Navy follows Marine Corps's ban on Confederate flags

Elizabeth Howe
June 10, 2020 - 11:18 am
Confederate Flag

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The Navy announced that it will follow the Marine Corps's lead in banning symbols of the Confederate flag from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft, and submarines.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday instructed his staff to begin crafting an order banning the symbol in an effort to "ensure unit cohesion, preserve good order and discipline, and uphold the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment," spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement Tuesday. 

The Navy still operates the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser named in 1989 for the Civil War battle fought in Spotsylvania County, Virginia in 1863.

The announcement comes the same day that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said they would be "open to bi-partisan discussions" about changing the names of its 10 installations with Confederate namesakes -- a divergence from the Army's adamance for years that the names would remain the same. 

Army open to ‘discussions’ about renaming 10 bases named for Confederate troops

The Marine Corps Confederate ban, initially announced in late February, officially went into effect at the beginning of the week. This along with continued national unrest in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has raised questions for the other service branches and their passive condoning of the Confederate ties. 

The events of the past two weeks “made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public,” an Army official told Politico, which first reported the story. 

Esper and McCarthy are reportedly open to renaming the ten installations across the country that carry the names of Confederate leaders: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

This changing perspective among Army leadership is only the latest step senior military chiefs took in recent weeks in addressing race relations. Last week, the Air Force led the way in releasing statements denouncing racism and promising a fight for justice. The other services followed suit. 

The military has its own lessons to learn about racial justice, leaders say

In its statement to the force, the Army released a joint message from McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville about how the Army at times has “fallen short.” 

“We need to work harder to earn the trust of mothers and fathers who hesitate to hand their sons and daughters into our care,” the statement reads. “How we respond to the anger that has ignited will chart the course of that trust.”

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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