Arnold Heights or Weaver Heights?

June, 2013

Lincoln -- The City of Lincoln should change the name of Arnold Heights to Weaver Heights.

The suburb has long since (almost five decades ago) lost its connection to Lincoln Air Force Base, which named its housing area after General H. H. Arnold. Arnold was a nineteen forties' advocate of strategic bombing warfare and mentor of General Curtis LeMay. LeMay may have had a hand in naming Arnold Heights when he was SAC commander. Originally, the base housing was called Huskerville, and some oldtimers still call it that.

It would not be the first time the name Arnold is dropped. The name was recently removed from an Arnold school for military dependents in Germany, when the Air Force departed a base in Wiesbaden. The school still exists as a dependents' school, but under a different name.

Strategic bombing as an approach to warfare has been discredited in the eyes of many military historians. In World War II, enemy war production actually increased despite widespread strategic bombing. Enemy resistance hardened. Post-war reconciliation was made more difficult because of strategic bombing, which targeted civilians and non-strategic cities. Don't mention the name of British general "Butcher" Harris in Dresden or Potsdam without expecting a hateful reaction. Even Churchill thought the firebombing of Dresden was an atrocity. Arnold's forces participated, as they did in firebombing non-strategic cities in Japan.

Before it was Arnold Heights, and before Huskerville, the area was prairie, dotted by farms. West of Oak Creek the land rises up in hills that overlook the City of Lincoln. It was here that botanist John Ernst Weaver studied the ecology of prairies in the nineteen twenties and named the nearby hills Nine Mile Prairie. Weaver wrote, with Frederic Clements, the book Plant Ecology, which became the bible of plant ecology for generations of botany and ecology students throughout the United States. Weaver was recognized as the country's foremost authority on North American prairies. Nine Mile Prairie is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The suburb of Arnold Heights today comprises more than the old base housing stock. There is a new shopping center and many businesses along Northwest 48th Street, which is soon to be widened and improved. There is a new school and a new public library in the valley below Nine Mile Prairie.

It's time to change the name. Why? If for no other reason, General Arnold appears never to have been on the site and has no connection to it. For better or worse, Arnold is honored in multiple places elsewhere. Weaver spent a career on Nine Mile Prairie and other prairies like it. Nebraska should honor its great but neglected scientists; Weaver is in the first rank of such scientists. He was president of the Ecological Society of America and a legend in his time. Renaming Arnold Heights as Weaver Heights would be a fitting change and signal that Nebraska wants to reclaim its heritage as it moves forward in science and research.