Army bases that honor Confederate traitors may soon be renamed for these heroes
WASHINGTON — During the Jim Crow era, nine Southern Army bases were named for traitorous Confederate generals who fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy. Now a commission established by Congress has suggested new names for bases that “embodied the best of the U.S. military and America”.
Fort Bragg in North Carolina would be renamed Fort Liberty, if the recommendations are approved by Congress. The other bases would honor some of the Army’s most distinguished heroes. Here are their stories:
Fort Johnson (Fort Polk, Louisiana)
sergeant. Henry Johnson
Pvt. Henry Johnson deployed to Europe during World War I in a black regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. The American armed forces were separated and the Hellfighters were not allowed to fight on the front lines with other American troops. Instead, black soldiers fought under the command of their French allies.
This placed Private Johnson and his unit in the front line, “against all odds – black Americans in French uniforms”, at dawn on May 15, 1918, as German troops overran his guard post at the edge of the Argonne forest, according to A biography provided by the naming committee.
Private Johnson threw grenades until he had no more to throw. Then he fired his rifle until it jammed. Then he hit the enemy soldiers with the butt of his rifle until he broke apart. Then he struck the enemy with his bolo knife.
After the Germans withdrew, daylight revealed that Private Johnson had killed four enemy soldiers and wounded about 10 to 20. He suffered 21 combat wounds.
For their actions, Private Johnson and his sentry on duty that night were the first Americans to be awarded the Military Cross, one of the highest French military distinctions. Almost a century later, President Barack Obama awarded posthumously Sergeant Johnson the Medal of Honor.
She served near the front lines at Fredericksburg and Chattanooga, and regularly crossed battle lines to treat civilians. She was arrested by Confederate forces in 1864 and traded for a Confederate surgeon four months later. After being denied an honorary military rank at the end of the war, Union generals successfully petitioned for her to receive Medal of Honor for his “patriotic zeal for the sick and wounded”.
Throughout her life, Dr. Walker has proudly presented herself as a gender nonconforming feminist. She refused to agree to “obey” her husband in his wedding vows and kept her last name, according to the National Park Service. She wore men’s clothes during the war, arguing that it made her job easier. After the war, she posed for pictures in a suit and a signature top hatoften with her Medal of Honor pinned to his lapel.
Fort Barfoot (Fort Pickett, Virginia)
Col. Van Barfoot
On May 23, 1944, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, Sgt. Van Barfoot single-handedly silenced three machine gun nests, disabled a German tank with a bazooka, blasted an artillery gun with a demolition charge, and took 17 enemy prisoners.
On top of everything else that day, he rescued two seriously injured American soldiers, leading them about a mile to safety.
“Any of these actions could deserve a high reward for bravery”, the naming commission wrote of Colonel Barfoot, a Choctaw soldier who received the Medal of Honor and touted in the media as a “one man army” for his actions that day.
He served 34 years in the military, including tours in Korea and Vietnam. Later in life, he again came to national attention for successfully fighting his homeowners association to keep an American flag flying in his front yard.
Fort Gregg-Adams (Fort Lee, Virginia)
Lieutenant General Arthur J. Gregg and Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley
Fort Gregg-Adams would honor two pioneering African-American support officers, Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley. The appointing commission noted the “too often unrecognized excellence” of the logistics and support units, many of which to this day are composed primarily of black troops.
Colonel Adams commanded the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalionsegregation Women’s Army Corps unit responsible for delivering mail to American soldiers during World War II. In 1945, the 6888th was sent to England and then to France – becoming the first major black female military unit to be deployed overseas – where it processed nearly two million pieces of mail every month.
At the end of the war, Colonel Adams was the highest ranked black woman in the military, according to a National Park Service biography.
At the height of his career, according to a Washington Post article, General Gregg was the highest ranking black officer in the Army, serving as Director of Logistics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Logistics in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also participates in the desegregation of the military installation which will partly bear his name and is one of the first black officers to join his officers’ club.
In February 1953, during the Korean War, Lieutenant Cavazos charged through enemy mortar and artillery fire, with “with complete disregard for his personal safetyto retrieve a wounded enemy soldier, earning the young officer a Silver Star. Three months later, Lieutenant Cavazos conducted three separate charges on enemy positions and returned to the field five times to save his wounded men, earning him his first Distinguished Service Cross.
In Vietnam in 1967, Colonel Cavazos again “completely ignored his own safetyand led a charge “with such force and aggression” that enemy combatants fled their positions, earning his second Distinguished Service Cross. Throughout his career, General Cavazos has also won other awards and citations, including two Legions of Merit, five Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
Fort Eisenhower (Fort Gordon, Georgia)
Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Africa and Europe during World War II – leading the liberation of north africathe invasion of italy and the D-Day landings. After the war, he was elected 34th President of the United Statesserving from 1953 to 1961.
Eisenhower rose through the ranks of the Army during the war, rising from lieutenant colonel in early 1941 to four-star general in February 1943. A year later, he became one of five officers ever named five-star “general of the Army.”
Fort Novosel (Fort Rucker, Alabama)
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Novosel Sr.
During two tours of duty in Vietnam, Michael Novosel Sr. rescued more than 5,500 wounded soldiers as a medical evacuation pilot, earning the Medal of Honor for a particularly heroic episode. One of those rescued soldiers was his own son, Michael Novosel Jr., an Army airman whose helicopter was shot down in 1970. (A week later, Michael Jr. returned the favor by saving his father of a broken down helicopter.)
Mr Novosel, the son of Croatian immigrantsjoined the Army Air Corps in 1941 and rose to the rank of captain in 1945, flying B-29 strategic bombers. He was then transferred to Newly created air force and remained in the reserves until the 1960s. When Mr. Novosel was denied an active duty assignment to serve in Vietnam, he relinquished his rank of lieutenant colonel and joined the army as a warrant officer and helicopter pilot.
During a rescue mission in 1969, Mr. Novosel rescued 29 South Vietnamese soldiers under heavy enemy fire. He and his crew were forced out of the landing zone six times and had to “circle and return from another direction to land and extract additional troops”, according to his medal of honor citation.
At the end of the day, his the helicopter had been riddled with bullets. In his own account of the episode during an interview with the Library of Congress, Mr. Novosel said he was shot in his right hand and leg during his final rescue of the day – causing him to momentarily lose control of the helicopter – but escaped with his crew and the last of his evacuees.
Fort Moore (Fort Benning, Georgia)
Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore and Julia Moore
Many Americans know Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore as the stern, resolute colonel played by Mel Gibson in “We were soldiers”, the gritty and dark war film which dramatized the years 1965 Battle of Ia Drang In Vietnam. The general’s wife, Julia, played by Madeleine Stowe in the film, played an important role on the home front during this battle.
On November 14, 1965, Colonel Moore led his 450 troops into the infamous X-Ray Landing Zone, where they were ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers who were 12 to 1 American. Bloody hand-to-hand fighting ensued, but Colonel Moore and his men held their positions for three days. Colonel Moore had sworn he would leave no one behind. He kept his promise and his actions earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
At the same time, Ms. Moore offered emotional support to the families of the dead and injured at Fort Benning. Death and injury notices were sent by telegram at the time, issued by taxi drivers. Ms Moore began accompanying the drivers and offering her condolences to the families. His complaints and concerns led to the creation of the Army Casualty Reporting Teams, and uniformed soldiers are now delivering news of death or injury to families.