Senate Committee Approves Plan for Renaming Military Bases Named After Confederate Leaders
Should the Army rename bases that were named after Confederate leaders from the Civil War?
by Countable | 6.11.20
(UPDATE - 6/11/20 2:00pm EDT): The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2021 that could lead to the renaming of military bases named after Confederate leaders, in addition to a broader removal of such names & paraphernalia from military.
The amendment would establish a commission to study & provide recommendations about the removal of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America on military installations. The commission would provide an implementation plan, cost, and criteria for renaming, among other procedures. The implementation plan would go into effect three years after the enactment of the NDAA.
Given President Donald Trump's opposition to the issue (see prior update below), it's unclear whether he would consider vetoing the NDAA over the inclusion of this provision if it were to reach his desk. That may become more clear in time, as the NDAA still needs to be approved by the Senate & House in floor votes before it can reach his desk, and many past NDAAs have had enough bipartisan support to override a veto.
UPDATE - 6/10/20 (2:50pm EDT): President Donald Trump weighed in on the debate over renaming military bases to express his opposition via a series of tweets which read:
"It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations...... Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!"
Countable's original article appears below.
What’s the story?
- The U.S. Army announced Monday that it is “open to a bi-partisan discussion on the topic” of renaming its 10 installations that are named after Confederate leaders, with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper & Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supporting the conversation according to a report by Politico.
- The news comes after the Army expressed a reluctance to rename the facilities earlier this year and amid a broader push at the Dept. of Defense (DOD) to remove vestiges of the Confederacy: both the Marine Corps & Navy recently announced efforts to restrict the display of the Confederate battle flag at bases and on ships.
- The Army bases were established during the pre-World War I to World War II period, in the midst of the Jim Crow era when some Civil War veterans were still living. The names were chosen to honor veterans who lived in the vicinity of the newly-established base and curry favor with local populations, and as part of the post-Civil War reunification that sought to recognize that former Confederates were still Americans. All 10 of the installations in question are located in states that were part of the Confederacy.
- The Army has the authority to unilaterally rename the bases, but is soliciting input from the White House, Congress, and state & local officials because of the potentially controversial nature of the issue. It’s unknown at this time what cost the renaming may entail.
- The announcement has prompted a flurry of suggestions for renaming the installations after Army generals and decorated soldiers from the Union side of the Civil War or from conflicts that preceded the Civil War, or from more recent conflicts.
What bases could be renamed?
- Fort Rucker, Alabama serves as the primary flight training school for all Army Aviators, and it’s named for Confederate Colonel Edmund Rucker.
- Fort Benning, Georgia serves as a major active duty base & is home to the armor & infantry schools, the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, plus Airborne & Ranger training units. It’s named for Confederate Brigadier General Henry Benning, who was one of the leaders of Georgia’s secession convention & strongly advocated for preserving slavery.
- Fort Gordon, Georgia serves as the home of the Army Signal Corps & the Cyber Corps. It’s named for Confederate Major General John Brown Gordon, who was one of the South’s most reliable generals and later opposed Reconstruction as a Democratic lawmaker in the U.S. Senate & as Governor of Georgia.
- Camp Beauregard, Louisiana serves as a training facility for the Louisiana National Guard. It’s named for Confederate General Pierre Gusatve Toutant-Beauregard, who was one of the South’s most successful generals & after the war evolved from being overtly racist to advocating for black civil rights & voting rights.
- Fort Polk, Louisiana serves as a training facility and is home to the Joint Readiness Training Center, along with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division. It’s named after Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk who was a relatively unsuccessful general & was killed in combat during the Atlanta Campaign, but gained notoriety because of his pre-war job as an Episcopal Bishop in Louisiana.
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the largest military installation in the world by population, as it serves as a major active duty base for the XVIII Airborne Corps (including the 82nd Airborne Division), the 1st Special Forces Command, and is the headquarters of the Army Rangers. It’s named for Mexican-American War veteran and Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who owned slaves at his plantation and is widely considered to be one of the Civil War’s worst generals.
- Fort Hood, Texas is one of the largest military installations in the world by size & population, and serves as home to the 1st Cavalry Division. It’s named after Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, who after some successes early in the war was on the receiving end of decisive defeats at the hands of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.
- Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia is a training & maneuver center, and is used by all branches of the U.S. military. It’s named for Confederate Lieutenant General A.P. Hill, who was one of the more highly regarded generals from either side of the Civil War before he was killed in action at Petersburg, Virginia.
- Fort Lee, Virginia is home to the Combined Arms Support Command/Sustainment Center of Excellence, plus the Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation Schools. It’s named after Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee, who served 32 years in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War, led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to some successes that ranked him among the Civil War’s top generals, owned a large number of slaves on his plantation, and refused to accept racial equality after the war.
- Fort Pickett, Virginia is home to the Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center and is controlled by the Virginia National Guard. It’s named after Confederate Major General George Pickett, who was a career U.S. Army officer prior to the Civil War and is best remembered for leading the unsuccessful “Pickett’s Charge” at the Battle of Gettysburg.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: 307th Bomb Wing / Creative Commons)
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