Does Any One Remember the Bonus Army?

English: 1932 political "cinderella"...

English: 1932 political “cinderella” stamp supporting the Bonus Army. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a letter to the president, released Sept. 30, Congressman Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., requested that the monument remain open to the public:

“It would be truly devastating to our veterans that travel great lengths to share this experience with family and friends and see a piece of their own history,” he wrote. “I request that you immediately instruct the Department of Interior and National Service to ensure that veterans are not denied access to monuments on the National Mall in the case of a government shutdown. It is the very least we can do for our Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much on behalf of our country.”

I don’t know if you heard, but yesterday World War II and Korean War veterans tried to visit their monuments but found them closed.  Congressmen and women went to the monuments for photo ops and sorrowful looks.  All the interviews I have read and saw show the Republican’s outraged that the government would close these monuments to the Greatest Generation.

Outraged?  Yes, outraged.  And above you see a Republican congressman saying that the National Park Service needs to keep access open to monuments.  I find this silly.  Really?  Mr. Palazzo, you did this.  Michele Bachmann put her arm around a veteran and said “we are working hard to protect your Health Care benefits.”  Huh?  If you are so sad and outraged about these Veterans loss of access, you could have done something about that.  Don’t get upset that things are shut down. YOU shut it down!  And now you are using these brave men as a publicity stunt.

While Congressmen and women collect their paychecks, Veterans throughout the US will be losing out.  The men and women that our nation asks the most of will be told, “sorry, the government is closed.”   Veterans will have access to hospitals but no new claims for services can be processed during the closure.  If the shut down lasts more than two weeks, according to the Washington Post, pensions and disability may not be paid.

Does anyone remember the Bonus Army?  In 1932 a group of World War I vets were hit hard by the Great Depression.  They had been issued a bonus by the government in 1924, these certificates were handed out, but they would not be able to cash in this Bonus until 1945.  Veterans were allowed to borrow against this future bonus, but when the Depression hit, Congress voted that in order to finance these loans they would have to increase taxes, and that was something Congress wasn’t willing to do.

Imagine, surviving the horrors of war.  Imagine running out of the trenches into gunfire.  They lost limbs for a government they promised to protect, and then the government cut off their only form of income.  So what did the veterans do?  They marched.  They came to Washington and formed a tent city.  According to numerous sources it was a well run city.  It had simple rules: no alcohol, no fighting, no panhandling and no communists. They had a post office, a barbershop, a library, and a newspaper.  They even named their streets.

This time it wasn’t the House that let them down in was the Senate.  The House passed a bill to pay out the bonus, the Senate voted down the bill.  Some of the Bonus Army left and others stayed.  After an attempt by the Washington police to evict the campers, Hoover sent in General MacArthur.  The veterans that stayed were met with guns, tanks, and fire.

What was the reaction to all this?  Never let it happen again.  A few years later, the House and Senate agreed to pay out the Bonus.  Then they created the GI Bill following World War II.  The idea was to ensure that all those who served this country would be taken care of.

But it looks like…. once again… our veterans are at risk.

Articles used in this post:

The Bonus Army: How a Protest Led to the GI Bill

American Experience: MacArthur-The Bonus March

Absolutely Everything You Need To Know About How The Government Shut Down Will Work


2 replies

  1. I like this instructive piece. I am also saddened that in all the overblown hype about this shutdown, nobody has mentioned the Bonus Army once. Thanks for your voice in adding to the *genuine* outrage.

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