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The Bonus Army - Essay Example

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The Bonus Army In the summer of 1932 about 20 thousand World War I veterans and their families came together in Washington from all across the country with the purpose to demand the cash payments of the service certificates promised by the Government. After the end of WWI the Congress adopted a special plan of compensation of lost wages during the war because of the unfavorable social conditions for the former soldiers…
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Download file to see previous pages The Government considered the cash-payment redemption to be inflationary and impractical increasing the budget deficit for two million dollars (Kingseed). As the atmosphere of frustration and despair was worsening the American Communist Party found and an opportunity to complicate things more sending John Pace to instigate a riot. Though the role he played is quite ambiguous the historians agree that the veterans were getting more aggressive and the Government was alarmed with his presence. As the consequence the tensions dramatically escalated up to physical violence. Starting with the police clashes the fear of the communist presence led to the military force involvement. When the fire was opened by the police and the situation went out of control the President Hoover took an advantage of the incident and directed to unleash the military in order to expel the marchers from the capital. At this point Douglas MacArthur assumes the role of the key actor of the eviction operation. Having ousted the veterans from the downtown his mission was completed, but for whatever reason MacArthur decided to break the explicit instructions and continue coming down to Anacostia flats where resided the marchers and putting on fire the entire camp. Giving a press conference MacArthur justified his harsh action by the necessity to confront the communists, claiming that the Reds were plotting the revolution representing a threat to the government. Both Hoover and Macarthur believed that the majority of the rioters were communists. This assumption probably can explain the over-action. However, according to the numbers revealed by the Veterans Administration the president’s presuppositions were overestimated. Communists did not exceed 6 percent of the marchers (Kingseed). Wyatt Kingseed in his article The ‘Bonus Army’ War characterizes the MacArthur’s actions pay attention to his personality and problems with subordination saying that his “ambition proved too great an obstacle for history to erase its view of his performance against the Bonus Army” (Kingseed). Nevertheless, while the government reaction was undoubtedly too harsh it should be considered in the complex with other events (like hunger march in Detroit auto plant) and difficult conditions of the Great Depression which suggested the growing communist sentiments in the society and subsequent threat to the capitalist system. The incident obviously could not help influence the presidential election in the fall of 1932. By calling the army to interfere and then being forced to support the MacArthur’s actions to suppress the veterans unrest Hoover was not able to do anything with the public opinion. The other president candidate from the Democratic Party Franklin D. Roosevelt though did not support the immediate cash-payment of the bonus either, understood the significance of the order to resort to force. Consequently the Bonus Army incident brought him to the victory on the election. The next year the veterans came back to Washington to press the same question again. Roosevelt applied completely different strategy to handle the issue and sent his wife to speak with them. He took certain measures to resolve the problem: first producing the Economy Act that advantaged mostly a disabled veterans; creating ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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