After the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, some Members of Congress have expressed interest in military installations named after Confederate leaders, and the process for renaming these bases. Currently, the Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a review process to reevaluate the naming of specific installations. Instead, each military department has its own naming convention that is summarized below. A list of Navy ships named after Confederate commanders and a battle is also included.
According to the Army Center of Military History, Camp Beauregard and Forts Benning, Bragg, Gordon and Lee were all established during World War I. The other forts (Hill, Hood, Pickett, Polk and Rucker) were established in the 1940s. The U.S. Army Center website has a brief history on the process for Naming Army Installations.
There are 10 major Army installations named after Confederate Civil War generals located in the former states of the Confederacy. They are: Fort Rucker (Gen. Edmund Rucker) in Alabama; Fort Benning (Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning) and Fort Gordon (Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon) in Georgia; Camp Beauregard (Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard) and Fort Polk (Gen. Leonidas Polk) in Louisiana; Fort Bragg (Gen. Braxton Bragg) in North Carolina; Fort Hood (Gen. John Bell Hood) in Texas; and Fort A.P. Hill (Gen. A.P. Hill), Fort Lee (Gen. Charles Lee) and Fort Pickett (Gen. George Pickett) in Virginia.
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy, April 21, 2016.
The naming of U.S. Army installations is considered to be a memorialization of a distinguished individual. "Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history," said Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost, then Chief of Army Public Affairs, on June 24, 2015. "Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies." The naming of installations is the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs (ASA (M&RA)). Currently, Ms. Diane M. Randon is the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the ASA (M&RA). The Secretary of the Army (SA) is the final approval authority for the Army Memorial Program. Acting SA is Ryan D. McCarthy. The relevant instruction is Army Regulation (AR) 1-33, The Army Memorial Program (2006), paragraph: 2-2. Memorialization Criteria:
a. Only deceased persons will be memorialized. Except as provided in para 1–4i (2), the SA will not authorize exceptions to memorialize living persons. The SA will return all such requests without action.
b. An installation set up for the use of a specific branch of Service or activity normally will be named for a member distinguished while serving there (for example, Walter Reed Army Medical Center).
c. Facilities should be named for persons with ranks or grades comparable to those of the main users.
d. When possible, facilities will be named for persons whose careers or actions were important to, and well known in, the locality where memorialized.
e. Approval authorities who exercise authority under this regulation for the Army Memorial Program (see para 2–3) may establish and consider the advice and recommendations from memorialization boards. If a memorialization board takes on the characteristics of a committee, the proponent of the committee will follow all the requirements of AR15–1 for establishing and continuing the group as a committee. All decisions to memorialize personnel will keep in mind that the memorial program is designed to—
(1) Honor deceased heroes and other deceased distinguished men and women of all races in our society.
(2) Present them as inspirations to their fellow Soldiers, employees, and other citizens.
f. For deceased former members of other Armed Services, requests for memorialization of will be sent to the Commander, HRC (para 2–3).
g. Although exception authority for the following criteria is the ASA (M&RA), organizational and unit memorials will not commemorate—
(1) Any unit smaller than a regiment, separate brigade, or comparable unit.
(2) An individual. (Exception: When the services of the unit or individual were so distinguished as to warrant a separate memorial.)
h. Renaming actions are strongly discouraged, and seldom appropriate. Expect strong resistance from local residents, heirs, historical societies, and others from an attempt to rename. However, if a renaming becomes appropriate, it should be submitted, with recommendations, to the appropriate approval authority. The approval authorities for the Army Memorial Program are shown in table 2–1 (see AR 1-33, on p.4).
Currently, the fleet has no ships named after Confederate officers. However, the USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), a guided-missile cruiser commissioned in 1989, is named after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, April 30-May 6, 1863. According to some historians, this battle was considered a major Confederate victory under the leadership of Gen. Robert E. Lee. A Report on Policies and Practices of the U.S. Navy for Naming the Vessels of the Navy by the Department of Navy explains its policy and practices.
According to Confederate Monuments At Sea by CDR Earl J. Higgins, U.S. Navy (Retired), four ships have been named for Confederate officers: the USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601) in 1960, the USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634) in 1964, the USS Hunley (AS-31) in 1962, and the USS Dixon (AS-37) in 1971. All four have been decommissioned.
There are no current Navy or Marine Corps bases named after Confederate military leaders. OPNAV INSTRUCTION 5030.12G (2011) explains the U.S. Navy's policy and procedures for the naming of streets, facilities and structures. According to this instruction, "names selected should honor deceased members of the Navy." It may also be appropriate to honor deceased persons other than Navy personnel who have made significant contributions to the benefit of the Navy. This instruction is applicable to naming a structure or building that is identified by a real property unique identifier or a street. Naming designations of internal portions of buildings or spaces can be assigned at the discretion of the local installation commander.
There are no current Air Force bases named after Confederate military leaders. AF Instruction 36-3108 (2017) outlines the U.S. Air Force policies for naming installations, buildings, rooms, facilities or streets. According to these instructions, "the intent of the Air Force Memorialization Program is to provide lasting honor and pay tribute to deceased as well as living Air Force military and civilian personnel with records of outstanding and honorable service." It further states, "Memorialization constitutes a permanent and lasting honor." Therefore, the renaming of any installation, street, building, or facility is prohibited as long as the installation remains active except under unique circumstances.