Sunday, June 23, 2024

Fort Fisher Rec Area undergoes name change, sheds ties to Confederate officer

Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area in New Hanover County. (Courtesy photo)

KURE BEACH — The Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area, under operation by the the Air Force, Army National Guard and Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, has a new moniker as of Friday.

READ MORE: Fort Bragg drops Confederate namesake in efforts to be more inclusive

Officials from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base’s 4th Fighter Wing announced it is now known as the Blakeslee Air Force Recreation Area, named after Col. Donald James Matthew Blakeslee.

An American fighter pilot from World War II, Blakeslee endured 500 operational deployments and accumulated 1,200 combat hours. Blakeslee flew for the 335th Fighter Squadron and the 4th Fighter Group, which in combat missions against Luftwaffe, an aerial-warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht, holds the record for striking down 1,016 German aircraft.

He passed away in 2008.

The fort’s name change comes as Congress established in 2021 a commission in the National Defense Authorization Act to look at bases and other Department of Defense assets to eradicate Confederate names.

Located near Fort Fisher State Park, the aquarium and south of the Fort Fisher historic site, the federally-owned recreation area provides activities, lodging and training events for DOD-eligible groups.

It’s been the location of Pleasure Island’s Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival for years and faces the Cape Fear River on 118 Riverfront Road. It also houses Riverview Restaurant.

The name change will not alter amenities and services.

The Fort Fisher historic site was home to a Civil War battle, won by the Union which closed the Confederate port at Southport. It was the last port open in North Carolina as a vital route to get goods to Confederate soldiers.

The nearby recreation area was named after Civil War officer Col. Charles Fisher of Salisbury, N.C. Fisher led the 6th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and was killed in action in 1861; beforehand, he served as an attorney and legislator.

“It is not an everyday occurrence to have the opportunity to name an area like this,” Lt. Col. Timothy Kirchner, 4th Force Support Squadron commander, said in a release. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to recognize and memorialize heroes like Blakeslee. He set the standard that we still follow today.”

Fort Fisher’s name change comes a month after Fort Bragg in Fayetteville was changed to Fort Liberty.

The naming commission changed eight other forts:

  • Fort Benning, Ga. > Fort Moore
  • Fort Gordon, Ga. > Fort Eisenhower
  • Fort Hood, Texas > Fort Cavazos
  • Fort A.P. Hill, Va. > Fort Walker
  • Fort Lee, Va. > Fort Gregg-Adams
  • Fort Pickett, Va. > Fort Barfoot
  • Fort Polk, La. > Fort Johnson
  • Fort Rucker, Ala. > Fort Novosel

Costs to change all forts names and secondary assets were more than $62 million.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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