Bonus Army

Bonus Army
U.S. Hist.
a group of 12,000 World War I veterans who massed in Washington, D.C., the summer of 1932 to induce Congress to appropriate moneys for the payment of bonus certificates granted in 1924.

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World War I veterans who gathered in Washington, D.C., in summer 1932 to demand payment of their promised bonuses.

Over 12,000 veterans and their families camped in tents and shanties near the Capitol, urging support for a bill to force early payment of bonuses already voted by Congress. When the bill was defeated, most of the crowd returned home, but some angry protests caused local authorities to ask Pres. Herbert Hoover for federal assistance. Army troops led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur drove out the protesters and burned their camps. The resulting public outcry was a factor in Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election. Another group of veterans gathered in 1933, but Congress again rejected bonus legislation. In 1936 Congress finally enacted a bill that paid nearly $2.5 million in veterans' benefits.

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▪ United States history
      (1932), gathering of 12,000 to 15,000 World War I veterans who, with their wives and children, converged on Washington, D.C., demanding immediate bonus payment for wartime services, to alleviate the economic hardship of the Great Depression.

      Adjusted Compensation certificates, or bonuses, had been voted by Congress in 1924 but were not scheduled for full payment until 1945. In an effort to force early lump-sum payment of these urgently needed benefits, the Bonus Army, sometimes called the “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” converged on the nation's capital in the summer of 1932; they moved into abandoned shacks below the Capitol and set up shanties and tents along the Anacostia River. Despite inadequate housing, sanitation, and food, the movement's leader, Walter W. Waters, managed to maintain order and to oust agitators. The bonus bill was defeated in Congress, however, and most of the veterans left for home discouraged. The rest, variously estimated at 2,000 to 5,000, over the next few weeks engaged in protests and near-riots, producing an atmosphere of restlessness and threats of turbulence. Local authorities requested that President Herbert Hoover (Hoover, Herbert) intervene. Troops led by Brigadier General Perry L. Miles, accompanied by General Douglas MacArthur (MacArthur, Douglas), the U.S. Army chief of staff, drove out the demonstrators and destroyed their encampments, using tanks and tear gas. One veteran was shot to death, and several veterans and policemen were wounded. Congress then appropriated $100,000 to send the protestors home, and they dispersed.

      Politically the event was a blow to Hoover. A second Bonus Army came in May 1933 and this time was greeted by the new president's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Eleanor), and presidential assistant Louis Howe. Although, again, no bonus legislation was passed, Congress did create the Civilian Conservation Corps, in which many of the veterans were able to find work. In 1936, however, Congress finally passed, over a presidential veto, a bill to disburse about $2 billion in veterans' benefits. The Bonus Army laid the foundation for the G.I. Bill of Rights (1944).

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Universalium. 2010.

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