Friday, July 24, 2009

Bonus Army

Hooverville burns, July 27, 1932

It passes with not much general observation, but on today's date in 1932, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Maj. George Patton turned the full wrath of the U. S. Army on World War I veterans on the streets of Washington, DC and Anacostia.

NPR had a feature on this event this afternoon, an interview with the author of a book on the Bonus Marches, and an interview with a surviving eyewitness, who at the time was a boy of eight and a resident of the city. I had no idea the event was so significant; it was the negative example of the Bonus Army that was most responsible for the passage of the GI Bill, for instance, that did so much to create a post-WW II middle class. It happened during a Presidential campaign, and had Katrina-like effects on Hoover's presidency. Afterward, Roosevelt's electoral strategy changed drastically; he no longer had to even mention his opponent in his communications. Another new fact for me: The Bonus Army was entirely integrated. Black and white folks camped together in the Hoovervilles -- very disciplined places, apparently, run by veterans who knew a thing or two about hygiene in the field -- sleeping side by side in tents.


Will Divide said...

Good on NPR, and you, for drawing attention to something tossed down the U.S. memory hole. It is a rank peculiarity how much this country loves its soldiers, and how little it cares for its veterans.

I've read one estimate that put the number of Civil War vets who drifted along rail lines out west, shell-shocked and addicted, at over a million. The number of course can't be known for certain, but the first hobo camps were most certainly colonies of veterans suffering from PTSD.

gray lensman said...

My great grandmother told the story of being moved as a child with her family from East Louisiana to East Texas in the 1870's after the Civil War. There was a crash in the economy and Texas looked like a good place for a farm family in a covered wagon. The move didn't last long. Mr Chisum moved his family back in a few years, mainly because of the ravaging Southern and Northern ex-soldiers who had no skills but robbing people with government-issue rifles and pistols and no possibility of a job.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post

nolierob said...

Thanks for the post, Neddie. I was shocked at the fact that inspite of a pretty good education, I knew NOTHING about this!

Anonymous said...

I believe there is a section of "A People's History of the United States" which has some good information about this. Good post (amazing pic!)