Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bonus Army, summer, 1932

" 'We were heroes in 1917, but we're bums now,' one veteran complained bitterly." (America, p. 748)

The Bonus Army was a large group of World War I veterans who descended on Washington, D.C., in May of 1932, demanding early fulfillment of a promise made to them by the U.S. government. In 1924, Congress had voted to give a bonus to veterans of the war but they couldn't collect it until 1945. But when the Depression hit and the veterans were out of work and desperate to feed their families and to survive, they organized themselves and about 15,000 of them marched on Washington and set up camps in various places. They created well-organized makeshift camps, complete with dug-out streets and latrines. Whole families lived in these camps while the veterans waited for Congress to agree to give them their bonuses immediately. But the idea was voted down and in July, General MacArthur was sent in to clear the veterans out of the camp. An ugly scene ensued in which MacArthur and his men set fire to the camp, burning it to the ground, forcing 10,000 people to flee, injuring some. "Newsreel footage captured the deeply disturbing spectacle of the U.S. Army moving against its own veterans..." (America, p. 748)


Lorena Glover said...

For some reason unknown to me, the site was not letting me upload any photos. I tried several times. Maybe I'll try again another day. Photos make it a lot more interesting!

Lorena Glover said...

Well, ok, never mind- today it worked!

A. Mattson said...

Nice photo. Good post.

The Bonus Army's march on Washington was a real political nightmare for Hoover. His decision to meet this protest with force did indeed create an ugly scene that saddened and angered many Americans. Americans who in November of '32 would vote for FDR.