While in school, from the primary grades through college, students are supposed to learn American history. But what a student can learn in one hour, three days a week, is ultimately pretty little. What makes this even worse is not what they try and teach you, but the important things they decide not to teach you.
The Bonus March of 1932 is one of those things they didn't teach you.
This march happened in one of the worst years of the Great Depression. The veterans -- some of whom brought their entire families with them to Washington DC -- were not greedy men. On the contrary, they were desperate men, desperate to keep their families fed and alive. Many of these men were unemployed in a time before food stamps and public assistance.
Simply put, if they did not work, they did not eat. And more important to many of them, their families did not eat.
So what bonus were they marching for? Well, as World War I veterans, the United States Government had promised them a bonus of several thousand dollars, payable in 1945. A relative few veterans, being hungry, hopeless and seeing no other possible help in sight, put together this march. As word spread to other veterans across the country, the numbers heading to the Capital grew and grew.
There were a few historic figures taking part in the episode -- General Douglas MacArthur, Major George S. Patton and Major Eisenhower forced the veterans out of Washington at gunpoint, effectively destroying President Hoover's hope for a second term.
Supporting the veterans was America's most decorated military officer of the day, Smedley Butler (Marine General, retired). As an aside, Butler would go on to write a book -- War is a Racket -- condemning several of the campaigns he had taken part in, and condemning the practice war itself.
This film clip is from the last half of episode two of the six part PBS/BBC2 series "The Great Depression." It is an important and overlooked piece of American history which needs to be shared.
I do not own the rights to this video and will not be making any money off of it. It's just important to share this sort of information.