The current Secretary of the Army arrived at Friday’s ceremony in a vintage World War II jeep, a throwback image that fit the moment of renaming an Army base dedicated to modern high-tech warfare after a general synonymous with wars of the last century.   

Fort Gordon, home of the Army’s Cyber Command, Signal Corps and both the Cyber and Signal schools, is now Fort Eisenhower, a namesake of the former president and supreme commander of allied forces during the decisive years of World War II. 

Eisenhower’s new base commander, Major Gen. Paul T. Stanton, noted in a brief speech that the ceremony was being held on the same parade ground where Eisenhower gave a final address to troops as he neared the end of his presidency.

“Gen. Eisenhower, sir, we are on the same field where it thrills our hearts to fulfill your legacy,” said Stanton. “To reuse your 1952 campaign slogan, ‘it’s time for a change.’ And here on Fort Eisenhower, ‘we like Ike.’”

The new name for base located in August, Georgia is the last of nine post renamings across the Army as the Pentagon finishes removing the names of Confederate army officers from Army installations. Fort Eisenhower joins Fort Liberty, Fort Moore and six other bases along with a long list of memorials and artwork with Confederate ties that the Pentagon has removed from public view.

‘The last salute of the Confederacy’

Camp Gordon opened just two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the US into World War II. The base was a major training ground for forces headed to the European theater, but has for most of its life been a hub for the Army’s high tech-oriented signal corps and, since 2010, Cyber Command.

The fort’s former namesake, John Brown Gordon, was a Confederate genera, post-war Senator and Governor of Georgia and a slaveowner. As a commander, Gordon was one of the Confederate army’s brightest stars, rising from rank-and-file captain to one of General Robert E. Lee’s top generals by the war’s end. He was one of Lee’s primary commanders in the very final battle of the war, and is said to have given “the last salute of the Confederate army,” saluting a Union general during a surrender ceremony at Appomattox, Virginia.

Gordon was also connected to the growth of the Ku Klux Klan in post-war Georgia,and members of his extended family have recently campaigned to have statues of him removed elsewhere in Georgia

Five-star general and president

Eisenhower was a late and somewhat controversial pick as the new namesake of Fort Gordon, according to reporting in the Washington Post in 2022, though the controversy was not about Eisenhower’s qualifications. The Texan holds a rarified spot in American history as both the senior general in the coalition that smashed Nazi Germany and as the president who launched both the interstate highway system and the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the nation’s first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

The base is not even Eisenhower’s first military naming honor: the Navy launched the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier in 1975.

In remarks at the renaming ceremony, Eisenhower’s grand daughter and biographer Susan Eisenhower recounted that the future general was lucky to be in the Army at all. Born to a poor family, he won a spot at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point only when another appointed cadet failed a physical. He went on to serve in World War I and command allied forces as a five-star general through the invasion of Europe to the end of World War II. He retired from the Army in 1952 to run for president, serving two terms and overseeing a massive post-war boom in American economic power and the first skirmishes in the civil rights movement.

Many ties to area, fewer to Fort Gordon

But many saw Eisenhower as a peculiar pick for Fort Gordon when the Federal Naming Commission released its final report and recommendations in August 2022.

Of the nine renamed bases, seven now honor soldiers whose Army careers had strong ties to each installation. The one exception is Fort Liberty which, according to the Commission, is named for an American “value,” a pick that Task and Purpose reported in June was a compromise pick suggested by a Gold Star mother. But Eisenhower was never stationed at Fort Gordon nor was he closely connected to the signals and communication work done there.

However, Eisenhower developed strong post-Army ties to the nearby Augusta National Golf Club as president, an exclusive golf club that hosts The Masters golf tournament. The Post cited records in Eisenhower’s presidential archive that recorded Eisenhower playing golf at the club 29 times during his presidency but visiting the base that now bears his name just once, near the end of his time in office.

Five of the nine renamed bases were named for soldiers who were not white, a criteria that the Naming Commission was charged to consider in producing a list that “reflects the Armed Forces population.”

In the Naming Commission’s final report, Eisenhower was picked ahead of 11 other finalists, nine of whom were not white. 

The other 11 finalists:

Colonel John Aiso, a Japanese American, who rose from motor pool duty to overseeing a wartime language program that produced 6,000 Japanese speakers during World War II.

Lt. Col. Alexander Augusta, a black Civil War surgeon, was the highest ranking Black soldier in the Union Army.

Private First Class Milton Lee, a 19-year-old radioman, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for combat heroism in Vietnam.

Sgt. First Class William Bryant, a Georgia-native who and one the first Black Special Forces soldiers, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for combat heroism in Vietnam.

Corporal Charles Chittbitty, one of 13 Comanche Code Talkers to come ashore on D-Day as a radioman.

Master Sgt. José López, a native of Mexico and one of 12 latino Medal of Honor recipients in WWII, which he recieved for heroism at the Battle of the Bulge.

Capt. Kimberly Hampton, who grew up about two hours from Augusta, was the first female Army helicopter pilot killed in Iraq in 2004.

Command Sergeant Major Mildred Kelly, the first Black woman in the Army to reach the rank of sergeant major.

Lt. General Emmett Paige, Jr., who enlisted in 1947 and rose to the rank of three-star general, spent his entire career in the Signal Corps, becoming its first Black general officer.

Corporal Freddie Stowers, an Anderson, South Carolina-native and World War I Medal of Honor recipient, Stowers did not receive the Medal until 1991, a delay attributed to racial bias in Army leaders of his time.

Captain Humbert Versace, a Hawaii native and West Point graduate, Versace was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage and inspirational behavior as a POW in Vietnam.

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