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. James Bond

    They just dont make americans like him anymore, too bad

    October 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • davecu

      Well said!

      October 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Agrav8td

    Stop entertaining his comments, he's a troll.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Rosenbaugh

    Great Man, we need more like him today I am sure he knows how good the weather is today looking down from Heaven. Like Sam Elliot's Quote In We Were Soldiers. This will no doubt be a Classic Movie would have been nice to have met the Sgt. Major. RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    Whenever I hear the name 'Basil', I think of Basil Rathbone, an actor famous for his portrayal of a man whose power to focus were enhanced by drugs. (Sherlock Holmes)
    Interestingly, many university students cramming for exams take prescription drugs designed to deal with attention deficit disorder to focus or they would fail. Little sherlocks. 🙂 Even some famous althletes use drugs to enhance their abilities (cheat), get caught, and their careers are finished/records deleted, but taking drugs to enhance scholastic performance remains un-policed. There ought to be a law.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. irtony

    A warrior in every sense of the word. R.I.P.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rjp34652

    The most highly decorated Marine Corps General in US history, Smedley D. Butler understood all too well the real nature of the US Marine Corps and US foreign policy in general when he concluded after his retirement in 1931 that;
    "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service, and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."

    The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killings.
    – Major Ralph Peters

    WHEN will Americans get it through their thick heads that the wars we are led to fight and die for only serve the wealthy and the highly placed? They do not serve the cause of liberty and they do not serve the best interests of America.

    WHEN will Americans have their fill of the lies we are constantly fed from Washington?

    WHEN will Americans understand the only difference between classic fascism and twenty first century USA is the quality of the big lie? Liberty as we understand it is lost. Are we now called upon to honor those who took it from us?

    I will not. If the reader truly understood what was going on – you wouldn't either.

    but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    October 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      yes, but those who volunteer to join have a different view point than you. Isn't America great!

      October 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ander

      I've lived in Vietnam and my neighbors in the US today are Iranian Jews. There is a reason why we are here and not back in the countries of our birth. You obvious have never lived under tyranny and oppression. Would you have preferred that men like him has never fought and Nazism, Soviet communism or Islamist fanaticism hold sway over large swaths of humanity today? For all of their faults, liberal democracy and capitalism are still better by far.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew P

      Why don't you just honor someone and their service rather than trying to make a political statement?
      Go beat your propaganda drum somewhere else...

      October 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Friday

      rjp, why don't you go write a book if you want to get on a soapbox. leave that boring nonsense out of a discussion about a man who sacrificed for a belief system different from yours. you are pathetic.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wjmccartan

    A fond farewell to the Sgt.Maj. Rest in Peace, with the thanks of a continent.

    Lucid One

    October 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. FM

    As many as there needed to be. Deaths that is. A great American warrior.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. James Bond

    Small minds are overabundant in this counrty, we all owe this man a debt that cant be measured

    October 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew P

      @ John W
      He actually exemplifies the statement he makes...

      October 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick


    October 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brad

    I wonder how many survived their tours and returned home because of him.
    Thank you, RIP!

    October 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dana Crew

    Don't you know that in the U.S. you're not allowed to question anything about the military? They pretty much have free reign over anything and are beyond consequence. Why do you think so many guys from lower income families enlist? It's their only path to such power.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaelq

      you can criticize their actions if they follow unlawful commands or violate the laws of war.
      otherwise, respect their willingness to do what is right.
      kill people, break things. that is the job. if that job is too tough for you to contemplate, go to a land where there is no strife,bad guys or threats to freedom. would be happy to join you, let me know where that is. And Plumley would have found it first.

      October 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taskmaster

      To :Dana Crew. Or is it Dana Screwed up. Many men and women from low income families enlist in the armed services as a way to finance a better education .Many of the people in our armed services enlist as a stepping stone. Some decide to make the military a career. Only a liberal ingrate would make a statement such as you did. The military are the ones that have kept us free.

      October 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoungMarine

      When you enlist in the military you lose a lot of freedoms that's how it is

      October 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TXJake

      Such "eloquent" words from someone who's watched too many movies and never performed service for our Nation. There are few other countries in the world other than the U.S. where you can question not only anything, but everything about the military. While there may be flaws, there are most certainly consequences when the military does not abide by the civilian command of the U.S. military. Get some experience or some facts before you post something ridiculous again.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPT LJ

      Dana as a currently serving Army Officer in the U.S. I am glad you are probably not a citizen of our country. What ever country you are in please stay there. Because anyone who would try and dishonor CSM Plumley and how he served our country lives in a place I would not want to live. You wish you were a tenth of the man he was.

      October 13, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Archyle

      What has any of those to do with CSM Plumley and his accomplishments and honors?

      October 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Can talk the talk but not man enough to walk the walk. Get face to face with me and see how big you are

      October 14, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Obviously you have never been in the military, served your contry, and know nothing of the UCMJ. Lean it and then speak.

      October 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • paratrooper_us

      Dana – You are allowed to question anything you want, however when you criticize someone that is serving their country and/or fighting for your country, you are criticizing the wrong person. Instead, you should be criticizing the politicians and leaders that put them there. This man was a CSM, in no way, did he make the decision for US to go to Viet Nam, nor did he make the decision for the young men to fight at la Dang. His job was to ensure that as many of them would come home alive through leadership and training.

      The person that it is very apparent that you cannot question in today's society is President Obama. If you do that, then the liberals will come out and call you Repuke, Teabagger ...... Liberals today, believe it is all about them, yet when Bush was in office, they criticized all they wanted and would degrade anyone that believed otherwise.

      October 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Way to demonstrate your level of ignorance!

      October 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      I gotta wonder where 'Dana' is from. Nobody raised in the USA could be so ignorant of the military way of life, nor of the motivations kids have for choosing it. We have very nearly unlimited access to knowledge, and especially historical fact, yet some choose to express themselves in total ignorance of fact. I joined for the college education, and after my 20 years, retired with two cherished and hard-earned things, the knowledge that I helped make a difference and my memories of a career that enriched my soul. So drop the 1965 Berkeley rant and open a book sometime.

      October 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wjmccartan

    Mr. Himes

    If you would please find a place more suitable for your statement, this is about remembering a man who regardless of political views when called upon served his country with distinction.

    Your points may have validity, and no disrespect to you sir. This story isn't about your feelings of betrayal, it is about remembering a good soldier, and his service to the country.

    R.I.P. Sgt. Mjr.

    Lucid One

    October 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. James Bond

    Beware of the military industrial coplex... PRESIDENT EISENHAUR? public schools,,,dooohhh

    October 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. First Choice

    God always chooses warriors first. Warriors are the true christian leaders of today. God bless warriors.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew P

      You speak with some certainty of what god does and says... Only a heretic can do that....

      October 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
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