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Louisiana’s Fort Polk, originally named after Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, a Confederate commander, is a thing of the past. Moving forward, as part of the national campaign to cut ties with the openly raciss men associated with the U.S. Army, Fort Polk was re-designated to Fort Johnson Tuesday morning.
Now, the Fort Johnson base is honored for Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient who served in the all-Black 369th U.S Infantry Regiment.
The campaign includes renaming nine U.S. Army bases, including North Carolina’s Fort Bragg changed to Fort Liberty, Texas’ Fort Hood changed to Fort Cavazos and Georgia’s Fort Benning changed to Fort Moore, among other changes.
“Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name at the Home of Heroes,” said Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, in the press release.
Some Army bases, established in the build-up and during World War I, were named for Confederate officers in an effort to court support from local populations in the South.
It was also the height of the Jim Crow Laws in the South, so there was no consideration for the feelings of Black people who had to serve at bases named after men who vociferously fought to defend slavery.
Johnson was heralded for his bravery during World War I
ABC News reports the North Carolina native served one tour of duty on the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France’s Champagne region from 1918-1919, and became one of the first Americans to be awarded France’s highest award for valor, the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, former President Theodore Roosevelt called Johnson one of the five bravest Americans to serve in World War I.
After his death in July 1929, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart in 1996, the Distinguished Service Cross in 2003, and most recently, the Medal of Honor in 2015.