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. Hide Behind

    Horse puckys. the man was no different than millions of other men who lived within military and found a lifestyle that fit their mental makeup and yrs their mental limits as well.
    Military used ti be full of lifers in its lower ranks that within a short time found they could not exist outside its structures and priveleges of a socialistic system that was strongest on earth.
    Aman that remained a grunt enlisted man needed nothing more than ability to follow orders.
    They got into situations they had no control over and

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

      Baloney. You have no idea how the military works or what it takes to make a successful organization. If you served in the military yourself, you managed to get through it without learning anything about leadership. If you did not, you are making judgements from journalistic pap.

      RIP, CMSgt Plumley.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat

      If you think a Sgt Major is a "grunt" who only "follows orders" you are as ignorant as your spelling and grammar indicate.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Person of Interest

      Most people don't have the balls to sign their name on a line. Even less have the courage to sign up for killing another human being... Even less after seeing the killing of his men and his enemies are able to continue having the " ability to follow orders" to kill.

      This man fought through some of the bloodiest scenes the world has seen and continued to do so. The life style sucks: moving every few years, losing your friends, getting paid little for the hours you put in, broken body, etc. You don't "fit" into that life style. The "life style" you refer to is actually a personality trait: Not willing to let others stand in your place and not wanting to abandon your brother next to you.

      Your name is fitting though, continue to hide behind us because like the Sgt Maj, I was a soldier once. He was a great soldier and a great man. You are simply a man, a "cold and timid soul who know[s] neither victory nor defeat (TR)."

      Carry on Sgt. Maj., carry on.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scout82

      No different? This man jumped into Sicily, fought in Italy, jumped into Normandy, survived Operation Market Garden, fought in the Korean war, and in Vietnam. He was different from the majority of soldiers.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Friday

      "hide behind" is an apt moniker for you. You must be very insecure to use this article as an opportunity to disparage soldiers.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Al Rivera

    Men like Plumley don't die, they just go into eternal R&R. God Bless!

    October 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Northerner

    Rest in Peace Top..

    October 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. stopmeatballs

    This man, SMJ Plumley, with the epitome of a senior NCO in the United States Army! Americans sleep well at night, because men like SMG Plumley keep us safe! As a former Infantryman, I am humbled to have served in the same Army as this man!

    October 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. S.R

    Thank you for the freedoms I enjoy. Without men like you I would not be a proud free man. I am not a veteran but will stand up for one any day of the week!

    October 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Peter Runrig

    I wonder how many veterans are still around who served in all 3 of these wars, especially in combat roles? My guess is very few.... I wonder also if anyone served in both Vietnam and also the first Gulf War.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      I know at least one. The commanding General of the division that took on the Republican Guard was a Vietnam veteran. Barry McCaffrey.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BlueDogJones

    A REAL American Hero.God bless you.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. the wolf

    Basil Plumley is an awesome name.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DrScott622

    I saw the movie and guess I didn't see anything great within it. I didn't see the greatness of this Man in that movie. I'm sure he was elsewhere.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Are you serious?!

      Maybe it was when he stormed the beaches at Normandy ... read the article ...

      October 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • isisleigh

      The movie was fantastic. It wasn't about Plumley...It was about showing the basic truth of how a soilder's fight for each other on the battlefield and their love for one and other. What needs to be remembered most here is CSM Plumley's rank CSM. It deserves the upmost respect. It is the highest non-commissioned rank in the army you can go.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. isisleigh

    My grandfather was CSM in the army. Hide behind shame on you and your comments! CSM is not just any other rank he was VERY different. He was the highest NON commissioned ranked officer he could go. Col and generals look up to them for the enlisted men. If you saw We were soldiers Mel Gibson's character the Col. says to his LT's that this CSM reports to him and him alone. So. Give this man the respect he is DUE PLEASE. CSM Plumley. God Speed and thank you so much for your service. You and my grandfather make me proud.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Are you serious?!

      Here Here – thanks for clarifying for the ignoramousi that don't understand what a CSM really means.

      October 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dana Crew

    Once we invade Iran it'll be very easy to be a veteran of 3 wars. This guy will be forgotten soon after that happens.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam R

      Sorry, this is one guy who will not be forgotten. His wars weren't weeks apart. Not only that but he carried a Colt .45 in battle. No Machine gun. Didn't need it

      October 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Adam R

    Can someone let Chuck Norris know that it's safe for him to come out of hiding. CSM Plumley will go down as one of the Armies greatest soldiers of All-Time. Thank you and all of our Soldiers for serving the U.S.A.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. devalued condolences

    They "Tweeted" seriously? Has everything been marginalized in the wake of technology that someone cannot make a written statement they have to "tweet" it like it's a big effort to tweet something? Please don't get finger cramp from tweeting... pfft what a way to honor a person who fought for our country. Disgusting and tasteless. Peoples lives and deaths have become meaningless. Society has gone to pot.

    October 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. God bless Plumley

    A true christian warrior. RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MSgt retired

    RIP Top! We will soldier on....

    October 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
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