“Quite intense”: the public offers 27,000 suggestions – including some attacks – to rename the military bases which now honor the Confederates

There are 10 U.S. Army positions named after men who were Confederate generals during the Civil War. Top row, left to right: Braxton Bragg, George Edward Pickett, Henry Benning, AP Hill and Leonidas Polk. Bottom row, left to right: John Brown Gordon, John Bell Hood, Robert E. Lee, Edmund Rucker and Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. ()

Among more than 27,000 public submissions of new names for army bases now honoring Confederate generals, there were a number of “fairly intense” proposals that disparaged the Congress-mandated name change process, a declared Thursday the head of the commission in charge of the effort.

“There are people who are clearly opposed [to renaming bases named for Confederates] and the verbiage they used is quite deliberate, ”said Michelle Howard, retired Navy Admiral and Chairman of the Naming Commission. “They make it clear that they do not support the commission.”

Howard said the majority of suggestions would be considered, including 5,000 names submitted multiple times by members of the public. The eight-member commission, which began its work in the spring, is tasked with providing recommendations to Congress by October 2022. Lawmakers will then ask the Secretary of Defense to change the names of bases, ships, buildings and other assets. military personnel commemorating Confederation.

In addition to at least nine Army bases, Howard estimated there were thousands of items in the Army that could be changed.

The commissioners spent the summer months visiting several army bases named in honor of Confederate generals and other military institutions with articles related to the Confederates, Howard said. They met with military and civilian leaders – including elected officials, business leaders and local non-governmental organizations – in these communities to hear first-hand from those who would be most affected by the name changes.

Most of the meetings went well, she said, although people often expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision to change the names.

“There are those who took the opportunity to confide a little in the commission and made it clear… they feel that this is part of the history of the region, and they are very connected with the history of the area, ”Howard said. “But, in the end, they understand that the law has already been written – that it is not a decision of the commission, that this decision has already been made by Congress.”

Congress mandated the commission in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, which sets annual spending and political priorities for the Department of Defense, as military and Pentagon leaders began the last year stripping the basics of Confederation-related names amid a national racial calculation after the Memorial Day murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Then-President Donald Trump vetoed the law, opposing the name change commission, but Congress overturned the veto.

The army installations in question, all located in former Confederate states, were named in the 1910s and 1940s during the Jim Crow era in the south. These are Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort AP Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama and Fort Hood in Texas. Camp Beauregard in Louisiana was also named in honor of a Confederate general, but it belongs to that state’s National Guard and it is not within the purview of the commission to rename it, officials said in May. .

The commission is also considering whether it should suggest renaming Fort Belvoir in Virginia, Howard said. This army facility just outside of Washington was first named after General Andrew A. Humphreys who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was renamed in 1935 in honor of the family who owned the plantation where the facility is located today.

Howard said the commission will determine whether this previous name change was related to the honor of Confederation in any way. She said the panel tasked historians with looking for clear evidence of the decision to rename the post.

The retired admiral spoke to reporters on Thursday after briefing members of the House and Senate armed services committee of the committee’s position. After several months of work, she said she finally understood why Congress had given the committee nearly two years to complete its work.

Among the details the commissioners provided to Congress on Thursday was an early estimate of the costs that would be associated with renaming the military facilities, Howard said. However, she said these were rough numbers and declined to provide further information about them.

She also seemed dismissive of some suggestions to rename certain facilities for different people with the same last names as the Confederate generals for whom the names of the bases now honor.

For example, Wisconsin State Senator Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, suggested in May that Fort Bragg be renamed for a cousin of its current namesake, Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Lawmakers suggested the post could simply honor Braxton’s cousin, Union General Edward Bragg, originally from Wisconsin.

“Any name that is provided to us, we’re going to take it into consideration and work our way… down the names and then come up with a final list that we can consider,” Howard said. “I’ll tell you, though, that there were members of the communities we met who stood up and said, ‘If you do that – if you use the same name, even with a different human in a context. different, then you’re almost nullifying ”what they thought was the intent of the law.

“So I took that to heart – hearing people in the community say it. “

Howard said the public submissions included names that would honor women and people of color and the like. She said Sherman and Benavidez were among the most common names submitted. Sherman would honor Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was perhaps most famous for his 1864 scorched earth march through Georgia. Benavidez would honor Staff Sgt with the Green Beret. Roy Benavidez, who received the Medal of Honor for Bravery in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. She didn’t link any names to a specific base on Thursday, but Benavidez’s name has been publicly suggested for Fort Hood.

The commission will accept public suggestions for military installations until December 1. She looks for names that commemorate individuals, high-level military operations, geographic locations, or core military values. Suggestions can be submitted at www.thenamingcommission.gov.

Corey dickstein



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