November 1965 in Vietnam and the first major set-piece battle between U.S. fighters and regular North Vietnamese Army units has started. A parachute flare drops from an American plane, misses its target and lands amid stacks of live ammunition. Risking his life to save the day, a quick-thinking soldier grabs the flare with his bare hands and hurls it away from danger.
That soldier was Sergeant Major Basil Plumley, and this singular act of bravery won him a Silver Star. Plumley was an extraordinary soldier in many ways. But before we come on to that part of his story, let’s learn a little about where this remarkable man came from.
Basil Leonard Plumley was born on the first day of 1920 in Blue Jay, West Virginia. He was the fifth child and second son of Clay and Georgia, both born in West Virginia themselves. Like so many in that state, Clay was a coal miner.