Thousands of Internet Suggestions Poured in for Replacing Confederate Names on Bases, and Not All Were Nice

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A bridge marks the entrance to the U.S. Army's Fort Benning as the sun rises.
A bridge marks the entrance to the U.S. Army's Fort Benning as the sun rises, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Columbus, Ga. (Branden Camp/AP Photo)

The Pentagon asked the internet for help replacing names honoring Confederate troops on iconic bases such as Fort Bragg and Fort Benning.

It got more help than it bargained for.

"Some of those suggestions on the website are quite intense," retired Adm. Michelle Howard, the chair of the Naming Commission in charge of the effort, said following an update to Congress Thursday. "There are some folks who are distinctly opposed and the verbiage that [they] use is quite deliberate and they make it clear they do not support the commission."

The public has so far submitted 27,000 suggestions since the request was posted Sept. 7, and the commission plans to keep accepting ideas until December. The effort, mandated by Congress in January, requires the U.S. military to remove names of Confederates on bases, ships, buildings and streets that commemorate slavery and racism against Black Americans.

The process is expected to result in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first Black person to serve in that position, announcing new names for some of the country's most iconic military facilities in 2023. At least 10 Army installations will likely be among the final list of assets to be renamed.

The commission has not made the long and growing list of suggestions public. The online deluge and a series of trips to visit bases over the summer has yielded up to 5,000 suggestions for names of individual bases.

"There's women, there's people of color. Some of those suggestions highlight people of lesser-known religious faiths," Howard, who was the first Black woman to become a four-star admiral in the Navy, said during a briefing to reporters. "I think the hard part for the commission is going to be picking from the list."

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Hundreds of local military, government and civic leaders have met with commission members since May in visits to facilities in Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. The panel plans to wrap up the tour by November with visits to Fort Pickett, Virginia, and Fort Polk, Louisiana, both named after Confederate generals.

The visits also have hit resistance at times from locals who feel their history is being scrubbed.

"They're very tied to the history of the area," Howard said. "But in the end, they understand that the law has already been written, that it's not a decision for the commission whether to rename, and that decision has already been made by Congress."

Other key questions still remain. The eight-member panel has not yet created a complete list of Defense Department assets that will be renamed or come up with a cost figure for the effort, two things that Congress wants to see by next year.

The panel briefed the House and Senate armed services committees about its progress on Thursday.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten. 

Related: 10 Much Better Names for the Army Bases Honoring Confederate Generals

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