Senate Defense Bill Would Start Process of Renaming Military Assets Named After Confederates - Are You in Favor?
Are you in favor of renaming military assets named after Confederates?
by Countable | 6.30.20
What’s the story?
- The Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 this week, and it includes a plan for removing names and other displays commemorating the Confederate States of America from military installations.
- The plan was offered and adopted as one of 229 bipartisan amendments to the NDAA, which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee on a bipartisan 25-2 vote. If enacted, the plan may result in the renaming of 10 Army bases named after former Confederates and one Navy ship.
- 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.
How does the NDAA deal with Confederate base names & relics?
- The bill would establish a commission within the Dept. of Defense (DOD) to study & provide recommendations about the removal of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America.
- The commission would develop an implementation plan, cost estimate, and criteria for renaming, among other procedures.
- The implementation plan would go into effect three years after the enactment of this legislation, and would include procedures for collecting & incorporating local sensitivities associated with naming or renaming DOD assets.
- The bill would exempt grave markers from the removal requirement, so it intends to prevent disturbing the grave sites of men who fought for the Confederacy. The commission would be tasked with further defining what constitutes a grave marker, but the bill clarifies that monuments wouldn’t be covered by the exception for grave markers.
- The bill would allow the renaming of any base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, place, weapon, equipment, or any other DOD property. Some of the higher profile bases & vessels that could be renamed can be found below.
What 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, opposed Reconstruction as a Democratic lawmaker in the U.S. Senate & as Governor of Georgia, and was alleged to be a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Camp Beauregard, Louisiana serves as a training facility for the Louisiana National Guard and provides support to the DOD. 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. Lee was a slaveowner who expressed some ambivalence toward the institution of slavery, but after the Civil War generally opposed Reconstruction & efforts toward racial equality.
- 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.
- The USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) is a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser in the U.S. Navy. It’s named for the Battle of Chancellorsville, which was fought near the village of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Chancellorsville was a tactical victory for the Confederates and historians regard it as General Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” because his decision to divide his forces despite being outnumbered 2-to-1 by Union forces led to victory. It’s also regarded as a Pyrrhic victory because the Confederate forces suffered severe casualties, including the death of Lt. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which hurt the Confederate cause two months later at the Battle of Gettysburg ― a Union victory that decisively turned the tide of the Civil War.
- The USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) is a Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship. It's named after Commander Matthew Maury, the "Father of Modern Oceanography", who resigned from the U.S. Navy to join the Confederacy. Maury spent most of the Civil War in Europe acquiring ships & supplies for the Confederacy and trying to persuade other nations to intervene to stop the Civil War. He also designed a naval mine that destroyed numerous Union vessels.
What might the renaming criteria be?
- The bill leaves the determination of renaming criteria up to the commission aside from requiring that it include a process for receiving input from communities near installations & incorporating their sensibilities.
- In the case of the Army bases, it’s possible that the commission will direct that bases be renamed in accordance with U.S. Army policy which stipulates that installations in the U.S. be named after deceased distinguished individuals. While the Army’s procedures for base naming have evolved over time, under the current policy the Army names installations in the U.S. after deceased U.S. Presidents, deceased Army Chiefs of Staff, and deceased 5-star generals of the Army.
- With that in mind, some possible candidates from the World War II era include, for example, Army chief of staff & 5-star General Omar Bradley, Supreme Allied Commander & President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army chief of staff & 5-star General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, and commander of the 82nd Airborne Division & later Army Chief of Staff General Matthew Ridgway.
- In the case of the USS Chancellorsville, all but one of the ships within the Ticonderoga-class are named after noteworthy events in U.S. military history and of the 27 completed ships (22 of which are still active), 14 shared names with aircraft carriers built in the World War II era.
- Six other Ticonderoga-class ships, the USS Antietam, USS Gettysburg, USS Mobile Bay, USS Port Royal, USS Shiloh, & USS Vicksburg, were named after sites of Civil War battles in which the Union was victorious.
- In the case of the USNS Maury, the ships within the Pathfinder-class are generally named after individuals who made scientific discoveries or participated in significant events in geographic exploration.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Fish Cop. - Blashfield Sign Company / Public Domain)
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