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. F.R.

    They don't make 'em like that anymore. He didn't pass away – he just PCSd to post everlasting. Don't let the haters and the ingrates take you down – your duty and your accomplishments are testament to the very freedom we enjoy today – the haters are proof of that. Well done, SgtMaj.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. unowhoitsme

    Even if you don't support war, support our soldiers. They are fighting for our continued freedom. Someday we may not have the freedom we have now, especially if there is a war on our homefront. Thank you veterans!

    October 14, 2012 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      Not all soldiers deserve our support. Some are monsters that just enjoy killing. Being a solder is just a profession, they should never be treated as sacred cows.

      October 14, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny T

      They're fighting for the freedom of big oil.

      October 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BILLY

    Great Man and Great Soilder....a True Enlisted Man's Soilder. Sad to see him pass but now he's in a much better place with other great Hero's..

    October 14, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Guest

    Another of America's finest soldiers who has gone on to answer the final roll call of the valorous. May our grateful thanks & blessings go with you as you joyfully greet long ago buddies in the ranks ethereal. We salute you!

    October 14, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. orenandannashaw

    good man, god bless him and his family

    October 14, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. SS

    Private: Good Morning, Sgt. Major.
    Sgt. Major: How do you know what kind of goddam day it is???
    (couple days later)
    Private: Beautiful Morning, Sgt. Major
    Sgt. Major: What're you, a fking weatherman now???

    October 14, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Adi

    That black dude at 10:35 of the video is a warrior he said he drop 50 people that's insane. Today's solders are soft they claim PTSD without really being engaged this dude was surrounded by hundreds and he's as cool as ice. We miss you warriors of the past.

    October 14, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. contrader19

    I have read much of about the battle of Salerno because of WWII's most decorated solidier, Audie Murphy, who was also involved in the battle for Salerno. Basil Plumley, is one of the Greatest Generation. The Battle of Salerno and especially Anzio that followed makes any battle after WWII look like a sunday school picnic!

    October 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. contrader19

    ADL: You are right. The Greatest Generation soldiers would laugh at the bunch of crybabies today. The guys in WWII were tough as nails!

    October 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackie Gleeson

      They were tough as nails back then, but they were also decent human beings. They saw and did horrible things, came home, went to work, and built this country to be the envy of the free world. US troops today are spoiled from birth, and desensitized from their video games. They'd wipe out women and children without blinking, and then come home and shoot up a WalMart. As far as I'm concerned, we don't need them back.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      You have no idea what you're talking about. And I doubt you even know who Jackie Gleason was.

      October 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Martin

    In keeping with the Seals' ideals of polical correctness, we must remember that Plumley didn't go to war...America did. We must remember all the soldiers and civilians who died in our wars and never had the opportunity to be known as heroes. It is outrageous for Plumley to take all the credit for being a hero. While he did his part, there are many other heroes who deserve credit, and we should not give the credit to one person.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • paratrooper_us

      Martin – Apparently you did not read the whole article. CSM Plumley did NOT take the credit – direct quote from him in the article –

      "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."

      Before you criticize someone, read the whole article. From you lack of respect, I can tell that either you never served, or were a leg.

      October 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • leg

      paratrooper_US, that was a stupid comment about nonairborne lacking respect. Any who have served honorably deserve the admiration of the people of the nation they serve, functional courses be damned.

      October 15, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. Fred Barnes

    I was a Platoon Doc with the 173rd Airborne. 67/70 This man deserves all the respect of being a great soldier. My father fought in WW2, Korea and Nam. Rest in peace CSM Plumley and tell my dad I'll be joining you two soon. I hear the beer in Heaven is free, so have fun. My father lived to be 94. Must be something about War and longevity 🙂

    October 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. .

    The greatest generation. God bless 'em all.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jt_flyer

    Condolences to the family and friend. RIP American Hero. You can rest now.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin Staley

    I was saddened to hear of the passing of CMS Plumley. My father served with him in Vietnam and I knew him when I was a young boy in Columbus. He served our country honorably and will be missed by many. My condolences to his family.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Justin, my thanks to your father for his service to our country too. My dad served in Korea, got a purple heart. God Bless all of our servicemen/women overseas!

      October 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • RF Burns

      Thank-you for sharing your story.

      October 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    Anyone who fights any battle in any war should be respected. Most of our leadership and management science is rooted in the military. Vietnam was the wrong war at the wrong time but the people who fought are every bit of those who fought in WWII or "The Gates of Fire" centuries ago.

    October 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
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