The Bonus Army vs. The United States Army

By | December 27, 2012
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Yesterday I covered the events leading up to the Bonus Army’s march on D.C. The Bonus Army, camped in a Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats, held daily parades to bring attention to their cause. On June 17th, the United States Senate voted against the Wright Patman Bonus Bill, which had already been passed by the House and would have given the veterans their bonuses early, and as a result, the Bonus Army massed at the United States Capitol.

The Bonus Army, 43,000 strong, had descended on the nation’s capitol and upset the natural order of things. This army, led by former Army Sergeant Walter W. Waters, had worn out its welcome, and on July 28, 1932, the U.S. Attorney General ordered the veterans to be removed from government property. When police arrived to disperse the veterans, two policemen were cornered and they drew their weapons, shooting two veterans. These veterans, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, both died from their wounds. When word of the shooting made it to President Hoover, he ordered the United States Army to remove the Bonus Army from their Hooverville camp.

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United States Army Gases the Bonus Army

Soldiers, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, armed with bayonet-fixed rifles, adamsite gas, and tanks, arrived by mid-afternoon. As the soldiers and tanks headed to the Bonus Army’s camp, those watching–including the Bonus Army–believed that the troops were there to lend support. They were in for quite a surprise when Major George S. Patton ordered a cavalry charge.

Once the arsenic-laced vomiting agent was blasted on the veterans and their families, they quickly evacuated their make-shift community. At this point, President Hoover ordered the assault to stop. General MacArthur did not think it best for America’s future to stop; therefore, MacArthur commanded that the United States Army continue to push back the Bonus Army and destroy their camp.

General Douglas MacArthur believed that:

the movement was actually far deeper and more dangerous than an effort to secure funds from a nearly depleted federal treasury.

Over 1,000 were injured, and two more died; one of the deceased was 12-week-old Bernard Myers.

At the end of the night, General MacArthur held a press conference so that he could 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.

He was truly under the belief that the Bonus Army was communist. He stated that:

Had he [Hoover] let it go on another week, I believe the institutions of our Government would have been severely threatened.

The country did not look fondly on President Hoover’s decision to use the United States Army to attack fellow Americans. As a result of this, Hoover lost the 1932 Presidential Election by a landslide. In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States of America. The problem for the Bonus Army is that he also opposed the veteran’s demands; however, he was more respectful of those that had fought for America and her safety.

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Eleanor Roosevelt Posing with Veterans at Bonus Army Camp

When the Bonus Army held a second rally in May of 1933, President Roosevelt provided them with a campsite and three meals a day. President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, played a large role in providing these veterans with some sort of help, even if it wasn’t what they asked for. Eleanor Roosevelt promised positions to those in the Bonus Army into the newly created Civilian Conservation Corps. This would provide these men jobs, in a time where jobs were scare. This would not give them the instant cash that they desired from their bonuses.

It would take almost three more years, but on January 27, 1936, the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act was passed, which allowed the bonuses to be immediately paid out.

29 thoughts on “The Bonus Army vs. The United States Army

  1. ncmiles

    One of my favorite quotes is MacArthur: Appeasement only leads to bloodier warfare. Looks like he applied that nugget of wisdom to the Bonus Army. Curious (NOT) as to how he would have handled the Occupy crowd.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      It’s lose / lose. Treating the Occupiers poorly would have guaranteed Obama re-election; and well, you see what treating them nicely accomplished…

      Reply
  2. ncmiles

    One of my favorite quotes is MacArthur: Appeasement only leads to bloodier warfare. Looks like he applied that nugget of wisdom to the Bonus Army. Curious (NOT) as to how he would have handled the Occupy crowd.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      It’s lose / lose. Treating the Occupiers poorly would have guaranteed Obama re-election; and well, you see what treating them nicely accomplished…

      Reply
  3. ncmiles

    One of my favorite quotes is MacArthur: Appeasement only leads to bloodier warfare. Looks like he applied that nugget of wisdom to the Bonus Army. Curious (NOT) as to how he would have handled the Occupy crowd.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      It’s lose / lose. Treating the Occupiers poorly would have guaranteed Obama re-election; and well, you see what treating them nicely accomplished…

      Reply
  4. JackAfter6

    General MacArthur won the battle against the bonus army, but lost the war against communism. If not for his over-aggressive treatment of these people, it’s possible Hoover would have won against FDR. If not for FDR, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing this our moment of bankrupt dissolution and as this Alinskyesque overwhelming of our welfare/foodstamps/ssa/disability/medicare/medicaid handout system that’s now starting to resemble Mecha-Streisand continues apace.

    Reply
  5. JackAfter6

    General MacArthur won the battle against the bonus army, but lost the war against communism. If not for his over-aggressive treatment of these people, it’s possible Hoover would have won against FDR. If not for FDR, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing this our moment of bankrupt dissolution and as this Alinskyesque overwhelming of our welfare/foodstamps/ssa/disability/medicare/medicaid handout system that’s now starting to resemble Mecha-Streisand continues apace.

    Reply
  6. JackAfter6

    General MacArthur won the battle against the bonus army, but lost the war against communism. If not for his over-aggressive treatment of these people, it’s possible Hoover would have won against FDR. If not for FDR, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing this our moment of bankrupt dissolution and as this Alinskyesque overwhelming of our welfare/foodstamps/ssa/disability/medicare/medicaid handout system that’s now starting to resemble Mecha-Streisand continues apace.

    Reply
  7. Georgia Lowe

    I’m delighted to receive this from Google Alert – the Bonus March was an event that deserves far more attention than it has received. My parents were bonus marchers and my award-winning book, The Bonus, though written as a novel provides far more accurate information than is recorded here. For one thing, you’ve given MacArthur an amazing white-wash job that he doesn’t deserve. He ignored direct orders from Hoover to stop the attack, and with supreme arrogance and enthusiasm, he actually led the troops that fired on our American veterans. I did an enormous amount of research and I hope you’ll take a look. The Bonus is available on Amazon where the reviews have been terrific.

    Reply
    1. Alan Simmons

      Do not forget that General Dwight Eisenhower was more than willing to follow MacArthur in his ignoring of orders from the President of the United States.

      Reply
      1. Grant

        I love how the only quotes you hear from Eisenhower is:

        “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.”

        Reply
      2. Grant

        I love how the only quotes you hear from Eisenhower is:

        “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.”

        Reply
  8. Georgia Lowe

    I’m delighted to receive this from Google Alert – the Bonus March was an event that deserves far more attention than it has received. My parents were bonus marchers and my award-winning book, The Bonus, though written as a novel provides far more accurate information than is recorded here. For one thing, you’ve given MacArthur an amazing white-wash job that he doesn’t deserve. He ignored direct orders from Hoover to stop the attack, and with supreme arrogance and enthusiasm, he actually led the troops that fired on our American veterans. I did an enormous amount of research and I hope you’ll take a look. The Bonus is available on Amazon where the reviews have been terrific.

    Reply
    1. Alan Simmons

      Do not forget that General Dwight Eisenhower was more than willing to follow MacArthur in his ignoring of orders from the President of the United States.

      Reply
      1. Grant

        I love how the only quotes you hear from Eisenhower is:

        “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.”

        Reply
  9. Georgia Lowe

    I’m delighted to receive this from Google Alert – the Bonus March was an event that deserves far more attention than it has received. My parents were bonus marchers and my award-winning book, The Bonus, though written as a novel provides far more accurate information than is recorded here. For one thing, you’ve given MacArthur an amazing white-wash job that he doesn’t deserve. He ignored direct orders from Hoover to stop the attack, and with supreme arrogance and enthusiasm, he actually led the troops that fired on our American veterans. I did an enormous amount of research and I hope you’ll take a look. The Bonus is available on Amazon where the reviews have been terrific.

    Reply
  10. Susan Ditmire

    Not the first or last time MacArthur ignored orders. Why was he allowed to continually get away with this?
    Eleanor was the heroine and the one with humanity!

    Reply
  11. Susan Ditmire

    Not the first or last time MacArthur ignored orders. Why was he allowed to continually get away with this?
    Eleanor was the heroine and the one with humanity!

    Reply
  12. Susan Ditmire

    Not the first or last time MacArthur ignored orders. Why was he allowed to continually get away with this?
    Eleanor was the heroine and the one with humanity!

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I haven’t done much research into Eleanor, but with this story and the article I did on her and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she has me intrigued. I will definitely have to read more about her conquest throughout history.

      Reply
  13. disqus_vr63PUoZ68

    While the Bonus March, and the marchers, were important, Hoover lost the election of 1932 because of the depression.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Oh ya…well, maybe that had something to do with it… :)

      Correct, I would say the main reason was because of the economy; however, I would venture to bet that the attack on the Bonus Marchers didn’t help…

      Reply
  14. Chris Schaefer

    While the Bonus March, and the marchers, were important, Hoover lost the election of 1932 because of the depression.

    Reply
  15. disqus_vr63PUoZ68

    While the Bonus March, and the marchers, were important, Hoover lost the election of 1932 because of the depression.

    Reply
  16. Gene Fricks

    McArthur was quietly retired and shipped to the Philippines. He had a scandal brewing by keeping a 17-year old mistress in quarters at Ft Myers. The Bonus debacle provided what was needed to push him out. The Bonus March was just one event in a chain leading up to 1932 where Hoover’s carefully cultivated image was shredded. New book just released by NYU Press: Stephen R. Ortiz, ‘Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill. How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era.’ Excellent.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to add it to the ever-growing list of books to check out! :)

      Reply
  17. Pingback: The Bonus Army and Their March on D.C. - Hankering for History

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