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Veterans March to Washington to Arrive at Opening of Congress, broadside, December 5, 1932

More than 15,000 World War I veterans marched in a “Bonus Army” to the Capitol in 1932 to demand immediate payment of bonus certificates that were not due until 1945. Many slept in abandoned buildings and makeshift shacks or camped in tents along the road. President Herbert Hoover eventually ordered the U.S. Army to forcibly evict thousands of veterans who refused to leave.

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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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