Bonus Army

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"The Bonus Army was a group of 43,000 demonstrators – made up of 17,000 U.S. World War I veterans, together with their families and affiliated groups – who gathered in Washington, D.C. in mid-1932 to demand early cash redemption of their service certificates. Organizers called the demonstrators the "Bonus Expeditionary Force", to echo the name of World War I's American Expeditionary Forces, while the media referred to them as the "Bonus Army" or "Bonus Marchers". The demonstrators were led by Walter W. Waters, a former sergeant.

"Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1948. Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment with compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates."

- Wikipedia. "Bonus Army."


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.


Bonus Army camp, Anacostia, Washington, D.C.


Dickson, Paul, and Thomas B. Allen. (2003). "Marching on History: When a “Bonus Army” of World War I veterans converged on Washington, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton were there to meet them." Smithsonian Magazine, February 2003:


"D.C. Chief of Police Pelham D. Glassford....knew he would have to create a sort of Hooverville of his own to house the Bonus Army. But where? In the end he chose a tract of land known as Anacostia Flats....Glassford oversaw the establishment of the camp as best he could, making sure that at least a certain amount of building materials—piles of lumber and boxes of nails—were supplied."

"When novelist John Dos Passos visited the veterans' shantytown (overseen by D.C. Police Chief Pelham Glassford, on motorcycle), he reported: "The men are sleeping in lean-tos built out of old newspapers, cardboard boxes, packing crates, bits of tin or tarpaper roofing, every kind of cockeyed makeshift shelter from the rain, scraped out of the city dump." (National Archives).

"On May 29, the Oregon contingent, including Walter Waters, arrived in Washington, D.C., joining several hundred veterans who had gotten there first. In addition to the main camp in Anacostia, 26 smaller outposts would spring up in various locations, concentrated in the northeast quadrant of the city. There would soon be more than 20,000 veterans in the camps."

"About 1,100 wives and children populated the main camp, making it, with more than 15,000 people, the largest Hooverville in the country. The Bonus Marchers named their settlement CampMarks, in honor of the accommodating police captain S. J. Marks, whose precinct encompassed Anacostia. The vets published their own newspaper (the BEF News), set up a library and barbershop and staged vaudeville shows at which they sang such ditties as 'My Bonus Lies Over the Ocean.'"

"While newspaper reporters produced almost daily dispatches on camp life, they largely missed the biggest story of all: in this Southern city, where schools, buses and movies remained segregated, Bonus Army blacks and whites were living, working, eating and playing together."

"Eyewitnesses, including Eisenhower, insisted that Secretary of War Hurley, speaking for the president, had forbade any troops to cross the bridge into Anacostia and that at least two high-ranking officers were dispatched by Hurley to convey these orders to [General] MacArthur. The general, Eisenhower later wrote, 'said he was too busy and did not want either himself or his staff bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders.'"

"Over the next few days, newspapers and theater newsreels showed graphic images of fleeing veterans and their families, blazing shacks, clouds of tear gas, soldiers wielding fixed bayonets, cavalrymen waving sabers."

Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt...after reading newspaper accounts of MacArthur’s eviction, told an adviser that 'this will elect me.'"


Waters, W. W. Waters, as told to William C. White (1933). B. E. F.: The Whole Story of the Bonus Army. New York, The John Day Company, 1933..

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