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. CitizenVetUSA

    With respect to a American Patriot; May he rest in Peace

    October 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Carl Priemer

    Sgt Carl P
    Graves Registration, Vietnam 1969

    Freedom of Speech
    Protection of Rights
    Religious Choice

    These were never free or gifted to us.

    Someone must fight and die for these liberties

    Hundreds of thousands of American Soldiers have died
    so we can take our freedom for granted!! ??
    Please Don't!

    Thank a Veteran!

    Hug your children!

    Say a prayer!

    Live your life in peace!

    I am proud of my brother veterans for living out the roll of life that was dealt to them –
    to laugh and cry in the shadow of death, and moral judgement.....but there were no survivors.
    We will never be able to forget or stop the lifetime of sleepless nights, God knows we tried,
    but we all want something that was taken away.....we want to laugh again!

    To all Veterans – Thank You! – Freedom in all Regards is the gift you give to all of us.

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

    Semper Fi, Army dog, Semper Fi....

    October 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lou629

    RWM, we don't salute the wars, we salute the man, and his service to his country and all of us which, for the record, would include a complete asshat such as yourself, who have likely never had to serve because of real men like him.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Trooper

    Obviously Real World Math, your only purpose in life is to tick people off. You think it is fun to make folks unhappy. You have no valid points to contribute, only sad disgruntlement. I feel sorry for you because you obviously have never known honor, nor have you ever done anything to be proud of. So sad.

    RIP CSM Plumley

    1-7 Cav, 312th MI BN, Bosnia 1995, 1999.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. irememberitthisway

    It's because of men like CSM Plumley that young men and women make it back to tell their stories.

    Rest in peace, CSM Plumley.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marcus Moore

    "For those who fight for it–freedom has a flavor the protected will NEVER know!" RIP Command Sergeant Major Plumley! God Bless you.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob George

    Rest in peace CSM. You paid your dues and more. Garry Owen!

    October 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cellstrom

    SGM Plumley, Galloway and Hal Moore. Heroes. People who understand what it means to put lives on the line, look after their soldiers, and make decisions under fire. Thank you gentlemen for your service. I served, never under the stress that you all did. But, I do respect the fact taht to this day, Galloway and Moore argue to keep us OUT of wars. They do so because they have fought them. We can't treat them lightly, using soldiers as pawns in political games. Oh, these two gentlemen are not right wing crazies, they are very open minded, thoughtful American's who get that it is hard to be in command. Thank you again, SGM Plumley

    October 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robb

    To Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley – Thank you, sir. RIP.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dennis

    Thank you Sgt. Major for giving me the ability to speak freely. Thank you for your service and the honor with which you served. While I did not know you, your character and history speak well of you. While there are some who question the value of service, I don't. No, I did not serve; No, I probably would not have been a good soldier, but I appreciate all that you did. For those who complain about killing and what not, you could live in a country where service is mandatory and there is no choice. It is wise to honor those who sacrificed so much.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Burl Hatterley

    CSM Plumley is simply reporting for duty at his new post, reunited with his troops. It'll be good duty.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joe t

    Rest in Peace my brother in arms. It because of the many like you that we enjoy the freedoms we have today. My biggest regret is that I never got to meet you or shake your had. Maybe we can have a beer when we meet on the other side.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |

    From one Military Family to another...

    Thank you for your service.

    We honor your memory.


    "Order, Arms!"

    October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BDGFN

    CSM Plumley was a soldier's soldier. He led by example and never asked one of his soldiers to do something he himself would not do. RIP, Sergeant Major.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
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