Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


U.S. Military Commission Sends New Names for U.S. Army Bases to Secretary of Defense

US Army
3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division sends the first round downrange with the U.S. Army’s new M1A2 SEPV3 Abrams Main Battle Tank, Fort Hood, Texas, August 18, 2020. After the GREYWOLF brigade conducts a test fire on every tank they will dial in their sites by “zeroing” the tanks main gun, ensuring they are fully prepared to conduct future gunnery live fire exercises.

The contentious process of renaming U.S. Army bases named after Confederate leaders may finally be reaching a conclusion. The naming commission sent a final list of recommendations to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. 

The list of new names for the nine Army bases in question is now more inclusive, adding names of African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and women veterans. The list includes Mary Walker, the only woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor, which she earned during the Civil War. Two of the bases will be named after two separate individuals. 

The commission is also looking at more than 750 streets and signs that are present on Defense Department assets. Where they commemorate Confederate veterans, these  will probably be renamed as well. 

“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,” chairperson of the naming commission, retired Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard, said in a released statement.

The changing of the Army base names became a political hot potato during the final days of the Trump administration. Then-president Donald Trump was adamant about not changing the names, and he vetoed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that included the naming commission. Congress eventually overrode the veto with bipartisan support. 

Help From the Public

The naming commission established a public website to solicit possible new names for the nine Army bases. The commission received more than 34,000 suggestions, according to retired Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, the commission’s vice-chair.

“Every name either originated from or resonated with the local communities. The feedback we received assisted us in narrowing the options and proved vital in helping us reach our final recommendations,” Seidule said.

The commission first whittled that list down to 3,670 names, and then down to 87. It finally settled on the list forwarded to Austin, who will make the final decision and forward it to Congress in October. Once the names are approved, the secretary of defense must implement the changes by 2024.

Post-Reconstruction Choices

The big question is how these bases, all located in the southern United States, ended up being named after Confederate generals. 

The Army gave vague naming guidelines as it constructed new bases in the buildup around World War I – an expansion that continued through World War II. 

Southern communities lobbied heavily to host the bases, knowing the economic boost these would provide. The Army looked for names with a connection to proposed base areas, and they asked for local input, hoping to arrive at names that would be popular with citizens in adjoining communities, and would be short to save clerical labor.  

At that time, the South was going through a phase of romanticizing the so-called Lost Cause of the Confederacy, and the naming of the bases took place as the Jim Crow era was in full swing. The War Department, for example, took the recommendation for Ft. Benning from the local Rotary Club and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  

At the time it was considered an act of reconciliation after the conflict and the Reconstruction Era. 

The renaming recommendations include: 

  • Fort A.P. Hill to Fort Walker – This largely reserve and National Guard base near Richmond, Virginia, was named after Ambrose Powell Hill, one of the South’s ablest generals, who was killed in action a week before Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Dr. Mary Walker was the Army’s first female surgeon and was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
  • Fort Benning to Fort Moore – The home of the Army’s Infantry and Ranger Brigade headquarters was named after Confederate Gen. Henry Benning. The commission recommends the base be renamed after Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia. Hal Moore earned fame during the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam. His wife, Julia, advocated for continued support for military families.
  • Fort Polk to Fort Johnson – The large base in Louisiana is named after Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, and would be renamed in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson. This African-American soldier fought off about two dozen Germans by himself during World War I, killing at least four. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • Fort Gordon to Fort Eisenhower – Fort Gordon in Georgia was named after Confederate Gen. John Brown Gordon, who later would serve as both a senator and the governor of Georgia. This base would be named after Dwight D. Eisenhower. “Ike” was the supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and later became president of the United States. 
  • Fort Lee to Fort Gregg-Adams – The Virginia base was named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The recommended change would honor two Army officers. Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg helped the Army’s desegregation efforts at Ft. Lee, while Lt. Col. Charity Adams was the first African-American woman to command a unit of women overseas, in World War II.
  • Fort Hood to Fort Cavazos – The huge Texas base was named after Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, an overly aggressive commander who was largely unsuccessful. Gen. Richard Cavazos became the first Hispanic-American to wear four stars. 
  • Fort Pickett to Fort Barfoot – The Virginia base was named after Confederate Gen. George Pickett, famous for leading Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. It would be renamed for Van Barfoot, a Native American who was awarded the Medal of Honor as a technical sergeant during World War II. Barfoot served in Korea and Vietnam, retiring at the rank of colonel. 
  • Fort Rucker to Fort Novosel – The home of U.S. Army Aviation was named after Confederate Gen. Edmund Rucker. The commission recommends it be renamed to honor Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel Sr., who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, flying 2,543 medical evacuation missions. Novosel was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Distinguished Service Medal. 
  • Fort Bragg to Fort Liberty – One of the largest military bases in the world, Ft. Bragg is home to the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets). It was named after Braxton Bragg, considered one of the worst general officers on either side in the Civil War. It would be renamed “Fort Liberty”, the only base renaming that would not honor a person. Liberty was not among the 87 final names submitted, but local leaders asked to rename it such, stating that, “Maybe this individual is 100% acceptable right now, but they might not be 20 years from now for whatever reason,” according to commission member Jerry Buchanan

The word Liberty has some connotation with Ft. Bragg, as the crest worn on the berets of Special Forces troops is emblazoned with the motto “De Oppresso Liber” which has traditionally been translated as “Liberate the Oppressed.” 

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Written By

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.