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Forgotten Soldiers: Bonus Expeditionary Force
Support the Troops? Nah
“In the sad aftermath that always follows a great war, there is nothing sadder than the surprise of the returned soldiers when they discover that they are regarded generally as public nuisances. And not too honest.” — H.L. Mencken
Hollywood did a great job of reminding us of the plight of Vietnam veterans - soldiers returning from an unpopular war to little or no acclaim.
I’m not certain there is any proof soldiers were spat on in U.S. airports, but that might have been preferable to ending up on the streets of American cities lost, often crazed, more often addicted to drugs and alcohol or both.
There is nothing novel about this. One of the most shameful chapters of American history followed World War I when returning troops were given nothing but a discharge following the war. In 1924, Congress awarded “Adjusted Compensation”. This amounted to $1.25 for each day served overseas, and $1 for each day served in the States.
When the act passed, veterans who were owed less than $50 were immediately paid. But a great number of vets were owed far more than that. They were given certificates that supposedly guaranteed payment plus four percent interest.
Due in 1945.
The war ended in November 1918.
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With the depression looming, many veterans were out of work. Many had families to support. The heroes who had proudly marched to war were now destitute.
They began to march in cities across America. They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force (the US called itself the AEF during the war).
The BEF organized further and focused on Washington, D.C. where they would build a city of shacks and tents - many with their families in tow - across the Potomac.
Congress approved paying the soldiers. Led by Republicans (of course!) the Senate voted it down.
The Hooverville on the Potomac grew and there were tens of thousands of soldiers who simply wanted an American promise kept.
America rarely keeps its promises.
Herbert Hoover branded the vets Reds (see Communists, Antifa and Black Lives Matter today) and sicked his top general on them in Douglas MacArthur. One of his commanders was George Patton, who briefed his Third Calvary to make sure it shot to kill, not wound.
Many of the vets got the idea and left Hooverville. Many others stayed and were brutally beaten - two were killed - and ran out of the encampment with only the clothes on their backs. After nightfall, MacArthur sent in tanks and bulldozers to flatten the entire thing.
So it goes.
Journey, American will feature this horror prominently in a future chapter.
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