Today’s History Lesson: The Bonus Army

Photo courtesy of
‘Carriers Setting Out on Their Daily Rounds’
courtesy of ‘Smithsonian Institution’

I must have been sick the day they talked about the Bonus Army in history class. 77 years ago, an enormous group of WWI veterans set up what basically amounts to a refugee camp in the Anacostia Flats and staged a months-long protest pertaining to service bonuses that were originally supposed to mature 20 years later, but then the Depression hit and vets started borrowing against them, and it turned into a big budgetary hullabaloo (seriously, go read the Wikipedia article I linked, it’s fascinating). The reason I bring this up now is because June 28th was the 77th anniversary of the day when President Hoover got so fed up with the Bonus Army that he actually deployed the standing United States Army against its own veterans to forcibly remove them from the capital.

There’s more to the story, of course- President Roosevelt managed to talk most of them into signing up for the Civilian Conservation Corps to support themselves during the Depression, which was great until a hurricane hit the bridge they were working on and wiped out hundreds of Bonus Army vets. Congress sucked it up, overrode Roosevelt’s veto, and paid out the bonuses early. But the other result of the whole messy business was a little thing you may know as the G.I. Bill.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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