I have yet to speak to a fellow veteran who cares as much as draft dodger-cum-chicken hawk Trump about preserving the names of our nine military bases named after traitors to the United States plus one named after a slave plantation (Fort Belvoir). His true disdain for the armed forces, which he covers up with bromides about “our great military” was starkly revealed when he told Fox interviewer Chris Wallace: “I don’t care what the military says” in response to Wallace’s question about the Pentagon’s support for changing base names.
Trump’s resistance to doing the right and decent thing—big surprise there—is premised on his frantic attempt to hold onto the white supremacist component of his base and agitate them sufficiently so that they won’t forget to cast their ballots for him in November.
Trump cannot roadblock this long-overdue righting of a grievous wrong. At best, he can merely delay it until a sane, sober, rational and competent president succeeds him. When that happens, here are a few suggestions for base names that meet the criterion in Army Regulation 1-33, which states that installations may be named after “deceased distinguished individuals.”
- Fort Tubman—Everyone knows her heroic role in the Underground Railroad. Few people know that she led Union troops on raids in South Carolina during the Civil War
- Fort Parker—General Ely Parker was a Native American (Seneca) and principal aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War. He is credited with drawing up the surrender terms that Robert E. Lee agreed to at Appomattox.
- Fort Barton—Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. Before that, she ministered to Union troops under fire at multiple civil war battles. At Antietam, she arrived on the battlefield and performed her work under withering fire before the Union medics arrived on the scene.
- Fort Lincoln—Surely the father of the Emancipation Proclamation deserves a base named after him.
- Fort Hale—Nathan Hale was a 20-year old American spy who was captured and hung by the British during the Revolutionary War. His last words: “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Aside: It would also make sense for Yale University, named after slave owner and trader Elihu Yale, to change its name to “Hale University” after this distinguished graduate whose statue is one of the first things to greet entering freshman when they arrive on campus.
- Fort Truman—President Harry Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces and served with distinction in World War I as an artillery officer.
- Fort Gavin—General James Gavin commanded the 82d Airborne Division in World War II, was a D-Day hero and worked to desegregate the military.
- Fort Carney—William Harvey Carney was the first African-American soldier to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his Civil War heroics.
- Fort Hays—Anna Mae Hays became the first female general in U.S. history. She led the Army Nurse Corps, successfully advocated for changes that paved the way for women to serve in the military, served in Burma, China and India during World War II and set up the first military hospital during the Korean War.
- Fort Valesko—Joe Valesko was killed in action in Tay Ninh, Vietnam when he was 23 years old. Joe was awarded the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart. He epitomized the highest ideals of his country. Joe was a friend of mine growing up.
There are, in addition to these, a large number of worthy candidates for replacement base names. We have suffered the insult of bases named for traitors long enough, as well as those who defend the Stars and Bars and treasonous confederate generals over our troops in harm’s way who fight even with bounties on their heads.
July 24, 2020