Happy veterans day, all. We’ve been thinking about vets….and Occupy Wall Street….and how timely our latest documentary is. We’re looking back eight decades to a time when another group of protesters – veterans – set up an encampment and vowed to stay until their voices were heard.
In the summer of 1932, a group of World War I veterans in Portland, Oregon hopped a freight train and started riding the rails to Washington DC. They were demanding immediate payment of a cash bonus the government had promised them after the war – but delayed until 1945. Desperate for relief in the worst year of the Depression, the vets wanted their bonuses now. They called themselves the Bonus Army.
As they traveled east, veterans from all over the country joined up. By July, more than 20,000 veterans and their families had arrived in the nation’s capital. They established a tent city and vowed to stay as long as it took for their demands to be met….until, in a historic confrontation, General Douglas MacArthur’s Army troops routed the Bonus Army and burned their camp to the ground.
The March of the Bonus Army airs on NPR’s All Things Considered at around 4:30 EST today, 11/11/11 (of all the dates in the century, that one is the most fun to type). Tune in if you can, or find it here at the new-and-improved Radio Diaries.