About a month ago one of our columns profiled Henry Johnson, whose bravery during World War I earned him the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest honor for heroism in battle. In discussing his achievements, it was mentioned that he would be among several military men and women celebrated in the renaming of various military bases around the country.
Johnson’s name is at the top of the list, and Fort Polk in Louisiana will now be called Fort Johnson. The other African American soldier to be honored in the renaming of the bases, most of them named after leaders in the Confederate Army, is Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley, who will share the renaming of Fort Lee in Virginia with Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg. It will now be called Fort Gregg-Adams.
We have profiled Adams, at least twice over the years in this paper, and she deserves yet another mention since at the conclusion of World War II she was the highest ranking Black woman in the Army.
Unlike Johnson, her valor was not demonstrated on the field of battle but in making sure thousands of soldiers were comforted by the delivery of mail from home. Adams commanded the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, which was called the Triple Eights, and was a segregated Women’s Army Corps unit. In 1945, the unit was deployed to England and then France where it processed nearly two million pieces of mail each month. By the way, it was the first unit of women to be dispatched overseas.
Earley and Johnson are but two examples of the multitude of African Americans who despite the racism and white supremacy of their country went courageously into battle in the fight to hold onto democracy in the face of fascism. The same can be said of the others being saluted at this moment and it’s another significant step in the march to pay tribute to those who justly deserve it.
It is our hope that the future soldiers who train at these facilities understand the full measure of devotion of those who served before them, particularly those African American recruits at Fort Polk and Fort Gregg-Adams.
This action was a long time coming and let us hope it’s a harbinger of more names and markers that need to be changed to honor those who more righteously deserve it.