Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bonus Marcher

Marcher in the Bonus Expeditionary Force, WW1 vets united to seek the Promised but Elusive War Bonus. Without Facebook or cell phone, assembled in Portland, Oregon and proceeded eastward, until they arrived in the nation's capital, in the thousands, created the country's largest Hooverville, formed a newspaper, a library, schools.. DC Police Chief Glassford, himself a vet, found them a place to stay and even bought them building supplies. Evalyn Walsh McLean fed them sandwiches. Tourists arrived on the weekends. It was integrated; no Jim Crow. Herbert Hoover called it a “temporary disease.” J. Edgar Hoover called them communists... bums... Weeks went by. A Bonus Bill passed the House, was defeated in the Senate, still thousands remained encamped in their sorry lean-to's & shanties, next door to the White House, until... the Great American War Machine was deployed at MacArhur's command.

"MacArthur ordered his men to clear the downtown of veterans, their numbers estimated at around 8,000, and spectators who had been drawn to the scene by radio reports. At 4:30 p.m., nearly 200 mounted cavalry, sabers drawn and pennants flying, wheeled out of the Ellipse. At the head of this contingent rode their executive officer, George S. Patton, followed by five tanks and about 300 helmeted infantrymen, brandishing loaded rifles with fixed bayonets. The cavalry drove most pedestrians—curious onlookers, civil servants and members of the Bonus Army, many with wives and children—off the streets. Infantrymen wearing gas masks hurled hundreds of tear-gas grenades at the dispersing crowd. The detonated grenades set off dozens of fires: the flimsy shelters veterans had erected near the armory went up in flames. Black clouds mingled with tear gas."

The United States of America veterans were given one hour to evacuate the women and children, then surrender. Guffed Mac: “Had [the president] let it go on another week, I believe the institutions of our Government would have been severely threatened.”

to be continued?

Quotes and background from an article written for Smithsonian in 2003 by Paul Dickson & Thomas B. Allen


Boer said...

To be continued, my ass! It's continuin' as I write this!

Thanks for telling the story, bro. I read about this when I was a sprat, and I'm sure it added to my revolution-oriented brain. Of course, so did Watts, Newark, The Kennedys, MLK, The Czechago Police, etcetera ad nauseum.

But the story of the Bonus Marchers is one of my favorites. I told it to two people this week that at first thought I was making it up. Now they know.

I hope everyone knows. Thanks.

I heard that Patton rode with Mac on that sad day. Wonder what he thought.

Funny that when I lived in D.C. it was a thrice-told tale.

Jay said...

Patton rode along and so did Eisenhower. Ike said later he argued against it and Hoover claims he ordered MacArthur to back down at a certain point, but it went down and became a shining moment in American History... not.