Soldier Basil Leonard Plumley (January 1, 1920-October 10, 2012) served in three wars, and his exploits during Vietnam were depicted in a book and a movie. The son of a coal miner, Plumley was born one of six children in Shady Spring, Raleigh County. He left high school after two years and worked as a driver. After enlisting in the Army in 1942, he fought in the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno and the D-Day invasion at Normandy. During the Korean War, Plumley fought with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. During the Vietnam War, he served as a sergeant major—the highest noncommissioned officer—in the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
Plumley, known to his troops as “Iron Jaw,” participated in the Battle of la Drang, the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam in November 1965. The battle was the subject of the book We Were Solders Once . . . And Young (1992) and a movie, We Were Soldiers (2002). In the movie, Plumley was played by actor Sam Elliott.
Plumley made five parachute jumps into combat, four during World War II and one during the Korean War. He received more than 30 decorations during his career, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and four Purple Hearts. Following his 1974 retirement at Fort Benning in Georgia, Plumley worked for a hospital. He died in Columbus, Georgia, at the age of 92.
Last Revised on December 08, 2015
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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Basil L. Plumley." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 08 December 2015. Web. 23 March 2017.