The US Government Assault on World War I Veterans and Their Families

The March of the Bonus Army

PBS (2013)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the brutal 1932 massacre of World War I veterans and their families by Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton.

Owing to insufficient volunteers (the army paid $1.25 a day), the US government was forced to initiate a draft when they first entered World War I in April 1917. When the war ended, veterans agitated for lost wages, leading Congress to authorize payment of a $1.25 bonus, to be paid in 1938.

With the 1929 Depression, unemployment rates for veterans were especially high, and an ex-GI from Portland organized a veterans march on Washington to demand immediate payment of their bonus.

After dozens of veterans occupied every Congressman’s office, the House passed the Bonus Bill.

As the Senate took up the bill, the veterans and their families set up an enormous tent and shack city in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC. They passed the time preparing communal meals, boxing, making music, preparing and visiting a library set up by the Salvation Army. One of the most remarkable features of the Anacostia tent city was the natural integration of black and white veterans in all aspects of daily life. During the war, black troops weren’t allowed to fight alongside white Americans, leading 100,000 African Americans to fight under the French flag.

The the Senate overwhelming defeated the Bonus Bill, Congress adjourned and Hoover ordered the evacuation of the 45,000 Bonus Army veterans from downtown Washington DC. After a battle broke out between city police and veterans, Hoover ordered and attack by 400 infantry, accompanied by tanks and armored vehicles to attack. General MacArthur ignored his order not to cross the Anacostia River, and he and his men burned the shacks and tents filled with the wives and children of Bonus Army members.

Congress ultimately passed the Bonus Bill in 1933. I was very surprised to learn that Roosevelt vetoed it and that the House and Senate overrode his veto.

 

1 thought on “The US Government Assault on World War I Veterans and Their Families

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.