Fort Polk military base officially changes name to Fort Johnson in honor of World War I hero

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Louisiana’s largest military base Fort Polk officially changed its name to Fort Johnson today. The Army base in Vernon Parish has been named after World War I hero Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black U.S. soldier who fought in France in 1918 and 1919. Brigadier General David Gardner says Sgt. Johnson embodies the warrior spirit.

“He was chosen to represent the soldier and he was chosen to represent forging the warrior spirit which is both our motto and what we feel we do here every day.”

The process of renaming Fort Polk began in 2021 after the changes were mandated by Congress. The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act requires any and all Army bases with ties to the Confederacy in their namesake to undergo a name change. Gardner says today’s redesignated celebration in honor of Sgt. Johnson was well attended.

“Families who were instrumental in getting his recognition in 2015 when he was awarded the Medal of Honor and elected officials from the community. We had officials from the Naming Commission and then we did an official ceremony where we unveiled the new name of the base.”

Sgt. Johnson served in New York National Guard’s 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment and was a World War I Medal of Honor recipient and posthumously received the Purple Heart in 1996. Gardner says all Fort Johnson signage will be prominently displayed.

“Of course our headquarter building, all of our signs, and anything that refers to the installation will be JRTC and Fort Johnson. And then the state, they will change the road signs to help you get to this location and they will bear the name Fort Johnson as well.”

Johnson became one of the first Americans to be awarded France’s highest award for valor.  Fort Polk is one of nine army installations redesignated to remove its Confederate name.

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