Bonus Army
Overview
 
The Bonus Army was the popular name of an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers—17,000 World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 veterans, their families, and affiliated groups—who gathered in Washington, D.C., in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand immediate cash-payment redemption of their service certificates. Its organizers called it the Bonus Expeditionary Force to echo the name of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

's American Expeditionary Force
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

, while the media called it the Bonus March.
Encyclopedia
The Bonus Army was the popular name of an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers—17,000 World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 veterans, their families, and affiliated groups—who gathered in Washington, D.C., in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand immediate cash-payment redemption of their service certificates. Its organizers called it the Bonus Expeditionary Force to echo the name of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

's American Expeditionary Force
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

, while the media called it the Bonus March. It was led by Walter W. Waters
Walter W. Waters
Walter W. Waters of Portland, Oregon, was a former Army Sergeant in the United States Army who, in May 1932, led the 20,000-strong army of World War I veterans called the Bonus Army on their march to Washington, D.C....

, a former Army sergeant.

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act
World War Adjusted Compensation Act
The World War Adjusted Compensation Act, or Bonus Act, was a United States federal law passed on May 19, 1924, that granted a benefit to veterans of American military service in World War I.-Provisions:...

 of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1945. Each service certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus compound interest
Compound interest
Compound interest arises when interest is added to the principal, so that from that moment on, the interest that has been added also itself earns interest. This addition of interest to the principal is called compounding...

. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.

Retired Marine Corps
Marine corps
A marine is a member of a force that specializes in expeditionary operations such as amphibious assault and occupation. The marines traditionally have strong links with the country's navy...

 Major General Smedley Butler
Smedley Butler
Smedley Darlington Butler was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S...

, one of the most popular military figures of the time, visited their camp to back the effort and encourage them. On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell
William D. Mitchell
William DeWitt Mitchell was appointed to the position of U.S. Solicitor General by Calvin Coolidge on June 4, 1925, which he held until he was appointed to the position of U.S. Attorney General for the entirety of Herbert Hoover's Presidency.Born in Winona, Minnesota to William B...

 ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

 then ordered the army to clear the veterans' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

A second, smaller Bonus March in 1933 at the start of the Roosevelt Administration was defused with promises instead of military action. In 1936, Congress overrode President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

's veto to pay the veterans their bonus years early.

Background

In 1781, most of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 was demobilized
Demobilization
Demobilization is the process of standing down a nation's armed forces from combat-ready status. This may be as a result of victory in war, or because a crisis has been peacefully resolved and military force will not be necessary...

 without pay. Two years later, hundreds of Pennsylvania war veterans marched on Philadelphia, then the capital, surrounded the State House where the U.S. Congress was in session, and demanded their pay. Congress fled to Princeton, New Jersey, and several weeks later, the U.S. Army expelled the war veterans from the national capital. In response to that experience, the federal district directly governed by the U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., was excluded from the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act
Posse Comitatus Act
The Posse Comitatus Act is an often misunderstood and misquoted United States federal law passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction. Its intent was to limit the powers of local governments and law enforcement agencies from using federal military personnel to enforce the laws of...

 which forbade the use of the U.S. military for domestic police activity.

The practice of war-time military bonuses began in 1776, as payment for the difference between what a soldier earned and what he could have earned had he not enlisted. Breaking with tradition, the veterans of the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 did not receive a bonus and, after World War I, their not receiving a military service bonus became a political matter when WWI veterans received only a $60 bonus. The American Legion
American Legion
The American Legion is a mutual-aid organization of veterans of the United States armed forces chartered by the United States Congress. It was founded to benefit those veterans who served during a wartime period as defined by Congress...

, created in 1919, led a political movement for an additional bonus.

On May 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge
John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was the 30th President of the United States . A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state...

 vetoed a bill granting bonuses to veterans of World War I, saying: "patriotism... bought and paid for is not patriotism." Congress overrode his veto a few days later, enacting the World War Adjusted Compensation Act
World War Adjusted Compensation Act
The World War Adjusted Compensation Act, or Bonus Act, was a United States federal law passed on May 19, 1924, that granted a benefit to veterans of American military service in World War I.-Provisions:...

. Each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (2010: $7,899). Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years.

Some 3,662,374 military service certificates were issued, with a face value of $3.638 billion (2010: $43.7 billion). Congress established a trust fund to receive 20 annual payments of $112 million that, with interest, would finance the 1945 disbursement of the $3.638 billion due the veterans. Meanwhile, veterans could borrow up to 22.5% of the certificate's face value from the fund. In 1931, because of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, Congress increased the maximum value of such loans to 50% of the certificate's face value. By April 1932, loans amounting to $1.248 billion had been made. Although there was Congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action; they reasoned that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and thus any potential recovery would be slowed.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a congressionally chartered war veterans organization in the United States. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, VFW currently has 1.5 million members belonging to 7,644 posts, and is the largest American organization of combat...

 continued to press the federal government to allow the early redemption of military service certificates.

March

On June 15, the House of Representatives passed the Wright Patman
Wright Patman
John William Wright Patman was a U.S. Congressman from Texas in Texas's 1st congressional district and chair of the United States House Committee on Banking and Currency .-Early life:...

 Bonus Bill which would have moved forward the date for World War I veterans to receive their cash bonus.

Most of the Bonus Army camped in a Hooverville
Hooverville
A 'Hooverville' was the popular name for shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression. They were named after the President of the United States at the time, Herbert Hoover, because he allegedly let the nation slide into depression...

 on the Anacostia Flats, a swampy, muddy area across the Anacostia River
Anacostia River
The Anacostia River is a river in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States. It flows from Prince George's County in Maryland into Washington, D.C., where it joins with the Washington Channel to empty into the Potomac River at Buzzard Point. It is approximately long...

 from the federal core of Washington, just south of the 11th Street Bridges
11th Street Bridges
The 11th Street Bridges are a pair of one-way bridges across the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. The southbound structure is officially named the Officer Kevin J. Welsh Memorial Bridge, while the northbound structure is officially named the 11th Street Bridge. The bridges convey...

 (now Section C of Anacostia Park
Anacostia Park
Anacostia Park is operated by the United States National Park Service. It is one of Washington, D.C.'s largest and most important recreation areas, with over 1200 acres at multiple sites. Included in Anacostia Park is Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens and Kenilworth Marsh...

). The camps, built from materials scavenged from a nearby rubbish dump, were tightly controlled by the veterans who laid out streets, built sanitation facilities, and held daily parades. To live in the camps, veterans were required to register and prove they had been honorably discharged.

The Bonus Army massed at the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 on June 17 as the U.S. Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 defeated the Bonus Bill by a vote of 62-18.

Police shooting

The marchers remained at their campsite waiting for President Hoover to act. On July 28, 1932, Attorney General William D. Mitchell
William D. Mitchell
William DeWitt Mitchell was appointed to the position of U.S. Solicitor General by Calvin Coolidge on June 4, 1925, which he held until he was appointed to the position of U.S. Attorney General for the entirety of Herbert Hoover's Presidency.Born in Winona, Minnesota to William B...

 ordered the police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp. When the veterans moved back into it, they rushed two policeman trapped on the second floor of a building. The cornered police drew their revolvers and shot two veterans, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, who died later.

William Hushka (1895–1932) was an immigrant
Immigration
Immigration is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence...

 to the United States from Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, he sold his butcher shop in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 and joined the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. After the war he lived in Chicago, Illinois. Hushka is buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

.

Eric Carlson (1894 – July 28, 1932) was a U.S. veteran from Oakland, California
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

. He fought in the trenches of France in World War I. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

When told of the shootings, President Hoover ordered the army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington.

U.S. Army intervention

At 4:45 p.m., commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, the 12th Infantry Regiment
U.S. 12th Infantry Regiment
The 12th Infantry Regiment is one of the oldest and most decorated units of the United States Army. The 12th Regiment has fought in seven wars from the Civil War to the Global War on Terrorism and has been awarded four Presidential Unit Citations, five Valorous Unit Awards and the Belgian...

, Fort Howard, Maryland
Fort Howard (Maryland)
Fort Howard is the name of a former military installation in Baltimore County, Maryland, near the present-day settlement of Fort Howard.This park's historical significance is its connection with the War of 1812 and largest invasion of the United States in history on the morning of September 12, 1814...

, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by six battle tanks commanded by Maj. George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

, formed in Pennsylvania Avenue while thousands of civil service employees left work to line the street and watch. The Bonus Marchers, believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton ordered the cavalry to charge them—an action which prompted the spectators to yell, "Shame! Shame!"

After the cavalry charged, the infantry, with fixed bayonets and adamsite
Adamsite
Adamsite or DM is an organic compound; technically, an arsenical diphenylaminechlorarsine, that can be used as a riot control agent. DM belongs to the group of chemical warfare agents known as vomiting agents or sneeze gases...

 gas, an arsenical vomiting agent, entered the camps, evicting veterans, families, and camp followers. The veterans fled across the Anacostia River to their largest camp and President Hoover ordered the assault stopped. However Gen. MacArthur, feeling the Bonus March was a Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, ignored the President and ordered a new attack. Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran's wife miscarried. When 12-week-old Bernard Myers died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack, a government investigation reported he died of enteritis
Enteritis
In medicine, enteritis, from Greek words enteron and suffix -itis , refers to inflammation of the small intestine. It is most commonly caused by the ingestion of substances contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, dehydration and fever...

, while a hospital spokesman said the tear gas "didn't do it any good."

During the military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, later President of the United States, served as one of MacArthur's junior aides. Believing it wrong for the Army's highest-ranking officer to lead an action against fellow American war veterans, he strongly advised MacArthur against taking any public role: "I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch not to go down there," he said later. "I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff." Despite his misgivings, Eisenhower later wrote the Army's official incident report which endorsed MacArthur's conduct.

Aftermath

MGM
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...

 released the movie Gabriel Over the White House
Gabriel Over the White House
Gabriel Over the White House is a 1933 American Pre-Code film variously described as a "bizarre political fantasy" or a "comedy drama" that "is surprisingly socialist in tone " and which "posits a favorable view of fascism."The film stars Walter Huston, Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, C. Henry Gordon,...

in March 1933. Produced by William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...

's Cosmopolitan Pictures, it depicted a fictitious President Hammond who, in the film's opening scenes, refuses to deploy the military against a march of the unemployed and instead creates an "Army of Construction" to work on public works projects until the economy recovers. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

 judged the movie's treatment of veterans superior to Hoover's.

The Bonus Army incident proved disastrous for Hoover's chances at re-election; he lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

.

During the presidential campaign of 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt opposed the veterans' bonus demands. When they organized a second demonstration in May 1933, he provided the marchers with a campsite in Virginia and provided them three meals a day. Administration officials, led by presidential confidant Louis Howe, tried to negotiate an end to the protest. Roosevelt arranged for his wife Eleanor to visit the site unaccompanied. She lunched with the veterans and listened to them perform songs. She reminisced about her memories of seeing troops off to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and welcoming them home. The most she could offer was a promise of positions in the newly created Civilian Conservation Corps
Civilian Conservation Corps
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18–25. A part of the New Deal of President Franklin D...

 (CCC). One veteran commented: "Hoover sent the army, Roosevelt sent his wife". In a press conference following her visit, the First Lady described her reception as courteous and praised the marchers, highlighting how comfortable she felt despite critics of the marchers who described them as Communists and criminals.

Roosevelt later issued an executive order allowing the enrollment of 25,000 veterans in the CCC, exempting them from the normal requirement that applicants be unmarried and under the age of 25. Congress, where Democrats held majorities in both houses, passed the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act in 1936 authorizing the immediate payment of the $2 billion in WWI bonuses over the President's veto. The House vote was 324 to 61, and the Senate vote was 76 to 19.

See also

  • On-to-Ottawa Trek
    On-to-Ottawa Trek
    The On-to-Ottawa Trek was a long journey where thousands of people had unemployed men protesting the dismal conditions in federal relief camps scattered in remote areas across Western Canada. The men lived and worked in these camps at a rate of twenty cents per day before walking out on strike in...

     by Canadian Veterans, 1935
  • Coxey's Army
    Coxey's Army
    Coxey's Army was a protest march by unemployed workers from the United States, led by the populist Jacob Coxey. They marched on Washington D.C. in 1894, the second year of a four-year economic depression that was the worst in United States history to that time. Officially named the Army of the...

  • List of protest marches on Washington, DC
  • Occupy movement
    Occupy movement
    The Occupy movement is an international protest movement which is primarily directed against economic and social inequality. The first Occupy protest to be widely covered was Occupy Wall Street in New York City, taking place on September 17, 2011...


Sources

  • Burner, David. (1979). Herbert Hoover: A Public Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-46134-7.
  • Daniels, Roger. (1971). The Bonus March: An Episode of the Great Depression. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.
  • Dickson, Paul, and Thomas B. Allen. (2004). The Bonus Army: An American Epic. New York: Walker and Company. ISBN 0-8027-1440-4.
  • Dickson, Paul, and Thomas B. Allen. "Marching On History," in Smithsonian, February 2003
  • James, D. Clayton. (1970). The Years of MacArthur, Volume I, 1880-1941. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Lisio, Donald J. (1974). The President and Protest: Hoover, Conspiracy, and the Bonus Riot. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.
  • Smith, Richard Norton. (1984). An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-46034-X.
  • Liebovich, Louis W. (1994). Bylines in Despair: Herbert Hoover, the Great Depression, and the U.S. News Media ISBN 0275948439
  • Bennett, Michael J. (1999). When Dreams Come True: The GI Bill and the Making of Modern America ISBN 157488218X

External links

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