In 1924, Congress passed, over the president’s veto, the World War Adjustment Compensation Act which promised each veteran $1 for each day of domestic service (up to $500) and $1.25 for each day of overseas service (up to $625). While veterans due $50 or less were paid out immediately, the rest were issued Certificates of Service set to mature in 20 years (with interest). Then the economy crashed leading to the Great Depression and veterans asked if they couldn’t just have their money now and forgo the interest.
|Notification letter about the War Compensation Adjustment Act|
|Tom & Idalene Jenkins, ca. 1918|
Tom and Idalene went home soon after, but many others chose to stay. They established a make-shift camp in Anacostia Flats along the Anacostia River across from the capitol. Although built from scrap, the camp was highly organized and all perspective residents had to register and prove they were honorably discharged veterans. They stayed throughout the summer.
|The B.E.F. News|
On July 28th, the Washington police attempted to remove them and ended up shooting and killing two protestors. Later that evening, President Hoover sent the 12th Infantry Regiment lead by General Douglas McArthur and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment lead by General George S. Patton to clear the camp. The BEF thought the army was marching in support until they were fired upon. Patton and McArthur cleared the camp with tear gas, bayonets and a cavalry charge. 55 veterans were injured, one pregnant woman miscarried, and an infant was killed.
|Protestors on June 17, 1932|
Ultimately, the Bonus March proved disastrous for Hoover’s reelection campaign. When a second march was organized in 1933, President Roosevelt provided the veterans with a safe camp site in Virginia and sent his wife Eleanor to meet with them. He signed an executive order allowing veterans jobs in the new Civilian Conservation Corps (exempting them from the usual requirements). The Adjusted Compensation Payments Act of 1936 finally gave them their bonuses.