Name of USAF C-17 used to transport Biden to Iraq causes controversy


Joe Biden

A “controversially”-named C-17 Globemaster III that recently transported Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq Thursday is causing a stir on the internet.

Photographers captured photos of the C-17 offloading Biden, which raised red flags all over the internet.

“How ludicrous is it that Biden is flying in an C-17 called ‘The Spirit of Strom Thurmond?” tweeted Graeme Wood, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and contributor for The Atlantic.


Biden isn’t the only passenger the Thurmond has ferried to a combat zone. Senior Editor for the Washington Examiner Dave Brown poked fun at the photos, bringing up a time when controversial Vice President Dick Cheney rode on the very same plane during a 2007 trip to Iraq. The following year, then-First Lady Laura Bush hopped on the Thurmond during a trip to Afghanistan.

The C-17 Globemaster III in question -delivered to the USAF in 2002- was the 100th C-17A to roll off the assembly line and was dedicated to Army combat veteran-turned South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond on his 100th Birthday. Senator Thurmond is the only US Senator to retire at over a century old and was a glider trooper during the Allied invasion of France in 1944. The C-17 that bears his name is based out of Charleston, South Carolina as well, bearing the palmetto tree and crescent moon of South Carolina on the tail flash.

Thurmond was known as a “Dixiecrat” who opposed desegregation and civil rights advances until the 1970s, when he began to take a softer and more moderate approach to race relations.

Given that destroyers, carriers and military installations are historically named after war heroes and politicians (who often had controversial backgrounds), it is no surprise that Senator Thurmond -who lived to be 100 years old and still serve in Congress- would have an aircraft bearing his name.

Still, the plane is getting a lot of negative attention due to the racially-negative past of the late Congressman in an exceedingly racially-charged nation. With calls to change the names of military bases bearing the names of Confederate Generals as well, would seem political correctness has become a corrosive agitant for historical precedence.

The C-17A Globemaster III first flew in September of 1991 and was introduced into the USAF’s inventory in January of 1995. Since then, the aircraft have broken 22 records for oversized payloads and transport everything from paratroopers to the US Presidential Limousine, known as “The Beast.”

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