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. bluegillonthefly

    Just goes to show you can make it out of college while still being stupid.

    My dad was an ARVN soldier, and he – along with anybody else who was there in 1975 – could tell you that it most surely was about freedom. For all its corruption and problems, people in the Republic of Viet Nam were far freer than people in Viet Nam are even today – and it was much worse in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Were Korea and Viet Nam about freedom at the same level that WW II was? I'm a WW II buff, and I'd say that they were not. But they were about freedom nevertheless; freedom for others, if not our own. But we'll never know the answer to the question, I suppose, of "What might have happened if we had just rolled over everytime communism took another country by force, instead of helping local people to resist? Might the USSR and China been emboldened enough to open a much broader war to advance their brutal dictatorship?" We'll never know, but I rather suspect they might have.

    As for you, you worthless piece of subhuman garbage, you ought to show a little more respect to the people whose sacrifice allows your mouth to spew the f e c e s that you call words.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mike

    to those who dont know we didn't lose the Vietnam war we pulled out due to our people saying enough is enough we could have won but the people said no

    October 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • rschier

      Won what? I'll bet you can't even say.

      October 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    Why would anyone want to meet and talk to you.. He was an American hero, you are young and obviously not so bright

    October 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bluegillonthefly

    RIP, CSM.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bill

    I'm disappointed that a fellow American would make such derogatory statements about a man who has just died. You are a lousy human being.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Civilian

    Truly sad news

    October 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. oldboldpilot

    How come the MSM never, ever, gives the number of North Vietnamese Regulars that were lost in the engagement. The information is out there, provided by Vietnam themselves, and was posted in the movie credits. But American losses are always stated, every time, and are posted as if we lost many more men than the enemy did. And that is simply not true. Those 450 airborne troopers decimated that NVA regiment, and they did it from a hot LZ. But apparently is is still too politically incorrect to tell the truth about the Vienam war and the American Soldiers who fought there.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cyprian

    RIP CSM, may those left behind will mourn a dedicated man to his country. Haters should be quite and show respect to the man.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Prevent wars, support warriors

    Perfect worlds don't need soldiers. Ours does. I respect soldiers for what they do for me, which is to allow me not to have to worry about my security. They defend the values I teach. Was the Vietnam War right? Wrong? Either way, those soldiers were asked to do what their government said to do, and they did. If the government used them incorrectly, that's our problem, not theirs. Rest in peace sir, and thanks for your truly remarkable service.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Zerky

    RIP my friend. You did your country a tremendous service and may you always be remembered.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      I don't care if I'm remembered. When it is my time to go, I want to know in my heart that I gave much of myself for the good of others and our country which I love with my whole heart. We have been blessed to have individuals such as CSM Plumley; The army didn't want me in 1973, so I began waging a peace of doing public service instead.

      Thank you, sir for your service to our country.

      October 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Happily agnostic

    I don't know why some people have to pollute every comment section with their trolling actions designed to get people fighting. Bottom line for me is, that a damn fine 92 year old man died recently and he bravely served this country through 3 wars. He saw and experienced things most of here can't imagine and I appreciate his service to our country. You don't have to agree with this country or the military on every issue to know that Basil L. Plumley was a patriot in every sense of the word. May he rest in peace.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Additionally, here is what was in the postscript of the book, We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young by Lt. General Hal Moore and Joe Galloway.

      "Plumley, Basil, seventy-two (in 1992), the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry's sergeant major, retired from the Army as a command sergeant major on December 31, 1974, after thirty-two years, six months, and four days on active duty, and a second tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Advisory Group, Pleiku. His awards include the Combat Infantryman's Badge with two stars, two Silver Stars; two Bronze Stars; four Purple Hearts; a Master parachutist Badge with five combat-jump stars; a European Theatre Service ribbon with eight campaign stars and four invasion arrows; a Korean Service Ribbon with three campaign stars and one invasion arrow; a Vietnam Service Ribbon with one silver and three bronze campaign stars; and the Presidential Unit Citation badge. He worked an additional fifteen years as a civilian employee at Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, GA, and retired again in 1990. He and his wife, Deurice, live in Columbus, GA, where he is president of the 1st Cavalry Division Association local chapter and an occasional quail hunter. Basil Plumley is a grandfather now, kind and soft spoken, but do not be deceived: He is a lion in winter."

      October 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Leucadia Bob

    This guy deserves all the honor and glory for fighting for our country. On a side note, I would like to commend CNN for mentioning Mel Gibson without ANY negative connotation. I know that your agenda assures us that the next time you mention him, it will be negatively, and hey, Basil Plumley fought so that you could have the right to persecute those with whom you disagree. God Bless America AND Mel Gibson!

    October 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • mick7744

      Mel Gibson is not MY hero...he's a guy who ocasionally makes some pretty good films...and although no "Braveheart" at the box office, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young...was one of them

      October 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Schmedley

      Real World, get over yourself. You're not nearly as enlightened as you have deluded yourself into believing.

      October 11, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dirty Harry

    America lost a good man today.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Siara

    Thank you for your service and rest in peace, sir. I enjoy what you fought for.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. brad

    One of the best men in the army. served in 3 wars, helped start the air cav, and an NCO for the soldiers. no matter what anybody says, he had a stellar career in the army and should be recognized for those accomplishments. RIP Sergant Major.

    October 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
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