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. Kris

    Very sorry to hear about Plumley's death. My family and I have seen "We Were Soldiers" w/Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott many times. One helluva story.....AND one helluva shot w/Plumley and the fantastic actor who portrayed him in the film, Sam Elliott. RIP sir, and thank you for your service to our country!

    October 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JoeJoe

    My mistake, clearly my reading comprehension needs some help! Good article!

    October 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. scott

    Rest in Peace solider. My God bless your soul.

    October 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ronjayaz

    I guess it's too late to say, "When yor number's up, yor number's up." Did he drink? smoke? etc. I like longevity stats.

    October 15, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Norm,Windham,Maine

      The guy lived to be 92. What possible difference does it make if he smoked or drank?

      October 15, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. vet4life63

    A very brave man. RIP.

    October 15, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. TTPilot

    What true War Hero's......all of these men were special HERO'S. Had the pleasure to meet Ed "TOO TALL" Freeman at an air show. All of these men had what it took, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, Ed Freeman, Sgt. Major Plumley, Bruce "Snake"
    Crandall, and everyone of the men of the 7th Calvery.........Hero's....Thank you Joe Galloway for having the guts to be there, fight, and telling this story...............God Bless all our Men and Women who fight for our rights to freedom.....HERO'S..........

    October 15, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. jw

    Rest in Peace SMJ, 101st. Airborne Div. Viet Nam. Ashua Valley, 1968. All the Way!

    October 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Martin

    Dear CNN,
    When you post an article concerning the military, please be sure to constantly praise everyone involved. In this case, you should praise the hardworking taxpayers who funded our military efforts, the troops who worked alongside CSM Plumley and his commanding officers. As you know, we recently had our feelings hurt when we weren't adequately praised, and we want to keep from hurting anyone else's feelings or self esteem.
    Thanks,
    U.S. Seals

    October 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • PDragon78

      If you represent the Navy Seals, I commend you on your service and condemn you on your lack of tact. This man served unquestionably on a battlefield more difficult than any in modern warfare. CNN, in reporting his death, is not obligated to mend your pride. I am in the Navy, and I say, this man was an Army Sgt Mjr. and he deserves all respect. Calling into question the reporting due to your misgivings is a travesty. He served honestly and fathlfullly for 30+ years. I am ashamed to call you a shipmate. Fair thee well Sgt Mjr Plumley

      October 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chuck C

    I knew Gen. Moore and would have been honored to meet Sgt Maj Plumley. I feel fortunate to have them as fellow Americans. I salute the Sgt Major.

    October 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PDragon78

    Fair thee well Sgt Mjr. You deserved my respect before my parents thought of children. You ARE an example for a generation who has lost its patriotism. My shipmates and fellow soldiers will try to carry the torch you held high.

    October 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GreenPhotog

    Tingles down my spine. He served for whatever reasons but lived through it all and is to be honored, commended, and emulated.

    October 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Epicenter NH

    We want to toss around the word "hero" and politicians (& radio hosts) want to wrap themselves in the flag and call themselves patriots. Neither Romney NOR Obama could hold a candle to this MAN!! This man was the personification of PATRIOT!! We will never see the likes of this type of man. God Bless and Rest In Peace a grateful nation salutes you Sgt. Mgr. Plumley!!!!

    October 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pat

    Gun's, tanks and airplanes nothing got him? looks like the only thing that could take this old sergeant major down was time its self! may God Bless his Soul.

    October 17, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    He was very lucky. Some sitting in a hole without firing one bullet get killed, some go through three different theatres and live! RIP.

    October 17, 2012 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob Cook

    I had the honor of teaching Leadership to Infantry Officer Advance Course students at Ft. Benning in the late 1980's. LTG (R) Moore was invited as a guest speaker several times, and I can assure you that he gave full credit to SGM Plumley and all the other soldiers with whom he served. The bond between this "Band of Brothers" can't be broken, even in death. Once again, I salute them all, and mourn the passing of the Sergeat Major. Garryowen!

    October 17, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
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