World War and Veterans
Struggle for Compensation
The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924, popularly known as the “Bonus Act,” promised veterans compensation for wages lost during their World War I service. Payments, however, were not going to be issued until 1945. In 1932, veterans and their families, who were afflicted by long-term unemployment and hunger wrought by the Great Depression, came to Washington by the thousands to demand their payments early. They set up camps in vacant buildings and along the Anacostia River. Although the House passed a bill granting the payments in June 1932, the Senate did not pass the measure. Frustrated veterans refused to leave their encampments and fought with the police until President Hoover ordered the Army to forcibly remove them. This footage, dated July 1932, shows veterans being evicted from buildings, tanks and cavalry patrolling the streets, tear gas being used against the crowds, and the burning of the veterans’ camps.
Glenn Rupp served as a House Page from 1932 to 1936. Throughout his tenure on the Capitol he witnessed a variety of historic events including the 1932 Bonus March. In this 2005 interview he recounts the experience.
Not all of the protesters went home, though. In 1933, more than 1,000 resided at a camp set up at nearby Fort Hunt, Virginia. Representative Virginia Jenckes had just come to Congress, and quickly aligned herself with the plight of the marchers. Here, she appears in the news, “being acclaimed . . . after she made a speech in favor of cash payment of the soldiers’ bonus” at the encampment. Although this particular situation appears staged for the cameras, Jenckes made news for real actions in May of that year. A splinter group of self-proclaimed “conservatives” from the camp accused the larger group of being “Communist connected.” About 200 left Fort Hunt and returned to the streets of Washington, D.C. The Congresswoman made a personal plea to them to return to camp. When they refused, she approached the Veterans' Bureau and asked for leniency on camp registration requirements, evidently a sticking point for the faction. This convinced most of the rogue protesters to get off the streets and return to the organized camp. Three years later, in 1936, the Bonus Act finally passed.