SP/4 (Specialist 4) Marcus Taylor
PFC first season, he’s promoted to Specialist between first and second season (although we never see it) and then promoted to Sergeant in the third season in the episode Dead Man Tales. (Was passed over for promotion in Odd Man Out.) He is from Detroit (Motown), Michigan and raised by his grandmother on 4th and Billings.
Age: 18 when drafted. He was given a choice by the judge after being arrested for stealing a car- jail or the Army.
Physical Attributes: A handsome young black man, Taylor is slender and tall at 6’2” with a wide, brilliant smile.
- First Tour: Firebase Ladybird, I Corps (1967*- January 1968) with 2nd Platoon, B (“Bravo”) Company, 3/44th Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. Rifleman in 3rd Squad.
- Second Tour: Firebase Ladybird (January 1968); Tan Son Nhut, III Corp (Late January 1968 (Tet) to April 1968)
- Remainder of second tour (possibly into 3rd tour): Camp Barnett, III Corps (May 1968- ?) Special Forces- Team Viking.
Note that the time line is a bit mixed up here. Short Timer is two weeks after Under Siege (Zeke mentions to Sgt. Carlton that two weeks before, Taylor was holding his dead buddy in his arms and crying.)
*It is reasonable to assume that Taylor started out somewhere else before he and the others such as Johnson and Anderson shipped to Ladybird after it was built. But unlike Anderson, the show never gives us that information.
Awards and Decorations:
- Silver Star: Awarded in Episode 53 Acceptable Losses. (Note that at the time of the ceremony, both Taylor and Ruiz were MIA.) This was for his actions in Episode 53 And Make Death Proud to Take Us.
- Bronze Star: Awarded in Episode 45 Thanks for the Memories by Colonel Brewster.
- Army Commendation Medal: Awarded in Episode 21 The Hill by Colonel Dalby.
- Purple Heart: Taylor would likely have received this three times- wounded in Episode 2 Notes From the Underground, Episode 21 The Hill, and Episode 57 The Raid.
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Combat Infantry Badge
PFC Marcus Taylor is already at Ladybird with only four months left of his tour when Goldman, Percell, Horn, Baker and Ruiz arrive from Chu-lai in September 1967. He is part of Bravo Company, 3/44 Infantry, 2nd Platoon under the command of Captain Rusty Wallace. Taylor’s character appears in all but one episode (#16 Gray-Brown Odyssey). He re-ups for six years in Episode 18, The Short Timer.
He was raised by his grandmother although his mother is mentioned.
After stealing a car, the judge gave him a choice of jail or the Army.
Along with Goldman, Marcus Taylor is one of the characters that evolves and changes the most over the course of the series. He starts out as a very angry and defiant young man, with little respect for officers and anyone white, especially when it comes to his new lieutenant, Myron Goldman. He is, however, a solid soldier and very loyal to his buddies, willing to risk his life for them without question.
Marcus is bright and always looking for a scam of some sort to make money. Whether it’s promoting a young fighter, going into the hotel business with Johnson or selling “air conditioning” tickets to the clueless FNGs, Marcus is always looking to make a buck. But at the same time, he refuses to sell drugs despite an offer from a buddy who is from his neighborhood. Nor does he believe in looting the local temples for artifacts.
In the beginning, Marcus is easily caught up in situations, letting his sense of anger and injustice of how Blacks are treated sweep him along. He is impulsive, not thinking things through entirely and on more than one occasion, has disappointed Anderson because of it. It is the soft spoken and even-tempered Johnson who often keeps Marcus from getting into more trouble than he already does.
Marcus’s biggest clashes are with Goldman. Taking an immediate dislike to the new lieutenant, Marcus makes no effort to accord Goldman any measure of respect throughout the first season. Raised poor, he more than likely sees Goldman as coming from a privileged background. Marcus does see Goldman as a green officer, an annoyance and worst of all, white. It matters little to him that the L-T is likely in an even smaller minority- that of being Jewish.
He finds out that despite the way he treats his lieutenant, it’s Goldman who stands up for him, backing Marcus up 100% and risking sure reprimand from Major Darling over Marcus’s arrest in the death of the base chaplain. Taken back by what Goldman had done for him, Marcus apologizes to Myron and thanks him for what he’d done. Goldman tells him that he knows that Marcus is a good soldier and that he’s willing to overlook some of the “other” things- leaving the implication clear between them what that means.
Despite it being strictly against the rules and good sense, Taylor falls for and becomes involved with a beautiful female officer- Lt. Camille Patterson, when he is assigned to help her move into her office. It is a forbidden relationship and they both know it, yet risk everything. It would backfires on them when they’re caught by a greedy pair of NCOs looking for a way to blackmail Camille into overlooking their black market schemes. Camille is forced to transfer away and Taylor ends up with a reprimand in his record and a loss of pay when it all comes out.
Marcus’s other clash comes with the new unit medic, Francis “Doc” Hockenbury. From the moment the two meet, it’s instant dislike- Doc being the disapproving hippy fresh from the States, Taylor the cynical and seasoned veteran who has no time for the smart mouthed conchie medic. It doesn’t matter that Hockenbury proves from the first mission that he’s not a coward and is willing to die to save the men he’s responsible for. Taylor can only see a southern white boy who refuses to carry a weapon. He makes it clear that he doesn’t want someone willing to die for him, but rather someone who is willing to kill for him.
Taylor’s biggest changes would come as a result of Johnson’s decision to go home and try to make something of his life. Taylor had re-upped for another six years when faced with the truth that he really had little to nothing to go back to in Detroit. He felt betrayed and abandoned by Johnson and certainly jealous that his closest friend was leaving him behind in Vietnam.
He struggles with his anger, taking it out on Doc and the newbies that are assigned to Team Viking. He silently blames Goldman when he’s passed over for promotion to Sergeant, despite Anderson’s telling him that Goldman did his best to get it put through. Furious with himself and everyone around him, Taylor feels left behind.
Taylor comes to some harsh realizations about himself when he watches with horror as Goldman nearly smothers an infant baby girl in order to protect his men, which includes Taylor. Finally realizing just what Goldman is made of, what he’s willing to do even for Taylor, becomes a turning point for Marcus. Humbled, he tells Goldman that he knows that he’s not always shown it, but that he does appreciate what Goldman is willing to do for him. The two men reach a quiet understanding and Taylor stops blaming everyone else for who he is.
In Acceptable Losses, Taylor and Ruiz go MIA. Both are missing for approximately four weeks, despite a rescue attempt to get them back. Proving they are both special forces soldiers, they make it back in the controversial episode War is a Contact Sport, a little worse for wear.
It’s Taylor, the same young man who had no use for Doc or his politics, that is the one person besides McKay who supports Doc’s decision not to kill the VC. He tells Doc that it took courage to stand by his convictions and what he believed in. Nor would Taylor approve of Danny’s treatment of the medic over the incident.
At the end of the series, Taylor sees Danny and Alberto go home while he remains behind with Anderson and Goldman. Once angry and defiant, Taylor has grown into a responsible man, an excellent soldier and now is a squad leader for Goldman and Anderson. We will never know if he makes it out of Vietnam and back to the States, as our last image of him is with Anderson and Goldman, wounded during a firefight out in the bush.