Basil Plumley, legendary combat vet whose story was told in book is dead at 92
New York Daily News: Basil L. Plumley, a renowned career soldier whose exploits as an Army infantryman were portrayed in a book and the movie “We Were Soldiers,” died Wednesday. He was 92 — an age his friends are amazed he lived to see.
Plumley fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam and was awarded a medal for making five parachute jumps into combat.
Friends said Plumley, who died in hospice care in west Georgia, never told war stories and was known to hang up on people who called to interview him. Still, he was near-legendary in the Army and gained more widespread fame through a 1992 Vietnam War book that was the basis for 2002’s “We Were Soldiers,” starring Sam Elliott as Plumley alongside Mel Gibson.
Plumley didn’t need a Hollywood portrayal to be revered among soldiers, said Greg Camp, a retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at neighboring Fort Benning, who befriended Plumley in his later years. “He’s iconic in military circles,” Camp said. “Among people who have been in the military, he’s beyond what a movie star would be … His legend permeates three generations of soldiers.”
Debbie Kimble, Plumley’s daughter, said her father died of cancer after spending about nine days at Columbus Hospice. Although the illness seemed to strike suddenly, Kimble said Plumley’s health had been declining since his wife of 63 years, Deurice Plumley, died last May on Memorial Day.
A native of Shady Spring, W.Va., Plumley enlisted in the Army in 1942 and ended up serving 32 years in uniform. In World War II, he fought in the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno and the D-Day invasion at Normandy. He later fought with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in Korea. In Vietnam, Plumley served as sergeant major — the highest enlisted rank — in the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
“That puts him in the rarest of clubs,” said journalist Joseph L. Galloway, who met Plumley while covering the Vietnam War for United Press International and remained lifelong friends with him. “To be combat infantry in those three wars, in the battles he participated in, and to have survived — that is miraculous.”
After Plumley became ill, Galloway mentioned his worsening condition on Facebook. Fans of the retired sergeant major responded with a flood of cards and letters. The day before he died in hospice, Camp said, Plumley received about 160 pieces of mail.
“He was dad to me when I was growing up,” said Kimble, Plumley’s daughter. “We are learning every day about him. He was an inspiration to so many. He was a great person, and will always be remembered.”
Thanks to a great man who sacrificed so much. Rest in peace fine soldier.