The Bonus Army
An American Epic
Publication Date: January 2004
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In the summer of 1932, at the height of the Depression, some forty-five thousand veterans of World War I descended on Washington, D.C., from all over the country to demand the bonus promised them eight years earlier for their wartime service. They lived in shantytowns, white and black together, and for two months they protested and rallied for their cause—an action that would have a profound effect on American history.
President Herbert Hoover, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, and others feared the protesters would turn violent after the Senate defeated the "bonus bill" that the House had passed. On July 28, 1932, tanks rolled through the streets as MacArthur's troops evicted the bonus marchers: Newspapers and newsreels showed graphic images of American soldiers driving out their former comrades in arms. Democratic candidate, Franklin Roosevelt, in a critical contest with Hoover, upon reading newspaper accounts of the eviction said to an adviser, "This will elect me," though bonus armies would plague him in each of his first three years.
Through seminal research, including interviews with the last surviving witnesses, Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen tell the full and dramatic story of the Bonus Army and of the many celebrated figures involved in it: Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner of the hope diamond, sided with the marchers; Roy Wilkins saw the model for racial integration here; J. Edgar Hoover built his reputation against the Bonus Army radicals; a young Gore Vidal witnessed the crisis while John dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis wrote about it. Dickson and Allen also recover the voices of ordinary men who dared tilt at powerful injustice, and who ultimately transformed the nation: The march inspired Congress to pass the G. I. Bill of Rights in 1944, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history, which in large part created America’s middle class. The Bonus Army is an epic story in the saga of our country.
Paul Dickson is the author of more than 45 nonfiction books and hundreds of magazine articles. Although he has written on a variety of subjects from ice cream to kite flying to electronic warfare, he now concentrates on writing about the American language, baseball and 20th century history.
Dickson, born in Yonkers, NY, graduated from Wesleyan University in 1961 and was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of that institution in 2001. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy and later worked as a reporter for McGraw-Hill Publications.
Since 1968, he has been a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to various magazines and newspapers, including Smithsonian, Esquire, The Nation, Town & Country, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post and written numerous books on a wide range of subjects.
He received a University Fellowship for reporters from the American Political Science Association to do his first book, Think Tanks (1971) and for his book The Electronic Battlefield (1976), about the impact automatic weapons systems have had on modern warfare, he received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to support his efforts to get certain Pentagon files declassified.
His most recent book The Hidden Language of Baseball: How Signs and Sign Stealing Have Influenced the Course of our National Pastime was published in May, 2003 by Walker & Co. and follows other works of baseball reference including The Joy of Keeping Score, Baseball’s Greatest Quotations, Baseball the President’s Game and The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary. The original Dickson Baseball Dictionary was awarded the 1989 Macmillan-SABR Award for Baseball Research.
Sputnik: the Shock of the Century, also published by Walker & Co, came out in October, 2001 and was subsequently issued in paperback by Berkeley Books. Both his first book, Think Tanks (1971), and Sputnik were born of his first love—investigative journalism—and examine the forces that have shaped the way we live in the information age.
He is currently working with Thomas B. Allen on a book about the Bonus Army of World War I veterans who first marched on, occupied and were subseqently driven from Washington in 1932. They were protesting the fact that the bonus promised them for their war time service was not scheduled to be paid until 1945. The book, to be called The Bonus Army: An American Epic, will be published by Walker & Co in February 2005.
Dickson is a founding member and former president of Washington Independent Writers and a member of the National Press Club. He is a contributing editor at Washingtonian magazine and a consulting editor at Merriam-Webster, Inc. He is represented by Premier Speakers Bureau, Inc. and the Jonathan Dolger Literary agency.
He currently lives in Garrett Park, Maryland with his wife Nancy who works with him as his first line editor, and financial manager.
Thomas B. Allen is an author whose writings range from articles for National Geographic Magazine to books on a variety of subjects. Allen’s most recent books are George Washington, Spymaster, which tells how espionage helped to win the Revolutionary War, and Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage.
Allen is the co-author, with Paul Dickson, of The Bonus Army: An American Epic, the story of the ill-fated World War I veterans who marched on Washington in 1932 and were driven out by Army troops under command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The book will be published by Walker and Company in February 2005. It is a selection of the History Book Club.
The New York Public Library has selected George Washington, Spymaster, as one of the 100 best children's books of 2004. An earlier Allen book, Remember Pearl Harbor, also published by National Geographic, was selected as one of the Notable Books of 2001 by the American Library Association.
Spy Book, co-authored with Norman Polmar, is the principal source book for the International Spy Museum. The revised 2003 edition has more than 100 new entries.
As a frequent contributor to National Geographic Magazine, he has written on such subjects as Xinjiang China, Mongolia, and Turkey. His World War II articles covered D-Day, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Eighth Air Force, and the Battle of Midway. Other articles: the search for the giant squid, the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, and the search for Cuba's sunken treasure ships. The Geographic articles have been published in the Japanese, Israeli, Greek, and Latin American editions of the Magazine. He also lectures on National Geographic Expeditions to the sites of historic events, such as Pearl Harbor and D-Day.
Allen was Associate Chief of the National Geographic Society’s Book Service from 1974 until 1981, when he left the Society to freelance as a writer and editor. After leaving the Society he wrote for several Society books, including Field Guide to North American Birds, Inventors and Discoverers, Journey Into China, Into the Unknown, Exploring England and Ireland, Liberty: the Statue and the American Dream, America’s Outdoor Wonders, Photography Then and Now, and We Americans. During his career at the National Geographic Society, Allen worked as an editor and writer on twenty-eight Society books.
Allen was a consultant and on-screen speaker for the Documedia series “Secrets of War” for the History Channel. He has frequently appeared on television as an authority on military and intelligence subjects. He has also produced editorial contributions to web pages of the National Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Geographic Society, and Kodak.
His book Possessed reveals in detail the real exorcism that was the basis for the movie “The Exorcist.” Possessed was adapted for a Showtime movie of the same name. His Shark Attacks is an authoritative analysis of attacks throughout the world.
Prior to his work at the National Geographic Society, Allen was, from 1964 to 1965, Managing Editor, Trade Book Division, Chilton Books. From 1956 to 1963, he was a feature writer on The New York Daily News. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter and columnist for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Herald and served two years in the U.S. Navy.
He and his wife Scottie, a potter and member of Creative Partners Gallery, live in Bethesda, Maryland.