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Basil Plumley, veteran of three wars, dies

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Basil L. Plumley, a renowned career soldier whose exploits as an Army infantryman were portrayed in a book and the movie "We Were Soldiers," has died at 92 -- an age his friends are amazed that he lived to see.

Plumley fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam and was awarded a medal for making five parachute jumps into combat. The retired command sergeant major died Wednesday.

Friends said Plumley, who died in hospice care in west Georgia, never told war stories and was known to hang up on people who called to interview him. Still, he was near-legendary in the Army and gained more widespread fame through a 1992 Vietnam War book that was the basis for the 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson.

Plumley didn't need a Hollywood portrayal to be revered among soldiers, said Greg Camp, a retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at neighboring Fort Benning who befriended Plumley in his later years.

"Among people who have been in the military, he's beyond what a movie star would be," he said.

A native of Shady Spring, W.Va., Plumley enlisted in the Army in 1942 and ended up serving 32 years in uniform. His service in three wars "puts him in the rarest of clubs," said journalist Joseph L. Galloway. "To be combat infantry in those three wars, in the battles he participated in, and to have survived -- that is miraculous." -- AP

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