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. Oscar

    For those who dont appreciate such sacrifice and dont respect our fallen, leave the country, go somewhere else where you can run your cowarly mouth and go to work the next day then take your freedom for granted, id love to get a chance to let you run your mouth in front of me.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • stonedwhitetrash

      We did lose that war you know.

      October 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • rschier

      There's very few who would not honor this gentleman's service, however it's a shame folks like this
      have been squandered over the last 50 years on the false premise of "freedom".

      October 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Your college

    owes you a refund for turning out a real terd for us to educate

    October 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. USAFRet2

    Real World Math – college educated, really? Look at your posts. You're obviously not educated enough to post on this man's story.... RIP CSM

    October 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      That's your problem Real World Math, you're a рrоѕtіtutе (lawyer). Both your species and the common whоrе have one thing in common. Both of you will assume ANY position ... for a price 😉


      October 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      OMG a lawyers... societys parasites... enough said

      October 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Adam R

    It really bothers you that this man has thousands of brothers who respect and admire him. Hasn't someone else died in the last 5 hours. Why don't you go crap on their life? You call him a bloodthirsty killer. That wasn't his focus in battle. His Veteran leadership saved many American lives in the Ia Drang Valley. He didn't kill 2,000 NVA and Viet Cong with an M911.
    No matter what you say WE love him

    October 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Disabled Military Vet

    I agree with you in your comparisions between WWII and everything since then. But, we fought, and still fight, for what our country believes in. I won't do the standard "If you don't like it, you can leave," one-liner. You have the right to say what you say. But I do have the right to hope that you get your educated butt kicked by someone who you have the balls to say this to in person.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brad

    Wow, what a waste of a good education. Your parents should have taken your collage money and went to Vegas...........................

    October 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Batman

    RIP Sgt. Major. If the Patriot Guard Riders are invited, I'll be there to escort you.

    To those posting to honor him: don't feed the trolls. Their ignorance is theirs. Let them have it.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. joe t

    I too am college educated (BS, MBA – earned via the GI Bill) and have a professional certification, I am also a US Navy veteran. What your education failed to teach you because your Greatest Genertion parents probably footed the bill (so you would have a better life) and you spent too much time with a joint stuck in your face, is that because of this man's sacrifces and the sacrifices of so many others like him, you are allowed to make the ignorant and self centered comments you do.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MRGRK

    R.I.P. Mr Plumley.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brad


    October 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. r2g

    RIP CSM. I'll see you at Fiddler's Green.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FRMR2ID

    i have had the extreme pleasure of having serveral awesome nco's above (and in charge) of me while in the Army, but i couldnt imagine what it would be like having such a hero in their shoes. rip to a great leader and American.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Carolyn Wilson

    There are so few heroes in the world today. This man was truly a hero and we can have the freedoms that we do today because of men like him. Thank you for your service...I salute you and I pray that you will rest in peace.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan

    Well done sir, RIP. Dick Winters last year, Basil Plumley this year. Humble men who had the ability to lead and seemingly have no fear and tremendous resourcefulness in the face of grave danger... but unlike a lot of people today felt no need to beat their chests and went quietly back to a simple civilian life.... It is because of men like these that we enjoy the freedoms and liberty we all enjoy today... we should all learn from their example..

    October 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alice C

    I agree with you. Vietnam was wrong. Iraq was wrong. And now Afghanistan is wrong. The Gulf of Tonkin was a made up event just like George W's WMD's.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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