Bonus Army

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The Bonus Army

In 1924, a grateful Congress voted to give a bonus to World War I veterans, $1.25 for each day served overseas, and $1.00 for each day served in the States. However the payment would not be made until 1945.Unfortneately, by 1932 the nation had fell into the Depression and the unemployed veterans wanted their money immediately. As a result about 15,000 veterans, most unemployed and poor, arrived in Washington, D.C. to demand immediate payment of their bonus. They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force but to the public they were known as the "Bonus Army". The veterans created camps at various places around the city, and they waited. On June 17 the Senate was voted on the bill already passed by the House to immediately give the vets their bonus money. By dusk, 10,000 marchers crowded the Capitol grounds expectantly awaiting the outcome The Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62 to 18. A month later, Attorney General Mitchell ordered the evacuation of the veterans from all government property. The Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two marchers killed. President Hoover ordered the army to clear out the veterans. Infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks were dispatched with Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur in command. Major Dwight D. Eisenhower served as his liaison with Washington police and Major George Patton led the cavalry. By nightfall the BEF had retreated across the Anacostia River where Hoover ordered MacArthur to stop. Ignoring the command, the general led his infantry to the main camp. By early morning the 10,000 inhabitants were routed and the camp in flames. Two babies died and nearby hospitals overwhelmed with casualties. Eisenhower later wrote, "the whole scene was pitiful. The veterans were ragged, ill-fed, and felt themselves badly abused. To suddenly see the whole encampment going up in flames just added to the pity."
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