A veteran of World War Two, Korea and Vietnam, Basil L. Plumley was an Icon in the U.S. Army way before Sam Elliot portrayed him in the movie “We were Soldiers and Young”. Debbie Kimble, Plumley’s daughter, said her father died from 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.
As a member of the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Plumley jumped into Sicily, Selarno, Normandy and Holland. He jumped into Korea as part of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
He is most famous for his actions as a Sergeant-Major of the US Army‘s 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, at the Battle of Ia Drang (Vietnam, 1965). To this day, there are veterans of the 1/7 CAV who are convinced that God may look like CSM Plumley, but HE is not nearly as tough as the Sergeant Major on sins small or large. Sam Elliot decided to down play his portrayal of Plumley . Known as “Old Iron Jaw”, he exacted professioinalism from those under him with ruthless detirmination. Plumley (quoting himself) added dialog to the film.
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One of the Plumley legends was deleted from the movie. Here it is.
AWARDS and MEDALS:
- Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster
- Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster
- Purple Heart with three Oak Leaf Clusters
- Army Air Medal and 8 Oak Leaf Clusters
- Army Presidential Unit Citation
- Army Good Conduct Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead device and 1 silver and 3 bronze campaign stars (to signify 8 campaigns)
- World War II Victory Medal
- Army of Occupation Medal
- National Defense Service Medal with one Gold Star
- Korean Service Medal with one Arrowhead Device and three campaign stars
- Vietnam Service Medal with eight campaign stars
- Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
- Republic of Vietnam Presidential Citation
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm 3 Awards
- United Nations Service Medal for Korea
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Award Honor Medal
- Republic of Korea War Service Medal
- Order of Saint Maurice
- Combat Infantryman Badge (3rd Award)
- Master Parachutist Badge with 5 Combat Jump Stars
- French Croix de Guerre 82nd Airborne
- Belgian Groix de Guerre 82nd Airborne
- Dutch Order of the Orange 82nd Airborne
- Doughboy Award 1999