Basil Plumley, Army veteran of 3 wars, dies at 92
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, left, and retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore help lead the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.
October 11th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Basil Plumley, Army veteran of 3 wars, dies at 92

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, who fought in some of the U.S. Army's bloodiest battles in three wars, died Wednesday in Columbus, Georgia. He was 92.

Plumley saw action in some of the largest battles of World War II, including the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of Salerno in Italy and Operation Market Garden.

He then fought in the Korean War, but it was his role in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam that brought him the most fame. The battle was chronicled in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which was later a 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson. Sam Elliott played Plumley.

The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, tweeted a picture of Elliot and Plumley in noting the veteran's death.

Plumley, along with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, led the Army's 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the November 1965 battle that saw 450 U.S. forces face off against 2,000 troops from the North Vietnamese army in the first major engagement between the two armies. More than 230 U.S. troops were killed.

Plumley was at Landing Zone X-Ray, where 79 U.S. troops died.

"That was a long day. I was the second one in and next to the last to leave," Plumley was quoted as saying by The Bayonet in 2010 when he donated a large print of himself and Moore in Vietnam to the National Infantry Museum.

"Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley was a true American hero who spent much of his life placing his nation and its greatest ideals ahead of his own well-being," Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, said in a statement Wednesday. "He served with great valor and distinction in three wars and continued to mentor soldiers and leaders well after his retirement from active duty. The command sergeant major touched countless lives in his more than 30 years in the Army."

Plumley joined the Army on March 31, 1942, and retired on December 31, 1974.

His Army awards included the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster.

At a reunion of Ia Drang veterans this year in Columbus, Plumley talked about the troops he helped lead, according to a report on the U.S. Army's website.

"That battalion was the best trained, in good physical shape and most disciplined that I've ever seen," he said. "We did real hard training at Fort Benning before we went into X-Ray. … But that battalion was made up of hard, disciplined, well-trained and well-commanded soldiers who didn't give a damn how rough their training is as long as you're fair about it. I was glad to have been a member of it."

Plumley was a larger-than-life figure, who had the respect of those on the battlefield, according to Joe Galloway, a reporter who was at Ia Drang and later wrote "We Were Soldiers" along with Moore. At the May reunion, he told of the scene when Plumley showed up at another Ia Drang vets reunion years earlier.

"It was up in the hospitality room, and everybody's had a few pops. All of a sudden, Sgt. Maj. Plumley arrives, steps in the door," Galloway said. "And I saw guys who had served a two-year draftee tour in the Army and had been out for 25 or 30 years, turn white, backs against the wall. As the sergeant major made his way into the room, they made their way along the wall and out the door. They were afraid he still had their name and number."

Plumley died of colon cancer, the Army statement said.

See local coverage from CNN affiliate WRBL-TV in Columbus

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Filed under: Military • Obituary • U.S. Army
soundoff (433 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    Farewell and RIP Basil Lumely. veteran of veterans.

    October 11, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    That is Basil Plumely. My apologies for the typo.

    October 11, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Hide Behind

    Not to take anything away from Sgt/ Major, but I truth darn nrar every enggement in yhat Valley and there were many througout those years publicity made them seem as effecient run operations bit in fact almost all were major "Cluster.........s".
    This incident as not first contact there and intell by ysrds and SF warned regular military.
    So wanting to regain a repp by a unit disgraced in Korea the blundered ahead anyways.Blind as bats and with complete disregard to ability of VC and NVA we won glorious victory and put names on wall.
    Sgt was a sgts sgt of the old mold, a citizen soldier.He deserves respect. for his military life.

    October 11, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Old Soldier

      Hide Behind. You are more than welcome to your opinion, but why state it in this place? Just pay your respects and move on. Whether it was a good decision or bad to engage that day, there was an engagement. Write a book, but don't mix that stuff here. Don't forget that they were the 7th Cavalry .... the 7th is famous for fighting in bad spots. Luckily, there were good soldiers, leaders, and God with them in the V that day. Tchuss.

      October 11, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • JoeG

      Agree, pay your respects and move on. Like most grunts, they went where they told and fought next to their brothers in arms. Their opinions about right and wrong or ready or not was never involved in the equation. And please, let the computer do a spell check before you hit "post." Your point is always better made when a person can read it without guessing at the words. Rest in Peace to an American Soldier.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Schwendler

      A tasteless and classless post. This is a time for polite farewells for a combat veteran of three wars, which boggles my mind. He devoted and dedicated his professional life to the military service of his country. If you don't have anything nice to say about the deceased hero, say nothing at all. You have been extremely dis-respectful.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Really? You start by saying "Not to take anything away from....". Wow. Wish you had stopped to think for a moment and second guessed your comments.

      Yes, in peace mighty warrior and a heart felt thanks.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Sorry. MEant to say "Rest in peace".

      October 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phineas

      JoeG,

      As someone who's walked among the thousands upon thousands of stones countless times at Arlington Cemetery, I can assure you, questions of "right and wrong" and "ready or not" are always on my mind. Yeah, it's true–good soldiers do what they're told. Such is the nature of the job and that's exactly the way the command structure wants it.

      But only a non-thinking human being would go off to fight and not think about it outside of the context of it simply being "an order."

      Seems to me with all the vitriol coming from those who tell others what they should and shouldn't say, I find it hard to imagine any of them actually believing in the free speech they say they fought for.

      True, to offer a rejoinder is speech, too. But what about telling someone to "shut up" or "keep your opinion to yourself" or, my personal favorite, "go to Canada!" Is this really what we have in mind when we offer freedom of speech as a unique US virtue?

      October 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pointless1

    RIP Soldier..

    October 11, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Old Soldier

    A good CSM is a joy to behold. A good one exists to take care of his enlisted soldiers, train thr new officers hoe to be officers, and set the standard for everyone. A commander blessed with a good one can relax to a dgree and trust the CSM will keep things together; he can then focus on TTP and hone his young officers. By all accounts, he was one of the best. It is sad to see an old soldier pass, but someone has to take care of the troops up there, too. Hooah, Command Sergeant Major! I hope to meet you one day. Tchuss!

    October 11, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Don't Disrepect a mans death..

    AS a military brat of a lifer and served active duty myself, Sgt Maj Plumely is the epitome of what a soldier is and should be.. RIP Sgt Maj......

    October 11, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. ANdrew

    RIP Sir. Thank you for your service, your valor, your enormous heart. G-d speed.

    October 11, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark N

      Agreed! Bravo Zulu. Rest in Peace You have Served Your Country Well.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ratelbadger

    My SGM Plumely rest in peace. He reminds me of my Godfather who also served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. These were the men that my father taught me to respect and admire as he served with such men, and his passing saddens me as my son will never know the likes of such a NCO. When I served I tried to emulate their beliefs/ethos and only hope others understand what they gave and later had to live with. May I be so lucky to have a drink with him at the Fiddler's Green! Scouts Out.!

    October 11, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. lindaluttrell

    Thank you for all your brave service to this county. Rest in Peace, Sir.

    October 11, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scott

    Rest In Peace Soldier! Because of men like you we live in a free country.

    Scott
    PR2 USN 1974-1979

    October 11, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Miguel Tejeda

    RIP CSM Plumely....You were a paratrooper's paratrooper...."All the Way"

    October 11, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. TJ

    and when he gets to Heaven,
    to St. Peter he will tell:
    "Just another soldier reporting, Sir.
    I've served my time in Hell."

    RIP Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley

    October 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gg

    Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.
    RIP with your hero brothers friend.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rad666

    True hero..........thank you sir and RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    RIP, Soldier.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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