When Fort Benning becomes Fort Moore, it will 'honor the Army family’
Stars and Stripes February 22, 2023
FORT BENNING, Ga. — The late Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, an Army legend and bestselling author, would not have approved of renaming Fort Benning to Fort Moore in his honor, according to his children.
But the five Moore siblings believe he would have supported their push to rename the Georgia Army post after the “family command team” that was the general and his wife of 55 years and their mother, Julia Moore. Later this year, Fort Benning — one of nine Army posts set to be renamed under a 2021 federal law seeking to strip the Defense Department of names honoring the Confederacy — will become Fort Moore in the couple’s honor, though base officials said they have not chosen a date for the renaming.
“If my father were to know this recommendation and the approval were only about him, he would have vehemently disagreed with and opposed it,” Dave Moore, Hal and Julia’s youngest child, said of Hal, who died at 94 in 2017, 13 years after Julia’s death. “However, given his humility, and given his love for his wife and the Army family, knowing that this renaming now provides the opportunity to honor Julia, his spouse who followed him, who was devoted to him, devoted to his soldiers, and never really got her due — I believe of that he would approve.”
The Moore siblings, who range in age from 62 to 71, made that pitch to the Naming Commission when the Congress-mandated panel sought public recommendations in late 2021 for new names for posts now honoring Confederate generals. Fort Moore will honor Hal Moore — the Distinguished Service Cross recipient who rose to fame as a commander during the first major battle of the Vietnam War, became a three-star general and later co-authored a bestselling book that became the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers” starring Mel Gibson. But it will also honor Julia Moore — an “Army brat” turned Army wife and Army mother who raised five kids while moving 28 times in 32 years and maintained the household often in her husband’s absence.
“We felt that by nominating them both it creates the opportunity for the Army to honor something bigger than just a name — to honor the Army family,” said Dave Moore, 62, who served 27 years in the Army, retiring as a colonel after combat deployments to Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. “So, it had to be Mom and Dad together, as the family command team. Our position was that this had to be something bigger than just about an individual.”
Four of the Moore children on Friday visited Fort Benning, meeting with senior leaders at the base and visiting the home that they once lived in on the post before stopping by their parents’ graves at the installation’s cemetery.
At the gravesite, Steve Moore, the 71-year-old second child of Hal and Julia, recalled crying when he learned the Naming Commission had selected his parents as the new namesake of Fort Benning, where he was born.
“I just broke down,” said Steve Moore, who served 20 years in the Army before retiring as lieutenant colonel. “And the reason I felt that deep emotion was I knew what [my parents] had gone through and overcome in a life of service to the nation. … And so, I said to myself through the tears, ‘Finally, the Army is going to recognize what service in a military family has always been.’’’
In the Naming Commission’s report recommending the new name for Fort Benning and ones for the eight other Army posts, the group wrote it had chosen to honor Hal and Julia Moore’s “service to the Army and commitment to military families [which] serves as an inspiration and example for all.”
“Their story is representative of millions of other military families throughout our history, who have often endured many travels and movements, putting the nation’s needs ahead of their personal preferences,” the commission wrote. “If it’s a truism that families serve right alongside their service members, the Moore family lived that experience to the fullest. Their stories exceptionally exemplifying the service of modern military families.”
The renaming process
The Moores said they recognize the controversial nature of renaming Fort Benning. Congress mandated the Naming Commission in a 2021 annual Pentagon policy bill, charging the panel with identifying all items in the Defense Department inventory associated with the Confederacy. Among the items that the commission was to study were the names of nine Army installations honoring Confederate generals, including Fort Benning. Then-President Donald Trump vetoed the bill, disapproving of the effort to remove Confederate names from the military. But lawmakers were able to override the veto.
Fort Benning was established as Camp Benning in 1918 during World War I, and named for Gen. Henry Benning, a lawyer and judge from Columbus, Ga., who commissioned into the Confederate Army shortly after the Confederacy was established, according to an Army history. An ardent defender of slavery and secession, Benning never served in the U.S. Army and continued to fight against rights for Black Americans after the Civil War.
Historians describe Benning as a quick study and an apt brigade commander. He fought in several notable Civil War battles including at Bull Run in Virginia, Antietam in Maryland, and the Battle of Chickamauga in Tennessee and Georgia.
While Benning’s name appears to have been chosen in 1918 at least in part to appeal to locals who supported the South’s Jim Crow laws and were, at least, somewhat weary of the Army opening a federal base in their backyard, some Army officials now contend the name is outdated.
For the Moores, who spent portions of their childhood at Fort Benning, the name change is about honoring their parents not erasing the name Fort Benning from history.
The Moore kids had never considered a name change for Fort Benning before they learned of the 2021 law, said Dave Moore, who trained at the installation as an infantry officer and now works at Fort Benning as a Defense Department civilian.
“As a young lieutenant reporting to Fort Benning, it was just a name,” Dave Moore said. “And none of us ever thought about really who Benning was or whether it was right as a culture at the time — we just accepted it. And here we are all these years later, and I think … we have the opportunity, hopefully, not to erase the history [with the name change] but to create a culture that makes us better as a nation.”
Sometime before Jan. 1, 2024, Fort Benning will officially become Fort Moore, said Col. Colin Mahle, Fort Benning’s garrison commander.
Some installations have announced expected timetables for their name changes. Fort Pickett in Virginia will become Fort Barfoot on March 24, the Army said. Fort Bragg in North Carolina is expected to become Fort Liberty in June, officials there have said. But Mahle and other leaders at Fort Benning did not hint when they would formalize the change.
Mahle said base officials have finished conducting surveys to identify all items — including streets, buildings and websites — bearing the Benning name. He said Friday that he couldn’t say precisely how many items the officials had tallied.
“It’s large,” Mahle said of the number of items, stressing some things that will need to change are out of the Defense Department’s control. Officials at Fort Benning are working with local and state government, for example, to update references to the installation outside the base gates, he said.
It also remains unclear what it will cost the Army to change from Fort Benning to Fort Moore. The Naming Commission estimated it would cost some $5 million to make the change at Fort Benning, but post officials are working now to establish their own estimate, Mahle said.
Once decisions are made, Maj. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, Fort Benning’s top commander and the leader of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, said he looked forward to hosting a ceremony to honor the name Fort Moore. He described the forthcoming name change ceremony as perhaps “the most culturally significant event of my Army career.”
Buzzard said he will feel honored to become the first commander of Fort Moore. The general said he met Hal Moore in 1997 while Buzzard was training at Fort Benning, and was honored that Moore signed Buzzard’s copy of his book “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young.”
“The Naming Commission selected names that represent honor, heroism, sacrifices, and our Army’s values, and Hal and Julia are two of the finest Americans this country has ever produced,” Buzzard said. “I'm just personally, incredibly honored that I'm the commander on whose watch this is going to occur. I think it's so great for our Army and our nation.”
Hal Moore might have been an Army legend, but Julia Moore was every bit as much a hero to her family, their children said Friday. Through Hal’s deployments first to Korea and Vietnam and later as he worked long hours in commands or at the Pentagon, she ensured the children made it to sports practices and scout meetings.
Julia Moore was the daughter of an Army officer and born at Fort Sill, Okla. She met Hal Moore 20 years later at Fort Bragg, N.C., where their first child, Greg was born.
When Hal became a fixture on national news during and after the Battle of Ia Drang, the Vietnam War’s first major fight, she largely shielded her children from the coverage, especially as Moore’s battalion lost dozens of troops.
Only once did she falter in shielding her kids from the realities of the war, recalled Steve Moore. Hal had been injured after stepping on a booby trap — a slight injury for which Hal Moore was awarded the Purple Heart, an award he never wore and attempted to return to the Army. When Julia got word of Hal’s injury, she had her kids kneel and pray for their father.
“I think she realized she had crossed the line [and] brought the abnormal into the normal and never again did [we hear] anything about what dad was doing in Vietnam other than what we'd see for ourselves on TV,” Steve Moore said.
Julia Moore was also busy volunteering, hosting regular social gatherings for other Army wives, and ensuring other Army families received care.
When Army wives were being notified of their husbands’ deaths in Vietnam by a mere telegram delivered by local taxi drivers, she began working with Western Union to receive those notifications and followed the taxis to their homes to ensure someone was there to comfort the wives. She helped improve the casualty notification process, going all the way to the Pentagon, to ensure an Army chaplain and officer were present at those notifications.
Later she worked to build up Army community services on installations to improve family quality of life, her children said.
“Mom was really very, very involved in our family life, obviously, but it was also so important to her to do things outside the home, and especially to support the family unit in the military,” said Cecile Moore-Rainey, 64. “She was so adaptable. She was so full of enthusiasm, and as much as she was doing and as difficult at times as it was as kids, moving constantly [and] meeting new people, we never really saw her as not being available.”
Lt Gen. Hal Moore
Hal Moore was a troops-first leader, his children said. As he rose through the ranks, he never stopped caring for the soldiers under his watch. It could be hard on the Moore children, with their father spending so much time working to ensure his soldiers received care.
But when he was home, he was an attentive and loving father, they said.
“He was a very disciplined Dad,” Cecile Moore-Rainey said. “He didn’t discipline us in a way that was mean, he was always fair but disciplined. He understood we were kids, doing kids things.”
Hal Moore was most noted for his heroics at LZ XRay in November 1965 at the opening of the Battle of Ia Drang, when he commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry and the unit came under attack in the war’s first major battle. Despite losing dozens of troops, Moore’s leadership and battlefield actions were credited with saving dozens more, according to the Army. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest honor for battlefield valor, for his actions during the three-day battle.
As he continued to rise through the ranks to lieutenant general, Hal Moore served in various positions, including commanding the 7th Infantry Division and working to restore the Army’s noncommissioned officer corps, which was left decimated after the Vietnam War, officials said.
Throughout his storied career, Hal Moore worked to improve equity for his troops, according to his children and the Army. Buzzard said Moore had issued an equal opportunity directive when he led the 7th Infantry Division. Hal Moore issued a similar directive later when he commanded at Fort Ord in California, Steve Moore said.
“That was new in the 1970s,” Steve Moore said. “Nobody had really done that before.”
In Hal’s directive, he wrote he “would not tolerate any explicit or implied discrimination of any sort,” and he backed it up, Steve Moore said, when he relieved several commanders and noncommissioned officers who had displayed prejudice.
“They weren't allowing people to rise to their natural level of excellence,” Steve Moore said. “Dad was all about everybody's green, no one’s another color.”
Hal and Julia Moore are buried on Fort Benning, where they share a headstone, surrounded by the graves of many of the men whom Hal Moore lost during the Battle of Ia Drang.
“That’s significant,” said Greg Moore, their oldest child. “Dad never wanted to be buried at Arlington [National Cemetery in Virginia]. Dad only wanted to be buried [at Fort Benning] with his troopers.”