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In reference to the Bangor Daily News’ recent editorial rejecting the renaming of an Army base in honor of Joshua Chamberlain, I would suggest that most West Point graduates formerly and now chiefs of staff would disagree. When I was at West Point in the late 1990s leading a Maine Army Reserve task force conducting Beast Barracks (Cadet Basic Training), I observed that Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Infantry were held up as the epitome of what the military calls “Duty, Honor, Country.” That, when the chips were down and the 20th Maine’s “ammunition utterly failed” (Chamberlain’s words) he ordered “fix bayonets” and sent the doughty men of Maine charging down the slope of Little Round Top at Gettysburg turning the tide of battle.
The attacking Alabamians retreated in disarray and the “Men of Maine’s” (The West Point Commandant’s label) heroic effort “saved” the extreme left flank that would have allowed the Confederates to sweep behind Union lines, which likely would have led to a Southern win and a whole different outcome to the course of the Civil War.
I watched Commandant Brigadier General John Abizaid standing on the stage with the movie “Gettysburg” showing behind him on a giant screen as he addressed a West Point Regiment of 1,400. I remember Abizaid pointing to Chamberlain on the screen and telling the cadets that this was dedicated and bold leadership at it’s finest. Not only did the “Men of Maine” turn the tide of the war at Gettysburg, but they were chosen specifically to receive the final Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Virginia two years later.
Until the Jan. 6 insurrection, Gettysburg came closest to being the biggest threat to American Democracy in the past 200 years. Fort Joshua Chamberlain is absolutely appropriate.
U.S. Army, retired