Ceremony set for Fort Polk name change

Fort Polk will become Fort Johnson during a redesignation ceremony.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 5:39 PM CDT
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VERNON PARISH, La. - Fort Polk will become Fort Johnson during a redesignation ceremony on June 13, 2023, at 10 a.m. in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient from North Carolina who served in the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

The 369th Infantry Regiment was ordered into battle in 1918, and Johnson and his unit were brigaded with a French army colonial unit in front-line combat. Johnson served one tour of duty on the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France’s Champagne region, from 1918-1919.

For his battlefield valor, Johnson became one of the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France’s highest award for valor.

Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Medal of Honor.

“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.

The post is one of nine Army installations being redesignated in accordance with Defense Department-endorsed recommendations from the congressional Naming Commission to remove the names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that commemorate the Confederate States of America or those who voluntarily served under the C.S.A. Congress directed the formation of the Naming Commission in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and charged it with providing these recommendations.

The Commission issued its three-part report to Congress in the summer of 2022. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III accepted all the Commission’s recommendations that September. On Jan. 5, 2023, William A. LaPlante, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, directed all Department of Defense organizations to begin implementing those recommendations.

“The Naming Commission sought to recommend names that are ‘inspirational to the Soldiers and civilians who serve on our Army posts, and to the communities who support them,’” Gardner said, adding: “Sgt. Johnson’s acts of selfless service during World War I will inspire those at our installation, where we have trained America’s men and women to deploy, fight and win our Nation’s wars for over 80 years”.