A U.S. Army Airborne legend is being accused of lying about the accomplishments that propelled him to superstar status in the military community in an apparent witch hunt by a man who never served in the military and has a supposed very flawed “investigative” past.
Sgt. Major Basil Plumley, who became widely known in popular culture due to his appearance in the book, and then the movie adaptation, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and war journalist Joseph L. Galloway, was a recipient of several combat and valor awards.
Plumley is being accused of exaggerating the battlefield feats that have led him to be one of the most respected figures in the military. One independent researcher is determined to discredit Plumley and is hoping to go as far as changing the fallen hero’s tombstone.
Brian Siddall is the independent researcher who is determined to drag Plumley’s name through the mud. Siddall never served in the military but Siddall’s father and uncle both served during WWII. His uncle died during the D-Day invasion of Europe while serving as a paratrooper. His family’s involvement in WWII and their roles as paratroopers sparked an interest in WWII paratroopers in Siddald.
He claims to have been researching the subject for over 10 years.
He claims that this 10 year journey through records and text books has led him to believe that Plumley doesn’t deserve the Silver Stars and Bronze Star medals for valor he rightfully and proudly wore on his chest until his death in 2012. He went on to state that Plumley also exaggerated the number of Combat Infantry Badges he was awarded. He claims that Plumley only earned the single Silver Star he was awarded in Vietnam and hopes to have Plumley’s headstone altered to remove the additional accolades. Siddall justified his attack on the legendary soldier’s resume of accomplishments by saying:
“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,”
Siddall has compiled a list of what he believes to be discrepancies between Plumley’s legendary accomplishments and what he believes to be the truth. He sent his findings to Fort Benning in late 2015 in the hopes that this research will lead to Plumley’s headstone being altered.
However, military records are notoriously faulty and missing and there is a long-line of people who will defend Plumley. For example, in 1973 there was a fire that wiped out 80% of the records from Korea and WW2. This is just one example of records being lost – there are countless other examples.
On May 4, 2016 Military.com contacted Fort Benning about the information submitted by Siddall. Col. Andy Hilmes, the garrison commander for Fort Benning, stated that they are investigating the information and that it’ is possible that Plumley’s tombstone may be corrected. He states that the information that may be changed is related to the “Silver Star with OLC” and “BSM W/V 2nd OLC” engravings on Plumley’s tombstone.
Hilmes admits that Siddall’s research allegedly shows several discrepancies between official records and the tale told in Plumley’s book. He also went on to state that Plumley’s DD 214 does not match the official letter from the Army’s Awards and Decoration Branch. The letter from the Army states there is no verification that Plumley is authorized more than one Silver Star or the Bronze Star Medal.
“I want to do the right thing. I have looked at how do we go about changing the headstone. I can’t change the DD 214 at Benning; that is really up to the Department of the Army.”
Doug Sterner is the curator for Military Times Hall of Valor. He has spent nearly 20 years storing and digitizing military awards. Part of his job involves exposing faux-heros who have lied about accomplishments in order to obtain Silver Stars and other high-profile medals. Sterner vehemently argues that there is no point in attempting to discredit Plumley. He acknowledges that records from the time can be unreliable and that faulty record keeping could be the cause for the discrepancies found in Siddall’s research. He goes on to say that not being able to find military records for Plumley’s achievements doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t occur, they simply weren’t recorded.
Sterner feels that pursuing Plumley is a waste of time and resources. He states that there is no doubt that Plumley is a war hero. There is no denying Plumley’s Silver Star awarded for courage and valor in Battle of Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam war as it has been confirmed both by records and eyewitness accounts. He feels that trying to discredit Plumley’s receipt of additional Silver Stars because the records are inconsistent is ridiculous. According to Sterner hundreds of soldiers have been awarded Silver Stars despite there being no official records to confirm their actions.
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