Throughout the last few years, the US government and military have worked together to formulate a plan regarding the renaming of streets, installations and vehicles to titles not related to the Confederacy. Several US Army bases have had their names changed thus far. The latest is Fort Benning, Georgia, which has been renamed “Fort Moore,” in honor of Hal and Julie Moore.
Mel Gibson portrayed the lieutenant general in 2002’s We Were Soldiers, and has released a statement about the name change.
Fort Benning, now known as Fort Moore, has a storied history as one of the US Army’s largest Basic Combat Training centers. Established during World War I, it was named for rebel Gen. Henry L. Benning, who never actually served in the Confederate Army. He was a lawyer by trade and a judge on the Georgia Supreme Court.
When it opened, Fort Benning served as a training camp for infantrymen and a handful of tank units. During the 1930s, it hosted the Army’s experiments into mechanized warfare, allowing the country’s military to effectively prepare for the ever-changing face of combat in the 20th century.
The first airborne units trained at the installation the following decade. In 1952, the first Ranger School classes took place at the base, and the subsequent decades saw the training of military dogs and the development of helicopter-based air assault tactics.
Today, over 120,000 active-duty military, reserve component soldiers, family members, retirees and civilian employees are supported by the historic base.
Lt. Gen. Hal Moore served in Korea and Vietnam, and is famous for commanding the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965. His efforts during the engagement earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
Moore began his military service in 1945 as a commissioned infantry officer, having completed the necessary training at Fort Benning. He then went on to complete jump school, before being assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It’s reported he completed over 300 jumps during his career, earning him the title of “jumpmaster.”
With the outbreak of the Korean War, Moore was recalled to Fort Benning to complete the Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course, after which he was assigned to the 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. In the mid-1960s, he became the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and was deployed to Vietnam.
The Battle of Ia Drang, which occurred from November 14-18, 1965, saw two separate engagements: one at Landing Zone (LZ) X-Ray and the other at LZ Albany. Moore and his men found themselves encircled by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops at the latter. Despite being greatly outnumbered, they beat back the enemy with the assistance of air power and heavy artillery.
After the war, Moore served in a number of high-ranking positions, including as a division commander and the head of Fort Ord, California, where he fought for the creation of the Army’s first equal opportunity policies. He retired in 1977, after 32 years of service.
Moore was supported by his wife, Julie, who dedicated herself to doing her part for the families of those serving overseas. During the Vietnam War, she reformed the way in which the Army delivered notifications to the relatives of fallen soldiers.
Julie passed in 2004, while Hal died in 2017.
A redesignation ceremony was held at the military installation on May 11, 2023. It was attended by Army personnel and relatives of Hal and Julie Moore, who watched Fort Benning’s colors replaced with a new flag and entry sign.
Speaking before the crowd, Maj. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, commander of the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, said, “Lt. Gen. Hal and Julie Moore were courageous leaders and visionaries whose lives exemplify duty, honor, country, and each time we pass through the gates, their legacy will inspire us.”
He added, “The relationships the Moores created and instilled in soldiers, spouses and this community during their career, and especially throughout the Vietnam War, were catalysts for the Army, and forever changed how we value and take care of our own.”
One of Moore’s comrades, retired Col. Ramon “Tony” Nadal, was present at the ceremony and commented on how the lieutenant general made him and his men better people. “He made his soldiers better, he made the Army better,” Nadal shared. “The naming of this post in honor of Hal and Julie will serve as a beacon to many young men and women who will follow them in honor, integrity, and allegiance in service to their country.”
The couple’s son, retired Col. David Moore, also commented on the momentous occasion, sharing how much his parents loved their work. “They loved the Army and their beloved troops,” he reminisced. “So much so that my father’s last wish was to be buried among his troopers here at the post cemetery. The same troopers my mother referred to as their sons and brothers and with whom she is buried as well.”
In a video uploaded to YouTube, Mel Gibson discussed Fort Benning’s renaming, calling it a “great name” and saying, “It’s more than more than fitting.”
The actor then went on to explain how honored he felt to have known Hal and Julie Moore while filming We Were Soldiers. “I really found out just how gracious and generous he could be when he allowed and trusted this Hollywood clown enough to let him into his personal life, his story and, particularly, his experiences in the Ia Drang Valley,” Gibson said. “Now, that was a profound experience for me.”
Gibson portrayed Moore in the Vietnam-era film, which tells the story of the Battle of Ia Drang. We Were Soldiers was based on the book written by war correspondent Joseph Galloway and the lieutenant general, and covered both the fighting overseas and Julie’s efforts back in the United States.
“One of the big lessons Hal taught me was that, no matter what the plan is, no matter what the conditions are, it’s always going to be, y’know, it’s going to go awry,” the actor continued. “So you have to have a plan A, B, C, D through Z and beyond and leave no stone unturned, which he did.”
He added, “Having known [Hal] was a highlight in my life.”
The Department of Defense approved recommendations put forth by the Naming Commission at the end of 2022, and plans to rename all nine Confederate-named bases by the end of the year. Prior to Fort Benning, Fort Hood, in Texas, was redesignated Fort Cavazos, after the late Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, the US Army’s first Hispanic four-star general.