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. ronvan

    WOW: There are some really interesting thoughts here! Some just stupid! First you need to understand that ALL of our service branch's are NOT free speech & democratic!! Depending on you rank you either give or follow those orders given! Yes, you do not have to follow orders that are obviously wrong! For those that use the term "brainwashed" you have no idea about the military! You are TRAINED to do you job, training that, hopefully, will enable you to survive in combat. IF you have to take another human's life that is a situation that you have to live with the rest of your life! Some can handle it, some cannot! Our magnificient military members do thier jobs every day.
    CSM Plumley's service to his nation CANNOT be questioned!! A very rare breed to have served in 3 wars, survive, and yet continue to serve his country!! May he be remembered as ONE OF THE BEST, and rest in peace. His mission completed!!

    October 12, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      @Ronvan-da do ron ron- got that out of my system. ty. It is brainwashed spoke to 3 more vet's as I always gravitate to them and basic training is brainwashing.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      This man is truely a wonderful man.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • PAUL

      ronvan.....that is an excellent statement.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kati

    There should be no question of the bravery and heroics of this man. While some of you may "think" he went in to battle a brainwashed shell, you're wrong. most of the heroes of wars, the ones that do make names for themselves, do not going itno war wanting to kill or even to defend their country-they go in to help and make sure as little lives are lost as possible, often times risking their own when doing so. that is the true meaning of soldier-not a killer, but someone that will fight for you, for me and for the people on the other side that are being persecuted. Do not forget that every single person commenting here is doing so because somewhere in your countries history there was a man or woman brave enough to stand at the front lines and and inspire people to save each other and to save people they had never met. it's a sad day that one of the last true historians of war is gone.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. jfairweather

    The irony of the Viet Nam war is that it started as a rebellion against a colonial power, but since that colonial power (France) had been a US ally since the American Revolution, the US automatically took their side. Early on, near the end of the French period when US advisors showed up, Ho Chi Minh tried to talk with the Americans in the hope that the US (a former colony itself) would be sympathetic to the injustice that was going on. The U.S., which placed its friendship with France above the American ideals of justice and fairness, blew him off totally. That's when he turned for assistance to the enemies of the U.S. If the Americans had taken Ho Chi Minh seriously, the war would never have happened. It would have had very serious repercussions with our relations with France at the height of the cold war, but all in all, it would have been better if we had sided with Ho Chi Minh and kept communism out of Viet Nam by being its ally.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    Democrats support racial affirmative action programs in employment and college programs. Think before you vote.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Taskmaster

      Chris why don't you get your head out of you butt and get politics off of your brain if you have one. The article is about a brave man who served this country for over 30 years and served it very well. It makes no difference if he was republican or democrat or independent. Have you served?

      October 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Name* CJ

    CSM in peace. You will surely have a spot in already did your tours in hell. Thanks to him and his family for the honorable service he gave to our country. While many good soldiers were lost in his command...many others came home because of him. To all our a vet myself...thank you for your service. Take a moment and give a time of silence and thought to the loss of our brother in arms we lost. Remember also, as those on here rant and rave against us and those like us...what they fail to understand is...WE FOUGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO DO THAT....they will never understand or appreciate that. US ARMY Combat Medic...HOOO AAGGH

    October 12, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. 3rd Infantry Grunt

    RIP CSM Plumley, you did your duty and did it well

    October 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Katherine

    I think it's sad how whenever there is mention about the Ia Drang Valley and the 7th Cav as it relates to X-Ray, the TRUE story is never told about how 5th Cavalry Regiment went in on an unauthorized mission and SAVED the 7th Cav from total annihilation and losing yet another major battle. Those men deserve recognition for the lives they risked and the lives they saved as well. I want my children to know the truth and what REALLY happend, not what has been "reported" and depicted and glorified on the big screen. I would also like to thank the United States Government for exposing my Father to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, it only took 40 years to finally admit THAT too. RIP Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, you served your country well and we thank you! **SUPPORT OUR TROOPS**

    October 12, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam R

      Sorry to hear that your father went through the hell of battle and a different kind of hell afterward. I am aware of the actions of the 5th Cav 2nd battalion. There is plenty of information on their actions in reinforcing the 1/7. The movie is not the best reference to what happened at LZ X-Ray. So much has been left out, distorted or re-written for "artistic license" Hal Moore and Joe Galloway put a lot of work into the story of the 1/7th and the 2/7th. Perhaps someone should write the story of the 5th Cav 2nd Battalion. I'm sure it would be as gripping

      October 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brian

    Rest in peace and thank you for your service.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KKDenver

    Gentlemen..... prepare to defend yourselves.

    October 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Clint

    CSM Plumley, you made your ancestors proud.


    October 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ER19799482

    I had the honor of serving in the 10th Cav. Esprit de corp is a very real thing and we served like brothers. I didn't have to do Nam, thank God, but I honor anyone who went and did their jobs. These guys are the ones that keep us free.
    Gary Owens!

    October 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. El Cid - Hell Hotel

    He was a great man, as any officer will tell you that the key to your success are the NCO's. They ae the true heroes of any battle, and the grittier the better. Hua.

    October 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dane S Faber

    I have a Sergeant Major in my family and as a Marine officer, I only offer my final salute to a great American! Saw the movie a few times and brings tears each time for the courage and dedication shown by the brave soldiers depicted. To the writer who asked if courage like this can be duplicated today? You bet it is.. go spend some time around MCRD in San Diego or Parris Island and just watch. We are distinctly blessed to have had men like CSM Plumley for future generations to emulate.

    Desiderata Card

    Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have the right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

    October 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. USTrooper

    St Peter at the pearly gates: "AT EASE!"
    CSM Plumley: "Carry on, I'll be in the area for the rest of eternity."

    312th MI BN, 1-7 Cav, Bosnia 1995, 1999. GarryOwen!

    October 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • CWT

      IaDrang will always be alive in my memory.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CJ

    Old soldiers never die they only fade away. Rest in peace.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
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