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. Joe

    Dana, you have a right to say what you said because of men like him the Sgt, Major. I am sure your insight would have made great conversation with him face to face. I would pay money to see that exchange. Get lost you POS!

    October 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brian S

    RIP CSM Plumley. I appreciate the freedom you and many others like you provide me. AIR CAV!

    October 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tater

    "Gerry Owen " CSM Plumley " Gerry Owen" Will visit your gravesite soon Top. Hooahh

    October 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wealthcoaches

    Those warriors amongst us know what a great man he was, and what great things he dd for our country. Those who will never understand, feel the need to criticize. No matter – his deeds don't change, even when he is criticized. RIP Sergeant Major...

    October 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anthony Smink

    Real World Math Everyone in the military kills in some way have some respect for him and those lost in the war. Its stupid to just think that he was a murder when he technically wasnt because he was protecting his country. Also even if he was told what to do in 2 out of the 3 wars he was in in every war no matter what rank you are you are still told what to do and expected to carry it out.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pol

    My uncle served with CSM Plumley and Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and died in the Ia Drang. He was SFC Luther Gilreath, Co. C, 1st platoon sergeant, 1st Battalion of the 1/7 , serving under Capt. Bob Edwards and Lt. Neil Kroger.

    I had the privilege of seeing CSM Plumley in person at a reunion of these fine warriors a few years ago in Arlington, VA.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RJ

    Wait.....this is not a top story but Lance Armstrong is???? what a sad society we live in.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mick7744

    The CSM sounds like the type of leader who could relentlessly drive his men in training...and they'd love him for it...where another NCO might be a brutal, chicken**** martinet to be fragged at the earliest oportunity
    Can't be learned...can't be taught Enjoy Valhalla, Command Sergent Major

    October 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 82Airborne

    I met him once. Awesome.
    Present, arms.

    October 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HeyZues

    Halo Halo Infantry, Queens of Battle Follow me...

    RIP CSM Pumley

    October 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. moose1

    Command Sergeant Major Plumley spent his entire life providing you with the freedom to spout forth your disrepectful, ingrateful, mindless slop! He would not have wanted your thanks.

    October 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wingsagain

    Command Sergeant Major Plumley...?

    Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley...?

    Command Sergeant Major Basil L. Plumley...?

    You may rest now.

    October 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. moose1

    Thank you for your service and sacrifice Sgt. Major. Because of men like you, we are still free!!

    You may lay down your rifle now and rest. You have earned peace, for the warrior has finally come home! Rest in peace!

    October 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richard Snead Jr.

    Basil was my great uncle. I can tell you he was no brainwashed killer or fanatic. He had a great reverence for life...if you had ever seen him holding his great grand niece 20 years ago you would never believe he was a warrior. I believe Basil served in three wars because a) he knew it needed done b) he knew he was good at it and would bring men home that otherwise might be lost and c) he was never one to shirk what he saw as his responsibility as an American and let somebody else do it for him. As a former US Army Infantry Officer I can attest that men like him are rare and sadly, almost taken for granted by those that have never served anyone but themselves for their entire lives.
    He will be missed by many and should be missed by more.....
    Richard Snead Jr

    October 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaelq

      the men who serve deserve our respect. that they can kill and endure hardship is a mark in their favor, except to the decadent, who will roll over rather than fight for what is precious.
      God bless these men, may we always have more than we need.

      October 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ranger Bob

      A soliders solider. We will miss you.

      October 11, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • DebS

      I'm sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was a great man and soldier. May he RIP.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Tonia Walker

      Dear Mr Snead,

      I truly believe your great was an amazing man. He served our country with great honor. My grandfathers both served in the Navy, one was tunnel rat and never spoke of his time in the navy, but was warm hearted caring soul. The other retired from the Navy and was just as warm hearted and caring as my other grandfather. These men are the reason I went in to the Marine Corps. People who judge and assume and call us harsh name like baby killers and such are uneducated and narrow minded, and they do not have what it takes to serve our country. I want to personally thank you for your great uncle's service as well as yours. Semper Fi Sir.

      October 12, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • isisleigh

      My condolences to you and your family at this time of loss. Your uncle is a hero as is every soldier in the military that chooses to serve their country. My grandfather did to and was also a CSM. I was so proud of him! He passed away in Jan of 2001. May they both rest in peace. God bless!

      October 12, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • AceGirlsHusband

      You come from a great lineage, then. I never met him not being Air Cav (I was 505th of the 82nd), but I had heard of him. What a true hero and leader he was. He is one of those NCO's that's bigger than life.

      October 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Here here!

      Well said............

      October 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Deaner

    CSM Plumley was a man to be respected. You pukes that question his loyalty and dedication to his men and country aren't worthy of breathing the same air.

    October 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael.lampart

      amen.csm–2ad–hell.on.wheels

      October 12, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
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