Fort Bragg could be renamed to Fort Liberty in push to remove Confederate names from Army bases

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Fort Liberty proposed as new name for Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg may soon be known as Fort Liberty, in an effort to remove names of Confederate leaders from places of esteem in the U.S. military.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- An independent commission on Tuesday recommended new names for nine Army posts that commemorated Confederate officers, including the change of Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Liberty.

The recommendations are the latest step in a broader effort by the military under the Biden Administration to confront racial injustice, most recently in the aftermath of the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Fort Bragg in North Carolina is currently named after Gen. Braxton Bragg, a senior Confederate Army general. It would be renamed as Fort Liberty, the only one of the bases named after a concept, with eight others being renamed mostly after individuals with ties to Army history.

SEE ALSO: The history behind the naming of Fort Bragg as Pentagon considers renaming base

Fort Bragg is named after Warrenton native, Braxton Bragg, who was a general in the Confederate Army.

At VFW Post 6018 in Fayetteville, veterans shared their reactions to the name change.

"I can see the significance of people wanting it passed and I would fully support changing the name to something other than Braxton Bragg," said Jack Pines, who spent the bulk of his career at Fort Bragg.

Bragg was originally from Warrenton and served as a U.S. Army artillery commander prior to the Civil War.

"I never found (the name) odd because of where it is. It's here in North Carolina. You can drive up 95, how many miles up 95, you can see the (Confederate) flag," said Pines.

Benjimen Washington, who also served in the military, added: "People realized it 50 years ago but they never wanted to discuss it. Except keep what they had."

Last year, Congress passed legislation to rename all US military installations named after Confederate leaders by 2023.

"There's always a time for change, and we're going to leave it like that. Because what happened in the past happened, but now we got a chance to change it," said Washington.

Others embraced the name Liberty.

"There's a reason why liberty is written in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, set on to our currency and germane to our national symbols, statues and monuments," said Ty Seidule, a Retired US Army Brigadier General who serves on The Naming Commission. "Throughout our history, liberty remains the greatest value. Ever since the nation created a standing army to provide for the common defense, that army's greatest battles have been for liberty. In the Revolutionary War, United States soldiers fought to establish liberty for our nation. In the Civil war, they fought to achieve liberty for all Americans. And in the second World War, they fought to expand liberty throughout much of the world.

"This post is home of the Airborne and Army Special Forces," he added. "The 82nd Airborne Song, which I sang so proudly when stationed there, has a line that says 'We're All-American' and proud to be. For we're the soldiers of liberty.' And liberty anchors the Special Forces motto as well,"

Seidule said The Naming Commission received more than 34,000 recommendations and engaged directly with communities surrounding each of the nine sites.

Off-camera, two veterans disagreed with the push to change the name, which has been in place since 1918, with one pointing to the financial costs of doing so.

"Part of our remit to Congress is to give a complete accounting of the costs. We don't have that ready yet, but we will in the final report, which is due to Congress on Oct. 1," said Seidule, who explained from there, that it would go to the Secretary of Defense, who has the authority to formally direct the renaming.

The list recommends naming bases for the first time after women and Black soldiers.

Fort Polk, in Louisiana, would be renamed Fort Johnson, after Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black Medal of Honor recipient who served in the Army in World War I.

Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia would be renamed Fort Walker, after Mary Edwards Walker, a doctor who treated soldiers in the Civil War and later received a Medal of Honor.

The other bases to be renamed are Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia and Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.

The panel has recommended that Fort Hood, Texas, be renamed after Richard E. Cavazos, the first Latino to reach the rank of a four-star general in the Army.

Fort Gordon, Georgia, will be renamed after Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army general who led all allied forces in Europe during World War II and later became president.

Fort Lee, Virginia, will be named after two individuals: Arthur Gregg, a former three-star general involved in logistics -- the only living individual for whom a base will be named -- and Charity Adams, the first African-American woman to be an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

Fort Pickett, Virginia, will be named after Van Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during World War II and is of Native American descent.

Fort Benning, Georgia, will be renamed after Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, a pioneer in the Air Cavalry whose Vietnam-era story was memorialized in the book and movie, "We Were Soldiers."

Fort Rucker, Alabama, will be named after Michael Novosel, a Medal of Honor recipient who flew combat aircraft in World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

For years, U.S. military officials had defended the naming of bases after Confederate officers. As recently as 2015 the Army argued that the names did not honor the rebel cause but were a gesture of reconciliation with the South.

But in the aftermath of the Floyd killing, and the months of racial unrest that followed, Congress pushed for a comprehensive plan to rename the military posts and hundreds of other federal assets such as roads, buildings, memorials, signs and landmarks that honored rebel leaders.

The change in the military's thinking was reflected in congressional testimony by Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a month after Floyd's death. He said that the base names can be reminders to Black soldiers that rebel officers fought for an institution that may have enslaved their ancestors.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin - the nation's first Black Pentagon chief - has spoken bluntly of his own personal brushes with racism. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he told of serving as a lieutenant colonel with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg when three white soldiers, described as self-styled skinheads, were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who were walking down the street.

Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinheads and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views.

The current chief of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, posted an emotional video last June in which he discussed the difficulties he experienced as a young Black pilot. Brown, the first Black Air Force chief, says he had to work extra hard in order to prove to white supervisors "that their expectations and perceptions of African-Americans were invalid."

Created in 2020, the Naming Commission first met in March 2021 and began taking name recommendations from the public in September. Overall, the commission received more than 34,000 potential names, which it said included about 3,670 unique ones that could possibly be used. That list was later narrowed to about 100 names before the final nine were chosen to be recommended to Congress.

At the time, the commission said its mandate was to select names that "appropriately reflected the courage, values, sacrifices and demographics of the men and women in our armed forces, with consideration given to the local or regional significance of names and their potential to inspire and motivate service members."

The panel also is considering new names for two Navy ships: the USS Chancellorsville and USNS Maury.

A final report is due to Congress by Oct. 1 and will include the costs of removing and changing the names. Under the law, the secretary of defense is expected to implement the commission's plan no later than Jan. 1, 2024.

ABC11's Michael Perchick and The Associated Press contributed to this report.