In memory of Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center will offer two screenings of the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers” on Sunday, Oct. 21. The free screenings will be at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the IMAX Theater.
Plumley was the chief enlisted man in November 1965 when 450 members of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment dropped into the Ia Drang Valley and were quickly surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The ensuing fight became the first major battle of the Vietnam War.
Decades later, LTG Hal Moore, who commanded the battalion, and Joe Galloway, a UPI reporter who found himself in the middle of the bloody battle, documented it in the book We Were Soldiers Once and Young. In the movie version, “We Were Soldiers,” actor Mel Gibson plays Moore, and Sam Elliot plays the tough-as-nails Plumley.
Parts of the movie were filmed at Fort Benning. Director Randall Wallace, bent on making a war movie that was true to the real life events, put his cast members through boot camp with active duty Rangers. He insisted they get to know their real-life counterparts. Elliott developed such a rapport with CSM Plumley that he convinced the director to change his characterization of Plumley to make it more realistic. Elliott and Plumley remained close friends until Plumley’s death last week.