The 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. (Bartlett) However the payment would not be made until 1945. Unfortunately, by 1932 the nation had become engulfed into the Depression and the unemployed veterans obviously wanted their money immediately so that they could support their families.

Nearly one-third of working Americans were unemployed and desperate for relief of the painful burden shoved onto their already broken backs. (Bartlett) Many veterans of World War I felt that the federal government owed them a particular debt for their sacrifice and service during the war. They began to organize and demand that Congress approve an early payment of pension funds that was not due until 1945.

Due to such high unemployment rates, nearly 15,000 ragged poor, straining veterans who were just barely managing to keep their loved ones fed and clothed, arrived in Washington, D.C. to firmly demand the immediate payment of their precious bonus which they had earned fair and square. They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force but to the public they were known as the "Bonus Army". (Daniels)

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 the evening hours, in excess of 10,000 marchers ever so eagerly crowded the Capital 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. As expected, the Washington police met with firm resistance, shots were fired and two marchers were innocently killed. President Hoover ordered the army to clear out the veterans; nothing more, nothing less. Infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks were...
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