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Be All You Can Be

A Soldier Called Max

At heart, that’s what he was—a soldier.  Maxwell Reid Thurman (Max) was far sighted, driven, and absolutely committed to the success of the U.S. Army.  Its history would be far different without his focus, drive, and vision.

Max was commissioned as an artillery officer (with a very brief stop in ordinance) through the ROTC program at North Carolina State University. He missed the Korean Conflict and served in various artillery units.  He did two tours in Viet Nam, once as a military advisor and the second time as an artillery battalion commander.

He was at West Point as a captain and a tactical officer at the same time his brother Roy, Norman Schwarzkopf, and several others were.  The stories told about Max as a tactical officer are often confused with the stories told about Roy.  For instance, cadets used to complain that Max wore a tap on the toe of only one of his boots so that he would seem farther away when walking down the hall.  That was Roy.  (I have this from Ted Stroup.)  His last troop command was the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY).

While head of the Army Recruiting Command in 1979, he started the “Be all you can be” recruiting campaign, and he is responsible for making the volunteer army work after the devastation of the Vietnam War.  He retooled how the Army recruited soldiers, trained those soldiers, the units those soldiers were sent to and how they married up to the new equipment they would use to succeed.  He cared about the families of soldiers and how they were cared for.

All of this prepared him to spend 16 years as a General Officer, longer than a lot of his contemporaries—and he had impact.  He was instrumental in recruiting and training the Army that took down Manuel Noriega and kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.  Several people claimed credit for the success of these operations, but Max deserved a lot of it, and did not get it.  For example, while General Norman Schwarzkopf is credited with the success of Operation Desert Storm, he accomplished it with the army Max Thurman built.

Max died December 1, 1995 at Walter Reed Hospital of leukemia.

Despite all he accomplished, Max has been overlooked by the historians.  No biography has been written.  This project is to tell his story.

Learn more about the Max Thurman biography project.

Contribute your story, photos, and thoughts.

Read about the writing process in the biography blog.