Five Women Veterans Who Deserve to Have Army Bases Named After ThemHistorians in the News
tags: military history, womens history
Should the U.S. military remove the names of Confederate generals from its Army bases in the South? The longstanding debate was recently revived by demonstrations against police brutality—and just as quickly quashed by President Donald Trump, who refused to consider the idea despite reports military officials were open to the move.
Among the prominent officials who voiced their interest in losing the names of generals who turned their backs on the United States were David Petraeus, a retired U.S. army general and former director of the CIA, and Robert Gates, former defense secretary under the Bush and Obama administrations. “It’s always puzzled me that we don’t have a Fort George Washington or a Fort Ulysses S. Grant or a Fort Patton or a facility named for an African-American Medal of Honor recipient,” Gates told the New York Times. “I think the time has come, and we have a real opportunity here.”
An opportunity unmentioned by Gates, however, is that though ten Army installations are named after Confederates, zero are named after women.
For historian Kara Vuic, there’s no time like the present to do something about both. “It fits [the Army’s] goals and their own regulations to name installations after people who can be an inspiration to their fellow soldiers—heroes and distinctive individuals,” says Vuic, a professor at Texas Christian University who studies war, gender and the U.S. military.
Though women only became full, permanent members of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948, they have been part of the Army since its earliest days. Women have always served alongside American men at war, whether as cooks or laundresses, nurses or spies, or even disguised as soldiers. But it took generations for women to win the right to officially serve their country, and women waited until 2013 for acknowledgment of their right to serve in combat roles. Today, 181,000 women serve in the Army, and women make up 18 percent of the Army and 36 percent of its civilian workforce.
The names on Army installations “didn’t fall from the sky,” says Vuic. “They aren’t innate to the buildings.” Instead, she says, they reflect a series of choices to uplift a variety of individuals—distinctive officers, engineers, even Confederate generals—choices that have yet to reflect women’s importance within the Army itself. “This is a great moment for the Army to really reckon with its own past,” says Vuic. “The military is one of the most diverse institutions in our society. Renaming bases might hold up a better standard that the Army can hold itself accountable to.”
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