Civilian looking to tarnish reputation of famous war hero, claiming stolen valor

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, former command sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment "Garry Owen," 1st Cavalry Division, died Oct. 10, 2012. Plumley was portrayed by Sam Elliot in the film "We Were Soldiers." (Photo credit: US Army)

The legendary CSM Basil Plumley of We Were Soldiers fame is currently the subject of an investigation by the US Army, after concerns were raised that the late Senior NCO may have worn awards that he didn’t earn.

Plumley -who died of cancer at 92 years of age in 2012- was a pivotal character in the Vietnam War book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, which surrounded the events of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War. Plumley was portrayed by Sam Elliot in a major film based off the book.

According to Military.com, independent researcher Brian Siddall -whose father and uncle served during the Second World War- claims that the CSM may have worn awards he didn’t earn, citing discrepancies in WWII records as proof.

Siddal has dedicated around a decade to researching Plumley, claiming that Plumley’s WWII records don’t add up with his worn awards. Siddall suspects that Plumley never earned a second Silver Star, Bronze Stars for valor or one of two stars on his Combat Infantry badge, an award given to infantrymen who are in direct action with the enemy.

US Army officials at Fort Benning, GA are investigating Siddall’s allegations, putting into consideration that Plumley’s headstone be altered if the decision is made in Siddall’s favor.

Siddall argues that -according to Plumley’s records-  the late CSM did not participate in combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne, as his records show he was in the 82nd’s 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a scout- thus making him a gliderman instead of a paratrooper. While Plumley graduated jump school in 1943, Siddell claims that since Plumley did not jump in WWII and never fought in Korea, the credited combat jumps must be made up.

When you look at his overseas assignments it speaks for itself,” he wrote. “Look where Plumley was between 1951 through 26 February 1953, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky then he went to Germany,” he wrote, adding that Plumley’s service records show him serving in Korea in the 1970s, not the Korean War.

Siddall also told Military.com that Plumley spoke with him “for seven minutes on Skype” in 2011.  “I asked him about the four jumps,”  Siddall said. “he laughed and said ‘no'” he had never jumped from a plane in combat.”

It was after Plumley’s death that Siddall became truly interested in the matter, after seeing We Were Soldiers co-author Joseph Galloway’s obituary contained facts about Plumley’s career that was in dispute with his research findings.

When discussing the matter with Popular Military, Galloway defended Plumley. “All I know for certain is what I saw with my own eyes in Landing Zone XRay, and that was the heroic behavior of Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley,” he told Popular Military. “He was decorated with a righteous Silver Star for heroism in combat. He was a great example to the troops all around him, and a great friend (until) his death at age 92. May he Rest in Peace while so-called researchers mull over the handwritten Army records of 70 years ago.”

Colonel David Moore -son of retired LTG Harold Gregory “Hal” Moore, Jr., Plumley’s commander at Ia Drang Valley and dear friend- told Popular Military that “we (the Moore family) are working with the Plumley family” and that “I believe it unwise and unjustified to attack anyone’s honor or level potentially unwarranted charges at this time.”

The Moore family argues that LTG Moore was also a victim of bad recordkeeping -an issue that was common at the time of handwritten and logged records- when he was recently added to Ft. Leavenworth’s International Hall of Fame.

Siddall insisted to Military.com that he just wants Plumley’s record corrected.

“I just want the correct information out there because there are so many people that are really heroes, and it is so frustrating when they give the hero status to someone who was anything but,” he said.

CSM Plumley served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1974, continuing to serve soldiers post-retirement as an administrative worker at Martin Army Community Hospital from 1975 to 1990.

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Author

  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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