Letter from Fred G. Frnka, December 8, 1931
World War I veterans, like many Americans, experienced unemployment and poverty during the Great Depression in the 1930s. In this letter to Congress transcribed by his 11-year-old daughter, a World War I veteran pleaded for full and immediate payment of his war bonus for the sake of his family, as he had sacrificed for the nation.
Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration
I am in favor of the payment in full, as I am married and have four children, and it would be a great help to me . . . . I have made my sacrifice. So help me when I am in need of help
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