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. jeffrey

    A true man of God who fought battles for Jesus Christ our lord and savior!
    God bless this man for sending many of God's enemies straight to hell.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvesting

      @Real Worl Math
      You see God gave us free will, meaning we do not have puppet strings controlling our actions.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus Christ

      Stop quoting me.
      You know little of my work.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Army Sergeant

    Real World Math and 'Rest in Peace', clearly you're here only for the purposes of trying to irritate those of us who honor and respect this man and those like him who serve this country selflessly on a daily basis. Since apparently you don't, why don't you crawl back under the damn rock you crawled out from.

    Peace be with you, CSM Plumley.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Casey

    My father wouldn't talk about Vietnam. But when the movie "We Were Soldiers Once" came out, he told me to go see it. His commanding officer was Basil L. Plumley and my father told me he was the only man in the world that ever scared him. R.I.P. to both him, and my father.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. McCackie

    A senior NCO a mere grunt, what an ignorant fool. My memory (Australian Army) is of quiet but absolute influence, with a serve of Junior Office for breakfast. Our female Sgts (Int) hosted our Div Sgt Major at the mess at HMAS Albatros and drank him under the table (relays). The General was considerably delayed next day waiting for this mere grunt (his Sgt). It was very funny (close to Anzac day),
    Senior Officers and NCOs can be described as a couple.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bsc1216

    Why is this making the headlines ??

    October 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Because this guy is an American Hero! He is the reason that you can write the sorry statements that you have. God rest his soul.

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

      The question should be, why isn't this making bigger headlines. A passing side note about a true American hero.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      If you have to ask, then you do not understand. A part of the military family has passed on. RIP.

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

      Someone apparently felt the majority of people in America, who love freedom, would want to know that one of the greatest soldiers in the history of the Army has passed. That's why. Feel free to read up on his legacy, or don't. Nothing you say can scratch the legend of this man. Don M you are correct! The headlines should be bigger.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Go Hawks!!!

      Pathetic you can't see why. Men like him allowed us to become who we are today, though I doubt he would be very fond of who you are.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    People die in war. That is why it is war and not a tea party. People try and kill you and you try to kill them. That is how it works.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don Meck

    Anyone who says anything derogatory about this hero is immature and has no idea what being in the military and war is all about. This man did more by accident to serve his country than many do intentionally. He is a true American hero and I certainly hope more men like him exist to fight for and defend this country.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. actually, Bill 2:20

    Troop deaths have nothing to do with our current rights to speak freely. Those rights were won by citizens in long fought court battles vs. The US Supreme Court.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Man

      Um No. Courts don't give out rights. I don't remember founding fathers going to the Supreme Court to sue for our rights. I don't recall FDR going to the Supreme Court to demand that the axis alliance not attempt to subjugate the US. Soldiers didn't create rights and don't enforce the right to rights they are just there to stop others from outside of the US from subjugating the citizenry and doing away with our rights. The real debate is how have the US Citizen voted that determines how soldiers are used.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Johnny B

    It is because of men like him that enable all of us to sleep at night. A lot of you are saying "so what?" about him but read the book and see the movie and make an INFORMED decision about CSM Plumley. He will always have my respect.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. daveinla

    The passing of another piece of a generation greater than the one that came after it. This current generation is a sad mix of cry babies and un-patriotic "yes we can" "hope and changers.' America's greatest days are behind her.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. One of the $&% and a Tax Payer

    A true American hero.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John

    A great American Hero and soldier. As unpleasant as war is, his answer to the call of duty saved many young American lives. May God bless him.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jon

    Why am I not surprised by the stupid comments here by people bashing a great American is CNN.

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

      Bad's contagious. Turn on MSNBC anytime of day.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bud

    I was the RTO, 2nd Plt., B Co., 1st of the 7th Cav. I served under SMJ Plumley. That man kept many of us peegreens alive. Luckily, I wasn't in his little notebook he always carried so I didn't fear him. His men's lives meant everything to him. If you've never shared a hole or a box of C's with people of his stature, you have no room to talk. Knowing and calling him Friend is a highlight in my life. Now, he waits at Fiddler's Green for his boys.

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

      Bud – Well put, sir and thank you for your sacrifices and service.

      October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam R

      Sir, I have read as much literature as there is in this world about what you and your friends went through. Perhaps to an unhealthy extent. I don't think that many people are aware of what you've been through. Or what the 2nd Platoon of B Company had to endure in the battle at LZ X-Ray. Thank you for your service, you and all of our soldiers are heroes.

      October 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I second EJ's sentiments, sir. Soldiers of that caliber are extremely rare. Not to make light of the accomplishments of the soldiers of your generation who gave this country the best years of your lives and paid the price for that service for many years after. ALL gave some....some gave ALL! Go Airborne!

      October 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aneas

      And I thank you as well, Sir.

      October 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • buck cameron

      Thanks Bud. I only wish that I'd had an NCO like that when I was there. Might have kept me from doing some dumb things.

      October 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ernest

    Who are you? Mr. Who?

    October 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
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