My Dad served in World War I, and he sometimes spoke of the shanties that his buddies built in Washington DC. At the time, I didn’t understand. But now I know. The Bonus Army: An American Epic is a fascinating look at a little remembered event that changed life for military veterans. Almost everyone has heard of the GI Bill, which helps veterans with education, medical care, and other benefits. But many of us are unaware that the passage of this legislation was the result of actions by veterans of World War I.
Veterans returned home from the trenches from 1917 to 1918 with promises of a cash bonus, but the money was not to be paid until 1945! During the Great Depression, war veterans were desperate for relief. Congress refused to allow an early payout, and President Hoover vetoed a relief bill. By May of 1932, at least 45,000 veterans gathered in Washington. The veterans formed camps named "Hoovervilles." By July, in fear of violence, the Army was called in to clear the camps, and the ensuing publicity ruined Hoover and elected Franklin Roosevelt. In 1936, the bonus was finally approved. It gave each veteran approximately $1,000. In 1944, Congress passed the GI bill to help military veterans and to acknowledge the debt the country owed to them.
Midwest Genealogy Center