Resources on the Bonus Army

Best, Gary Dean.  FDR and the Bonus Marchers, 1933-1935 (Praeger Publishers, 1992).

Fearful of another bonus march incident like the one in 1932 during the Hoover administration, the Roosevelt administration shipped hundreds of bonus marchers to "rehabilitation camps" in the South. Many of these marchers were sent to camps in the Florida Keys for work on the overseas highway project. At least 256 perished in the devastating hurricane of Labor Day, 1935, as a result of the failed leadership of their supervisors. This oral and documentary history of the tragedy is designed for a general audience as well as for those interested in the 1930s and the Roosevelt administration.


Dickson, Paul and Thomas B. Allen.  The Bonus Army: An American Epic (Walker and Company, 2004).

In the summer of 1932, at the height of the Depression, some forty-five thousand veterans of World War I descended on Washington, D.C., from all over the country to demand the bonus promised them eight years earlier for their wartime service. They lived in shantytowns, white and black together, and for two months they protested and rallied for their cause—an action that would have a profound effect on American history.

President Herbert Hoover, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, and others feared the protesters would turn violent after the Senate defeated the "bonus bill" that the House had passed. On July 28, 1932, tanks rolled through the streets as MacArthur's troops evicted the bonus marchers: Newspapers and newsreels showed graphic images of American soldiers driving out their former comrades in arms. Democratic candidate, Franklin Roosevelt, in a critical contest with Hoover, upon reading newspaper accounts of the eviction said to an adviser, “This will elect me,” though bonus armies would plague him in each of his first three years.

Through seminal research, including interviews with the last surviving witnesses, Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen tell the full and dramatic story of the Bonus Army and of the many celebrated figures involved in it: Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner of the hope diamond, sided with the marchers; Roy Wilkins saw the model for racial integration here; J. Edgar Hoover built his reputation against the Bonus Army radicals; a young Gore Vidal witnessed the crisis while John dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis wrote about it. Dickson and Allen also recover the voices of ordinary men who dared tilt at powerful injustice, and who ultimately transformed the nation: The march inspired Congress to pass the G. I. Bill of Rights in 1944, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history, which in large part created America’s middle class. The Bonus Army is an epic story in the saga of our country.

Learn more about the book, read the prologue and first chapter at:


Lowe, Georgia.  The Bonus (Luckey Dime Press, 2010).

Lowe's debut is a well-done historical epic that captures an undeservedly obscure episode from the Great Depression. In 1932, veterans from across the country converged on Washington, D.C., to demand payment of bonuses earned during WWI. Despite rampant unemployment and hunger, President Herbert Hoover vows to veto any legislation to move up the payment date—the bonuses aren't due for more than a decade—leaving the suffering veterans little recourse but to rally public support for their cause by marching on the Capitol. The vicissitudes of their efforts are nicely illumined through a diverse cast of characters, including L.A. reporter Will Hardy—whose coverage of actor Royal Robertson, who issued one of the calls to march leads him to follow the story across the country—and Col. Pelham Glassford, who uses his position as D.C. police superintendent to both maintain public order and treat the marchers humanely. The author makes good use of her material, some of which is derived from stories from her parents, themselves Bonus Marchers.


Waters, Walter W.  B.E.F.: The Whole Story of the Bonus Army (Cincinnatus Press, 2007).

In the summer of 1932, General Douglas MacArthur led regular United States Army troops into the streets of Washington, D.C. to evict more than ten thousand veterans of the Great War from the streets of Washington. This is the story of those veterans, told by one of their number.

Walter W. Waters, a World War I Army sergeant, set out from Portland, Oregon with 300 other veterans in 1932 to petition Congress for early payment of the bonus promised to veterans of the World War. With the Great Depression at its height, these men crossed the county on freight trains, then lived in shacks and abandoned buildings in Washington while seeking to improve their circumstances. This is their story, told by one of their own.