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Renaming the bases
The military map will look a little bit different. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Wow, your responses to yesterday's newsletter were amazing. First off, I still don't think we've quite identified a single thing that literally everyone believes, but you had some very good suggestions. Also, we broke the record for "most daily comments," with 120 as of when I'm writing this.
Actually, today's newsletter topic seems extra-apt as a result of that. A bipartisan Congressional commission whose job is to come up with new names for U.S. military bases that were named after Confederate generals (basically as a political compromise a century or so ago), has unveiled its first recommendations.
In today's newsletter—since this has sort of a Memorial Day hook—let's look at who the bases were named for up until now, and how the commission recommends that they be renamed.
For some readers, this won’t be a big deal, but for some—especially who served at some of these bases in the U.S. military or who had friends or family members who did—I’ll bet it will seem a little surreal. (I’ve put together a map of them all, here.)
Currently known as Fort A.P. Hill and named after Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill, who was killed a little over a month before the end of the Civil War.
The fort will now be named for Dr. Mary Walker, who was the Army's first female surgeon, and who was awarded the Medal of Honor for her Civil War service. She’s still the only female recipient of the highest U.S. military honor.
Currently known as Fort Polk, and named after Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Polk was an Episcopal bishop before the war who also owned perhaps 1,000 slaves, and who was directly commissioned as a major general in the Confederate States Army. He died in combat in 1864.
The fort will now be named for Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a World War I hero and a member of the all-Black 369th Infantry Regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. Johnson was the first U.S. service member to be awarded the French Croix de guerre for valor, but he was ignored and died "poor and in obscurity" in 1929. In the late 1990s and early 2000s his record was revisited; he was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2015.
Currently known as Fort Bragg, this is the home of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne, and the army’s Special Operations Command. It's named after Braxton Bragg, a woefully inept Confederate general. (I wrote about Bragg and William Henry Johnson quite some time ago, here; fun fact about that article is that most of what I wrote came from Ulysses S. Grant’s 1885 autobiography.)
The fort will now be called Fort Liberty. It's not named after anyone; just named after "liberty." I will leave that as it is, without further comment.
Currently known as Fort Gordon, and named after John Brown Gordon, a slaveholding plantation owner with no military experience who was elected as a captain of an Alabama infantry company and eventually rose to become a major general. He survived the war, and eventually was elected governor and senator in Georgia.
The fort will now be named for President Dwight Eisenhower, who was of course the supreme commander of all Allied forces in Europe during World War II, and served two terms as president.
Currently known as Fort Hood, and named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. A West Point graduate, Hood had a mixed record as a combat leader, but his courage was undisputed. He was severely wounded several times, losing a leg and the use of one of his arms in battle, but remained in command until almost the end of the war.
The installation would now be named for Richard E. Cavazos, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross twice (once in Korea and once in Vietnam), and went on to become the first Mexican-American officer to reach the rank of full four-star general in the U.S. Army.
Currently known as Fort Lee, and named after Robert E. Lee, top commander of the Confederate Army.
This base is the home of the Army's Quartermaster Corps (supply). It would now be named for Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams, both of whom were Black. Gregg rose from private to become the top quartermaster general in the Army; Adams was the highest-ranking Black woman officer in World War II and ran the military postal service in Europe. (I believe Gregg is the only person on this list who is still living.)
Currently known as Fort Pickett, and named after Confederate General George Pickett, who is probably best-known now for the disastrous Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. (The charge wasn't Pickett's idea, and he was actually subordinate to another general, Major General James Longstreet, but it's Pickett's name attached to it anyway.)
The base would now be named for Van T. Barfoot, who enlisted in the Army as a private in World War II, was awarded the Medal of Honor for action in Italy, and went on to serve in both Korea and Vietnam, eventually retiring as a colonel.
Currently known as Fort Rucker, this is the home of Army aviation, and it's named after Confederate General Edmund Rucker, who was an engineer who enlisted in the Confederate States Army as a private and rose to major general before losing an arm in battle and being captured. After the war he apparently became quite wealthy.
The base would now be named for Michael J. Novosel. Novosel joined the Army Air Corps at age 19 and eventually became a pilot flying B-29 Superfortress bombers against Japan, and went on to serve in the Korean War.
Afterward, Novosel left the military and became an airline pilot, but asked to rejoin the military during Vietnam. He had to accept a demotion from lieutenant colonel to chief warrant officer to do so, and he became a helicopter pilot flying 2,543 medevac missions. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for one such mission, during which he returned 15 times under fire to rescue a total of 29 wounded soldiers.
Monday is Memorial Day. I think we're going to take the day off here. Of course, I have a history of saying I'll take a day off and then staying up until 2 a.m. to write a newsletter, but I'm pretty sure I mean it. I hope you all have a great weekend.
Also, in keeping with the true point of the day, I'd like to just mention five names that I try to share once a year: Lieutenant Todd Bryant, Captain Tim Moshier, Specialist Jacob Andrews, Chief Warrant Officer Sharon Swartworth, and Sgt. Major Cornell W. Gilmore.
7 other things worth knowing today
During World War II, a Jewish teenager from Vienna who arrived penniless as a refugee in England made the difficult decision to give up her newborn daughter for adoption. Eighty years later, on her 98th birthday, the two were reunited. Sonya Grist, now 80 and still living in England, flew to the assisted living center in Toronto where her 98-year-old birth mother, Gerda Cole, lives. It was Grist's son who did the research to track down Cole's story. (CBC)
Ray Liotta, widely known for his role as Henry Hill in the legendary Martin Scorsese crime film "Goodfellas," has died. He was 67. (Fox News)
Brands from the past: Redbox is set to be acquired in a $375 million deal by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. (Variety)
The mega-hit 'This is Us' had its finale this week. I can't say it was "my show" or anything, but I appreciate this interview in which show creator Dan Fogelman explains the years of planning that went into the final episode. Spoilers contained within the article, of course. (NPR)
NASA: "Something weird" is going on in space. (Direct quote; it has to do with the rate at which the universe is expanding.) (NASA)
The official story about what happened in the Texas school murders keeps changing. Authorities now say the murderer "lingered outside the building for 12 minutes firing shots" without being challenged by police. Separately, police reportedly cordoned off the school but left the shooter inside, while challenging parents who wanted to rescue their children themselves. One mother who was handcuffed by U.S. marshals but then let go while the shooting continued subsequently "jumped the school fence, ran inside and sprinted out with her kids." (WSJ)
There are so many heartbreaking stories out of Texas. Read this daughter's extremely human tribute to her mom, fourth-grade teacher Eva Mireles, who was murdered at Robb Elementary.
Thanks for reading. Photos: fair use & composite of Naming Commission photos. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.