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. Portland tony

    I am reminded of the phrase General Douglas MacArthur said upon leaving the Army "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away". RIP Command Sargent Major Plumley. A true American hero.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hubert39

    Yes, 230 soldiers died for taking and defending a hill. Why did they fight for the hill? Because if was there. Then after taking the hill we left the hill. The next day, the same thing. More hills to take.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peace Girl

      That does sound like something a wise man would do.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • boring

      Peace Grandma go back to your incense and peppermints, and believing that because john lennon made a sign saying "war is over", that it is.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 75th Vet

    Thank you so much for your bravery and selfless service CSM Plumley. It's because of men like you that this remains the greatest nation on Earth. RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Smoke This Peace Girl

    You don't have to "support the Vietnam Police Action" to support the people who have fought for your freedoms. Rest in Peace CSM. It was a pleasure meeting you.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I would surmise that Peace Girl has never done anything positive in her life but rather try to use the rights and freedoms that men like Mr. Plumley has provided her with his selfless actions to simply disparage him.
      I'm sure Mr. Plumley would rather you just said "thank you" and be on your way.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hide Behind

    Most of his time was not in the field, in the instance portrayed in flic he indeed was and was an inspiration to his fellow soldiers.
    Most of his time wasspent desk bound over seeing troop training, hob knobbing with command personell and at the spot resrved for him at NCO club.
    No mention of bountys placed upon some. such leaders by the enlisted who suffered the commands that rigid bound lifers abided by.
    Afore I become condemned for military heresy let me say one of best examples of old school sgts I personally respected was Sgt.Blood Burns of 101st AB.. and quite a few othersI knew that were 1 war. 2 nonwars and numerous excursions into the killing fieldsaround the world.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara Anne

      Hide Behind , can you please email I have some questions about Blood Burns ? Thanks...

      Barbara Anne

      February 10, 2013 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. Gunny

    If you want to read about a real soldier, read the book White Feather.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Gunny – folks should also read about Peter Fransico, another real American hero.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • FWiedner

      Heh, you wouldn't be reading about some 'soldier' at all. You'd be reading about a MARINE. A much better trained killer of his nation's enemies.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tater

      If you really want to get into reading, "About Face,: The Odyssey of an American Warrior by Retired Col David Hackworth. Hack and CSM Plumley were soldiers great american warriors that are far and few in between.

      October 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • boring

      I think by trained marine, you mean brainwashed, they go in first because they are too vapid to understand bullets can kill them.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ej

    you will be remembered in the generation to com. rest in peace

    October 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Arlin

    Those who won the wars are considered heros. Those that lose are remembered as monsters.


    October 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dan

    "Gary Owen" Sgt. Maj. Rest in Peace.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chaing

    RIP. Thank-you.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |

    Command Sargeant Major Plumbley was a warrior, solider and brother in arms, I would have been proud to stand by in combat I made it in 1966. Rest in peace.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. IMPONCHO2003

    If i say yes will you go away

    October 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    You "suspect"? So basically you are making a generalization of the entire U.S. Army and its involvement in Vietnam due to the actions of a few of its soldiers?
    People like you haven't earned the right to question a man like Mr. Plumley. He fought in three wars that were not of his making. He did his duty. He did so not for celebrity status, not for accolades, but because it was the right thing to do.
    For you to question him in any regard is downright pathetic.

    October 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana Crew

      Doing something, especially killing, without questioning the reasons behind it isn't exactly noble. One person's "loyalty" is another person's "brainwashed".

      October 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harin

      So fighting World War II and removing Hitler from this earth and defending yourself in Korea when North Korea invades with no warning is killing without questioning and considered brainwashing? You are a pathetic person to so callously speak on a subject you know nothing about. Only people who have never served or could not accept the responsibility of their own actions while in make comments like yours. Outsiders are the ones who are brainwashed. To many of them think like you do, as a single mind. The glaring part is you and the mindless like you have no idea that you were trained to think that way.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ernest

      Eco! Amen!

      October 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bud

      Dana, There are no questions to be asked nor time to ask them when an ambush in the jungle is sprung on you. Why do you kill? To keep from being killed. You see, your enemy doesn't have the question problem.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana Crew

      Obviously the decision to kill comes when someone decides to enlist and not at the time it happens. Surely you realized that.

      October 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam R

      We'll put you in charge of rounding them all up

      October 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stevec

      you are an idiot.....clearly uneducated and big mouthed, ive served 6 tours for my country and am healing before a ur mouth and were u end up....hell has a special place for liars and killers....if my actions in war are unjust ill see u there and we can see if u are big enough to back small pathetic words.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • djiigo

      We fought so you could have an opinion openly in public. Your welcome. 

      October 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      You're a tool, and exercising the very freedom he fought for.

      October 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Rich

      spoken like a true person that doesn't know the meaning of you have never had to work for anything in your whole life

      October 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Coulter

      Dana, what is your profession?

      October 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      coward – go to the VFW and say that-- Tell your Mom less teeth next time

      October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Forever Grateful

      The Sgt. Major led men into battle so that you have the freedom to run your idiotic mouth off. Go away you idiot troll, try living somewhere else.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • veteran1096

      You have no freakin idea what you’re talking about, and only have the privilege of stating this because of veterans providing you that freedom!

      October 15, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
    • meemee

      No, it is his right, a right that Plumley supposedly was fighting for. You rather prove that he wasn't fighting for justice or the American way at all. Most likely, people like this are somewhat schizoid and full of exaggerated emotions including fierce allegiances to "duty" and denial of anything but virtue in doing it, "with "God" on his side.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • irememberitthisway

      And how did you come to that conclusion?

      Tell us, did you ever serve anyone except yourself? Something tells me that you haven't.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. B4Cons

    The Greatest Generation !!!! ...... You got that right!

    October 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Agrav8td

    Yeah, I'm sure he was paid to go to the 3 wars he served in. So would you have gone? I doubt it.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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