The subject of this article:
Lieutenant Dan Taylor is a character in the Forrest Gump novel and ensuing film. He was most likely born in the 1930s or 1940s. He was Forrest's platoon leader during the Vietnam War in 1967 and later becomes Forrest's shrimp boat partner in the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company. He is played by Gary Sinise.
Lt Dan came from a family that had a member who served and died in every American war. Forrest called it "a long, great, military tradition".
In the movie, Forrest and Bubba meet Lt. Dan in Vietnam in late 1966. Forrest and Bubba promptly issue salutes, but receive angry admonishments against it, for fear of hidden snipers targeting officers. He then makes note of Bubba's hanging lip, which Bubba attributes to his big gums. Lt. Dan warns him about getting it caught on a trip wire. He then asks where they're from, and they tell him Alabama in unison, prompting him to jokingly ask if they're twins; Forrest replies sincerely, missing the sarcasm. Lt. Dan firmly believes that socks are the one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt, and instructs them to change their socks whenever they stop, "cause the Mekong will blow a grunt's feet right off his legs."
Forrest feels fortunate to have Lt. Dan for a CO because he knew his stuff. Lt. Dan was from a long military tradition; someone in his family had fought and died in every American War, including the Revolutionary War (1778), Civil War (1863), World War I (1918), and World War II (1944). Mistaking them as being from Arkansas, Lt. Dan remarks backhandedly that Little Rock is a fine town (this is a reference to the National Guard being deployed to help integrate the schools, which is featured earlier in the film). He then orders them to gather their field equipment from the platoon sergeant, and invites them to get steaks if they're hungry. He then gives them the two standing orders of the platoon: 1. to take care of their feet, and 2. to try not to do anything stupid, like dying.
During the war, while Forrest and the soldiers are out looking for Vietcong, Lt. Dan gets a strange feeling about the trail and the road ahead and orders the soldiers to get down and shut up. Lt. Dan crouches down to make sure that the way is clear, then orders his troops to move out. Later, they clear a tunnel with explosives, which the Lt. orders Forrest to check.
Days later, the monsoon season begins, and it rains for 4 months. When the rain stops, the platoon is ambushed by the Vietnamese on June 7th, 1967. Lt. Dan orders his men to take cover and radios a sitch-rep to Strong Arm when two soldiers are killed by a bomb. He orders the others to fall back, and tells Forrest to run. Later, when Forrest returns to the woods to look for Bubba, he finds Lt. Dan and a dead soldier named Coleman.
Lt. Dan's legs are wounded, but he's still alive and talking into a radio to request an air strike. Forrest then tries to pick up Lt. Dan, who orders him to leave him behind; Forrest picks him up anyway and takes him to the river. During the run, Forrest is shot in the butt by an unseen enemy and Lt. Dan fires back, and orders Forrest once again to leave him but Forrest takes him to the river to safety, enraging him. When Forrest begins to leave to search for Bubba, Lt. Dan attempts to stop him from running into the inbound napalm airstrike, but Forrest doesn't listen. He returns to the woods and rescues a wounded Bubba, who succumbs moments later.
In the U.S. Navy Hospital, Lt. Dan has both wounded legs amputated. Forrest brings him some ice cream, which he throws discards into a bed pan before being taken for a bath by an orderly.. When Forrest plays ping-pong in the hospital, Lt. Dan is brought out to watch him, but only stares out the window angrily.
One night, Lt. Dan angrily pulls Forrest out of his bed and yells at him for saving his life. He angrily asks Forrest if he knows what it's like, not to be able to use one's legs, and Forrest (having had leg braces as a child) replies that he does. After calming down a bit, Lt. Dan then confesses to Forrest that he was destined to die honorably in the field, like his ancestors, which Forrest had cheated him out of. Forrest replies that (even without his honorable death) he still is Lt. Dan Taylor. Lt. Dan then pulls himself back over to his bed and wonders what he will do now without legs. The next day Forrest is awarded the Medal of Honor. He goes to tell Lt. Dan, but finds he has been discharged from the hospital.
New York City
In Christmas of 1971, Forrest is reunited with Lieutenant Dan in New York City. Lieutenant Dan is now a long-haired, bitter alcoholic in a wheelchair, and is dismayed that Forrest won the Medal of Honor, though does not react with genuine hatred. Forrest returns with Lt. Dan to his hotel room, where they have a discussion about God, which ends with Lt. Dan sending Forrest for another bottle of Ripple.
On New Year's Eve of 1971, Forrest and Dan go to a bar where Forrest tells Dan about buying a shrimping boat because of a promise he made to Bubba. Lieutenant Dan scoffs and jokingly replies that if Forrest ever became a shrimping boat captain, then he'd be his first mate. Then two hookers named Carla and Lenore come and start flirting with Lt. Dan. When the ball drops Forrest wishes Lt. Dan a happy new year but Lt. Dan sits in his chair upset that he doesn't have any legs and can't join the celebration. Afterwards Lt. Dan invites Forrest, Carla, and Lenore back to his hotel room where he makes out with Carla and Lenore tries to make out with Forrest.
But when Forrest accidentally pushes Lenore down (mainly because he's thinking about Jenny), she gets angry and Carla calls Forrest stupid. Enraged, Lt. Dan angrily kicks both out for insulting Gump, falling out of his wheelchair in the process. Forrest helps him up and apologizes for ruining the party. Lt. Dan wishes him a Happy New Year.
Forrest later buys his own shrimping boat, which he names "Jenny". After hearing about this, Lt. Dan arrives to serve as his first mate, as he is a man of his word. For several months, they have no luck, until Hurricane Carmen destroys all the shrimping boats except theirs, and they find themselves with an abundance of shrimp. Under the name "Bubba Gump Shrimp Company", they make a lot of money. Lt. Dan indirectly thanks Forrest for saving his life; Forrest thinks that, despite Lt. Dan never actually saying so, he made his peace with God.
In September, 1975, Forrest leaves the business after he learns his mother is dying of cancer, and after her death, he stayed in Greenbow. Lt. Dan then takes over and continues managing it, and substantially invests in what Forrest believes to be "some kind of fruit company", which was in fact Apple Computers; it was this investment that began Apple's rise to success.
In approximately 1981, Forrest reunites with Jenny in Savannah, Georgia, and the pair, as well as Jenny and Forrest's son, Forrest Jr, return to Greenbow, Alabama, where Forrest and Jenny are married in a private ceremony. Several friends and family members had attended. Among the guests is Lieutenant Dan, who now has prosthetic legs, made from titanium alloy (the same metal used in the space shuttles). He is accompanied by his Vietnamese fiancee Susan.
Jenny dies a year later in 1982 from AIDS, and Forrest has her buried beneath the tree they played on as children, as well as demolishing the old home of Jenny's abusive father. Forrest wonders if Lieutenant Dan was right about people having their own destiny, or if his mother was right about people "Floating around in the breeze accidentally". He concludes that maybe both are happening at the same time. Dan no longer appears afterwards, but is presumed to be alive and well, running the shrimping business, and is still in contact with Gump.