Louisiana’s Fort Polk renamed after African American WWI soldier

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(LEESVILLE, La.) — As part of the national campaign to change the names of U.S. Army installations to cut ties with Confederate figures in America, Louisiana’s Fort Polk was redesignated to Fort Johnson Tuesday morning.

The campaign includes renaming nine U.S. Army bases, including North Carolina’s Fort Bragg changed to Fort Liberty, Texas’ Fort Hood changed to Fort Cavazos and Georgia’s Fort Benning changed to Fort Moore, among other changes.

Fort Polk was originally named after Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, a Confederate commander.

Now, the Fort Johnson base is honored for Sgt. William Henry Johnson, an African American World War I Medal of Honor recipient who served in the all-Black 369th U.S Infantry Regiment.

“Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name at the Home of Heroes,” said Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, in the press release.

The North Carolina native served one tour of duty on the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France’s Champagne region from 1918-1919, and became one of the first Americans to be awarded France’s highest award for valor, the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, former President Theodore Roosevelt called Johnson one of the five bravest Americans to serve in World War I.

After his death in July 1929, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart in 1996, the Distinguished Service Cross in 2003, and most recently, the Medal of Honor in 2015.

More names are expected to be changed through the renaming campaign, including Georgia’s Fort Gordon changed to Fort Eisenhower to commemorate Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Virginia’s Fort A.P. Hill will be changed to honor Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.

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