Mood: don't ask
Topic: "Best Day/Worst Day"(6)
The Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 provided for a bonus to be paid in 1945 to veterans of the First, and at the time, only, World War. The desperate conditions of 1932 brought 25,000 veterans, their wives, and children to Washington to lobby their Government for the cash, now. Homeless, and desperate, the veterans had no place else to turn for assistance. They tried in vain to influence Congress, so, peacefully, they turned to the President, Herbert Hoover. The President sent word that he was too busy to meet with them.
Some commercial buildings to which the Treasury Department had taken title were scheduled for demolition, instead the "Bonus Marchers" quietly occupied them on the night of June 17th. It was not a terrorist act, rather it was action taken to provide shelter for women, and children, from the unrelenting heat of the swamp on the Potomac. To the Administration, the veterans and their families were an eyesore and a humiliation. The President was determined to evict the veterans, even if he had to call out the Army. Local businesses complained, and there was a general hardening throughout the land of the attitudes of the well-fed toward the ill-fed.
The EVENING STAR of Washington, and the NEW YORK TIMES editorialized against the veterans, only one of whom had achieved the rank of officer during service overseas. Pressure grew for action. Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur was charged with total responsibility by the Administration to resolve the problem at hand. On the morning of July 28, Treasury Department agents ordered the veterans to vacate, and the order was refused.
William Hrushka, a former PFC in the 41st Infantry, from Chicago, was shot through the heart and was the first veteran to die. The White House, that day, declared Hrushka to be of the "Communist element." MacArthur ordered his subordinate, Dwight Eisenhower, into uniform and ordered six tanks into the developing, confusing fray. Major George S. Patton, Jr. led the 3rd Cavalry, on horseback, to draw sabers, and infantry marched behind with fixed bayonets just as civil servants began to pile out of their offices for the end of the workday. Many in the crowds assumed they were witness to a parade, and cheered. It was these observers who first felt the charge. Three thousand gas grenades had been issued to the infantrymen who followed the horses into the midst of the crowds.
Hoover directed MacArthur to drive the veterans across the bridges out of the city, but not to pursue. MacArthur was incensed, and ignored the order, following the hapless throngs across the Potomac into Anacostia. The next morning, it was the apparent public opinion that the Government acted against men bent upon violent revolution. The Governors of Virginia and Maryland closed the bridges into their states, and the veterans, and their families, had no place to go. Eventually they were escorted through Baltimore to Pennsylvania, and promised egress to Kansas City, but the trains which carried them did not stop. There is no record of the eventual destination. It is assumed that they joined the two million Americans who became the "wandering population" of the Great Depression.
Herbert Hoover was convinced that a balanced budget was an absolute necessity to achieving economic recovery. The only "moral" way out was self-help, and that people would be inspired by the success of the manufacturers, railways, utilities, and financial houses. He reduced taxes on corporations and individuals when the Government desperately needed revenue. It was outside agitators who prevented his projected image of the goodness of American business.
On the 28th of July, while the veterans and their families were being driven through the streets of Washington, newspapers were reporting that "Business Pulse Beats Faster," and "Bright Spots Grow on US Business Map." As William Manchester wrote, "Nowhere. . .was there mention of the remarkable fact in the United States of America, the richest country in the world, more than 15 million men were looking for jobs that did not exist."
The bonuses sought by the veterans amounted to $500 each.