An effort to rename Fort Benning after Lieutenant General Harold (“Hal”) Moore and his wife, Julie Moore, has been picking up steam in recent months as the Department of Defense moves to eliminate Confederate names from U.S. military installations.
A mandate to change the names of installations and other Defense Department assets (including warships and buildings) that were named after prominent Confederate figures was passed into law last year, with a commission to address these changes stood up on Jan. 1.
Hal Moore was a famed U.S. Army general who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and his wife, Julie, played a vital role in changing the way the U.S. military went about delivering casualty notifications. Now, a website and online petition are helping spread the word on the Fort Moore effort, and it’s gained the support of military organizations like Blue Star Families.
Fort Benning and the Naming Commission
Each year, more than 18,000 young Americans are transformed into U.S. Army soldiers within the storied gates of Fort Benning, but some feel as though the installation’s namesake is an affront to the Army values taught within. The base draws its name from Henry L. Benning, a former judge in the Georgia Supreme Court and notable general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Benning began his military career in the Confederacy as a colonel, raising and then leading the rebel 17th Georgia Infantry Regiment himself. He soon butted heads with Confederate leadership about things like conscription and was nearly court-martialed, but after proving himself in combat at the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Antietam, he was promoted to brigadier general. He continued to fight through the end of the conflict, and upon the Confederate government’s surrender, he returned to practicing law in Georgia for the remainder of his life.
Camp Benning was established in 1918, was made an official installation in 1920, and was renamed Fort Benning in 1922. Today, Fort Benning is one of 10 U.S. Army bases with such a Confederate namesake. In 2020, a concerted effort began to rename these bases, prompted in no small part by national discussions about racial issues in America.
The Defense Department soon assembled a team of eight officials tasked with traveling to these installations and pursuing options for new names. The team’s official title is the Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense That Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America, but most just refer to it as the Naming Commission.
The Naming Commission was established by Section 370 of the United States National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), a mouthful that also usually goes by a decidedly shorter name: the annual defense budget. The commission was enacted by law on Jan. 1 of this year. That same law mandates that a plan be implemented to make the appropriate changes within three years.
The Naming Commission’s report is due on Oct. 1, at which point Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be responsible for choosing how best to proceed.
The Push for Fort Moore
With Fort Benning on the list of installations due for a name change, a growing chorus of voices is singing its support for Fort Moore, honoring not only the legendary general, but importantly, his wife as well. The effort now has a website and a petition that’s gathering up signatures to present to the Naming Commission.
“Fort Moore would simultaneously recognize Hal Moore‘s life, a decorated and highly regarded commander of the Vietnam War and his wife, Julie Moore, who was equally distinguished as a leader of Army family programs who changed how the military cares for the widows of fallen soldiers,” the Fort Moore petition website reads.
The website includes a great deal of information about both Hal and Julie Moore, as well as reasons behind the push to name Fort Moore in their honor.
“Fort Moore will uniquely honor the families of slain soldiers and highlight the military spouse’s invaluable contribution to combat readiness,” the website reads.
“There can be no better or unique way to inspire the men and women who will train at the renamed Fort Moore, and particularly to provide recognition to the widows of our Nation’s slain, than to name Fort Benning for the couple that exemplifies America’s highest standards of command and compassion -- Hal and Julie Moore.”
The site also includes quotes from a number of military veterans, explaining just how important Hal and Julie Moore were to the families on Fort Benning, and the troops under Gen. Moore’s charge. Some of those remarks, like that of Bud Alley, who fought alongside Moore in Ia Drang, reference an interview then-Col. Moore did immediately after days of fierce fighting.
“He had been three days with no sleep; directing his battalion in combat against superior numbers, but as he was interviewed, he spoke of two things as tears streamed down his dusty face,” Alley is quoted as saying.
“The courage and determination of his men not to quit and of their sacrifices. His poise, control, and calmness has never been forgotten.”
You can see the interview on the Fort Moore website or watch it below:
Who Were Hal and Julie Moore?
Hal Moore was a legendary Army leader and veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Despite a career full of heavy fighting, he’s best remembered for leading elements of the 1st Cavalry Division in the first major battle of the Vietnam War. The bloody three-day battle and events surrounding it became the basis for the popular book, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” as well as the subsequent movie, “We Were Soldiers.”
It could be argued that the Army was a part of Julie Moore’s very DNA. Born the daughter of an Army colonel on Fort Sill in 1929, she saw three generations of men in her family head off to war in defense of the United States, starting with her father, continuing with her husband Hal, and extending all the way to her children’s service in the Persian Gulf War and Global War on Terror.
Like many military spouses, Julie Moore’s contributions to the Army often go overlooked. She is perhaps most often remembered for her actions during her husband’s time in Vietnam, when she took it upon herself to follow the taxis tasked with notifying widows of their husband’s deaths to provide support when the Army was unprepared to do so.
As an editorial aside, I had the solemn honor of participating in these sorts of notifications during my time in the Marine Corps during the Global War on Terror, and it’s all but impossible to overstate the weight Julie Moore volunteered to shoulder, or how important her efforts were.