The nation’s third-largest military base was officially renamed Tuesday after the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general, Gen. Richard Edward Cavazos.
The Army post in Killeen, Texas, was one of nine Army bases named for Confederate leaders that are being renamed this year.
Built in former Confederate states during the first half of the 20th century, these bases were part of a concerted effort by white Southerners to redeem their defeat and build cultural support for the re-establishment of white supremacy.
Fort Cavazos was previously named for John Bell Hood, a West Point graduate who defected from the United States military to fight for slavery and white supremacy after the Civil War began in 1861. He was promoted to major general in 1862 and became known for reckless straight-on assaults that ultimately destroyed the Army of Tennessee, and he was forced to resign in disgrace.
Hood was a traitor and white supremacist who wrote in a letter to Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864 that it was “[b]etter [to] die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies,” whom he called “an inferior race, which we have raised from barbarism to its present position.”
In 2021, Congress overrode President Donald Trump’s veto to establish a Naming Commission to rename or remove “names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia” that commemorate the Confederacy or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.
Last summer, the commission recommended that nine Army bases be renamed to honor women and soldiers of color, among others. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, the country’s first Black secretary of defense, accepted the renaming recommendations in September.
On January 5, 2023, all DOD organizations were directed to begin full implementation of the recommendations. The renaming process is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Gen. Cavazos grew up on a Texas ranch during the Great Depression and earned his first Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross as a young officer in the Korean War, where he was a member of a famous unit of mostly Spanish-speaking soldiers called the Borinqueneers.
“It was during that war’s closing days that he first distinguished himself as a leader, rallying his men to make three separate charges on a well entrenched enemy position,” the U.S. Army said. “Afterwards, he returned to the field five separate times to personally evacuate his wounded men before accepting treatment for his own injuries.”
He went on to lead troops in the Vietnam War and received a second Distinguished Service Cross for exposing himself to enemy fire while leading soldiers through an ambush and organizing a counter attack.
He became the first Hispanic Army four-star general and retired after sustaining, training, and deploying all the Army’s deployable forces as the head of the U.S. Army Forces Command. He died in 2017 at age 88.
Alabama’s Fort Rucker was renamed in April for Michael Novosel Sr., a military aviator who rescued 5,500 wounded soldiers during two tour in Vietnam.
The Virginia base named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who was responsible for the deaths of more Army soldiers than Hitler and Tojo, was renamed Fort Gregg-Adams on April 27, in honor of retired Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams.
Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg enlisted in 1945 and excelled in supply logistics, helping the Army rebuild devastated areas in occupied Germany. He rose to become one of the highest ranking African Americans in the Army.
Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley commanded the first unit of Black women to serve overseas—the 6888th Central Postal Directory in England, which delivered mail for nearly seven million American soldiers fighting in Europe during World War II. Her unit handled some 65,000 letters each day; it took three units of men to replace her battalion after they disbanded.