Naming Army Installations

The Army indicated 08 June 2020 that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were open to a discussion about the idea renaming military bases bearing the names of renegade Confederate generals as the US continued to grapple with racial injustice. Proponents of changing the base names note they glorify a group that committed treason against the US, and exacerbate racial tensions because of the cause for which the individuals fought.

Retired Army General and former CIA chief David Petraeus wrote in the Atlantic magazine Tuesday that the time is now "to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our countrys most important military installations." He wrote "The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention. Now, belatedly, is the moment for us to pay such attention". Petraeus' writing comes as successive confederate monuments have been taken down through official directives and protester actions. Others have been vandalized by demonstrators, but not completely toppled.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany read a statement 10 June 2020 from President Trump: "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." Donald J. Trump tweeted "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!"

The naming of posts started as a tradition when the Army was young. In the Continental Army, many posts and camps were named by the commander or supervising engineer for high ranking officers, including those still living; for example, Fort Washington on the New York and Fort Lee on the New Jersey sides of the Hudson in 1776, Fort Putnam at West Point, or Fort Mifflin below Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Forts were also named for fallen heroes, such as Fort Mercer, built in 1777, on the New Jersey side of the Delaware opposite Fort Mifflin, named in honor of Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer who fell at Princeton in January of that year.

For much of the Army's history in the 19th Century, the naming of posts was still mainly a local prerogative. For example, War Department General Order Number 79, dated 8 November 1878, left the naming of installations to the commander of the regional Military Division in which the installation was located. Although not always, the names of installations usually reflected a local influence, such as Fort Apache in Arizona, established in 1871, and the Chickamauga Post in Georgia, established in 1902. In the 1890s, the then Quartermaster General, Maj. Gen. Richard N. Batchelder, recommended that the War Department assume responsibility for naming installations, but that did not become policy until World War I when the massive general mobilization saw the establishment of numerous installations of various sizes and functions. The names usually, but not always, reflected some regional connection to its location, and usually with a historic military figure significant to the area: for example, Camp Lee near Richmond, Virginia, and changing the name of the Chickamauga Post in Georgia to Fort Oglethorpe.

In the years between the World Wars, it became the common practice for the War Department to entertain recommended names for posts from installation commanders, corps and branch commanders, and the Historical Section Army War College, as well as from outside the Army. Public opinion and political Influence sometime weighed heavily on the decisions. For an example of the latter, when in 1928 the Army renamed Fort George G. Meade in Maryland as Fort Leonard Wood, the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress held up the Army's appropriation bill until the service agreed to restore the name of the Pennsylvania-born general. The regional connection, however, cannot be overemphasized. Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, for example, was originally named Camp Alfred Vail, in honor of the Army's then chief Signal Officer, when the installation was established as a Signal Corps training facility in 1917, but changed to Fort Monmouth, for the 1778 battle fought nearby, when it became a permanent installation in the 1920s.

In the southern states they were frequently named after celebrated Confederate soldiers. Although naming forts and camps after distinguished military veterans from both the U.S. and Confederate Armies had become a common practice, it was not the official policy until the publication of a War Department memorandum dated 20 November 1939. This memorandum stated that The War Department has enunciated a policy of naming military reservations in honor of deceased distinguished officers regardless of the arm or service in which they have served. In the years 1939-1946, almost all military installations designated as forts or camps were named after distinguished military individuals, including veterans of the Confederate Army.

The United States currently operates 10 military installations across the country named for Confederate figures: Camp Beauregard, LA; Fort A.P. Hill, VA; Fort Benning, GA; Fort Bragg, NC; Fort Gordon, GA; Fort Hood, TX; Fort Lee, VA; Fort Pickett, VA; Fort Polk, LA; and Fort Rucker, AL. Changing the names of these bases seemed more than reasonable to some, especially given that the contemporary United States military is the successor of the Union Army, not the defeated and defunct Confederate Army. Surely there are many other worthy persons for whom these bases could be named.

The Southern writer William Faulkner observed that "the past is not dead. It is not even past." Nowhere is this point better illustrated than the controversy over the public use and display of Confederate names and symbols. In separate works, historians David Blight, Thomas Brown, Cecilia O'Leary, and James Loewen argued that late-19th century efforts at national "reconciliation" between North and South required the South could only be reconciled if the efforts of its troops were honored.

California Senate SJR 15, as amended 15 July 2015, urged Congress and the President of the United States to rename federal buildings, parks, and properties currently named for elected or military leaders of the Confederate States of America. The author maintained that the Confederacy and its secessionist movement was rooted in the defense of race-based slavery; that Confederate names and symbols are offensive and painful to those living under the legacy of slavery; and that the continued use of Confederate names is at odds with California's values of racial equality and tolerance.

On 07 August 2017, the U.S. Army denied requests by community leaders and legislators to remove the names of two Confederate Generals from streets on its Fort Hamilton Army Base, claiming that renaming the streets would be "controversial and divisive." The streets - Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue - are named for leaders in the Confederate army who fought to protect slavery.

On 21 August 2017 Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urging him to begin the process of renaming military installations across the country that are named for Confederate figures. The letter was co-signed by 21 other Members, including House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09).

As a veteran, I know what a high honor it is to have military installations named for heroic Americans, Said Thompson. It is an honor that no Confederate figure should enjoy. Their actions and ideology were repugnant and they should not be celebrated by the country they fought to dissolve.

The 22 Members note that these installations are named for individuals who do not represent the best of the United States Military, and they call on Secretary Mattis to use his power as the Secretary of Defense to rename the installations.

Several of our installations bear the name of figures who fought against our Nation as part of the Confederacy. These designations only serve to promote a dark and divisive time in our history and do not uphold the best of our country, the Members wrote. In your role as Secretary, we ask that you begin a process to reevaluate the naming of these installations and develop a plan to rename them to better honor the true spirit of our Nation.

Most Americans associate the Edmund Pettus Bridge with any historical person or event, they associate it with one of the key events of the modern Civil Rights movement: the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, to pressure President Lyndon Johnson to support, and Congress to enact, what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Americans may be less familiar, however, with the fact that Edmund Pettus was a Confederate general and a leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. In recognition of the role that the bridge and the Selma March played securing passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Edmund Pettus Bridge has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The Alabama NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center called for the removal of Confederate names from public schools and other public places in Alabama - including, apparently, from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. However, Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis - who marched with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and was beaten by Alabama peace officers for his efforts - believed that the name of the bridge should not be changed because subsequent history has created a new meaning and association.

United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) on 11 June 2020 sent a letter urging President Donald Trump to support the bipartisan SASC-adopted proposal to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and anyone who voluntarily served it from bases and other property of the U.S. military.

SASCs FY2021 NDAA includes a version of her amendment requiring the Pentagon to remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America and anyone who voluntarily served it from all military bases and other assets of the Department of Defense. The Pentagon must rename the assets within 3 years. Under the provision adopted by the Committee, assets for removal are defined as any base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment, or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense. The proposal also creates a process for identifying all military assets where the Confederacy is honored and implementing this new removal requirement.

Tucker Carlson spoke out 12 June 2020 against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and her push to remove the names of Confederate leaders from all US military bases and other assets. Carlson noted Warren's amendment would call for the Army to tear down a monument to Confederate soldiers in Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery. The Office of Army Cemeteries (OAC), consisting of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and Soldiers and Airmens Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., is under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Army.

Shortly after World War II, in 1946, the Army established the Army Memorialization Board. Governed by Army Regulation (AR) 15-190, Boards, Commissions, and Committees: Department of the Army Memorialization Board, it assumed responsibility for deciding on the names of posts and other memorial programs and the criteria for naming them. The regulation stated that all those individuals memorialized must be deceased and fall within one of five categories:

  1. a national hero of absolute preeminence by virtue of high position,
  2. an individual who held a position of high and extensive responsibility (Army and above) and whose death was a result of battle wounds,
  3. an individual who held a position of high and extensive responsibility and whose death was not a result of battle wounds,
  4. an individual who performed an act of heroism or who held a position of high responsibility and whose death was a result of battle wounds, and
  5. an individual who performed an act of heroism or who held a position of high responsibility and whose death was not a result of battle wounds.

On 8 December 1958, AR 1-30, Administration: Department of the Army Memorialization Program superseded AR 15-190, and removed responsibility for naming installations from the Memorialization Board and transferred it to Headquarters, Department of the Army. In turn, AR 1-33, Administration: Memorial Programs superseded AR 1-30 on 1 February 1972. This revision retained the same memorialization criteria and categories as the previous regulation, but added a list of appropriate memorialization projects for each category. For example, it would be appropriate to name a large military installation after a person in category two, while it would be appropriate to name a building or a street after a person in category five. The final decision on naming a post was still made by the Headquarters, Department of the Army. The 15 January 1981 revision of AR 1-33 named the Army Chief of Staff as the responsible individual for the naming of installations.

The current AR 1-33 became effective on 30 June 2006, and redefined and expanded the categories of individuals to be memorialized, and listed appropriate memorialization programs for each category. The naming of installations is now the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). The Director of the Installation Management Agency is responsible for the naming of streets, buildings, and facilities on all military installations except medical installations, where the Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command has the approval authority, and on the United States Military Academy, where the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy has the approval authority.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 18:03:21 ZULU