Fort Polk to be renamed Fort Johnson to honor World War I hero


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By Kaanita Iyer, CNN

Sgt. William Henry Johnson during WWI (U.S. Army/Public Domain)

The US Army on Tuesday will officially rename Louisiana’s Fort Polk military base, the latest US military installation to be redesignated as part of an effort to strip Confederate leaders of the honor.

The base will be retitled Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson. This is in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black US soldier during World War I. [Sgt. Johnson] fought off about two dozen Germans alone, killing at least four. It was previously named after Confederate commander Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk.

“Sgt. Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name at the Home of Heroes,” said Brig. Gen. David Gardner, the commanding general of the base.

“Sgt. Johnson’s acts of self-less service during World War I will inspire those at our installation, where we have trained and deployed America’s men and women to fight and win our nation’s wars for over 80 years,” he added.

Johnson, who was awarded a Purple Heart and Medal of Honor posthumously, enlisted two months after the US became officially involved in World War I. [He] began his military career in a segregated New York regiment based in Harlem.


Johnson was outspoken about the racism experienced by Black soldiers. The Army punished him by canceling the speaking engagements that he was assigned after his heroic actions. He died in 1929 of myocarditis following a tuberculosis diagnosis.

“As a Black American whose bravery wasn’t acknowledged at the time, Sgt. Johnson personified the Army values and was the epitome of strength,” said Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith, the director of joint staff for New York National Guard.

Read more about Sgt. Johnson’s legacy in the original article.

Read more about the unsung Black heroes of WWI in this Breaking News article.

Find more Breaking News here.

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