U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is open to renaming military bases named after Confederate generals, an issue getting increased attention in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd, Fox News has learned.
A senior Army official told Fox News on Monday that McCarthy did not plan to change the names unilaterally, but instead will seek bipartisan support to do so. U.S. Army installations named after Confederate generals include Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
“We must recognize history is important, but we must come together and have some sort of open discussion about race,” the official said, adding: “This week highlighted the need to start understanding those feelings and the Army secretary is open to considering changing the names of these bases named for Confederate generals.”
The announcement marked a reversal of the Army. The branch had indicated earlier this year it was opposed to the idea after the Marine Corps announced this past April it was banning Confederate flags from its installations.
In a letter to the Corps, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger said the Confederate flag “has the power to inflame feelings of division.”
“We are a warfighting organization, an elite institution of warriors who depend on each other to win the tough battles,” Berger wrote. “Anything that divides us, anything that threatens team cohesion must be addressed head-on.”
He added: “I ask every Marine to understand that I fully accept my duty and responsibility to help build this team. That means I must identify symbols or subcultures that degrade the cohesion that combat demands of us.”
But, last week Berger acknowledged it was not enough simply to remove symbols of division but “rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself.”
“The trust Marines place in one another on a daily basis demands this,” he wrote in an open letter. “Only as a unified force, free from discrimination, racial inequality, and prejudice can we fully demonstrate our core values, and serve as the elite warfighting organization America requires and expects us to be.”
At least 10 Army installations are named after Confederate military commanders, Politico reported. Previous calls to rename them have been dismissed on the grounds that doing so would go against tradition.
In a message delivered to the Army last week, McCarthy wrote that his views on the matter had evolved amid nationwide protests.
“Over the past week, the country has suffered an explosion of frustration over the racial divisions that still plague us as Americans. And because your Army is a reflection of American society, those divisions live in the Army as well,” McCarthy wrote in a joint statement with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston.
“We feel the frustration and anger,” they added. “We need to work harder to earn the trust of mothers and fathers who hesitate to hand their sons and daughters into our care.”