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Bonus Army on Capitol Lawn, Washington, D.C., photograph by Underwood & Underwood, July 13, 1932

On June 17, 1932, thousands of Bonus Army marchers gathered at the Capitol as the Senate considered a bill passed by the House to advance all bonus money to veterans immediately. Debate continued into the evening, when the Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62 to 18. Bonus marchers continued to rally at the Capitol throughout June and July.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bonus Army on Capitol Lawn, Washington, D.C.

The Soldiers Bonus Act

After World War I, veterans’ organizations lobbied Congress for extra pay to compensate returned soldiers for differences between military pay and the higher civilian pay during wartime. In 1924 Congress approved the World War Adjusted Compensation Act, known as the Bonus Act, to provide World War I veterans with bonuses. The legislation and the subsequent “Bonus March” on the Capitol in 1932 highlighted the Great Depression’s economic impact on veterans, and the act helped lay the foundation for the G.I. Bill of Rights in 1944.

I deem it is not necessary for me to tell of the splendid service of our soldiers in the World War. They did splendid work, displayed wonderful courage, and made great sacrifices. They won the admiration and applause of the civilized world. . . . I believe the World War veterans are fairly and justly entitled to the adjusted compensation given in the bill.

Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas, Speech to the U.S. Senate, April 19, 1924