Plumley was born on January 1, 1920, in Shady Spring, West Virginia, the second son and fifth child of coal miner Clay Plumley (born 1879) and his wife Georgia (born c. 1895), both of West Virginian stockPlumley enlisted in the US Army on March 31, 1942, as a private.
Plumley was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He was a member of the 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, with which he made 4 combat jumps and was awarded medals (see medal list below). He confirms this during interviews conducted with author Phil Nordyke, who has written 4 books relating to the 82nd Airborne Division in WWII. He went on to make one combat jump in Korea with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. He retired as a Command Sergeant Major on December 31, 1974, having been awarded 28 different medals (40 total) in almost 33 years of service. After his retirement, he worked 15 more years for the Army as a civilian in administration at Martin Army Community Hospital (Fort Benning, Georgia), retiring again in 1990.
Plumley married Deurice Dillon, who died on May 28, 2012, ending 63 years of marriage. Basil Plumley died of cancer after 9 days in Columbus Hospice (Columbus, Georgia), on October 10, 2012. He is survived by his daughter, Debbie Kimble, a granddaughter, and 2 great-grandchildren.