What to rename the Army bases that honor Confederate soldiers


Ty Seidule is a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and professor emeritus of history at West Point. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause.”

Ten Army posts named during World Wars I and II honor men who fought for the Confederate States of America against the United States of America. These men committed treason to create a country dedicated to human enslavement. The posts must be renamed — as should another, in Virginia, given what its name honors.

But whom should the Army honor?

The number of Army heroes over the course of the service’s 245-year existence is enormous. Here are just a few suggestions, drawing on soldiers who represent the strength, values and diversity of the Army’s storied history.

These 11 individuals displayed extraordinary courage, competence and commitment. There are hundreds and hundreds of other worthy soldiers who could be honored. Our nation would not miss the names currently on these installations — and the Army has so many heroes to choose from.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Hood (Tex.) to Fort Murphy

During World War II, Audie Murphy received every award for valor given by the U.S. Army, plus honors from France and Belgium. Murphy received the Medal of Honor for mounting a flaming tank destroyer and manning a .50-caliber machine gun, wounding or killing 50 German soldiers, by himself. Today, senior noncommissioned officers compete to join the Audie Murphy Club, a recognition of excellence.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Polk (La.) to Fort Benavidez

After a terrible wound during his first tour of Vietnam, Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez volunteered to return in 1968 with his Special Forces unit. During “six hours in hell,” he saved the lives of eight fellow soldiers, for which he later received the Medal of Honor. At one point an enemy soldier stabbed Benavidez with a bayonet. Although grievously injured, Benavidez pulled the knife from his body, killed the man and continued his mission.

(The Washington Post)

Camp Beauregard (La.) to Camp Rubin

In every war, the United States has relied on immigrants to fight for our country. Born in Hungary, Tibor “Ted” Rubin survived the Mauthausen concentration camp before U.S. troops liberated him. After emigrating, he joined the Army. During the Korean War, Rubin received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly defending a hilltop for 24 hours against waves of enemy attacks. Seriously wounded, Rubin was captured and spent 30 months in a prisoner-of-war camp, where he also distinguished himself by stealing food from guards for his fellow prisoners.

Fort Rucker (Ala.) to Fort Novosel

This post is home to Army aviation. Michael Novosel served in World War II as a B-29 pilot, flew again in the Korean War and then gave up his Air Force commission to serve as an Army warrant officer in Vietnam. In 1969, Novosel received the Medal of Honor for conducting 15 “extremely hazardous” aeromedical evacuations under enemy fire, saving 29 soldiers.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Benning (Ga.) to Fort Baker

Vernon Baker tried to enlist in 1941, but a recruiter rejected him because he was African American. After he was later allowed to join the Army, 1st Lt. Baker took command of a platoon in the segregated 92nd Infantry Division. While leading an assault in Italy, he single-handedly took out five German positions. Although three-quarters of his platoon died in the fighting, Baker volunteered the next day to lead the battalion’s advance through a minefield. For his heroism, Baker received the Medal of Honor. He served the United States for more than a quarter-century, including in combat in Korea.

Fort Gordon (Ga.) to Fort Corbin

Like many women of that era, Margaret Corbin followed her husband into battle during the American Revolution. At Fort Washington, John Corbin manned an artillery piece protecting the evacuation of George Washington’s Continental Army from Manhattan in 1776. When an enemy round killed John, Margaret Corbin took over the gun and continued to fire until stopped by wounds in her arm, chest and jaw. She was captured, but Washington made his escape. Corbin was the first woman to receive a military pension from Congress.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Bragg (N.C.) to Fort Ridgway

Home of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division, this fort should honor Matthew Ridgway, who commanded both units during World War II. During the Korean War, Ridgway took command of the Eighth Army, which was reeling from Chinese assaults. In just two weeks, he had the Army back on the attack, defeating the enemy in battle after battle.

Fort A.P. Hill (Va.) to Fort Smith

During fighting in Iraq in 2003, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith protected an aid station from attack. When fellow soldiers found Smith’s body, there were 13 bullets lodged in his protective vest. A bullet to the neck finally killed him, but his troops survived. Smith received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Pickett (Va.) to Fort Thomas

Virginia has three Army posts named for West Point graduates who committed treason. The country should honor a Virginian who remained loyal to the U.S. flag during the Civil War. George Thomas earned a reputation as a stellar battlefield commander at Chickamauga and Franklin. When he chose to remain loyal to the United States, his family disowned him. Thomas showed the kind of moral courage the Army demands.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Lee (Va.) to Fort Young

Charles Young graduated from West Point in 1889. By 1917, he was the only black colonel on active duty. During World War I, he should have been promoted quickly, but President Woodrow Wilson and the War Department would not allow him to command white troops. To prove his fitness, Young rode his horse about 500 miles from Wilberforce, Ohio, to Washington. Despite this impressive showing, he was still forced to retire. So he rode 500 miles home. Young’s distinguished career for the United States continued in and out of uniform. Racism is the only reason Young did not become a senior officer. The country can acknowledge that error.

(The Washington Post)

Fort Belvoir (Va.) to Fort Grant

Who is Belvoir? Trick question. The answer is not a who but a what. Belvoir was the name of a slave plantation owned by a British loyalist. It burned to the ground in 1783. Few people realize that the post was called Camp A.A. Humphreys, for a Union general, until 1935. The fort is located only 15 miles south of the White House, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the change to appease Rep. Howard W. Smith (D-Va.), an avowed white supremacist. This name should be changed to Fort Grant, after Ulysses S. Grant, the finest officer to ever wear a U.S. Army uniform.

Washington Post illustrations, using photos from the Associated Press and the Library of Congress.

Read more:

Read letters in response to this piece: Don’t delay. Rename Army bases that honor Confederate soldiers.

What changes do you hope will come out of protests and debates about police and race? Write to The Post.

Harry Anderson: My experience at a Confederate-named Army base shows why we need to rename them all — now

Christine Emba: Memorials to white supremacy are falling. What will replace them?

David Von Drehle: Renaming military bases is not erasing history. It’s erasing propaganda.

The Post’s View: Trump won’t remove Confederate names from military bases. So Congress and the Pentagon should.

Robert W. Lee IV: Robert E. Lee is my ancestor. Take down his statue, and let his cause be lost.

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