Friday Movie Night - March of the Bonus Army

hot buttered popcorn It's Friday Night! Party Time!   Time to relax, put your feet up on the couch, lay back, and watch some detailed videos on economic policy!

Earlier Economist Ralph Gomory publicly stated we all should respect Occupy Wall Street and pointed to the history of protest in the United States. Gomory's article reminded me of the Great Depression and the Hoover administration's lack of responsiveness to the people, in particular WWI veterans. The vets were desperate for money and wanted to receive their military service bonus checks early. They were refused and this ignited a protest by the WWI veterans called the Bonus March.

Below is a 2006 documentary March of the Bonus Army.


March of the Bonus Army, Part I


March of the Bonus Army, Part II


March of the Bonus Army, Part III


he Bonus Army was the popular name of an assemblage of some 43,000 marchers—17,000 World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups—who gathered in Washington, D.C., in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand immediate cash-payment redemption of their service certificates. Its organizers called it the Bonus Expeditionary Force to echo the name of World War I's American Expeditionary Force, while the media called it the Bonus March.

The PBS documentary on McArthur has a segment on the Bonus march and McArthur's role.



How to win a battle and lose the war

For those, like myself, who prefer non-video media --

Bonus Army Spectacle, U.S. Capital, 1932, What Really Happened (Suburban Emergency Management Project webpage, including contemporary reports and photographs)

Very few people today are aware of the Bonus Army and or its repression ordered by President Hoover and commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.

As always, MacArthur's tactics were just about perfect. You wouldn't give him a job if you didn't want it done.

From the New York Times (28 July 1932) --

The action was precise, well executed from a military standpoint, but not pretty to the thoughtful in the crowd.

President Hoover appeared confident that the action would meet with approval of the American public --

President Hoover summarized the event on July 29, 1932, as follows:

A challenge to the authority of the United States Government has been met, swiftly and firmly. After months of patient indulgence, the Government met overt lawlessness as it always must be met if the cherished processes of self-government are to be preserved. We cannot tolerate the abuse of Constitutional rights by those who would destroy all government, no matter who they may be. Government cannot be coerced by mob rule. The Department of Justice is pressing its investigation into the violence which forced the call for Army detachments, and it is my sincere hope that those agitators who inspired yesterday’s attack upon the Federal authority may be brought speedily to trial in the civil courts.

But then came the more lasting strategic implications, accurately understood by Hoover's opponent, Franklin D. Roosevelt --

The Bonus army incident occurred in a presidential election year [1932].  Indeed, “[o]n the morning of July 29, with the New York Times spread open on his bed at Hyde Park, Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt [FDR] told an aide that there was no need now to campaign against Hoover.”