Fort Liberty and Other New Monikers for Confederate-Named Bases
Some great suggestions, same lame ones, and some missed opportunities.
After months of work, the commission charged with recommending new names for US Army bases named after Confederate leaders and slaveholders has done its work. ABC News broke the story:
A blue-ribbon commission has recommended new names for nine Army bases named after Confederate leaders, including Fort Bragg, which will be recommended to be renamed Fort Liberty, the panel disclosed Tuesday.
The panel has recommended that another eight Army bases be renamed for a diverse group of individuals with ties to the Army.
ABC News was first to report the full list of recommended names by the Congressional Naming Commission created by Congress to suggest name changes by 2023 for U.S. military installations named after Confederate generals and leaders.
Congress and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin must approve the nine naming recommendations, although it remained unclear if Congress would be able to weigh in with names changes of its own before the list is submitted to Austin for final approval.
In a statement, Austin praised the commission’s recommendations that he said “reflect the courage, values, sacrifices, and diversity of our military men and women” and looked forward to seeing their final report later this year.
Members of the commission told reporters, at a virtual briefing held to disclose the names, that the panel’s eight members had unanimously supported the recommended name changes that began with 34,000 names submitted by the general public.
“One thing became clear, we found far, far more heroes than we had opportunities to name,” said Ty Seidule, a retired Army brigadier general and the vice chair of the commission that included four members chosen by the defense secretary and four members by Congress.
The panel has until Oct. 1 to finish its final report that will include suggested name changes for two Navy ships, the USS Maury and the USS Chancellorsville, as well as hundreds of street names on military bases.
If approved, the nine bases will include the first to be ever named for women or African Americans, a National Guard facility in Puerto Rico already had the distinction of being the first ever named for a Latino.
The other bases to be renamed are Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia and Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.
The panel has recommended that Fort Hood, Texas, be renamed after Richard E. Cavazos, the first Latino to reach the rank of a four-star general in the Army.
Fort Gordon, Georgia, will be renamed after Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army general who led all allied forces in Europe during World War II and later became president.
Fort Lee, Virginia, will be named after two individuals: Arthur Gregg, a former three-star general involved in logistics — the only living individual for whom a base will be named — and Charity Adams, the first African-American woman to be an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
Fort Pickett, Virginia, will be named after Van Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during World War II and is of Native American descent.
Overall, a solid set of recommendations.
Most controversial will be renaming Fort Bragg, arguably the most iconic base in the Army, “Fort Liberty.” It’s just a cop-out. Unless we’re going to stop naming bases after American heroes, on the not-unreasonable basis that they may be seen as less heroic through the eyes of later generations, then we should honor someone associated with the state, the base, or at least the Airborne or Special Forces communities. Goodness knows there is no shortage. Fort Richard Winters perhaps?
Fort Gregg-Adams is perhaps the most “meh” of the suggestions. It hits the diversity wicket, honoring two pioneering Black soldiers. But neither were war heroes or field commanders. Then again, maybe there’s something to be said for naming bases after historic but mostly-forgotten soldiers.
If living people are allowed, I can’t imagine a better replacement for Fort Benning than “Fort Ralph Puckett.” He’s an absolute legend among the Ranger community.
Given the obvious desire to commemorate minority “firsts,” I’m a bit surprised that “Fort Colin Powell” wasn’t among the suggestions. He’s a revered figure in the modern Army and was the first, and thus far only, Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. (Indeed, he served as Chairman decades before there was even a Black member of the Joint Chiefs.)
I would have loved to see Fort Belvoir, named after a slave plantation, renamed Fort George Washington, since it abuts Mount Vernon. It astounds me that there’s not a base named after our most important general and Founding Father. But, in the current climate, the fact that he owned slaves makes that too controversial.
Amusingly, I always thought Fort Bliss in El Paso was named after Confederate General Tasker Bliss and figured it could be renamed after General of the Army Omar Bradley, who lived there for decades. Alas, it turns out to have been named after Lt. Col. William Wallace Smith Bliss, Zachary Taylor’s chief of staff during the Mexican War and, indeed, had that name before the Civil War. (Which reinforces my longstanding point that most people have no idea who these bases are named after.)
Beyond the “Who got left out?” debate, there will be the inevitable “This is too woke” charge. Replacing Confederate generals with the names of Black, Hispanic, and women was obviously intentional. It will be too on-the-nose for some.