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The Bonus Army: An American Epic [Kindle Edition]

Paul Dickson , Thomas B. Allen
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the summer of 1932, at the height of the Depression, some forty-five thousand veterans of World War I descended on Washington, D.C., from all over the country to demand the bonus promised them eight years earlier for their wartime service.

President Herbert Hoover, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, and others feared the protesters would turn violent after the Senate defeated the "bonus bill" that the House had passed. On July 28, 1932, tanks rolled through the streets as MacArthur's troops evicted the bonus marchers: Newspapers and newsreels showed graphic images of American soldiers driving out their former comrades in arms.

Through seminal research, including interviews with the last surviving witnesses, Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen tell the full and dramatic story of the Bonus Army and of the many celebrated figures involved in it: Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner of the hope diamond, sided with the marchers; Roy Wilkins saw the model for racial integration here; J. Edgar Hoover built his reputation against the Bonus Army radicals; a young Gore Vidal witnessed the crisis while John dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis wrote about it. Dickson and Allen also recover the voices of ordinary men who dared tilt at powerful injustice, and who ultimately transformed the nation: The march inspired Congress to pass the G. I. Bill of Rights in 1944, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history, which in large part created America's middle class. The Bonus Army is an epic story in the saga of our country.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before the Million Man March, the Million Mom March or Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington, there was the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF): 45,000 WWI vets who, in 1932, swarmed Washington, D.C., in freight cars, crank-start jalopies, on motorcycles and even on foot from as far away as Portland, Ore., to demand payment of the bonus promised them at the end of the war. As Dickson and Allen show throughout this empathetic and well-researched volume, the BEF meant different things to a number of groups vying for power in the tumultuous political climate of the early '30s. Communist organizers saw the veterans as the shock troops of the emerging "American Soviet Government"; the Hoover administration viewed them as mostly "ex-convicts, persons with criminal records, radicals, and non-servicemen" trying to strong-arm the government; and corporate America saw them as competition for dwindling government aid money. To most Americans, however, they were underdogs fighting the government and the corporate corruption that, in their minds, was responsible for the Depression. The book moves beyond these broad generalizations to find the personal stories of the march, fleshing out both minor and major players surrounding the BEF. And in describing the use of tanks, bayonets and tear gas to expel the unarmed vets and their families from Washington-as well as the deadly mistreatment of BEF members in government work camps after the march-Dickson and Allen highlight the sacrifices these women and men made on our own soil to win fair treatment for veterans of future wars. Their important and moving work will appeal to both professional historians and casual readers interested in the history of America's changing attitudes towards its soldiers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Bonus Army is a feat of research and analysis-a thoughtful, strong argument that these marches were among the most important demonstrations of the 20th century. Dickson and Allen speculate about why the episode is not more widely known. They cite as possible reasons the encampment’s integration in segregated Washington, the ease with which the marchers could be dismissed as Communists, and the fact that no political party stood to gain from the movement’s success or failure. Some critics suggest that the authors failed to prove any of these theories or provide any convincing reasons for the Bonus Army’s eventual failure. But, Dickson and Allen do paint moving, harrowing portraits of individuals’ plights and make clear how the corps’ ordeal laid the groundwork for the legislation that became the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3380 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (December 15, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,368 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Book July 6, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Allen and Dickson have written a very compelling book on the history of the Bonus Army, veterans from World War I who converged on Washington in 1932 and subsequent years to demand their promised payment known as the "bonus". The authors give us a good background as to who some of these veterans were, what conditions were like in the country during the years of the First World War and the next two decades after that, who some of the major players were in the debates and issues concerning the Bonus Army and their time in the nation's capital, and lastly how our nation would treat veterans of future wars.

This book details some of the men who made up the bonus army and where they came from in their move towards the nation's capital, with special emphasis on Walter Waters and his group of men from Portland and their journey eastwards. In addition to these Bonus marchers we learn of Pelham Glassford, the Washington D.C. Police Chief who oversaw the gathering veterans, citizens and groups who gave aid to the veterans on their journey to Washington and while they stayed in the city, politicians like Representative Wright Patman who became a leading advocate for the veterans in the halls of Congress, and of course other political and military figures who would play crucial roles in the issues and events surrounding the Bonus Army.

We also learn of how America perceived these veterans as they marched towards Washington and during their stay there. One of the constant worries of some in power at the time, those in the Hoover Administration, the Congress, and the military was the threat of communism, i.e. the Red Scare.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book about American Veterans January 17, 2005
The Bonus Army: An American Epic is a compelling historical narrative that reveals how a political issue during the Great Depression became part of a much larger American story. In 1932, 45,000 World War I veterans marched on Washington and built shantytowns in the city in order to lobby Congress for a wartime service bonus which they had been promised but would not be paid until 1945. Authors Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen explain the political dynamics that led Herbert Hoover to send troops with bayonets and tear gas (led by General Douglas MacArthur) to destroy the shacks and drive the veterans out of Washington. Government officials and military officers were so concerned that the protest was being infiltrated by communist and fascist elements that they ignored the glaring reality that most of the vets had come to seek relief from homelessness, unemployment, hunger, and desperation. The authors document how the routing of the vets in 1932 contributed to Hoover's defeat by Franklin Roosevelt later that year and ultimately to the passage of the G.I. Bill in 1944.

The Bonus Army really is a story about attitudes toward American veterans during the period between the end of World War I and the latter stages of World War II. At the beginning of one of the chapters, the authors include the H.L. Mencken quote, "In the sad aftermath that always follows a great war there is nothing sadder than the surprise of the returned soldiers when they discover that they are regarded generally as public nuisances, and not too honest." The narrative of the authors is filled with examples of how the patriotic "support our troops" attitude during World War I was forgotten when the troops returned home and tried to put their lives back together.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonus Army tells story of forgotten heroes January 29, 2005
In The Bonus Army: An American Epic, Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen have unearthed the sad but fascinating story of the Bonus marchers, a ragtag, determined group of veterans who changed the face of the United States.

When these men were young, they helped win World War I and a grateful nation promised to make their retirement years a little easier by paying them a bonus of a dollar a day for every day of service ($1.25 for overseas service) payable in 1945. When the Great Depression left thousands of them destitute, however, the vets banded together and asked their government to help them by paying the bonus immediately. But after the Senate refused to authorize payment, they were contemptuously chased out of Washington, D.C. by General Douglas MacArthur.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave many of the vets jobs, including about 600 who were sent to work camps in the isolated Florida Keys in 1935. There, administrators who were ignorant of the late summer dangers in that part of the world left the vets unprotected to face the most powerful hurricane ever to strike the U.S. More than 250 were killed, and the survivors were forgotten. My book, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 (National Geographic Books, 2002, paperback 2003), also tells the story of this tragedy.

In their fine narrative, Dickson and Allen carefully and vividly explain how these woebegone men did a second noble service for their nation after their military service. The Bonus marchers called attention to the often-shabby treatment of veterans and insisted that former members of the armed services be treated with the respect they deserve.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The book gave a good overview of the bonus march
The book gave a good overview of the bonus march, but got tedious at times. I was also disappointed by a couple of historical errors not directly related to the march. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Suzanne Treidler
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The deliverer word is their bond.
Published 7 months ago by Muckraker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 months ago by Vincent
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent history of an important episode.
Published 7 months ago by Richard S. Slotkin
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Ranks of the VETS
This was such an eye opener! Our troops go off to war and are treated as if our VETERANS are dirt under the feet of our government via broken promisses, down-right lies, and... Read more
Published 10 months ago by COPTER
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done.......a part of our history that needed telling!
With the possible exception of the Bible, I doubt their has ever been a more researched book....and this one was able to produce facts. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ronald D. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars A march preceeding Dr King
To think we treated the defenders of our country so horribly, to promise, then to lie and to cheat and avoid paying them; these men from all over our country, broke and expecting a... Read more
Published 13 months ago by T. Russell
3.0 out of 5 stars Bonus Army
An interesting read about WWI veterans who fought to get their promised bonus which led to the creation of the GI bill. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Event.
Dickson's book is a good evocation of a forgotten event. He goes beyond the march on Washington to follow the issues for years after. Read more
Published 13 months ago by sillybilly312
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crisis Brought to Life
This is a first rate account of a controversial episode in American history. Other accounts leave out the entire fascist component of the story. Dickson writes well. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jon S. Woodson
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