S: My Life in the Bonus Expeditionary Force
FC: My Life in the Bonus Expeditionary Force
1: Back in ‘24, our Congress passed a bill to help us old doughboys from the Great War. Any one of the boys in khaki that served overseas during the war would get a bonus of $1.25 for every day of service. If we was at home, we would get a dollar per day. We were supposed to get the dough in ’45, but hard times made a bunch of us vets went to Washington to try to get our money early. We earned it slogging through hell “Over There”, didn’t we? We called ourselves the BEF – the Bonus Expeditionary Force.
2: We came from all over the USA, and got there any darn way we could – cars, trains, hitchhiked, whatever it took to get to the Capitol. Many of us brought our families. Once we got to Washington, we set up camp down by the Anacostia, using whatever we could find. Our new homes were made from newspapers, packing crates, cardboard boxes, and materials we scavenged from the city dump. There was almost 15 thousands of us living down there in the hot summer of ‘32! For many of us, we had no other place to go.
3: Them boys in the House passed a bill that would pay us our bonus, by the Senate voted it down. They said something about it being too expensive to pay all the veterans. Hoover didn’t want to pay all of us, but he did try to help us, lettin’ some of our boys stay in government buildings. He even got Congress to git some money to send many of us home. Some went – but I was there to stay until I got my bonus. What else could I do – there wasn’t no jobs back home.
4: Near the end of July, the police were ordered to kick out all the rest of the vets from the government buildings, and some of us came up from the Flats to resist. Some fightin’ happened, and one of our boys was killed, right there in Washington. That’s when Hoover ordered in the army to clear us out. Imagine sending in our brothers in uniform to push out the vets!
5: Army troops came in, led by some up ‘n comer named MacArthur. They pushed us out of them buildings, and destroyed some of our smaller camps. They didn’t use no guns, but they did show their swords, and we didn’t go without a fight. Them cavalry officers rode their horses right into crowds of us, and hundreds of us got hurt by bricks, clubs, bayonets and tear gas – and one little baby, bless her soul, died. Then they went across the river and burned down our big camp. They let us skedaddle before the flames started, but it was some sight to see, I tell you.
6: Some people though we was doing the wrong thing and shouldn’t of been protesting and all, especially at a time when lot of folk were hurtin’. But the newspapers made a big deal outta how we were treated, and old Hoover took the blame in the press – and it sure hurt him when it was election time a few months later.
7: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/1101/Five-memorable-Washington-political-protests/The-Bonus-Expeditionary-Force http://www.gpb.org/march-of-the-bonus-army