The Bonus March - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

Bonus March

The Bonus March -


1919 Approximately 4.7 million veterans participated in World War I. About half went overseas for an average of 5.5 months. Of the 1.1 million who actually saw combat, 116,000 died in service and 204,000 were wounded or otherwise disabled. After the war, veterans were simply mustered out of service from their bases in the United States and received a $60 bonus.

1924 On May 15, President Calvin Coolidge vetoed a bill granting bonuses to veterans of World War I, saying: "patriotism... bought and paid for is not patriotism." Congress overrode his veto a few days later, thereby passing the World War Adjustment Compensation Act that provided a bonus to WWI veterans based on the length and location of their service - $1 for each day in the service (up to $500) if they stayed in the U.S. and $1.25 per day of service (up to $625) if they were stationed outside U.S. borders. Veterans owed $50 or less were paid immediately in cash; others were to be paid in 1945 with money put in a trust fund for that purpose.

1929 In January, Wright Patman, Congressman from Texas, introduced a Veteran's Bill that would release the WWI bonuses early. The bill did not make it out of committee.

1931 In January, Patman reintroduced his bill to Congress. While it made it through Congress, President Hoover vetoed the bill, denouncing the bonus as "a dole" and "a step toward government aid to those who can help themselves."

1932 In May, a former cannery worker named Walter W. Walters led to Washington a band of jobless WWI veterans who had been greatly impoverished during the great depression. Calling themselves the "Bonus Expeditionary Forces," they demanded early payment of the bonus Congress had promised them in 1924.

1933 In May, about 1,000 veterans marched on Washington to again demand their bonuses. While President Franklin Roosevelt opposed the bonus, he responded by issuing an executive order permitting the enrollment of 25,000 veterans in the Citizens' Conservation Corps for work in forests.

1935 Congress passed the Patman Greenback Bonus Bill, which Roosevelt vetoed. While the House overrode the veto by a vote of 322 to 98, the Senate upheld the President's veto. Roosevelt argued that the program was not a relief bill and that it would invite demands for similar treatment by other groups. With respect to the veterans, he said, "I hold that able-bodied citizens should be accorded no treatment different from that accorded to other citizens who did not wear a uniform during the World War. . . . The veteran who is disabled owes his condition to the war. The healthy veteran who is unemployed owes his troubles to the depression."

1936 Congress sent another version of the Patman bill to the President on January 22. The bill became law when the Senate overrode the President's veto on January 27. The Act replaced the service certificates awarded to veterans under the 1924 Act and issued Treasury Department bonds in denominations of $50 which paid interest at an annual rate of 3 percent for the next nine years - higher than rates available in savings accounts. Amounts less than $50 were paid immediately. The bonds could not be sold, but the Treasury would redeem them for cash at any time after June 15, 1936. Most veterans redeemed their bonds promptly.

Bonus March