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. 3rdIDSoldier

    Rest In Peace CSM Plumley. "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost." – Arthur Ashe

    Rock of the Marne, Heart of the Rock.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • richard

      Real world Math, I'm sure you were not referring to CSM Plumley when you said Bloodthirsty, anyone who has served knows what it takes to become a SMJ. This story is of his passing. Do we make disrespectful remarks when your family member dies, no. Grow up.

      October 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • bluegillonthefly

      It's hard to add much to what has already been said to Real World Math, but I'll give it a shot.

      First of all, he may well have been talking about soldiers. In your gross ignorance, you probably don't know that Arthur Ashe served in the US Army in the 1960s, leaving the service as a 1st Lt. Congratulations on your stupidity. It's truly breathtaking.

      Secondly, some day when you're in trouble, I hope there is no "bloodthirsty" police officer or soldier around to help you, and you wind up as just a statistic in the paper. The world, you yourself, and everyone who knows you, will be better off that way.

      Finally, you might want to know that CSM is the highest enlisted rank, apart from being Sergeant Major of the Army. Very few achieve CSM, and those few are extraordinary individuals. To put that further into perspective, there are more generals (1 – 4 star) today than there are CSMs.

      Now, get back down to your mom's basement and wait for her to put a plate of food through the slot in the door.

      October 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hotdogs

    This guy was amazing. the movie seemed like silliness I thought it was full embellishment, but the book was even crazier and true to life, if anything, the movie toned down his heroism. I urge you to read the book, it's fascinating. RIP.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hotdogs

    This guy was amazing. the movie seemed like silliness I thought it was full embellishment, but the book was even crazier and true to life, if anything, the movie toned down his heroism. I urge you to read the book, it's fascinating. RIP.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jimmy

    Another member of "The Greatest Generation"enters heavens gates.America is blessed to have had the service of such men as these.Rest in peace Sergeant Major.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. irememberitthisway

    The moral of the story is that CSM Plumley did his job and he did it well. He was a true hero and he deserves everyone's respect even in death. Because of men like him, people like my father came home from war to the familiies who waited for them. I knew other kids whose only memory of their father was a picture on a wall and a flag in a frame, so we were blessed. My own father served three tours in Vietnam, so believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

    What liberal idiots don't seem to get is that men like CSM Plumley give up many of their civil rights in order to protect those who think nothing of coming on a message board to exercise theirs in an effort to trash those who are good and honorable. He and countless others sacrificed over and over again.

    Tell me, what did you do that ever required any real sacrifice at all? Somehow, I doubt the thought ever crossed your teeny little mind.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LiberalVet

      I am a proud liberal and a 14-year (and counting) veteran of the United States military. Just because someone is liberal does not mean they do not serve or understand hard work and sacrifice to this country. It shows your ignorance to assume otherwise. Have you ever put on a uniform? Liberals believe in America and many are willing to stand up to defend those principles.

      October 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • rjp34652

      LIBERAL IDIOTS? You have no idea what the Viet Nam war was all about. Educate yourself before you make insulting remarks.

      The USA had no right or business being in Viet Nam in the first place. It was a civil war. American involvement there had nothing whatsoever to do with freedom – for anybody. American involvement was to protect French colonial interests. The freedom myth was -and is- the principle lie our government uses to justify foreign entanglements.

      All who died there gave their lives for nothing since the rightful LOCAL government won in 1975. I served for six years during that period and was fortunate to leave the military with only a minor injury.

      Unfortunately, nobody learned the terrible lesson that 50,000 Americans died to teach – stay out of someone else's war!

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

      October 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. USAF Ret.

    The word "hero" just doesn't say enough about the man. RIP

    October 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |

    Democrats support affirmative action programs in employment and college programs. Think before you vote.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. captainL23

    A real life American Hero,rest in peace my brother.AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY!

    October 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Don White

    In times when playing sports, making movies, being a politician, or playing
    Music makes a man a hero in the eyes of Americans, we lost a true
    Hero this week! Rest in Peace and
    Gods Speed Sgt. Major !!!

    October 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Vet

    I wish I'd had the chance to shake his hand.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Convoluted

    I appreciate the courage they must have to be on the front lines. My Dad was in WW11 and Korea when he past 4 years ago the hardest thing for him to be a witness to was that we are still at war. The young men and woman that are placed in harms way would bring him to tears. War it wears heavy on their hearts and minds until the day they die. His wish was that we could bring them all home and realize we are all ONE PLANET! RIP and thank ALL of our soldiers for your service to this country. May we one day have PEACE on this planet.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeanie Coolahan

    May he rest in peace...the peace he deserves! Thanks for your service Sir!!

    October 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Straightalk1

    Dear RWM, It sounds like you must be a modest little person, with much to be modest about...As far as your your claim of higher education, I have a degree in liberal arts; do you want fries with that?

    October 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. richard

    All that education and you did not learn manners? He was a professional soldier. I know lots of professionals that wasted their lives.

    October 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. David Rich

    As a college educated man who went on to earn a professional degree as well, I feel like I am intelligent enough to say that I hope that you get mouth c a n c e r. You don't deserve to be a part of the same species as a man like this, you are a coward who won't even use his real name. This man was a hero who did what he was asked to do in the service of his country...he is not a politician like the jokers that I'm sure you vote for. He did what was asked of him to give us the freedoms I have the luxury of living everyday. Show some respect you coward or go join Westboro Baptist Church

    October 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
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