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Congressional commission releases recommendations for renaming military bases

NBC News 5/24/2022 Dareh Gregorian and Courtney Kube
© Provided by NBC News

WASHINGTON — A congressional commission tasked with coming up with new names for U.S. Army bases named after Confederate officers revealed its recommended replacements Tuesday, saying they should recognize people who "embody the best of the United States Army and America."

The list of nine base name recommendations was whittled down from over 34,000 suggestions submitted by the public.

"The 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," said the naming commission's chair, retired Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard, in a statement.

The recommendations will be included in the commission's final report to Congress, which is due by Oct. 1 and will include new names for two Navy ships and several streets and buildings on bases. Congress has mandated the secretary of Defense implement the changes by Jan. 1, 2024. The Defense secretary is not required to accept the recommendations but is expected to do so.

The panel recommended making the following changes:

  • Virginia's Fort Lee — named after Confederate commander Gen. Robert E. Lee — to Fort Gregg-Adams, after retired Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams. Both Gregg, who served in Korea and Vietnam, and Adams, who served in World War II, are Black.
  • Fort Gordon in Georgia — named after Confederate Gen. John Brown Gordon — to Fort Eisenhower, after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led allied forces in Europe as a general in World War II.
  • Texas' Fort Hood — named after a Confederate general best known for racking up high body counts while launching unsuccessful assaults — to Fort Cavazos, after Gen. Richard Cavazos, a Texas native who served in Vietnam and became the first Hispanic American four-star general in the U.S.
  • Louisiana's Fort Polk — named after a Confederate general who was killed in action during the Civil War — to Fort Johnson, after Sgt. William Henry Johnson. Johnson, who was Black, was a World War I hero who once single-handedly fought off two dozen German soldiers.
  • Virginia's Fort Pickett to Fort Barfoot, after Van Barfoot, a technical sergeant who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics in fighting off German troops in WW II. Barfoot eliminated three German machine gun nests before using a bazooka to take out a tank in a single day in May of 1944.
  • Alabama’s Fort Rucker to Fort Novosel, after Medal of Honor winner Michael Novosel, an Army helicopter pilot who was credited with rescuing 29 South Vietnamese troops while under heavy fire in October of 1969.
  • Virginia’s Fort A.P. Hill to Fort Mary Edwards Walker, who became the first female Army surgeon while treating Union troops during the Civil War. She was the country's first female Medal of Honor winner.

Not all of the recommendations were named after servicemembers. The panel recommended North Carolina's Fort Bragg be renamed Fort Liberty, and proposed Georgia's Fort Benning be named Fort Moore after both Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife Julia Moore, who lived at Fort Benning during the Vietnam War and would accompany taxi drivers tasked with delivering telegrams to family members whose loved ones had been killed or injured under her husband's command. "Her complaints to the Pentagon led to the creation of casualty notification teams (as well as survivor support networks) that still carry out this difficult task today," the commission said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who will review and implement the name changes, praised the commission's picks in a statement, saying they "reflect the courage, values, sacrifices, and diversity of our military men and women."

Despite longtime bipartisan support in Congress for renaming the bases, those efforts were slowed by fierce opposition from former President Donald Trump, who tweeted in 2020 that his administration would "not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations." Trump vetoed a sweeping military spending bill that included the renaming provision in November of 2020, but the veto was overridden by Congress.

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