Marching on Anacostia: The Bonus Army and the Defiance of Douglas MacArthur

  • 2017

Marching on Anacostia: The Bonus Army and the Defiance of Douglas MacArthur

Author:
Nicholas Salamore
Abstract:

On July 28, 1932, federal troops were called on to restore order in Washington, DC. Following months of peaceful protest, a deadly clash between district police and World War I veterans, organized under the banner of the Bonus Army, threatened to engulf the capital in violence. Under the supervision of Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur, infantry, cavalry, and tanks moved through the city and forced the veterans from their shanty encampments. When MacArthur reached the bridge that separated the city, President Herbert Hoover balked and ordered that the operation come to a halt. Defiant, MacArthur pushed on across the Anacostia River, leaving smoldering piles of ash and debris on a field that once housed thousands of veterans and their families.

This paper seeks to understand MacArthur’s defiance by placing it within the context of earlier interventions of federal troops into outbreaks of domestic disorder caused by labor unrest. By analyzing the Bonus Army Riot from this perspective, MacArthur’s decision to pursue a decisive end to the protest is not anomalous. Rather, what emerges is an understanding of how the Bonus Army Riot fits into the broader history of military intervention into civil unrest.