On July 5, 1932 veterans of World War I blocked the steps to the United States Capitol in futile attempts to lobby for the payment of the bonus that had been promised to them for enlisting in 1917 to serve in the war – fifteen years before. Most of them had served in the Rainbow Division, led by dashing young general Douglas MacArthur. But in the depths of the Depression, in 1932, their lobbying, and blocking, were not successful.
The old and poor veterans were attacked in their shanty camp across the Potomac by American cavalry, infantry, tank troops and a mounted machine gun squadron commanded by ….General Douglas MacArthur under the orders of President Hoover. According to journalist and eyewitness Joseph C. Harsch, “This was not a revolutionary situation. This was a bunch of people in great distress wanting help.… These were simply veterans from World War I who were out of luck, out of money, and wanted to get their bonus — and they needed the money at that moment.”
Wealthy Americans supported Hoover, conveniently believing that for those who had everything because of the safety assured them by those who had risked everything, patriotism did not extend so far as to expect them to pay for their American freedom with their own money.
The veterans never received their promised bonuses.