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June 24, 2022
Heroes, president, and a US value: Here’s the Army base renaming plan.
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Heroes, president, and a US value: Here’s the Army base renaming plan.

Nine U.S. military bases named in honor of Confederate soldiers are getting new names under legislation passed in the wake of nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

The congressionally created Naming Commission “sought to find names that would be inspirational to the soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them,” chairman Michelle Howard, a retired admiral, said in a statement last week. 

Why We Wrote This
At a time of national reckoning over racism, Congress voted in 2020 to revisit long-standing names for Army bases in the South. The new proposed names honor everyone from a Republican president to the only woman Medal of Honor recipient.

The eight-member panel received more than 34,000 suggestions from the public. After narrowing their choices down to fewer than 100 earlier this year, the panel selected the final list unanimously. Slated to be put in place by 2023, pending approval by Congress and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, it will mark the first time U.S. bases will bear the name of women or Black military heroes. 

In a move with bipartisan resonance, the choices also include a former Republican president and the value of liberty. “We were reminded that courage has no boundaries by manmade categories of race, color, gender, religion, or creed,” said Ms. Howard, the first Black woman to command a Navy ship and first woman ever to reach the rank of four-star admiral. 

Nine U.S. military bases named in honor of Confederate soldiers are getting new names under legislation passed in the wake of nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

The congressionally created Naming Commission “sought to find names that would be inspirational to the Soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them,” chairman Michelle Howard, a retired admiral, said in a statement last week. 

The eight-member panel – which includes a former commandant of the Marine Corps, a general who chaired the history department at West Point, and Ms. Howard, who is the first Black woman to command a Navy ship and first woman ever to reach the rank of four-star admiral – received more than 34,000 suggestions from the public. 

Why We Wrote This
At a time of national reckoning over racism, Congress voted in 2020 to revisit long-standing names for Army bases in the South. The new proposed names honor everyone from a Republican president to the only woman Medal of Honor recipient.

After narrowing their choices down to fewer than 100 earlier this year, the panel selected the final list unanimously. Slated to be put in place by 2023, pending approval by Congress and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, it will mark the first time U.S. bases will bear the name of women or Black military heroes. 

In a move with bipartisan resonance, the choices also include a former Republican president and the value of liberty. “We were reminded that courage has no boundaries by man-made categories of race, color, gender, religion, or creed,” Ms. Howard said. 

Here are the newly chosen names (along with the current base names) and the story behind them.

Fort Barfoot (Fort Pickett, Virginia)

Under fire in Italy during World War II, Van T. Barfoot crawled alone to a German machine gun nest and destroyed it. He moved to another nest and did the same thing. A third German gun crew surrendered to Technical Sergeant Barfoot after watching him in action. But his day was only half over, the commission notes. As German forces counterattacked, he stopped the lead tank in its tracks with a Bazooka. The other tanks turned around. His Medal of Honor citation praises his “aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire.” A member of the Choctaw tribe, retired Colonel Barfoot made news at age 90 after installing a 21-foot flagpole in his yard against the aesthetic wishes of his homeowners association, uniting Democrats and Republicans who convinced the association to relent.

Fort Cavazos (Fort Hood, Texas)

Raised on a Texas ranch, Richard Cavazos led a company of Puerto Rican soldiers during the Korean War, earning the Distinguished Service Cross – the nation’s second-highest honor for valor. In Vietnam he was the exceptional commander who fought in the field with his infantry battalion and earned the Distinguished Service Cross again. He was the first Latino American to become a one-star and, later, a four-star general. 

Fort Eisenhower (Fort Gordon, Georgia)

At the outbreak of World War II, Dwight Eisenhower held the rank of lieutenant colonel; by 1943 he was a four-star general leading combined ground, air, and sea forces on D-day “in the greatest amphibious landing in history,” the commission notes. Later, serving two terms as the nation’s chief executive, President Eisenhower “forged a moderate path that oversaw eight years of national prosperity at home and relative peace abroad.” 

Fort Gregg-Adams (Fort Lee, Virginia)

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg helped to desegregate the Army “from the ground up” when he applied for Officer Candidate School in 1948, later commanding a supply battalion in Vietnam. He also desegregated the Fort Lee Officers’ Club, where he held his retirement ceremony. 

In 1944, 25 year-old Charity Adams was tapped to command the first unit of Black women to serve in war. They were “a lifeline,” delivering some 65,000 letters a day to the 7 million soldiers. “Gender discrimination limited her promotion to lieutenant colonel, the highest rank attainable by any woman during the war,” the commission notes. “But her effectiveness was made clear when it took three units of men to replace her battalion after they disbanded.”

Fort Johnson (Fort Polk, Louisiana)

Wounded by a World War I German raiding party sent to “kill as many sleeping soldiers as possible,” Pvt. William Henry Johnson sounded the alarm before “single-handedly” fighting off some two dozen raiders, including using his bolo knife “at close quarters” to rescue a wounded comrade being carried off. He was dubbed “Black Death,” but upon returning to Jim Crow America, then-Sergeant Johnson was not awarded equal benefits as white troops, the commission notes. “Unable to effectively work as a result of his wounds,” Mr. Johnson died destitute in 1929. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015. 

Fort Liberty (Fort Bragg, North Carolina)

“Perhaps no value has proved more essential to the United States and the history of its military than Liberty,” the commission notes, adding that it was the overwhelming choice of the local community.

Fort Moore (Fort Benning, Georgia)

The base will be renamed after a married couple, “exemplifying the service of modern military families.” Hal Moore led the first major engagement of the Vietnam War, in which 80 troops were killed in 72 hours, demonstrating “how devastating [war] could become,” the commission notes, “though Moore’s skill as a commander undoubtedly reduced the losses.”

On the home front, Hal’s wife Julia Moore and their five children were moved off-base – then standard Army policy for families once husbands were deployed. News of deaths were “delivered by taxi drivers unprepared to relay such information.” Julia began accompanying cabbies to “give compassionate condolences.” Her complaints to the Pentagon led to the creation of casualty notification teams and survivor support networks.

Fort Novosel (Fort Rucker, Alabama)

After flying bomber planes during World War II and in Korea, Michael Novosel, Sr., volunteered to serve in Vietnam, too. Upon learning the Air Force had too many senior officers, he resigned his commission as a lieutenant colonel and flew helicopters as a warrant officer, evacuating combat casualties. He flew 2,542 missions, including rescuing his aviator son, whose own helicopter was shot down. One week later, Michael Novosel, Jr., returned the favor by rescuing his dad, who was ultimately awarded the Medal of Honor for valor.

Fort Walker (Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia)

A skilled surgeon, Mary Edwards Walker volunteered to serve as a military doctor in the Civil War, but was turned away. Refusing offers to work as a nurse, Dr. Walker proved herself treating wounded fighters and was ultimately hired as the Army’s first female surgeon. Crossing enemy lines to treat troops, she was arrested as a Confederate spy then later freed in a prisoner exchange. Nominated for a Medal of Honor by Gen. William Sherman, Walker became the first – and only – woman to be awarded one in 1865. In her retirement years, she was “derided, detained, and arrested” campaigning for equal rights for women.

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