Tag Archives: Bonus Army

An old American tradition: Occupy Washington

In 1932,  unemployed and denied payment of the wartime bonuses they’d been promised, 43,000 WWI veterans from all over the country, calling themselves The Bonus Army, marched on Washington, DC. There, they built and occupied an encampment (from local rubbish) known as Hooverville. Many had their wives and children with them since they were otherwise homeless anyway.

While they were there, the  Senate voted down a bill to pay the bonuses, and the police were ordered in to break up Hooverville, which they did, killing two vets. But when the police raid failed to break up the camp, President Hoover ordered the army in.

At 4:45 p.m., commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, two regiments, 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 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 were left burning after the confrontation with the military.

After the cavalry charged, the infantry, with fixed bayonets and gas . . 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 a Communist attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, ignored the President and ordered a new attack. Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested.[9] A veteran’s wife miscarried. When 12-week-old Bernard Myers died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack . . .

During the military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, later President of the United States, served as one of MacArthur’s junior aides.[14] 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.

This was not the first time MacArthur, a figure of adulation – especially on the right, ignored his Commander in Chief. He did ther same to Truman in the Philippines after WWII. Truman, being Truman, just fired him. If America had ever fallen to a fascist military dictatorship, MacArthur would probably have been the guy at the top.