WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration will “not even consider” changing the name of any of the 10 Army bases that are named for Confederate Army officers. Two days earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated that he was open to a broad discussion of such changes.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump wrote. “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
Name changes have not been proposed by the Army or the Pentagon, but on Monday, Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy indicated in response to questions from reporters that they were “open to a bipartisan discussion” of renaming bases such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Benning in Georgia.
Supporters of disassociating military bases from Confederate Army officers argue that they represent the racism and divisiveness of the Civil War era and glorify men who fought against the United States.
To amplify Trump's view, his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, read his tweets to reporters in the White House briefing room. She said he is “fervently” opposed to changing the base names and believes that doing so would amount to “complete disrespect” for soldiers who trained there over the years.
The possibility of renaming the bases, McEnany said, is “an absolute non-starter” for Trump.
If Congress were to pass legislation requiring name changes, he would not sign it, she said.
The U.S. military recently began rethinking its traditional connection to Confederate Army symbols, including the Army base names, mindful of their divisiveness at a time the nation is wrestling with questions of race after the death of George Floyd in police hands. The Navy and the Marine Corps are now banning public displays of the Confederate Army battle flag on their installations, casting their decision as necessary to preserve cohesion within the ranks.