The home of the 82nd Airborne Division would become Fort Liberty, North Carolina, under recommendations a Pentagon commission made last week for recognizing nine Army Bases currently referencing Confederate leaders.
The names will appear in the Naming Commission’s final report to Congress due Oct. 1.
The defense secretary will be charged with implementing the changes by January 2024, but the Defense Department has told Congress the Pentagon requires additional authorities for completing the process.
“The Naming Commission sought to find names that would be inspirational to the soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them,” said retired Adm. Michelle Howard, the panel chair, in a statement.
“We realized that we had more heroes than we did bases to name,” Howard continued. “And we were overwhelmed with the greatness of the American soldier — from those who gave their entire adult lives to the Army, to those who sacrificed themselves in valorous acts. We were reminded that courage has no boundaries by man-made categories of race, color, gender, religion or creed.”
For more than a year, the commission collected recommendations from the public and groups associated with each of the bases on what potential changes should occur.
The final list recommends:
- Fort Rucker, Alabama, be renamed Fort Novosel in honor of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Novosel, an Army aviator who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Kien Tuong Province, Vietnam.
- Fort Benning, Georgia, be renamed Fort Moore in honor of Vietnam War hero Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia, an advocate for military families.
- Fort Gordon, Georgia, be renamed Fort Eisenhower after President Dwight Eisenhower, who was also an Army general.
- Fort Polk, Louisiana, be renamed Fort Johnson in commemoration of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a member of the famed “Harlem Hellfighters” from the New York Guard. Johnson earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in France’s Argonne Forest during World War I.
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina, be renamed Fort Liberty.
- Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, be renamed Fort Walker in honor of Dr. Mary Walker, a Civil War hero and the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
- Fort Lee, Virginia, be renamed Fort Gregg-Adams in commemoration of Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams. Gregg, who retired in 1981, is considered one of the Army’s great logistics leaders of the 20th century. Adams commanded the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only all-Black, all-female American battalion deployed overseas during World War II.
- Fort Pickett, Virginia, be renamed Fort Barfoot in commemoration of Army Tech. Sgt. Van Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Carano, Italy, while serving with the National Guard’s 45th Infantry Division during World War II.
- Fort Hood, Texas, be renamed Fort Cavazos in commemoration of Gen. Richard Cavazos, who fought in Korea and Vietnam and was the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general.
Every name but “Liberty” appeared on a list of 87 potential changes the commission released in March.
Panel members told multiple news outlets community members coalesced around the “Liberty” moniker late in the process before powerfully recommending the idea.
Supporters cited the term “liberty” featuring prominently in the history and mottos of the installation’s units.
The 82nd AD’s route from Normandy, France east toward Germany in World War II also forms part of the commemorative “Liberty Road” featuring painted kilometer markers with a prominent image of a torch, according to Army Times.
The post is additionally home to Army Special Operations Command. The Army’s Special Forces branch’s Latin motto — De Oppresso Liber — is traditionally translated “to liberate the oppressed."
Social media responses to the recommendations have been mixed, with some preferring alternative names and others rejecting the process.
Congressional reaction has been limited, but at least one major lawmaker has commented on the issue. Last week, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., praised the recommendations as “a first step in addressing Confederate symbolism in the U.S. military."
Created by the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the commission is authorized to recommend new names for military assets — installations, ships, buildings, roads, etc. — honoring Confederate States of America leaders.
The commission’s full name is the Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.
For more information on the commission, including additional details on the recommended base names, visit www.thenamingcommission.gov.
- By John Goheen