A World War II Medal of Honor recipient who also served in Korea and Vietnam is being recognized once again with a U.S. Army installation named in his honor.
The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett will be redesignated Fort Barfoot on March 24 in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a technical sergeant during the 1944 Battle of Anzio in Italy. The post is one of nine Army installations being renamed to remove Confederate ties, after Congress mandated in 2021 that an appointed Naming Commission come up with potential new names for them.
Barfoot, who died in 2012 at age 92, enlisted in the Army in 1940 and retired in Virginia in 1974. Before heading to Europe during WWII with the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, he trained at what was then Camp Pickett. He served as an adviser to the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment in the 1950s and as senior Army adviser to the Virginia National Guard until his retirement, according to an Army news release.
“I love them, they’re dedicated people,” Barfoot said in an interview with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. “I’ll tell you, the greatest asset we have now is our National Guard. They’re just complete soldiers.”
Barfoot, whose maternal grandmother was a member of the Choctaw Nation, is one of 33 Native Americans to receive the Medal of Honor, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Representatives from the Choctaw Nation and Virginia-based tribes will attend the renaming ceremony, the Army release said.
During the breakout from Anzio to Rome near Carano, Italy, on May 23, 1944, Barfoot advanced on the Germans alone, destroying two machine gun nests and capturing 17 German soldiers. Later the same day, he faced off against three German Mark VI tanks, disabling the lead tank by destroying its track, and killing three soldiers. He also helped move two wounded U.S. soldiers to safety while returning to his platoon position, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
Much later in life, in 2009, Barfoot made the news again after he was ordered by his home owners association to remove an American flag from his home in Henrico County, Va. He eventually was allowed to fly the flag after getting support from state and national lawmakers and organizations, the Army release said.
“Our family is extremely proud of the honor that is being bestowed on our father,” Barfoot’s son, Tom Barfoot, said in the release. “… He wanted people to know that that his award of ‘The Medal of Honor’ was not just representative of him, but of all the men and women of this nation who sacrificed to meet our country’s call.”