Bonus Army: 1932-34
After World War I, the American Legion organized a petition campaign garnering over one million signatures that was delivered to Congress in 1922. While that bill failed the issue did not evaporate and instead continued to gather steam.

In 1924 Congress authorized a payment to World War I veterans that varied according to their length of service and the amount of time they served overseas. However, there was a catch—the bonus was not to be paid until 1945 to the servicemen or their family if they pre-deceased the payment date.

When the Great Depression began in 1929, veterans hungry for any type of cash began to clamor for payment. The American Legion again organized a campaign and in 1931 brought hundreds of veterans to Capitol Hill.

The Legion compromised however, agreeing to support a bill that provided for loans against the promised 1945 payment.

However, many veterans believed they were sold out and what became the Bonus Expeditionary Army (BEF or commonly known as the Bonus Army) was launched in 1932 demanding immediate payment of the promised bonus.

As many as 17,000 veterans, swelled by family and supporters to as many as 45,000, set up camp on open ground and empty buildings throughout Washington, D.C.

Congress failed to pass an early payment of the bonus and President Hoover ordered the camps cleared. Gen. Douglas MacArthur led the troops who advanced with cavalry, fix bayonets and tear gas.

Dozens were injured and two veterans were killed during the evictions.

Smaller marches were held again in 1933 and 1934. An expedited bonus payment bill was finally enacted by Congress in 1936—overriding President Franklin Roosevelt’s veto.
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