18. Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley Started Fighting in Italy, and Kept Fighting Through Vietnam
Basil Plumley was a character ready made for Hollywood. Fittingly, when his character was depicted in 2002’s We Were Soldiers, it stole every scene in which it appeared. A big and raw boned son of a West Virginia coal miner, Plumley enlisted in the US Army in 1942, and first saw combat in 1943, during the invasion of Italy. He also saw combat on D-Day as a gliderman in the 82nd Airborne Division. His next glider assault came during Operation Market Garden, in September of 1944, during which he earned a Purple Heart after getting shot in the hand.
All in all, Plumley made four combat jumps in WWII, and another in the Korean War with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. In that conflict, his fights included the battles of Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill. As Plumley rose through the enlisted ranks, he earned a reputation as a gruff and no-nonsense sergeant, and a true believer in tough training and discipline who earned the nickname “Old Iron Jaw”. However, he was not a hardass just for the sake of being a hardass: experience had taught him that soldiers had to be prepared for the horrors of combat. The hard training and discipline would serve him and his men well in Vietnam.