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First Name: Basil

Last Name: Plumley

Birthplace: Shady Spring, WV, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: L.

Date of Birth: 01 January 1920

Date of Death: 10 October 2012

Rank: Command Sergeant Major

Years Served: 1942 - 1974
Basil L. Plumley
'Old Iron Jaw'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Basil L. "Old Iron Jaw"Plumley
Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army

Basil L. Plumley was born on 1 January 1920, in Shady Spring, WV, the second son, and fifth child, of coal miner Clay and Georgia Plumley. After two years of high school, he worked as a driver/chauffeur before enlisting in the U.S. Army on 31 March 1942.

A paratrooper, he was a member of the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, with which he made four combat jumps and was awarded multiple medals. Plumley confirmed this during interviews conducted with author Phil Nordyke, author of four books relating to the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. Plumley went on to make one combat jump in Korea with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.

As a career soldier and airborne combat infantryman, Plumley eventually achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major. He is most famous for his actions as Sergeant Major of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, at the Battle of Ia Drang, Vietnam, on 14-18 November 1965. Lieutenant General Hal Moore who, as a Lieutenant Colonel, was Plumley's battalion commander during the Battle of Ia Drang, 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.

Plumley retired as a Command Sergeant Major on 31 December 1974, after almost 33 years of military service spanning World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Plumley was known affectionately by his soldiers as "Old Iron Jaw."


After his retirement, Plumley worked 15 more years for the Army as a civilian in administration at Martin Army Community Hospital and at various Troop Medical Clinics around Fort Benning, GA. He retired again in 1990.

Personal Life

In 1948/49, Plumley married Deurice Dillon, who died on 28 May 2012, after 63 years of marriage.

In Popular Culture

Plumley was played by actor Sam Elliott in the movie We Were Soldiers (2002) about the Battle of Ia Drang.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Purple Heart with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Medal with Award Numeral 9
Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device
Army Good Conduct Medal with 1 Gold Knot (11 Awards)
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead Device, Silver and 3 Bronze Campaign Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star
Korean Service Medal with Arrowhead Device and 3 Bronze Stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with Silver and 3 Bronze Campaign Stars
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star
French Croix de Guerre (WWII Service)
Belgian Croix de Guerre (WWII Service)
United Nations Service Medal for Korea
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Army Presidential Unit Citation with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm
Vietnam Civil Actions Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge with 2 Stars (3 Awards)
Master Parachutist Badge with Gold Star (Indicates 5 Combat Jumps)

He also received the Order of Saint Maurice Primicerius, Doughboy Award, and Vietnam Army Basic Parachutist Badge

Death and Burial

Command Sergeant Major Basil L. Plumley died of cancer on 10 October 2012, after 9 days in Columbus Hospice, in Columbus, GA. He is buried at the Fort Benning Post Cemetery at Fort Benning, GA. He is survived by his daughter, Debbie Kimble, a granddaughter, and 2 great-grandchildren.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
Plumley was known affectionately by his soldiers as "Old Iron Jaw."

Honoree ID: 3358   Created by: MHOH




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