Confederate statues and memorials are the center of a heated debate throughout the country. Now 10 major U.S. Army bases that are named after Confederate soldiers is thrown into the mix.
All 10 U.S. military bases — including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort Benning in Georgia — named for Confederate soldiers are located in the South.
Prior to this month’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., the most recent time the names of Army bases were strongly debated was in 2015, after the slaying of nine black church members in Charleston, S.C.
At that time, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told Time there was “no discussion” regarding changing the names.
Base names are based on “individuals, not causes or ideologies,” public affairs chief Army Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost said in 2015, adding that each base “is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history.”
But according to Politico, on Friday, a group of mostly African-American Democrats in the House proposed legislation that would require the defense secretary to rename any military property “that is currently named after any individual who took up arms against the United States during the American Civil War or any individual or entity that supported such efforts.” They argued that the names undermine the military’s commitment to American values of “freedom, equality, and democratic governance.”
The office of the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, said that he too he supports renaming bases named for Confederates.
“There are no bases in Germany named for Hitler or Goering,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader and former Democratic candidate for president, said in an interview Friday, referring to the Nazi leaders defeated in World War II.
Jackson, whose Rainbow PUSH Coalition has been active in Charlottesville since the deadly clashes last weekend, said leaders of the Confederacy similarly should not be memorialized. “The losers of that horrendous war are symbols of the vanquished, to be studied but not to be glorified.”
But for now, the Pentagon has no plans to rename the bases. “We do not comment on pending legislation,” said Navy Cmdr. Patrick Evans, a department spokesman.
A number of the bases got those names in the early and mid-20th century, at a time when military leaders needed to fill the ranks and relied heavily on Southern states. Some were named in the lead-up to World War I and others on the cusp of American entry into World War II. Many of the names were put forward by the states, and the Army, in desperate need of manpower, agreed.
“I think the Army doesn’t want to get out too far ahead,” said George Eaton, a retired Army officer who is now a historian at the Army’s Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Illinois. “Let’s take Robert E. Lee. He was a great officer before 1861 and there are things he did we should remember. Do we expunge his entire record? Or do we find a way to reconcile what he did for the nation but not celebrate him?”
The other seven Army bases named for Confederate soldiers are Fort Rucker in Alabama; Fort Gordon in Georgia; Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; and Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.
What do you think about the debate? Do you feel the Army bases should change their names or keep them as they are?