The announcement comes from the military’s Naming Commission, which has submitted its recommendations to Congress. According to Wikipedia, Fort Polk was named in honor of Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk of Tennessee. Polk was also the founder of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. He was also a second cousin of U.S. President James Polk.
Under the recommendation, Fort Polk could be renamed to Fort Johnson, in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, an African-American World War I Medal of Honor recipient from North Carolina who served in the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment.
According to the U.S. Army, Johnson and fellow soldier Pvt. Needham Roberts were ambushed by at least 12 German soldiers on May 15, 1918. Roberts and Johnson were both wounded, but Johnson not only prevented Roberts from being taken prisoner, he advanced with only a knife to engage in hand-to-hand combat and held back the Germans until the retreated.
Johnson also became one of the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France’s highest award for valor. Johnson died in July 1929. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002.
The following installations have had recommended name changes:
- Fort Polk, La. – rename Fort Johnson after Sgt. William Henry Johnson.
- Fort Benning, Ga. – rename Fort Moore after Lt. Gen. Hal and Julia Moore.
- Fort Bragg, N.C. – rename Fort Liberty after the value of liberty.
- Fort Gordon, Ga. – rename Fort Eisenhower after General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower.
- Fort A.P. Hill, Va. – rename Fort Walker after Dr. Mary Walker.
- Fort Hood, Texas – rename Fort Cavazos after Gen. Richard Cavazos.
- Fort Lee, Va. – rename Fort Gregg-Adams after Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams.
- Fort Pickett, Va. – rename Fort Barfoot after Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot.
- Fort Rucker, Ala. – rename Fort Novosel after Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael J. Novosel, Sr.
The Naming Commission released the following statement from its chair, U.S Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard (Ret.):
During many conversations within the Commission, with installation personnel, civic leaders, and communities, we sought to find names that would be inspirational to the Soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them.
We realized quickly that we had more heroes than we did bases to name. And we were overwhelmed with the greatness of the American Soldier – from those who gave their entire adult lives to the Army, to those who sacrificed themselves in valorous acts.
We were reminded that courage has no boundaries by man-made categories of race, color, gender, religion, or creed. From privates to generals, we found hundreds of military members who exemplified the core values of the Army.
As we visited installations, we were touched by the contributions of the Soldiers’ families and community groups who support them. They work faithfully and tirelessly alongside our military members.
Our goal was to inspire today’s Soldiers and the local communities with names or values that have meaning. We wanted names and values that underpin the core responsibility of the military, to defend the Constitution of the United States.
We wanted names and values that evoke confidence in all who serve. Confidence that by emulating those whose names are on the installations, we too can rise to every challenge, overcome every obstacle, achieve excellence, and, if necessary, sacrifice our lives for this country and her people.
The names that we are recommending embody the best of the United States Army and America.U.S Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard (Ret.)