Basil Plumley “America’s soldier” depicted in We Were Soldiers Once… and Young

Basil Plumley as a young man

Basil Plumley as a young man

Books and films featured on “Words on Wednesdays might center on a particular individual or maybe an epic battle in a particular war.  Today’s “WoW” focuses on a story that had both, and more.

Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Basil L. Plumley was a real flesh and blood man yet also a larger than life character. He was a warrior who served in three wars: Korea, World War II and Vietnam in the Airborne Infantry, as parachutist and in the Cavalry (Airborne).

Cover of 1st edition

Cover of 1st edition

Plumley was at the heart of the book, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young. 

He was not a man to tell war stories, nor did he give interviews even though he surely could have told many. Each ribbon and award on his heavily decorated uniform no doubt represented substantial moments in history and military experiences.

When he was presented a Combat Infantry Badge with Two Stars he joined the only 325 men to receive this award, even rarer than the select 3,400 or so Medal of Honor recipients.

He has been called “America’s Soldier.”   


Galloway in Vietnam 1965 (

Galloway in Vietnam 1965 (

Joe Galloway, a cub reporter, when he first encountered Plumley and was caught in the fray of action at Ia Drang Valley. That battle is often cited as changing the course of the Vietnam War. It led to Galloway becoming a “reporter’s reporter” and cemented a friendship between the men for life.

A longtime war, military and foreign correspondent, Galloway co-authored with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. It was made into a feature film in 2002. Galloway has since written, We Are Soldiers.. Still. He lives in Concord, N.C.

Read his excellent reminiscence on Plumley’s life on HistoryNet. In it he bids farewell to a legend and friend after Sgt. Major Plumley’s burial at the post cemetery at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

“They broke the mold when they made Basil Plumley. He was mentally sharp right to the end, and we all wanted him to stick around for a few more years as an inspiration to today’s sergeants major of all services. But when his wife of 62 years, Miss Deurice, died last Memorial Day, something broke inside the toughest man I ever met,” wrote Galloway.

Sgt. Major Basil Plumley

Sgt. Major Basil Plumley

Plumley’s tough exterior prepared men for the challenges and horrors ahead of them at war. In his personal thoughts he concealed the fact that he had the softest heart in the world. No one was let in on his secret. Not his daughter, nor his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The inner lives of  America’s toughest were often tender, vulnerable places. Their efforts in transition to post war family and civilian life are now being H.eard, U.nderstood and A.cknowledged. Their mixed successes and challenges are now written by the warriors themselves, or their families.

Guest writers on have shared some of their stories of growing up in the shadow of military parents whose echoes of  their early upbringing and their post war life situations resounded within their families. You will find links to their posts on this site below.

Find the book, We Were Soldiers Once.. and Young at this link.


Historical non-fiction novel Hidden Wounds: A Soldier’s Burden covers the life trauma of an 18-year-old soldier and it’s impact on his family.

Medal of Honor recipient’s daughter, Sue Daigneault wrote fondly of her father in her book, In The Shadow of a Mountain

The Allure of War is poignantly presented in Siren’s Song by Antonio Salinas

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