpet: Maxwell Taylor and the American Experience in Vietnam (Association of the United States Army)

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9780080405810: The Certain Trumpet: Maxwell Taylor and the American Experience in Vietnam (Association of the United States Army)

Maxwell Taylor was a transitional figure in American military history. He was the last of the World War II heroic generals and the first of the new breed - the "managerial" generals. As a solder-statesman, he was in the very top echelon of the Vietnam decision-makers; as a four-star general during the Kennedy administration, he served as Army Chief-of-Staff and then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff; as a civilian, he was ambassador to Saigon and, after Kennedy's assassination, a special consultant to Johnson. This book is not just a biography, but uses Taylor as a prism through which to tell the story of high-level American decision-making and its consequences. It offers an intimate look at the White House thought process during a critical time in US history.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A perceptive appraisal of General Maxwell Davenport Taylor (1901-87), whose public career affords the author (himself a former general) an opportunity to track high-level American decision- making and its consequences in Vietnam during the 1960's. Kinnard served under Taylor when Taylor was Army chief of staff; the author was also granted a dozen interviews and access to his subject's personal papers while researching the overview at hand. Although Kinnard provides enough background information to put Taylor in clear perspective, he does not pretend to provide a conventional biography. Instead, he uses the varied roles the soldier-statesman played in his later years to probe how Washington goes about creating and carrying out geopolitical policy. Having been denied the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs owing to his quarrels with Eisenhower's defense strategies, Taylor retired from the Army and wrote The Uncertain Trumpet, a cold-war tract that stressed the US military's need for flexible response (as opposed to massive retaliation) capabilities. The book provided a welcome blueprint for the Kennedy Administration, and the newly inaugurated President recruited its author as a personal advisor. Believing he needed a win following early setbacks in Cuba and Berlin, JFK initiated the troop buildups that led to a greater American involvement in Indochina's conflicts shortly after his death. LBJ appointed Taylor ambassador to the Saigon regime, and he stayed on as a senior White House counselor when his one-year tour ended. As to the measure of responsibility borne by the steadfastly (albeit thoughtfully) hawkish Taylor for the Vietnam tragedy, Kinnard concludes that his role was central, if not decisive. More an influential soldier than a virtuoso statesman in the author's view, Taylor emerges here as an honest broker whose checkered record of judgments can be faulted largely on what it failed to accomplish. A valuable and illuminating addition to the literature on a wrenching two-front war. (Seventeen photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Maxwell Taylor, an unregenerate "hawk," was one of the few advisers who supported President Lyndon Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam war to the very end. His eight-year involvement with Vietnam was longer than that of any senior American official. Kinnard ( 1890-1990: A Pictorial History ) traces his influence on presidential policy-making both in strategic decisions and domestic and international matters relating to Vietnam between 1960 and 1968, first as John Kennedy's military representative, then as ambassador to Saigon and presidential consultant under LBJ. Based partly on 12 interviews with Taylor before his death in '87, the book portrays him as "the very model of the modern soldier-statesman" and the first of the new breed of managerial generals. Kinnard also reveals Taylor's strong anti-media feelings: the great mistake of the Vietnam War in his view was "the failure to impose censorship on the news media." Kinnard concludes that Taylor's role in the Vietnam War was "central but not decisive." A balanced look at one of Kennedy and Johnson's key advisers, but a study of limited appeal.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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