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The Bonus Army : An American Epic Hardcover – December 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; Original edition (December 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714404
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Montgomery on 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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