Bonus Army - History

Bonus Army - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Bonus Encampment

The Bonus Army descended on Washington demanding an early payment of their bonus money. Hoover ordered their encampment destroyed.

With the depression worsening, World War I veterans began to clamor for an early payment of the veterans' bonuses that had been promised them for 1945. They claimed that they needed the money immediately. Hoover opposed any action, but Congress passed a bill to allow the veterans to borrow up to 50% of their bonuses. Hoover vetoed the bill. As a result, an "army" developed, marched to Washington, and under the leadership of Roy Robertson, established temporary residence there.

After a demonstration resulted in the loss of two lives, Hoover ordered the veterans' bonus encampment destroyed. The US Army, under the command of General MacArthur, promptly conducted what became known as the "The Battle of Anacostia Flats," and laid waste to the encampment. This action, seemingly brutal, confirmed in the minds of many the notion that Hoover did not care about human suffering in America.

Bonus Army - History

“Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. 1932.” Wikimedia.

Hoover’s reaction to a major public protest sealed his legacy. In the summer of 1932, Congress debated a bill authorizing immediate payment of long-promised cash bonuses to veterans of World War I, originally scheduled to be paid out in 1945. Given the economic hardships facing the country, the bonus came to symbolize government relief for the most deserving recipients, and from across the country more than 15,000 unemployed veterans and their families converged on Washington, D.C. They erected a tent city across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats, a “Hooverville” in the spirit of the camps of homeless and unemployed Americans then appearing in American cities.

Concerned with what immediate payment would do to the federal budget, Hoover opposed the bill, which was eventually voted down by the Senate. While most of the “Bonus Army” left Washington in defeat, many stayed to press their case. Hoover called the remaining veterans “insurrectionists” and ordered them to leave. When thousands failed to heed the vacation order, General Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by local police, infantry, cavalry, tanks, and a machine gun squadron, stormed the tent city and routed the Bonus Army. National media covered the disaster as troops chased down men and women, tear-gassed children, and torched the shantytown.

Hoover’s insensitivity toward suffering Americans, his unwillingness to address widespread economic problems, and his repeated platitudes about returning prosperity condemned his presidency. Hoover of course was not responsible for the Depression, not personally. But neither he nor his advisers conceived of the enormity of the crisis, a crisis his conservative ideology could neither accommodate nor address. As a result, Americans found little relief from Washington. They were on their own.

Why the Bonus Army Marched

Most of the veterans who marched on the Capitol in 1932 had been out of work since the Great Depression began in 1929. They needed money, and the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had promised to give them some, but not until 1945 -- a full 27 years after the end of the war they had fought in.

The World War Adjusted Compensation Act, passed by Congress as sort of a 20-year insurance policy, awarded all qualified veterans a redeemable “Adjusted Service Certificate” worth an amount equal to 125% of his wartime service credit. Each veteran was to be paid $1.25 for each day they had served overseas and $1.00 for each day they served in the United States during the war. The catch was that the veterans were not allowed to redeem the certificates until their individual birthdays in 1945.

On May 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge had, in fact, vetoed the bill providing for the bonuses stating, “Patriotism, bought and paid for, is not patriotism.” Congress, however, overrode his veto a few days later.

While the veterans might have been happy to wait for their bonuses when the Adjusted Compensation Act passed in 1924, the Great Depression came along five years later and by 1932 they had immediate needs for the money, like feeding themselves and their families.

Bonus Army - History

In May of that year, some 15,000 veterans, many unemployed and destitute, descended on Washington, D.C. to demand immediate payment of their bonus. They proclaimed themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force but the public dubbed them the "Bonus Army." Raising ramshackle camps at various places around the city, they waited.

The veterans made their largest camp at Anacostia Flats across the river from the Capitol. Approximately 10,000 veterans, women and children lived in the shelters built from materials dragged out of a junk pile nearby - old lumber, packing boxes and scrap tin covered with roofs of thatched straw.

Discipline in the camp was good, despite the fears of many city residents who spread unfounded "Red Scare" rumors. Streets were laid out, latrines dug, and formations held daily. Newcomers were required to register and prove they were bonafide veterans who had been honorably discharged. Their leader, Walter Waters, stated, "We're here for the duration and we're not going to starve. We're going to keep ourselves a simon-pure veteran's organization. If the Bonus is paid it will relieve to a large extent the deplorable economic condition."

June 17 was described by a local newspaper as "the tensest day in the capital since the war." The Senate was voting 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. Walter Waters, leader of the Bonus Expeditionary Force, appeared with bad news. The Senate had defeated the bill by a vote of 62 to 18. The crowd reacted with stunned silence. "Sing America and go back to your billets" he commanded, and they did. A silent "Death March" began in front of the Capitol and lasted until July 17, when Congress adjourned.

A month later, on July 28, Attorney General Mitchell ordered the evacuation of the veterans from all government property, Entrusted with the job, the Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two marchers killed. Learning of the shooting at lunch, President Hoover ordered the army to clear out the veterans. Infantry

Troops prepare to evacuate the
Bonus Army
July 28, 1932
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 4:45 P.M. the troops were massed on Pennsylvania Ave. below the Capitol. Thousands of Civil Service employees spilled out of work and lined the streets to watch. The veterans, assuming the military display was in their honor, cheered. Suddenly Patton's troopers turned and charged. "Shame, Shame" the spectators cried. Soldiers with fixed bayonets followed, hurling tear gas into the crowd.

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."

Bartlett, John Henry, The Bonus March and the New Deal (1937) Daniels, Roger, The Bonus March an Episode of the Great Depression (1971).


Smedley Darlington Butler was born July 30, 1881, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the eldest of three sons. His parents, Thomas and Maud (née Darlington) Butler, [2] were descended from local Quaker families. Both of his parents were of entirely English ancestry, all of whom had been in North America since the 17th century. [3] His father was a lawyer, a judge and later served in the House of Representatives for 31 years, serving as chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. Smedley's Marine Corps career successes occurred while his father held that politically influential Congressional seat controlling the Marine Corps manpower and budget. [4] His maternal grandfather was Smedley Darlington, a Republican congressman from 1887 to 1891. [5]

Butler attended the West Chester Friends Graded High School, followed by The Haverford School, a secondary school popular with sons of upper-class Philadelphia families. [6] He became captain of the school baseball team and quarterback of its football team. [2] Against the wishes of his father, he left school 38 days before his seventeenth birthday to enlist in the Marine Corps during the Spanish–American War. Nevertheless, Haverford awarded him his high school diploma on June 6, 1898, before the end of his final year. His transcript stated that he completed the scientific course "with Credit". [2]

Spanish–American War Edit

In the Spanish war fervor of 1898, Butler lied about his age to receive a direct commission as a Marine second lieutenant. [2] He trained at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. In July 1898, he went to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, arriving shortly after its invasion and capture. [7] His company soon returned to the U.S., and after a short break he was assigned to the armored cruiser USS New York for four months. [8] He came home to be mustered out of service in February 1899, [8] but on April 8, 1899, he accepted a commission as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps. [8]

Philippine–American War Edit

The Marine Corps sent him to Manila, Philippines. [9] On garrison duty with little to do, Butler turned to alcohol to relieve the boredom. He once became drunk and was temporarily relieved of command after an unspecified incident in his room. [10]

In October 1899, he saw his first combat action when he led 300 Marines to take the town of Noveleta from Filipino troops of the new Philippine republic. In the initial moments of the assault, his first sergeant was wounded. Butler briefly panicked but quickly regained his composure and led his Marines in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. [10] By noon, the Marines had dispersed the native defenders and taken the town. One Marine had been killed, and ten were wounded. Another 50 Marines had been incapacitated by the humid tropical heat. [11]

After the excitement of this combat, garrison duty again became routine. He met Littleton Waller, a fellow Marine with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. When Waller received command of a company in Guam, he was allowed to select five officers to take with him. Butler was amongst his choices. Before they had departed, their orders were changed, and they were sent to China aboard the USS Solace to help put down the Boxer Rebellion. [11]

Boxer Rebellion Edit

Once in China, Butler was initially deployed at Tientsin. He took part in the Battle of Tientsin on July 13, 1900, and in the subsequent Gaselee Expedition, during which he saw the mutilated remains of Japanese soldiers. When he saw another Marine officer fall wounded, he climbed out of a trench to rescue him. Butler was then shot in the thigh. Another Marine helped him get to safety but also was shot. Despite his leg wound, Butler assisted the wounded officer to the rear. Four enlisted men would receive the Medal of Honor in the battle. Butler's commanding officer, Major Waller, personally commended him and wrote that "for such reward as you may deem proper the following officers: Lieutenant Smedley D. Butler, for the admirable control of his men in all the fights of the week, for saving a wounded man at the risk of his own life, and under a very severe fire." Commissioned officers were not then eligible to receive the Medal of Honor, and Butler instead received a promotion to captain by brevet while he recovered in the hospital, two weeks before his 19th birthday. [ citation needed ]

He was eligible for the Marine Corps Brevet Medal when it was created in 1921, and was one of only 20 Marines to receive it. [12] His citation reads:

The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in transmitting to First Lieutenant Smedley Darlington Butler, United States Marine Corps, the Brevet Medal which is awarded in accordance with Marine Corps Order No. 26 (1921), for distinguished conduct and public service in the presence of the enemy while serving with the Second Battalion of Marines, near Tientsin, China, on 13 July 1900. On 28 March 1901, First Lieutenant Butler is appointed Captain by brevet, to take rank from 13 July 1900. [13]

Banana Wars Edit

Butler participated in a series of occupations, "police actions" and interventions by the United States in Central America and the Caribbean, commonly called the Banana Wars because their goal was to protect American commercial interests in the region, particularly those of the United Fruit Company. This company had significant financial stakes in the production of bananas, tobacco, sugar cane and other products throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the northern portions of South America. The U.S. was also trying to advance its own political interests by maintaining its influence in the region and especially its control of the Panama Canal. These interventions started with the Spanish–American War in 1898 and ended with the withdrawal of troops from Haiti and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy in 1934. [14] After his retirement, Butler became an outspoken critic of the business interests in the Caribbean, criticizing the ways in which U.S. businesses and Wall Street bankers imposed their agenda on United States foreign policy during this period. [15]

Honduras Edit

In 1903, Butler was stationed in Puerto Rico on Culebra Island. Hearing rumors of a Honduran revolt, the United States government ordered his unit and a supporting naval detachment to sail to Honduras, 1,500 miles (2,414 km) to the west, to defend the U.S. Consulate there. Using a converted banana boat renamed the Panther, Butler and several hundred Marines landed at the port town of Puerto Cortés. In a letter home, he describes the action: they were "prepared to land and shoot everybody and everything that was breaking the peace", [16] but instead found a quiet town. The Marines re-boarded the Panther and continued up the coast line, looking for rebels at several towns, but found none.

When they arrived at Trujillo, however, they heard gunfire and came upon a battle in progress that had been ongoing for 55 hours between rebels called Bonillista and Honduran government soldiers at a local fort. At the sight of the Marines, the fighting ceased, and Butler led a detachment of Marines to the American consulate, where he found the consul, wrapped in an American flag, hiding among the floor beams. As soon as the Marines left the area with the shaken consul, the battle resumed, and the Bonillistas soon controlled the government. [16] During this expedition Butler earned the first of his nicknames, "Old Gimlet Eye". It was attributed to his feverish, bloodshot eyes—he was suffering from some unnamed tropical fever at the time—that enhanced his penetrating and bellicose stare. [17]

Marriage and business Edit

After the Honduran campaign, Butler returned to Philadelphia. He married Ethel Conway Peters of Philadelphia, a daughter of civil engineer and railroad executive Richard Peters, on June 30, 1905. [18] His best man at the wedding was his former commanding officer in China, Lieutenant Colonel Littleton Waller. [19] The couple eventually had three children: a daughter, Ethel Peters Butler, and two sons, Smedley Darlington Jr. and Thomas Richard. [20]

Butler was next assigned to garrison duty in the Philippines, where he once launched a resupply mission across the stormy waters of Subic Bay after his isolated outpost ran out of rations. In 1908, he was diagnosed as having a nervous breakdown and received nine months sick leave, which he spent at home. He successfully managed a coal mine in West Virginia but returned to active duty in the Marine Corps at the first opportunity. [21]

Central America Edit

From 1909 to 1912 Butler served in Nicaragua enforcing U.S. policy. With a 104-degree fever, he led his battalion to the relief of the rebel-besieged city of Granada. In December 1909 he commanded the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment on the Isthmus of Panama. On August 11, 1912, he was temporarily detached to command an expeditionary battalion he led in the Battle of Masaya on September 19, 1912, and the bombardment, assault and capture of Coyotepe Hill, Nicaragua in October 1912. He remained in Nicaragua until November 1912, when he rejoined the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Elliott, Panama. [5]

Veracruz and first Medal of Honor Edit

Butler and his family were living in Panama in January 1914 when he was ordered to report as the Marine officer of a battleship squadron massing off the coast of Mexico, near Veracruz, to monitor a revolutionary movement. He did not like leaving his family and the home they had established in Panama and intended to request orders home as soon as he determined he was not needed. [22]

On March 1, 1914, Butler and Navy Lieutenant Frank J. Fletcher (not to be confused with his uncle, Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher) "went ashore at Veracruz, where they met the American superintendent of the Inter-Oceanic Railway and surreptitiously rode in his private car [a railway car] up the line 75 miles to Jalapa and back". [23] A purpose of the trip was to allow Butler and Fletcher to discuss the details of a future expedition into Mexico. Fletcher's plan required Butler to make his way into the country and develop a more detailed invasion plan while inside its borders. It was a spy mission and Butler was enthusiastic to get started. When Fletcher explained the plan to the commanders in Washington, DC, they agreed to it. Butler was given the go-ahead. [ citation needed ] A few days later he set out by train on his spy mission to Mexico City, with a stopover at Puebla. He made his way to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico City, posing as a railroad official named "Mr. Johnson".

  • March 5. As I was reading last night, waiting for dinner to be served, a visitant, rather than a visitor, appeared in my drawing-room incognito – a simple "Mr. Johnson," eager, intrepid, dynamic, efficient, unshaven! * * * [24]

He and the chief railroad inspector scoured the city, saying they were searching for a lost railroad employee there was no lost employee, and in fact the employee they said was lost never existed. The ruse gave Butler access to various areas of the city. In the process of the so-called search, they located weapons in use by the Mexican army and determined the size of units and states of readiness. They updated maps and verified the railroad lines for use in an impending U.S. invasion. [25] On March 7, 1914, he returned to Veracruz with the information he had gathered and presented it to his commanders. The invasion plan was eventually scrapped when authorities loyal to Mexican General Victoriano Huerta detained a small American naval landing party (that had gone ashore to buy gasoline) in Tampico, Mexico, which led to what became known as the Tampico Affair. [26]

When President Woodrow Wilson discovered that an arms shipment was about to arrive in Mexico, he sent a contingent of Marines and sailors to Veracruz to intercept it on April 21, 1914. Over the next few days, street fighting and sniper fire posed a threat to Butler's force, but a door-to-door search rooted out most of the resistance. By April 26, the landing force of 5,800 Marines and sailors secured the city, which they held for the next six months. By the end of the conflict the Americans reported 17 dead and 63 wounded, and the Mexican forces had 126 dead and 195 wounded. After the actions at Veracruz, the U.S. decided to minimize the bloodshed and changed their plans from a full invasion of Mexico to simply maintaining the city of Veracruz. [27] For his actions on April 22, Butler was awarded his first Medal of Honor. [5] [13] The citation reads:

For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 1914. Major Butler was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion. He exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22d and in the final occupation of the city. [13]

After the occupation of Veracruz, many military personnel received the Medal of Honor, an unusually high number that somewhat diminished the prestige of the award. The Army presented one, nine went to Marines and 46 were bestowed upon naval personnel. During World War I, Butler attempted to return his medal, explaining he had done nothing to deserve it. The medal was returned to him with orders to keep it and to wear it as well. [28]

Haiti and second Medal of Honor Edit

In 1915, Haitian President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was killed by a mob. In response, the United States ordered the USS Connecticut to Haiti with Major Butler and a group of Marines on board. On October 24, 1915, an estimated 400 Cacos ambushed Butler's patrol of 44 mounted Marines when they approached Fort Dipitie. Surrounded by Cacos, the Marines maintained their perimeter throughout the night. The next morning they charged the much larger enemy force by breaking out in three directions. The startled Haitians fled. [29] In early November, Butler and a force of 700 Marines and sailors returned to the mountains to clear the area. At their temporary headquarters base at Le Trou they fought off an attack by about 100 Cacos. After the Americans took several other forts and ramparts during the following days, only Fort Rivière, an old French-built stronghold atop Montagne Noire, was left. [29]

For the operation, Butler was given three companies of Marines and some sailors from the USS Connecticut, about 100 men. They encircled the fort and gradually closed in on it. Butler reached the fort from the southern side with the 15th Company and found a small opening in the wall. The Marines entered through the opening and engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat. Butler and the Marines took the rebel stronghold on November 17, an action for which he received his second Medal of Honor, as well as the Haitian Medal of Honor. [13] The entire battle lasted less than 20 minutes. Only one Marine was injured in the assault he was struck by a rock and lost two teeth. [30] All 51 Haitians in the fort were killed. [29] Butler's exploits impressed Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, who recommended the award based upon Butler's performance during the engagement. [31] Once the medal was approved and presented in 1917, Butler achieved the distinction, shared with Dan Daly, of being the only Marines to receive the Medal of Honor twice for separate actions. [5] The citation reads:

For extraordinary heroism in action as Commanding Officer of detachments from the 5th, 13th, 23d Companies and the Marine and sailor detachment from the U.S.S. Connecticut, Major Butler led the attack on Fort Rivière, Haiti, 17 November 1915. Following a concentrated drive, several different detachments of Marines gradually closed in on the old French bastion fort in an effort to cut off all avenues of retreat for the Caco bandits. Reaching the fort on the southern side where there was a small opening in the wall, Major Butler gave the signal to attack and Marines from the 15th Company poured through the breach, engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat, took the bastion and crushed the Caco resistance. Throughout this perilous action, Major Butler was conspicuous for his bravery and forceful leadership. [13]

Subsequently, as the initial organizer and commanding officer of the Gendarmerie d'Haïti, the native police force, Butler established a record as a capable administrator. Under his supervision, social order, administered by the dictatorship, was largely restored, and many vital public works projects were successfully completed. [32] He recalled later that, during his time in Haiti, he and his troops "hunted the Cacos like pigs." [30]

World War I Edit

During World War I Butler was, to his disappointment, not assigned to a combat command on the Western Front. He made several requests for a posting in France, writing letters to his personal friend, Wendell Cushing Neville. While Butler's superiors considered him brave and brilliant, they described him as "unreliable." [7]

In October 1918 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 37 and placed in command of Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France, a debarkation depot that funneled troops of the American Expeditionary Force to the battlefields. The camp had been unsanitary, overcrowded and disorganized. U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker sent novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart to report on the camp. She later described how Butler tackled the sanitation problems. He began by solving the problem of mud: "[T]he ground under the tents was nothing but mud, [so] he had raided the wharf at Brest of the duckboards no longer needed for the trenches, carted the first one himself up that four-mile hill to the camp, and thus provided something in the way of protection for the men to sleep on." [7] Gen. John J. Pershing authorized a duckboard shoulder patch for the units. This earned Butler another nickname, "Old Duckboard." For his exemplary service he was awarded both the Army Distinguished Service Medal and Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the French Order of the Black Star. [5] The citation for the Army Distinguished Service Medal states:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Brigadier General Smedley Darlington Butler, United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. Brigadier General Butler commanded with ability and energy Pontanezen Camp at Brest during the time in which it has developed into the largest embarkation camp in the world. Confronted with problems of extraordinary magnitude in supervising the reception, entertainment and departure of the large numbers of officers and soldiers passing through this camp, he has solved all with conspicuous success, performing services of the highest character for the American Expeditionary Forces. [13]

The citation for the Navy Distinguished Service Medal states:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Brigadier General Smedley Darlington Butler, United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services in France, during World War I. Brigadier General Butler organized, trained and commanded the 13th Regiment Marines also the 5th Brigade of Marines. He commanded with ability and energy Camp Pontanezen at Brest during the time in which it has developed into the largest embarkation camp in the world. Confronted with problems of extraordinary magnitude in supervising the reception, entertainment and departure of large numbers of officers and soldiers passing through the camp, he has solved all with conspicuous success, performing services of the highest character for the American Expeditionary Forces. [13]

Quantico Edit

Following the war, he became commanding general of the Marine barracks at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. At Quantico he transformed the wartime training camp into a permanent Marine post. He directed the Quantico camp's growth until it became the "showplace" of the Corps. [33] Butler won national attention by taking thousands of his men on long field marches, many of which he led from the front, to Gettysburg and other Civil War battle sites, where they conducted large-scale re-enactments before crowds of distinguished spectators. [33]

During a training exercise in western Virginia in 1921, he was told by a local farmer that Stonewall Jackson's arm was buried nearby, to which he replied, "Bosh! I will take a squad of Marines and dig up that spot to prove you wrong!" [34] Butler found the arm in a box. He later replaced the wooden box with a metal one, and reburied the arm. He left a plaque on the granite monument marking the burial place of Jackson's arm the plaque is no longer on the marker but can be viewed at the Chancellorsville Battlefield visitor's center. [34] [35]

Philadelphia Director of Public Safety Edit

In 1924 newly elected Mayor of Philadelphia W. Freeland Kendrick asked President Calvin Coolidge to lend the City a military general to help him rid Philadelphia's municipal government of crime and corruption. At the urging of Butler's father, [4] Coolidge authorized Butler to take the necessary leave from the Corps to serve as Philadelphia's director of public safety in charge of running the city's police and fire departments from January 1924 until December 1925. [5] He began his new job by assembling all 4,000 of the city police into the Metropolitan Opera House in shifts to introduce himself and inform them that things would change while he was in charge. Since he had not been given authority to fire corrupt police officers, he switched entire units from one part of the city to another, [4] to undermine local protection rackets and profiteering. [36] [37]

Within 48 hours of taking over Butler organized raids on more than 900 speakeasies, ordering them padlocked and, in many cases, destroyed. In addition to raiding the speakeasies, he also attempted to eliminate other illegal activities: bootlegging, prostitution, gambling and police corruption. More zealous than he was political, he ordered crackdowns on the social elite's favorite hangouts, such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Union League, as well as on drinking establishments that served the working class. [38] Although he was effective in reducing crime and police corruption, he was a controversial leader. In one instance he made a statement that he would promote the first officer to kill a bandit and stated, "I don't believe there is a single bandit notch on a policeman's guns [sic] in this city go out and get some." [36] Although many of the local citizens and police felt that the raids were just a show, they continued for several weeks. [37]

He implemented programs to improve city safety and security. He established policies and guidelines of administration and developed a Philadelphia police uniform that resembled that of the Marine Corps. [39] Other changes included military-style checkpoints into the city, bandit-chasing squads armed with sawed-off shotguns and armored police cars. [39] The press began reporting on the good and the bad aspects of Butler's personal war on crime. The reports praised the new uniforms, the new programs and the reductions in crime but they also reflected the public's negative opinion of their new Public Safety Director. Many felt that he was being too aggressive in his tactics and resented the reductions in their civil rights, such as the stopping of citizens at the city checkpoints. Butler frequently swore in his radio addresses, causing many citizens to suggest his behavior, particularly his language, was inappropriate for someone of his rank and stature. [40] Some even suggested Butler acted like a military dictator, even charging that he wrongfully used active-duty Marines in some of his raids. [40] Maj. R.A. Haynes, the federal Prohibition commissioner, visited the city in 1924, six months after Butler was appointed. He announced that "great progress" [41] had been made in the city and attributed that success to Butler. [41]

Eventually Butler's leadership style and the directness of actions undermined his support within the community. His departure seemed imminent. Mayor Kendrick reported to the press, "I had the guts to bring General Butler to Philadelphia and I have the guts to fire him." [42] Feeling that his duties in Philadelphia were coming to an end, Butler contacted Gen. Lejeune to prepare for his return to the Marine Corps. Not all of the city felt he was doing a bad job, though, and when the news started to leak that he would be leaving, people began to gather at the Academy of Music. A group of 4,000 supporters assembled and negotiated a truce between him and the mayor to keep him in Philadelphia for a while longer, and the president authorized a one-year extension. [43]

Butler devoted much of his second year to executing arrest warrants, cracking down on crooked police and enforcing prohibition. On January 1, 1926, his leave from the Marine Corps ended and the president declined a request for a second extension. Butler received orders to report to San Diego and prepared his family and his belongings for the new assignment. [44] In light of his pending departure, he began to defy the mayor and other key city officials. On the eve of his departure, he had an article printed in the paper stating his intention to stay and "finish the job". [45] The mayor was surprised and furious when he read the press release the next morning and demanded his resignation. [45] After almost two years in office, Butler resigned under pressure, stating later that "cleaning up Philadelphia was worse than any battle I was ever in." [38]

San Diego duty Edit

Following the period of service as the director of public safety in Philadelphia, Smedley assumed command on February 28, 1926, of the U.S. Marine Corps base in San Diego, California, in ceremonies involving officers and the band of the 4th Marine Regiment. [46]

China and stateside service Edit

From 1927 to 1929 Butler was commander of a Marine Expeditionary Force in Tientsin, China, (the China Marines). While there, he cleverly parlayed his influence among various generals and warlords to the protection of U.S. interests, ultimately winning the public acclaim of contending Chinese leaders. When he returned to the United States in 1929 he was promoted to major general, becoming, at age 48, the youngest major general of the Marine Corps. But the death of his father on 26 May 1928 ended the Pennsylvania Congressman's ability to protect Smedley from political retribution for his outspoken views. [4]

In 1931 Butler violated diplomatic norms by publicly recounting gossip [47] [48] about Benito Mussolini in which the dictator allegedly struck and killed a child with his speeding automobile in a hit-and-run accident. The Italian government protested and President Hoover, who strongly disliked Butler, [49] forced Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams III to court-martial him. Butler became the first general officer to be placed under arrest since the Civil War. He apologized to Secretary Adams and the court-martial was canceled with only a reprimand. [50]

When Commandant of the Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Wendell C. Neville died July 8, 1930, Butler, at that time the senior major general in the Corps, was a candidate for the position. [33] Although he had significant support from many inside and outside the Corps, including John Lejeune and Josephus Daniels, two other Marine Corps generals were seriously considered—Ben H. Fuller and John H. Russell Jr.. Lejeune and others petitioned President Herbert Hoover, garnered support in the Senate and flooded Secretary of the Navy Charles Adams' desk with more than 2,500 letters of support. [51] With the recent death of his influential father, however, Butler had lost much of his protection from his civilian superiors. The outspokenness that characterized his run-ins with the mayor of Philadelphia, the "unreliability" mentioned by his superiors when they were opposing Butler's posting to the Western Front, and his comments about Benito Mussolini resurfaced. In the end the position of commandant went to Fuller, who had more years of commissioned service than Butler and was considered less controversial. Butler requested retirement and left active duty on October 1, 1931. [7] [33]

Even before retiring from the Corps, Butler began developing his post-Corps career. In May 1931 he took part in a commission established by Oregon Governor Julius L. Meier which laid the foundations for the Oregon State Police. [52] He began lecturing at events and conferences, and after his retirement from the Marines in 1931 he took this up full-time. He donated much of his earnings from his lucrative lecture circuits to the Philadelphia unemployment relief. He toured the western United States, making 60 speeches before returning for his daughter's marriage to Marine aviator Lt. John Wehle. Her wedding was the only time he wore his dress blue uniform after he left the Marines. [53]

Senate campaign Edit

Butler announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania in March 1932 as a proponent of Prohibition, known as a "dry". [53] Butler allied with Gifford Pinchot but was defeated in the April 26, 1932, primary election with only 37.5% of the vote to incumbent Sen. James J. Davis' 60%. A third candidate received the remainder of the votes. [54] According to biographer Mark Strecker, Butler voted for Norman Thomas of the Socialist Party for president in 1936. [55]

Bonus Army Edit

During his Senate campaign, Butler spoke out forcefully about the veterans bonus. Veterans of World War I, many of whom had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression, sought immediate cash payment of Service Certificates granted to them eight years earlier via the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. Each Service Certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment, plus compound interest. The problem was that the certificates (like bonds), matured 20 years from the date of original issuance, thus, under extant law, the Service Certificates could not be redeemed until 1945. In June 1932, approximately 43,000 marchers—17,000 of whom were World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups—protested in Washington, D.C. [56] The Bonus Expeditionary Force, also known as the "Bonus Army", marched on Washington to advocate the passage of the "soldier's bonus" for service during World War I. After Congress adjourned, bonus marchers remained in the city and became unruly. On July 28, 1932, two bonus marchers were shot by police, causing the entire mob to become hostile and riotous. The FBI, then known as the United States Bureau of Investigation, checked its fingerprint records to obtain the police records of individuals who had been arrested during the riots or who had participated in the bonus march. [56] [57]

The veterans made camp in the Anacostia flats while they awaited the congressional decision on whether or not to pay the bonus. The motion, known as the Patman bill, was decisively defeated, but the veterans stayed in their camp. On July 19 Butler arrived with his young son Thomas, the day before the official eviction by the Hoover administration. He walked through the camp and spoke to the veterans he told them that they were fine soldiers and they had a right to lobby Congress just as much as any corporation. He and his son spent the night and ate with the men, and in the morning Butler gave a speech to the camping veterans. He instructed them to keep their sense of humor and cautioned them not to do anything that would cost public sympathy. [58] On July 28, army cavalry units led by General Douglas MacArthur dispersed the Bonus Army by riding through it and using gas. During the conflict several veterans were killed or injured and Butler declared himself a "Hoover-for-Ex-President-Republican". [59]

Lectures Edit

After his retirement and later years, Butler became widely known for his outspoken lectures against war profiteering, U.S. military adventurism, and what he viewed as nascent fascism in the United States. [ citation needed ]

In December 1933, Butler toured the country with James E. Van Zandt to recruit members for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). He described their effort as "trying to educate the soldiers out of the sucker class." In his speeches he denounced the Economy Act of 1933, called on veterans to organize politically to win their benefits, and condemned the FDR administration for its ties to big business. The VFW reprinted one of his speeches with the title "You Got to Get Mad" in its magazine Foreign Service. He said: "I believe in. taking Wall St. by the throat and shaking it up." [60] He believed the rival veterans' group the American Legion was controlled by banking interests. On December 8, 1933, he said: "I have never known one leader of the American Legion who had never sold them out—and I mean it." [61]

In addition to his speeches to pacifist groups, he served from 1935 to 1937 as a spokesman for the American League Against War and Fascism. [62] [63] In 1935, he wrote the exposé War Is a Racket, a trenchant condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. His views on the subject are summarized in the following passage from the November 1935 issue of the socialist magazine Common Sense: [15]

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Business Plot Edit

In November 1934, Butler claimed the existence of a political conspiracy by business leaders to overthrow President Roosevelt, a series of allegations that came to be known in the media as the Business Plot. [64] [65] A special committee of the House of Representatives headed by Representatives John W. McCormack of Massachusetts and Samuel Dickstein of New York, who was later alleged to have been a paid agent of the NKVD, [66] heard his testimony in secret. [67] The McCormack–Dickstein committee was a precursor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. [ citation needed ]

In November 1934, Butler told the committee that one Gerald P. MacGuire told him that a group of businessmen, supposedly backed by a private army of 500,000 ex-soldiers and others, intended to establish a fascist dictatorship. Butler had been asked to lead it, he said, by MacGuire, who was a bond salesman with Grayson M–P Murphy & Co. The New York Times reported that Butler had told friends that General Hugh S. Johnson, former head of the National Recovery Administration, was to be installed as dictator, and that the J.P. Morgan banking firm was behind the plot. Butler told Congress that MacGuire had told him the attempted coup was backed by three million dollars, and that the 500,000 men were probably to be assembled in Washington, D.C. the following year. All the parties alleged to be involved publicly said there was no truth in the story, calling it a joke and a fantasy. [67]

In its report to the House, the committee stated that, while "no evidence was presented. to show a connection. with any fascist activity of any European country. [t]here was no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution. " and that "your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement about the creation of the organisation. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling Clark. " [68]

No prosecutions or further investigations followed, and historians have questioned whether or not a coup was actually contemplated. Historians have not reported any independent evidence apart from Butler's report on what MacGuire told him. One of these, Hans Schmidt, says MacGuire was an "inconsequential trickster". [69] [70] [71] [72] The news media dismissed the plot, with a New York Times editorial characterizing it as a "gigantic hoax". [73] When the committee's final report was released, the Times said the committee "purported to report that a two-month investigation had convinced it that General Butler's story of a Fascist march on Washington was alarmingly true" and ". also alleged that definite proof had been found that the much publicized Fascist march on Washington, which was to have been led by Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler, retired, according to testimony at a hearing, was actually contemplated". [74] The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot, despite evidence to the contrary. Though the media ridiculed the allegations, a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's statements. [75] [n 1]

The McCormack–Dickstein Committee said of Butler's testimony in its final report, "In the last few weeks of the committee's official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country. There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient." [75] [n 1] [n 2]

Upon his retirement, Butler bought a home in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, where he lived with his wife. [76] In June 1940, he checked himself into the hospital after becoming sick a few weeks earlier. His doctor described his illness as an incurable condition of the upper gastro-intestinal tract that was probably cancer. His family remained by his side, even bringing his new car so he could see it from the window. He never had a chance to drive it. On June 21, 1940, Smedley Butler died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia. [75]

The funeral was held at his home, attended by friends and family as well as several politicians, members of the Philadelphia police force and officers of the Marine Corps. [77] He was buried at Oaklands Cemetery in West Goshen Township, Pennsylvania. [78] Since his death in 1940, his family has maintained his home as it was when he died, including a large quantity of memorabilia he had collected throughout his varied career. [77]

Military awards Edit

Butler's awards and decorations included the following: [79] [5] [13] [80] [81] [n 3]

U.S. Army intervention [ edit | edit source ]

At 4:45 p.m., commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the 12th Infantry Regiment, Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by six battle tanks commanded by Maj. George S. Patton, 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 [ citation needed ] the cavalry to charge them—an action which prompted the spectators to yell, "Shame! Shame!"

Shacks that members of the Bonus Army erected on the Anacostia Flats burning after the confrontation with the military.

After the cavalry charged, the infantry, with fixed bayonets and tear gas (adamsite, 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 an 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, while a hospital spokesman said the tear gas "didn't do it any good." ⎛]

During the military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th 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. ⎞]

Soldier Against Soldier: The Story of the Bonus Army

Soldiers who served in World War I were paid $1 a day, plus a 25-cent stipend for every day spent overseas. In 1924, Congress passed a law calling for every veteran of The Great War to receive an additional dollar for every day served. But the payment was not due for 20 years.

With the advent of the Great Depression, frustration over the delayed bonus turned to anger. A new bill was introduced in Congress to pay the bonus immediately. And thousands of veterans gathered in the nation's capital to demand their money.

Author Paul Dickson says the violence that followed has often been overlooked, and the impact on the 1932 presidential election underestimated. He is the co-author of a new book entitled The Bonus Army: An American Epic .

Dickson believes that what happened to the Bonus Army made politicians think long and hard when WWII veterans began to return. The result was the GI Bill, which Dickson credits with propelling millions into the middle class and changing the very fabric of the United States.

Revisiting the scene of the soldiers' camp on the Anacostia River, Dickson recounts the tale for Sheilah Kast.

Hoover & the Depression: The Bonus Army

16-year-old Fred Blancher later said, "These guys got in there and they start waving their sabers, chasing these veterans out, and they start shooting tear gas. There was just so much noise and confusion, hollering and there was smoke and haze. People couldn't breathe."

Around 11:00 p.m., MacArthur called a press conference to justify his actions. "Had the President not acted today, had he permitted this thing to go on for twenty-four hours more, he would have been faced with a grave situation which would have caused a real battle," MacArthur told reporters. "Had he let it go on another week, I believe the institutions of our Government would have been severely threatened."

Over the next few days, newspapers and newsreels (shown in movie theaters) showed graphic images of violence perpetrated on once uniformed soldiers (and their families), those who had won the First World War, by uniformed servicemen. In movie theaters across America, the Army was booed and MacArthur jeered. The incident only further weakened President Hoover's chances at re-election, then only three months away. Franklin, D. Roosevelt won easily.

July 28, 1932: Bonus Army Attacked

On July 28, 1932 the U.S. government attacked World War I veterans with tanks, bayonets, and tear gas, under the leadership of textbook heroes Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The WWI vets were part of a Bonus Army who came to Washington, D.C. to make a demand for their promised wartime bonuses.

To evict the Bonus Army marchers, troops donned gas masks, fixed bayonets, and, with sabers drawn, moved down Pennsylvania Ave. Source: National Archives

As Mickey Z. explains in the article below,

While they may have fought in Europe as a segregated army, the Bonus Army did not invite Jim Crow to this battle. Arriving from all over the country, alone or with wives and children, both Black and white veterans of huddled together, mostly across the Potomac River from the Capitol, in what were called ‘Hoovervilles,’ in honor of the president who adamantly refused to hear their pleas.

By Mickey Z.

“In the sad aftermath that always follows a great war, there is nothing sadder than the surprise of the returned soldiers when they discover that they are regarded generally as public nuisances. And not too honest.” — H.L. Mencken

Long before the cries of “support the troops” became commonplace during every brutal U.S. military intervention, the powers-that-be made it clear how much they intended to follow their own counsel.

From Shays Rebellion in 1787 to the quarter-million homeless vets today, generation after generation of U.S. military personnel has suffered a lack of support from their government. The American soldiers who fought in World War I were no exception. In 1924, WWI vets were voted “Adjusted Compensation” by Congress: $1.25 for each day served overseas, $1.00 for each day served in the States. To the “doughboys,” it was seen as a bonus.

Veterans owed $50 or less were paid immediately. Everyone else was given a certificate that would collect 4 percent interest with an additional 25 percent tacked on upon payment. However, there was a catch: the certificate was not redeemable until 1945. . . and a little something called “The Depression” was looming over the horizon.

One of the enlisted men stuck in such a predicament was Joe T. Angelo of Camden, New Jersey. In 1918, Private Angelo saved the life of a certain Major George S. Patton on a battlefield in France (Angelo was Patton’s orderly). For his efforts, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In the spring and summer of 1932, disgruntled, broke, and unemployed veterans like Angelo got the idea to demand payment on the future worth of the aforementioned certificates. Anywhere from 17,000 to 25,000 former doughboys formed a Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF), otherwise known as the “Bonus Army,” and — bonus certificates in hand — they marched on Washington to picket Congress and President Herbert Hoover.

While they may have fought in Europe as a segregated army, the men of the BEF did not invite Jim Crow to this battle. Arriving from all over the country, alone or with wives and children, both Black and white veterans of huddled together, mostly across the Potomac River from the Capitol, in what were called “Hoovervilles,” in honor of the president who adamantly refused to hear their pleas.

The House of Representatives passed the Patman Bill for veterans’ relief on June 15, 1932, but the bill met defeat in the Senate just two days later. More vets swarmed into the nation’s capital. Shacks, tents, and lean-tos continued to spring up everywhere, and the government and newspapers decided to play the communist trump card for the umpteenth time. Despite the fact that the BEF was made up of 95 percent veterans, the entire group were labeled “Red agitators” — tantamount to declaring open season on an oppressed group of U.S. citizens. Right on cue, Hoover called out the troops. . . led by three soon-to-be textbook heroes.

Bonus marchers face police and army, 1932. Source: National Archives

The commander of the operation was Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, who branded the BEF traitors bent on overthrowing the government. . . declaring, “Pacifism and its bedfellow communism are all around us.” MacArthur’s young aide was none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower, while Patton led the Third Cavalry — which spearheaded the eventual eviction of the Bonus Army. Patton shared MacArthur’s hatred of “reds” and lectured his troops on how to deal with the BEF: “If you must fire do a good job — a few casualties become martyrs, a large number an object lesson. . . . When a mob starts to move keep it on the run. . . . Use a bayonet to encourage its retreat. If they are running, a few good wounds in the buttocks will encourage them. If they resist, they must be killed.”

The three military icons got their chance on July 28, 1932 when a scuffle by the BEF and D.C. police resulted in two fatally wounded veterans. The U.S. Army assault integrated four troops of cavalry, four companies of infantry, a machine gun squadron, and six tanks. When asked by BEF leader Walter Waters if the Hoovervilles campers would be “given the opportunity to form in columns, salvage their belongings, and retreat in an orderly fashion,” MacArthur replied: “Yes, my friend, of course.” But, after marching up Pennsylvania Avenue, MacArthur’s soldiers lobbed tear gas and brandished bayonets as they set fire to some of the tents. In a flash, the whole BEF encampment was ablaze.

“Disregarding orders — a common thread running through his career — MacArthur decided to finish the job by destroying the Bonus Army entirely,” historian Kenneth C. Davis writes. “After nightfall, the tanks and cavalry leveled the jumbled camps of tents and packing-crate shacks. It was put to the torch.”

Two veterans lost their lives in the assault and an eleven-week-old baby died from what was believed to be gas-related illness. In addition, an eight-year-old boy was partially blinded by gas, two police had their skulls fractured, and a thousand veterans suffered gas-related injuries.

In the smoldering aftermath, a dazed, rail thin Joe Angelo approached his old boss but was harshly rebuked. “I do not know this man,” Major Patton growled. “Take him away and under no circumstances permit him to return.”

The next day, the New York Times ran an article under the headline: “A Calvary Major Evicts Veteran Who Saved His Life in Battle.”

After this impressive military success, the members of the BEF were forced to leave Washington and many of them joined the other two million or so Americans who lived their lives on the road during the Great Depression.

“Some states, like California,” Davis notes, “posted guards to turn back the poor.”

Less than ten years later, MacArthur, Patton, and Eisenhower would be earning a place in history books by sending many of those same disenfranchised poor to grisly deaths on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a candidate for president in 1932. It is said that the day after the BEF eviction, he told an aide there was no longer any need for him to campaign against Herbert Hoover. He may have been right. . . but his subsequent election did little to help WWI veterans. FDR not only refused to pay the bonuses he also reappointed MacArthur as Army Chief of Staff.

Roosevelt did throw some veterans a New Deal bone when bonus seekers were given the opportunity to work in “Veterans Rehabilitation Camps” like those in the Florida Keys. There they met with an ignominious end on Labor Day 1935 when “a hurricane unlike any ever recorded in the United States” struck.

“Wind gusts estimated at two hundred miles an hour slammed into the work camps in Florida’s upper Keys, turning granules of sand into tiny missiles that blasted flesh from human faces,” write Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen in Bonus Army: An American Epic. “The storm brought death to at least 259 veterans. The final indignity was mass cremation.”

Despite such treatment, the legacy of the Bonus Army lives on not only in the passing of the G.I. Bill in 1944, but in every sit-down strike, every march, and every demonstration for economic justice. As the Washington Evening Star wrote during the Bonus Army’s stay in D.C., “These men wrote a new chapter on patriotism of which their countrymen could be proud.”

See the PBS documentary, “The March of the Bonus Army” and find more related resources below.

Active Army Enlistment Bonus : Qualified active duty recruits may be eligible for a combination of bonuses totaling up to $40,000. The maximum bonus for a three, four, five, or six-year contract is based on periodic updates and is subject to change. Recruiters will have the most up to date bonus information.

In the aftermath of World War I, millions of servicemen and women came home from an unprecedented war. Disabled veterans, who had been coming home before the war’s end, were offered physical and occupational rehabilitation through the Vocational Education Bureau.


BONUS ARMY. In May 1932 thousands of World War I veterans began gathering in Washington, D.C., in order to pressure Congress to pass the Patman Bonus Bill. The legislation called for the immediate payment of war bonuses for World War I veterans. Under legislation passed with the approval of veterans groups in 1924, payments had been deferred, with interest, until 1945. But with the economic hardship of the depression, veterans clamored for immediate assistance.

The official response to the encampments (some including the mens' families) was initially benign. Washington, D.C., Police Superintendent Pelham Glassford, a veteran himself who was sympathetic toward the movement, set aside building space and campgrounds. At the height of the Bonus Army, between seventeen and twenty thousand veterans were encamped near the Washington Mall and at a site on the Anacostia River, forming the largest of the nation's Hoovervilles.

Although the House passed the Patman Veterans Bill, the Senate rejected its version on 17 June. When veterans protested by marching on Pennsylvania Avenue, police responded violently, resulting in the deaths of two veterans and two policemen. On 28 July President Hoover ordered the Secretary of War to disperse the protesters. In the late afternoon, cavalry, infantry, tanks, and a mounted machine gun pushed the Bonusers out of Washington. Although under orders from Hoover to show restraint, the troops injured more than one hundred veterans. General Douglas MacArthur sent troops into the Anacostia camp, directly disobeying Hoover's orders. A fire of unknown origin, although suspected of being started by the troops, burnt down most of the veterans' tents and other structures.

Hoover's public image suffered greatly as a result of the troops' actions, which helped Franklin Roosevelt win the presidential election a few months later. Although Roosevelt scored political points because of Hoover's missteps, he showed little sympathy for the veterans once in office. Congress passed, over his veto, a bill that paid out the bonuses in 1936, at a cost of $2.5 billion.

Watch the video: The Bonus Army