Basil L. Plumley

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Basil L. Plumley
File:CSM(R) Basil L. Plumley at West Point 10 May 2010.JPG
CSM(R) Basil Plumley at West Point, May 10, 2010
Born (1920-01-01)January 1, 1920
Shady Spring, West Virginia, U.S.
Died October 10, 2012(2012-10-10) (aged 92)[1]
Columbus, Georgia, U.S.[2]
Spouse(s) Deurice Plumley (c. 1949 – 2012; her death)[3]
Children Debbie Kimble
Military career
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army United States Army seal
Years of service 1942–1974
Rank Army-USA-OR-09b.svg Command Sergeant Major
Unit 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division

World War II

Korean War

Vietnam War

Awards 40AD
Other work Administrative worker at Martin Army Community Hospital (1975–1990)

Basil L. Plumley (January 1, 1920 – October 10, 2012[1]) was a career soldier and airborne combat infantryman in the United States Army who eventually achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major. A veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, he is most famous for his actions during the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam.

Military career

Plumley enlisted in the United States Army as a private on March 31, 1942. He was a gliderman of the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. He saw action during the Invasion of Normandy, and Operation Market Garden.

Plumley participated in two glider assaults in the European Theater. His first was on June 6, 1944, during the Invasion of Normandy, and his second was for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 18, 1944.

Plumley was shot in the hand the same day for which he received the Purple Heart and was awarded multiple decorations for his service in World War II.

Basil Plumley was stationed between 1951 through February 26, 1953 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky then he went to serve in Germany. He then fought in Korea during the final months of the Korean War, where he served at The Battle of Old Baldy, as well as the Battle of Porkchop Hill. For serving in Korea, Plumley received his 2nd Combat Infantryman Badge in 1953.

He fought in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. He participated in the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, who praised Plumley as an outstanding NCO and leader in the 1992 book about this battle, We Were Soldiers Once...And Young. The book was the basis for the 2002 film We Were Soldiers, in which Plumley was played by actor Sam Elliott. Plumley was known affectionately by his soldiers as "Old Iron Jaw". Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley served in the Republic of Korea between 1972 and 1973.

He retired as a command sergeant major on December 31, 1974, having been awarded 28 different personal, unit, campaign and service awards and decorations in almost 33 years of military service, spanning World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. After his retirement, he worked 15 more years for the army as a civilian in administration at Martin Army Community Hospital and at various medical clinics around Fort Benning (Fort Benning, Georgia), retiring again in 1990.[4]

Personal life

Plumley was born on January 1, 1920, in Shady Spring, West Virginia, the second son and fifth child of coal miner Clay H. Plumley (September 19, 1879[5]-26 February 1952[6]) and his wife Georgia B. Morton (January 19, 1895[7]-February 16, 1962[6]), both of whom were natives of West Virginia. After two years of high-school, he worked as a chauffeur/driver before enlisting in the US Army on March 31, 1942. In 1948/49, Plumley married Deurice Dillon, who died on May 28, 2012, after 63 years of marriage. Plumley died of cancer after nine days in Columbus Hospice (Columbus, Georgia), on October 10, 2012. He is survived by his daughter, Debbie Kimble, a granddaughter, and two great-grandchildren.[3]

In popular culture

Plumley was a prominent and central figure in the 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young by Lt. Gen Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway about the Battle of Ia Drang and was portrayed by actor Sam Elliot in the 2002 film adaption.

Discrepancies in service records

The United States Army is investigating allegations by a military researcher Brian Siddal, that the late Command Sergeant Major Plumley wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated the wartime achievements that made him famous.

According to the service records and DD Form 214, he inflated his heroism in battle by wearing two Silver Star Medals and Bronze Star Medals with "V" Device and two oak leaf clusters for valor in combat instead of wearing one single Silver Star Medal and a Bronze Star Medal with only one oak leaf cluster. The Silver Star Medal was awarded during the Vietnam War. He was only authorized to wear one Combat Infantryman Badge for his service in the Vietnam War. He did not meet the criteria for World War II or the Korean War. Plumley was authorized to wear only the Glider Badge and Master Parachutist Badge after World War II. He graduated a jump school set up by the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943.[8]

In light of Siddall's research, Army officials at Fort Benning are investigating the allegations and considering the researchers' request to have the information on Plumley's headstone corrected.[9][10]

As of August 2016, based on the available facts, the Army Human Resources Command has determined that there is no substantial evidence that any of the decorations or awards is in error.[11]

Awards and decorations

120px Combat Infantryman Badge (3rd award)
100px Master Parachutist Badge with gold jump star
USAAF - Glider Pilot 4.png Glider Badge
OldAirmobileBadge.gif Original Air Assault Badge
ViPaBa.jpg Vietnam Army Parachutist Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with one bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and "V" Device
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters
Army Commendation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Presidential Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Good Conduct Medal (11 awards)
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device, 1 silver and 3 bronze campaign stars (to signify 8 campaigns and 4 combat jumps)
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Korean Service Medal with Arrowhead device (to denote one combat jump)
60px Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with one silver and three bronze campaign stars
French Croix de Guerre (for World War II service) (attachments unknown, but at least 1 bronze star)
BEL Croix de Guerre 1944 ribbon.svg Belgian Croix de Guerre (for World War II service) (attachments unknown, but at least 1 bronze lion)
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Gallantry Cross Unit Citation.png Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm
Civil Action Unit Citation.png Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
60px United Nations Korea Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
60px Republic of Korea War Service Medal

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Pitts, Fadell (October 10, 2012). "Retired CSM Basil Plumley dies, Fort Benning mourns loss". WTVM-TV. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  2. Associated Press (October 10, 2012). "Basil Plumley, veteran of 3 wars, featured in 'We Were Soldiers' movie, dies in Georgia". Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Deurice Plumley Obituary". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (by May 29, 2012. 
  4. Associated Press, "Plumley, veteran of 3 wars, dies at age 92", Military Times, 10 October 2012
  5. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "West Virginia Deaths, 1853–1970." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah. From originals housed in county courthouses throughout West Virginia. "Death Records."
  7. "West Virginia Births, 1853–1930." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2008, 2009. From digital images of copies of originals housed in County Courthouses throughout West Virginia. Birth records.
  • 1920 and 1930 US census for Raleigh County, West Virginia
  • US Army enlistment records of World War II
  • 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment Association
  • Moore, Harold G.; Galloway, Joseph L. (1994). We were soldiers once – and young; Ia Drang: the battle that changed the war in Vietnam (First British ed.). Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1853105023.