On July 28, 1932, between 12,000-15,000 WWI veterans flood into Washington to demand bonuses promised to them by the government in 1925. Known as the “Bonus Army,” the troops, stressed by the economic hardships of the Great Depression, form huge protests and camp near the U.S. Capitol after Congress announces that the war service payments will not be paid out until 1945.
That day President Herbert Hoover calls on General Douglas MacArthur to send in troops to clear out the camps––and as the Army approached the veterans, with little warning, infantrymen began to hurl tear-gas grenades as cavalrymen charged into the crowd. In the ensuing pandemonium, two veterans are wounded and later die.
Eisenhower would later call “the whole scene…pitiful. The veterans, whether or not they were mistaken in marching on Washington, were ragged, ill-fed, and felt themselves badly abused. To suddenly see the whole encampment going up in flames just added to the pity one had to feel for them.”