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. Kevin

    And a republican makes this about politics in record time. Congratulations for overshadowing and ignoring the bravery and sacrifice of this great American.

    October 13, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Wellywellup

      I don't know what happened to the GOP I used to know, but I don't like it. It seems they hate america, weird.

      October 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom

    We will always have to fight for freedom. This man believed he fought for the US. But this war was a knee jerk reaction over a cold war with Russia. We speculated that this war needed to be fought. Where we are today we now know it was not needed. This war holds a lesson for the US no less great then WWII. We still to this day are unable to know when to go to war for what could be a distance threat.

    Our government has no formula, no high-tech computer we have nothing but a gut guess to know when to fight a war that is not on our shores. But we have learned that belief of the people is more powerful than any bomb we can create. We must use this learned knowledge to fight wars less with bullets and more with getting people to see freedom is worth fighting for in their own countries. You can’t force people to believe! The only way to get people to believe is to show them how freedom can exist in our own country. So maybe the war we need to fight is the one in OUR government to get more power of the people into the halls of our Whitehouse. Because I can see most people in America today no longer believe they have freedom in our own country. Belief! It’s what starts and wins all wars!

    October 13, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • rnbjagr

      I must ask Tom, have you served?

      October 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. poco

    I thought this blog was meant to honor the memory of a brave soldier, not a forum for people to pontificate about their political beliefs. Thank you CSM Plumley for your service and your steadfast duty.

    October 13, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Howard C

    Dana Crew is a coward brainwashed by Obama's socialist policies of government dependence.

    October 13, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. wizard2399

    RIP old soldier. Thank you for your service.

    October 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wildone

    I salute CSM Plumley for being a good soldier who cared about the men under him.

    October 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Archyle

    Here's to him, and to those like him

    October 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Damn few left

      October 13, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Archyle

    A dedicated soldier whose heroism and bravery inspired those around him to great things. A leader, who was content to be led by others, a man of honor and a man of action.

    October 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. me

    American hero

    October 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark

    Our condolences to the loved ones of a "True AMERICAN Hero." It is a true statement that old Soldiers never die. Thanks for the serivce to a nation who is forever in the debt of those who keep us free.

    October 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paramad

    I am a godless liberal. I served four years in the Navy 1970-1974. I changed my mind about Vietnam as the war progressed it was a tragedy based on the false " Domino theory" That does not mean that I do not respect and honor those men that fought and sacrificed for America. Just because we were led into ill advised wars in no way does that detract from the bravery and dedication of the men and women that put themselves in harms way, heroes all. There are damned few people like Plumley that are leaders of that stature, my sympathy to the family and my salute to an amazing man.

    October 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John L.

    I spent 7 years in the USMC and have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. For those of you on here disrespecting service members past or present, please keep in mind that without the brave men and women who WILLINGLY defend this country more acts of terrorism would have reached our shores. My deepest heart felt thanks go to CSM Plumley for his dedication and service to this great nation. Semper Fi. I will see you in heaven when I report for duty at the pearly gates.

    October 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dennis

    RIP CSM Plumley, you've done your time in hell

    October 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kearney

    The passing of a man like this deserves much more attention than any linkage to politics. Here was a true American hero who selflessly offered his service in three wars to an often ungrateful country. I was lucky enough to also serve over three decades in the Corps and count myslef privileged to have known men from all our services who truly aspired to emulate the CSM. He and his family will remain in my prayers.

    October 13, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kerry

      Sgt. Major Plumely was a man of dedication and gumption! Gumption was one of his favorite words, that and fairness. Soldiers today could learn a lot from Plumely. He was a true West Virginian and a Patriot!

      October 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hooah

    Wow! RIP. For who has not, you really should read about the Ia Drang.

    October 14, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
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