The Bonus Army
In 1924, Congress legislated a bonus for World War I veterans, to be paid to them or their heirs in 1945. But the Great Depression led perhaps as many as twenty thousand unemployed veterans and their families to march to Washington in the spring of 1932 to demand immediate payment. Unsuccessful, most of the Bonus Army left their makeshift quarters at Anacostia Flats outside the Capitol and went home. In July, President Hoover reluctantly ordered the remaining occupied government buildings cleared. Ultimately, General Douglas MacArthur led hundreds of troops in dispersing the squatters. In the melee, scores of civilians were injured and a baby was accidentally killed. The incident diminished Hoover ‘s popularity further.
Suggestions for Term Papers
1. Was the government justified in using force to evict the Bonus Army?
2. Discuss public reaction to the Bonus Army and its dispersal.
3. Compare the Bonus Army’s march on Washington with that of Coxey’s Army in 1894.
4. Compare the Bonus Army’s march on Washington with that of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.
5. Should the Bonus Army have received its bonus in 1932?
Suggested Sources : See entry 32 for related items.
General Douglas MacArthur, 1880–1964: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography . Eugene L. Rasor. Westport , CT : Greenwood , 1994. Good bibliography covering all aspects of the general’s career.
Allen, Frederick L. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the NineteenTwenties . New York : Harper, 1931. Important and well-received firsthand account by the editor of Harper’s magazine of the social and economic conditions that led to the Great Depression and the Bonus March.
———. Since Yesterday: The Nineteen-Thirties in America , September 3, 1929-September 3, 1939 . New York : Harper, 1940. Allen’s second important work treats the history of the next decade examining the Bonus March among other aspects of the Depression.
Bernstein, Michael A. The Great Depression: Delayed Recovery and Economic Change in America , 1929–1939 . New York : Cambridge University Press, 1987. More recent coverage of the period treated by Allen in the work above.
Ellis, Edward R. A Nation in Torment: The Great American Depression, 1929–1939 . (1970). Reprint. New York : Kodansha International, 1995. An examination of this difficult period and its momentous events such as the Bonus March.
McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression: America 1929–1941 . New York : Times Books, 1984. Even-handed history of New Deal by a leftist historian. Good background for understanding the sociopolitical conditions surrounding the Bonus Army.
Mitchell, Broadus. Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929–1941 . (1947). Reprint. Armonk , NY : M. E. Sharpe, 1989. Detailed firsthand account of the Depression by a writer who lived through it and such events as the Bonus March.
Watkins, T. H. The Great Depression: America in the 1930s . Boston : Little, Brown, 1993. A recent history of the turbulent decade that provides good coverage of the Bonus March.
Lisio, Donald. Hoover , MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot . 2d ed. New York : Fordham University Press, 1994. Recent examination and interpretation of both MacArthur and Hoover in respect to the calamity at Anacostia Flats. Extensive bibliography.
Waters, Walter W. B. E. F.: The Whole Story of the Bonus Army . (1933). Reprint. New York : AMS, 1970. Firsthand account written just after it happened. The major source on the event.
Payne, Darwin. The Man of Only Yesterday: Frederick Lewis Allen, Former Editor of Harper’s Magazine, Author, and Interpreter of His Times . New York : Harper&Row, 1975. Detailed biography of the wellknown author of the 1920s and 1930s.
Perret, Geoffrey. Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur . New York : Random House, 1996. The most recent biography of the general. New material sheds more light on the directives given MacArthur in the assault on the Bonus Army.
Fayer, Steve. ‘‘After the Crash.” The American Experience . Santa Monica , CA : PBS Home Video, 1991. Videocassette. 60-minute television presentation examining the events that led to the creation of the Bonus Army, as well as the tragic riot that ensued.
WORLD WIDE WEB
‘‘WWI Veterans’ Bonus March 1932.” UMI: Great Events . 1997. http://www.umi.com/hp/Support/K12/GreatEvents/WWIBonus.html Fine narrative describing the situation, along with a reading list and questions for comprehension. Accompanies microfiche as part of Resources for Schools package.