(Washington) The United States on Friday renamed a military base that bore the name of a general who fought during the American Civil War on the side of the Confederate slave states, to give it instead that of a heroic native colonel.

This installation of the American National Guard located in the state of Virginia, not far from Washington (east), therefore no longer responds to the name of Fort Pickett, but to that of the joint training center of Fort Barfoot.

Eight other military bases named after Confederate officers are also due to change their names soon.

“Today we honor Col. Van Barfoot, a World War II veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, and longtime resident of Virginia,” the base commander said. , Colonel James Shaver, during a ceremony on site.

This medal, the highest American military honor, was awarded to Van Barfoot for his achievements during World War II, including dislodging two German machine guns, capturing 17 enemy soldiers, destroying a tank and an artillery piece, and rescued wounded troops in Italy in 1944.

He then served in Korea and Vietnam, ending his career at the rank of colonel.

This base “will be the first army base on American soil outside overseas territories to bear the name of an indigenous soldier”, said Col. Shaver, alluding to Van Barfoot’s membership in the Chactas. , an indigenous tribe in the southern United States.

Members of his family were present at the ceremony on Friday.

The base previously bore the name of Confederate General George Pickett, who became famous for having, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), led a suicidal charge on the orders of his superiors during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, won by the Unionist, anti-slavery army.

More than half of his soldiers had lost their lives there, but he had survived.

Calls to rename these military installations and other places paying tribute to Confederate generals redoubled after the death of George Floyd in May 2020, killed by a white police officer, who had provoked a vast anti-racist movement and accentuated the questioning of the symbols of the America’s slave past.

Congress had in 2021, overriding a veto attempt by Donald Trump, asked the Secretary of Defense to create a commission responsible for proposing new names for these bases.

The president of the local chapter of the civil rights organization NAACP, Robert Barnette, hailed Friday to AFP “a step in the right direction”.