The name Fort Bragg and the North Carolina base's commemoration of a Confederate officer could soon be a thing of the past after a long-expected recommendation to rename it Fort Liberty was unveiled Tuesday.
Fort Hood, Texas, would also become Fort Cavazos, after an Army hero in the Korean and Vietnam wars,and Fort Benning, Georgia, would be Fort Moore. Six other bases across the country would get new names under the proposal by an independent commission created by Congress to scrap those chosen to honor troops who fought for the South and slavery during the Civil War.
The Naming Commission's recommendations come after a year of work and visits to base communities, but the proposed names must now go to Congress and be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The changes aren't expected to be finalized until 2024, and a report on the renaming of other property, such as ships, and the total cost will be turned over to lawmakers in October.
Bragg was the only facility to get a proposed name that is abstract and not connected to a figure in military history. Other new names would honor military figures such as Dwight Eisenhower, the Army general and president; Mary Edwards Walker, who served as a medic during the Civil War; and Van T. Barfoot, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Italy during World War II as a technical sergeant.
"We got our input from all the communities on all these names, to include Fort Bragg," said Lawrence Romo, a member of the Naming Commission, who briefed the press on the proposals. "They had their military, the civilians and the committee leaders there, and the invited guests at Fort Bragg for our second listening session were very, very adamant about the name Fort Liberty."
The concept of liberty is deeply tied to the American military and the base, including a mention in the 82nd Airborne song, said retired Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, the commission's vice chairman.
"In the 21st century, Fort Liberty symbolizes the U.S. Army's defense of that which we hold most dear," Seidule said, describing the reason for the choice.
The choice for Fort Hood honors Gen. Richard Cavazos, a sixth-generation Texas native who led a company of Puerto Rican soldiers in the Korean War and who later led an infantry battalion during the Vietnam War. Benning gets its proposed name from Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who led men in the Ia Drang valley during the Vietnam War, and his wife Julia, who prompted the Pentagon to create casualty notification teams who handle notifications when family members are killed in service.
Congress created the commission in the annual defense authorization bill passed in January 2021 amid a simmering national debate on Confederate monuments and history. It reached out to the public for suggested names and received 34,000 submissions, then pared that down to 87 before the final selection for bases.
Names that didn't make the cut: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. Omar Bradley, Audie Murphy, and Harriet Tubman, among others.
Here is the complete list of base recommendations the commission released Tuesday:
- Fort Benning, Georgia -- Fort Moore
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina -- Fort Liberty
- Fort Gordon, Georgia -- Fort Eisenhower
- Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia -- Fort Walker
- Fort Hood, Texas -- Fort Cavazos
- Fort Lee, Virginia -- Fort Gregg-Adams after two Black service members, Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg, a supply logistician who helped desegregate the Army, and Lt. Col. Charity Adams, who oversaw mail distribution in Europe during World War II
- Fort Pickett, Virginia -- Fort Barfoot
- Fort Polk, Louisiana -- Fort Johnson after Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black soldier in World War I who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015
- Fort Rucker, Alabama -- Fort Novosel after Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel Sr., an Army aviator during the Vietnam War who flew 2,543 extraction missions and rescued more than 5,500 wounded soldiers
The commission said it had also considered renaming Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which in 1935 was named after a plantation that was once there, but decided it did not meet the criteria.
Austin, the first Black defense secretary, will make the final call and issued a statement recognizing the "commission's efforts to propose nine new installation names that reflect the courage, values, sacrifices, and diversity of our military men and women."
About 750 pieces of military property were also flagged by the commission in March for links to Confederate history and could soon get recommendations for new names. They include ships, roads and historical items at Army, Navy and Air Force bases in a dozen states.
The Navy ships being considered are the USS Shiloh and Chancellorsville, as well as the USNS Maury, a survey ship. Army landing craft utility ships Mechanicsville, Malvern Hill, Harpers Ferry, Aldie and Chickahominy are also under consideration.
The many new names are likely to have a wide impact where bases such as Bragg are key fixtures in local heritage and the local economy, where the cost of rebranding could fall on civilian citizens. The commission said it plans to raise the issue with lawmakers, but they will be limited.
"We heard from every community that they were concerned about the cost associated [with] this. Unfortunately, we're only allowed to take up the costs of what will be affected by the Department of Defense," Seidule said. "However, we will ensure that in our report that we give the feedback to Congress about the costs associated with this outside the gates."
-- Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the war in which Johnson served.
-- Travis Tritten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.