The Bonus Army
In 1932, 22,000 veterans of the First World War marched to Washington and set up a "Hooverville" on Anacosta Flats. These veterans had been promised a service bonus in 1926 which would be paid to them in 1945. Because of the hard times that many of them were facing they demanded its payment ahead of time. Hoover's response was to send in the army - under General MacArthur - to clear the site. In the process two "bonus marchers" were killed and hundreds injured.
|Members of the Bonus Army march through Washington DC|
|soldiers clear out members of the Bonus Army|
|a veteran being pulled out of a building by police during the Bonus March|
police break up the Bonus Marchers' camp
The five sources below provide differing information about what happened. Look at the sources carefully and then complete the questions.
The Depression's most famous protest was staged by thousands of men who had fought in The First World War. In 1924 the American government promised them a bonus of several hundred dollars each, to be paid in 1945. During the Depression, many of these ex-servicemen began to demand their bonus at once. They had already risked their lives for their country; why should they risk starvation now instead of being promptly paid for what they had done? Their campaign reached its height in 1932, when a 'Bonus Army' of 22,000 angry men set out from homes all over America. Their destination was Washington, the American capital. Here they would set up a Hooverville to embarrass the government. By June the protesters' shanty town had been set up on the outskirts of Washington. The government began to get worried. Until now the Depression had had less effect in the capital city than anywhere else. The ragged state of some of the men in the Bonus Army came as a shock. In spite of this, the President said the nation could not afford to pay them straight away. In the end, officials said that the men were led by Communists. The use of this label somehow made it easier for Hoover and others to ignore the men's claim. They also felt that the time had come for the army to drive them out of Washington.
Tony D. Triggs, Boom and Slump in interwar America, 1987.
The group which caught the nation's attention most dramatically were the veterans of the First World War who organised the Bonus Expeditionary Force in 1932 to march on Washington D.C. They had earlier been promised compensation for their war service and wanted the government to pay the money earlier because of their sudden poverty. To pressurise Hoover and Congress, about 11,000 of them, including their families, made a shanty town on Anacosta Field in the centre of the city. Hoover ordered the army, led by General MacArthur, to clear the field, because they believed they were organised by revolutionaries and criminals, who posed a threat to the United States government.
John Vick, Modern America, 1985.
One protest which did worry the Republican government was the Bonus Army March on Washington. In 1932, over 20,000 of the ex-servicemen who had fought for America in the First World War, decided to demand bonus payments that had been promised to them. The bonus of a few hundred dollars each was scheduled for payment in 1945. These veterans wanted their money now as many were facing starvation. Thousands of these veterans marched on Washington from all over America. They set up a gigantic Hooverville opposite the White House on Anacosta Flats.
US Congress did not vote to pay the bonus immediately but did vote money to help the veterans pay their way home. Most left, but about 2,000 to 4,000 remained. Hoover and the government were disturbed by these "troublesome veterans". They declared that they were led by communists and revolutionaries. After two marchers were killed in a clash with police, Hoover ordered the army to move them on. On 28 July 1932, four troops of cavalry drove the veterans out of Washington and burned their Hooverville camp. To many Americans it seemed that this was a declaration of civil war by the government against its own people. Was America now close to revolution? The New York Evening Post described it as "easily the most threatening situation the Depression has brought on America".
T. McAleavy, The USA, 1917-1941, 1998
The Bonus Expeditionary Force, which took its name from the American Expeditionary Force of the Great War, was a group of about 14,000 unemployed veterans who went to Washington in the summer of 1932 to pressurise Congress for immediate payment of the bonus which had been approved in 1926 for payment in 1945. At Hoover's insistence, the Senate did not pass the bonus bill, and about half of the marchers accepted a Congressional offer of transportation home. The remaining five or six thousand, many with wives and children, continued to live in shanties along the Anacosta river and to lobby for their cause. After two veterans were killed in a clash with the police, Hoover, calling them revolutionaries and Communists, ordered the army to remove them. On 28 July, 1932 General MacArthur, the army chief of staff personally commanded the removal operation. With machine guns, tanks, cavalry, infantry with fixed bayonets, and tear gas, MacArthur drove the veterans from Washington and burned the camp.
W. Turner, The Essentials of United States History, 1990.
Hoover's reputation was particularly damaged by an event in June 1932. Thousands of servicemen who had fought in the First World War marched on Washington asking for their war bonuses to be paid early. The marchers camped peacefully outside the White House and sang patriotic songs. Hoover refused to meet them. He appointed General MacArthur to handle the situation. MacArthur convinced himself that they were Communist agitators. He ignored Hoover's instructions to treat the marchers with respect. Troops and police used tear gas and burned the marchers' camps. Hoover would not admit that he had failed to control MacArthur. He publicly thanked God that the USA still knew how to deal with a mob.
B. Walsh, Modern World History, 2001