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At Last, The U.S. Military Won’t Have Bases Named After Confederates

14 minute read

A U.S. Army commission has recommended new names for nine military bases commemorating Confederate officers, including the head of its army, the reputed Georgia chief of the Ku Klux Klan and the commander whose troops fired the first shots of the Civil War.

The Naming Commission, which was established by Congress in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, suggested a list of names for the military installations that include women and Black Americans for the first time, rather than white men.

Each of the posts, located in states stretching from Virginia to Texas, are currently named for a Confederate officer. The names were often given long after the Civil War—including many in the first half of the 20th Century when the U.S. military was rushing to open training posts for both world wars.

The panel, composed of former uniformed and civilian military leaders, visited the installations to gain feedback from soldiers and the community about “their process, preferences for new names and an understanding of local sensitivities.” The commission said it received more than 34,000 submissions related to naming activities.

Calls to rename military bases, ships and other military assets intensified in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis and the ensuing national reckoning on racial injustice. The Naming Commission posted an inventory list to its website in March of more than 750 Department of Defense items identified for review to determine whether their names commemorate the Confederacy and if a recommendation for renaming is warranted. Among the items on the list are streets, civil works, buildings, paintings, vessels, signs and the military installations themselves.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin must now approve the naming recommendations of the bases to fully enact them.

Here is the list of nine recommendations:

Fort Benning renamed as Fort Moore

Fort Benning, Ga now honors Brigadier General Henry Benning, a Georgia lawyer, politician, judge and supporter of slavery. The Army established Camp Benning, known as the Home of the Infantry, in 1918; it became a fort four years later (forts generally are bigger, more permanent installations than camps). “In the wake of Lincoln’s election, Benning became one of Georgia’s most vocal proponents of secession,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Fort Moore would honor Lieut. General Hal Moore and, his wife, Julia. Hal served a combined 32 years with assignments in Japan, Norway, Vietnam, and twice in Korea. In Vietnam, 79 soldiers under Moore’s command were killed and 121 wounded in less than 72 hours. At home at Fort Benning, Julia accompanied cabbies to deliver notices and give compassionate condolences to the families of those killed in combat and attended the subsequent funerals. The panel said her work led to the creation of casualty notification teams and survivor support networks that continue today.

Fort Bragg renamed as Fort Liberty

Fort Bragg, N.C., honors General Braxton Bragg who served in the Second Seminole War, the Mexican–American War and the Civil War. He is said to be among the worst Confederate generals because he waged war ploddingly with frontal assaults, and a lack of follow-through that turned battlefield successes into post-battle disappointments. “Even Bragg’s staunchest supporters admonished him for his quick temper, general irritability, and tendency to wound innocent men with barbs thrown during his frequent fits of anger,” historian Peter Cozzens has written.

Fort Liberty would honor the value of liberty, the Pentagon says. “Our Army was founded to achieve the ideal of liberty. In the American Revolution, patriots fought for the liberty to direct their lives, pursue their happiness, and determine their futures through representative democracy,” the panel wrote.

Fort Gordon renamed as Fort Eisenhower

Fort Gordon, Ga., honors Lieut. General John Brown Gordon, one of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee’s most-trusted officers. The post began as Camp Gordon in 1917; it became Fort Gordon in 1956. It is home to the Army Signal Corps and the service’s Cyber Center of Excellence. “Generally acknowledged as the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1872,” according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia (Gordon denied the charge). “By the time of his death in 1904, Gordon had capitalized on his war record to such an extent that he had become for many Georgians, and southerners in general, the living embodiment of the Confederacy.”

Fort Eisenhower would honor Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a general, Eisenhower led the Allied Forces to victory in World War II. Returning to the U.S. as a war hero, he was president of Columbia University and supreme commander of NATO before being elected president of the U.S. in 1952 and in 1956. Eisenhower ended the Korean War in 1953, and opened diplomatic negotiations with Cold War-rival, the Soviet Union. Eisenhower signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and in 1960, and ordered federal troops to enforce school desegregation in Little Rock, Ark. in 1957. He was TIME’s Man of the Year in 1944 and 1959, and later became the first president to be limited by the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment of two terms. In his farewell address in January 1961, he famously warned of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”

Fort A.P. Hill renamed as Fort Walker

Fort A.P. Hill, Va., honors Virginia native Lieut. General A.P. Hill. The Army created the installation six months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Today it is a training and maneuver center focused on providing realistic joint and combined-arms training. Hill had a frail physique and was frequently ill, attributes some historians believe are linked to the gonorrhea he contracted while on furlough from West Point (an infection that forced him to repeat his third year). A Union soldier from Pennsylvania shot and killed Hill in Petersburg, Va., a week before the end of the Civil War.

Fort Walker would honor Dr. Mary Walker. “By the start of the Civil War, the 28-year-old Walker had already emerged as a skilled surgeon and strong abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights and equality,” the panel wrote. Walker attempted several times to serve as a surgeon for the Union but was rejected and offered a role as a nurse because she was a woman. She instead chose to support the military as a volunteer, working for free in the temporary hospitals around Washington. She moved into Virginia in 1862, treating wounded soldiers in field hospitals near the front lines after the carnage at Fredericksburg. Two years later, she was arrested by the Confederates and imprisoned for four months after she stayed behind enemy lines to treat the wounded. In November 1865, Walker received the Medal of Honor.

Fort Hood renamed as Fort Cavazos

Fort Hood, Texas, honors native Kentuckian General John Bell Hood. The installation began as Camp Hood in 1942, becoming a fort in 1950. It is the largest active-duty armored post in the U.S. military. Hood, himself, was wounded at Gettysburg, losing the use of his left arm. Despite that, he led his troops in a massive assault during the Battle of Chickamauga, suffering wounds that led to the loss of his right leg.

Fort Cavazos would honor General Richard Cavazos. A Texan and the first Hispanic-American to pin on four stars, Cavazos served in Korea, where he led a company of Puerto Rican soldiers and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor for valor, after he personally evacuated his wounded men against an enemy onslaught. He did this five times while injured. “When the Vietnam War began, then-Lt. Col. Cavazos was ready to bring men into battle once more: he commanded an infantry battalion, often fighting in the field–and frequently leading from the front,” the panel wrote. “In 1967, he was once again awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for rallying his men through an ambush, organizing a counterattack, and leading several maneuvers to repulse and destroy extensive enemy defenses, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire in the process. Throughout his career, Cavazos continued to combine personal valor with commitment to his troops and dedication to his missions, additionally earning two Legions of Merit, a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, and many other medals and awards for exceptional service in war and peace,” the panel wrote.

Fort Lee renamed as Fort Gregg-Adams

Fort Lee, Va., honors Virginian General Robert E. Lee, the South’s commanding officer by the Civil War’s end. The War Department created Camp Lee within weeks of declaring war on Germany in 1917. The Pentagon promoted it to Fort Lee in 1950. Just south of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, the post is home to the Army Quartermaster School. Lee, a slaveholder, was the Confederacy’s most renowned general and his forces inflicted tens of thousands of casualties on Union soldiers’ at Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas.

Fort Gregg-Adams would honor Lieut. General Arthur Gregg and Lieut. Colonel Charity Adams. Gregg enlisted in 1945 after his parents signed waivers that allowed him to enlist in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. A Black man, he was assigned to a unit in Germany as a medical laboratory technician but was later told no job was available. He was ultimately assigned as supply clerk in a Quartermaster Truck Company, which set him on a path to become one of the most decorated Black officers of the era. He first helped rebuild Europe, which had been devastated by fighting, as a supply logistician in occupied Germany. Later, he ran “a supply depot in Japan, commanded a supply and support battalion in Vietnam, and served in several assignments in Germany throughout the Cold War, including his leadership of the Army and Air Force Exchange System,” the panel wrote. “At the peak of his service, Gregg served as logistics director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics for the Army. In addition to his extensive service throughout the world, Gregg also promoted equality at home. As a young of officer in the 1950s, Gregg also personally desegregated the Fort Lee Officers Club, and, throughout his career, he mentored numerous younger soldiers.”

During World War II, Adams was selected to command the first unit of Black women to serve overseas, which was tasked with delivering mail to and from almost seven million soldiers fighting in Europe. “Adams’ unit handled an estimated 65,000 letters a day and close to two million pieces of mail each month,” the panel wrote. “Gender discrimination limited her promotion to lieutenant colonel, the highest rank attainable by any woman during the war. But her effectiveness was made clear when it took three units of men to replace her battalion after they disbanded.

Fort Pickett renamed as Fort Barfoot

Fort Pickett, Va., honors Major General George Pickett, a Virginia native. Pickett’s 1863 charge at Gettysburg has been called “the high-water mark of the Confederacy.” The charge resulted in a rebel bloodbath. Pickett fled to Canada for a year after the war ended, fearing execution as a traitor. Camp Pickett was dedicated on July 3, 1942, at 3 p.m., 79 years to the day and hour of Pickett’s charge in Gettysburg. It became a fort in 1974 and now is a Virginia Army National Guard installation.

Fort Barfoot would honor Technical Sergeant Van T. Barfoot. On May 23, 1944, Barfoot and his unit were assaulting entrenched German forces in northern Italy when they came under attack from machine gun positions in the foothills of the Alps. “Barfoot moved out alone, heading for the enemy flank,” the panel wrote. “Crawling to the edge of the first machine gun emplacement, Barfoot threw a grenade that killed two and wounded three of the crew, disabling the position. Securing the three prisoners, Barfoot advanced on a second machine gun nest which he attacked with tommy-gun fire, killing two more enemy soldiers and taking another three prisoners. Continuing his solitary assault, Barfoot encountered a third machine gun emplacement and compelled the crew to surrender. Having turned the tide in the area, he continued to “mop up” the remaining enemy positions, ultimately taking 17 prisoners while consolidating the newly won position. Later in the afternoon the Germans counterattacked, Barfoot led a small squad and successfully defending the ground gained. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions and served for a total of 34 years, including tours in Korea and Vietnam.

Fort Polk renamed as Fort Johnson

Fort Polk, La., honors Lieut. General Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop born in North Carolina. Established in 1941, the post is now home to the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center, which trains thousands of soldiers annually for overseas deployments. Polk fought bitterly during the Civil War with his immediate superior, General Braxton Bragg, of Fort Bragg fame. Before being killed in action in 1864 during the Atlanta campaign, Polk committed one of the biggest blunders of the war. He sent troops to occupy Columbus, Ky., which led the Kentucky legislature to appeal to Washington for help, ending the state’s brief try at neutrality.

Fort Johnson would honor Sergeant William Henry Johnson. In the predawn hours on May 14, 1918, during World War I, Johnson was inside a trench in France’s Argonne Forest with a fellow Black soldier when a German raiding party suddenly attacked his position. “Facing a fierce enemy, wounded, and without support, Johnson could have surrendered but chose to fight,” the panel wrote. “Sounding the alarm before single-handedly facing the enemy, Johnson threw grenades until his supply was exhausted. When he ran out of grenades, Johnson fired his rifle until he spent his ammunition. When he ran out of bullets, Johnson charged the enemy, swinging his rifle as a club. And when he observed two Germans about to carry his wounded comrade away for interrogation, Johnson abandoned his rifle and instead drew his bolo knife, fighting off the raiders at close quarters and pushing them back from the position. Ultimately, Johnson single-handedly engaged approximately two dozen men that night, killing at least four; few returned to their lines unscathed. Despite being outnumbered by a factor of twenty and sustaining 21 separate wounds in hand-to-hand combat, he had saved his comrade, sounded the alarm, and secured his unit’s safety and position. Johnson became the United States’ first hero of the Great War.”

Fort Rucker renamed as Fort Novosel

Fort Rucker, Ala., honors Tennessee native Colonel Edmund Rucker, who was often called “general” but never attained the rank (he was known as “general” after becoming a leading Birmingham, Ala., industrialist after the Civil War). Known today as the Home of Army Aviation, Fort Rucker was originally the Ozark Triangular Division Camp before being renamed Camp Rucker in 1942. It became Fort Rucker in 1955.

Fort Novosel would honor Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel, Sr. Novosel joined the Army Air Corps at the age of 19 in 1941, 10 months before the attack at Pearl Harbor. During the war, he rose to the rank of captain at the age of 23, flying B-29 Superfortress bombers. “Assigned to Vietnam as a “Dustoff” pilot, he flew helicopters evacuating combat zone casualties; a dangerous mission in which approximately one third of all medevac pilots became casualties themselves,” the panel wrote. “In Novosel’s two tours in Vietnam, he flew 2,543 extraction missions, rescuing over 5,500 seriously wounded soldiers.” He earned the Medal of Honor for heroics on Oct. 2, 1969, when at the age of 47, Novosel saved 29 men from certain death.

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Write to W.J. Hennigan at william.hennigan@time.com