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. Ernest

    Hello Mr. Who!

    October 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Adam R

    The idea that someone gave him a hard time made me laugh. You really have no idea what your talking about.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Felix

    As a Canadian I like to say you can keep your little troll.
    As a son of a Canadian Army Officer, grandson of men that served in the British Royal Navy and the Scottish Black Watch (Both doing so in WWII) it always hurts when another good solider passes. When I was younger the most military service I felt driven to was being part of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as a teenager, as due to men like Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley the world didn't feel like it had the great evils that needed to be stopped by full military service as much as it did when he started his service, and unfortunately does again these days.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • forreal89

      Canada has an ARMY? I heard they are called scouts and service men at the local towns

      October 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Befuddled

      And what is your point? Besides talking about yourself that is... To paraphrase your post, "I'm Canadian and my Dad and grandfathers were in the military... I wasn't." Does anyone care?

      October 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. If you don't love it, leave it

    Maj. Plumley served his country and more specifically the men that served under his command. For those that want to criticize him, and the Vietnam War you should think about being in the boots of a draftee that made it out of Vietnam because of his leadership on the battlefield. His country called and he answered in three different instances. You can't argue that his answering the call is not admirable, and noble. I admire Maj. Plumley, and am thankful to live in a country that has leaders like him that are willing to serve.

    To Real World Math I say that Maj. Plumley's service in the battle of Normandy was the beginning of the end for the 3rd Reich, and the Holocaust. If it were not for men like the Major then the Holocaust would have continued and more innocent people would have died in addition to 6M Jews and the other 21 million from other groups that the Nazi's exterminated. How is that for some Real World Math? If you were one of the people that faced extermination at that time then you would pray for men like Maj. Plumley to risk their lives to liberate you.

    Rest in peace Maj. Plumley, and I thank you for your service to our United States of America.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana Crew

      If you don't love it, leave it? Did you learn nothing in school? Our entire society is based on the premise that if the populace doesn't like what's going on then it's allowed to change things.

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

      That's Sgt Major. I think he would endorse my saying – "he wasn't an officer – he worked for a living!"

      October 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      This man was a hero and if you disgree, then go off to war and see if you still feel that way.

      October 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff

    RIP CSM Plumley.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. EJ was an honor just to have him in our military along with sooooo many other brave soldiers. May he rest in peace. God bless all of our troops.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John Rambo

    I like how people can sit there and make statements such as "brainwashed" etc. when they have never served, and sit there with their Freedom of Speech due to the sacrifices from people such as this. This country is going to hell in a hand-basket.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Blackclaw83

    When a soldier goes to heaven
    To St. Peter he will tell
    just another soldier reporting sir
    i've served my time in hell

    To the trolls here this man is a Hero. We lost a true legand yesterday. I dont care if you believe in the wars, or any wars, but this man is the reason so many boys came back from the war. I served with 1-7 Cav in Iraq in 04-05 and this mans story still travels up the line to us soldiers of today.

    R.I.P CSM for your duty is done. You are relieved of your post...

    October 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Fernando

    Romney is on record supporting our involvement in Vietnam, however, he strongly objected to his personal participation in the war and made every effort to succeed in avoiding all but his most enthusiastic recommendation that others risk and sacrifice for America. He did participate and lead in small skirmishes confronting effeminate, long-haired classmates with scissors as while they were held down by his compatriots. He has apparently suffered PTSD with total memory loss from these highly stressful encounters. He spent his post-hair cutting days attempting to convert spiritually impoverished Parisians to The Book of Mormon.
    Clinton actively avoided the war, too, but he could never get gung ho about others making sacrifices on his behalf and he is on record as having objected to US involvement in Vietnam as he didn't believe the domino effect was a real threat.
    At least Bush risked his life flying jets around Texas.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Aneas

    I never served in the military, but I have many friends and family who have. My great grandfather died in WWI. I sincerely appreciate the sacrifices that have been and are made so that I can sleep safe. RIP Mr. Plumley and thank you to you and all that have and still serve.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |

    On to Elysian Fields. RIP CSM.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. buck cameron

    This article is about a hero. There is no need for stupid and disrespectful comments about any politician, living or dead.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. 10ZULU

    "Garry Owen" CSM Plumley RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nonyabidnes2

    RIP CSM Basil Plumley. You served your country proudly. Now this is what exemplifies a true, Amrican Hero!

    October 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sky Soldier

    I'm sure that CSM Plumley will be holding down the LZ in Heaven for everyone else arriving later.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
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