Humanitarian, Herbert Hoover (R.), was renowned for feeding the starving European victims following the Great War, and coordinating private relief efforts after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. During his tenure as President (1929-1933), 17,000 WWI veterans and their families, along with 26,000 civilians, marched on Washington DC in order to get the promised post-war bonus that had been postponed due to the Depression-related government’s lack of funds. The 17,000 homeless, unemployed veterans were camped out across the Anacostia River close to the Capitol.
Hoover’s Attorney General, William Mitchell, ordered the hobo camp removed. General Douglas MacArthur and Major George Patton commanded military tanks and the cavalry to forcibly remove the Bonus Army, and burned the shanty town to the ground. Military veterans, proud of their patriotic service, destitute and without medical insurance, 20% listed as disabled, saluted at attention as Patton and MacArthur approached. Unexpectedly, they were slashed by sabers, shot, had their meager huts and crops trampled by tanks and burned to ashes. This was a repeat of a less violent but similar incident in 1783 when veterans of the Continental Army marched on Philadelphia to receive the unfulfilled promise of their bonus pay. Needless to say, Hoover lost his re-election bid later that year to a landslide victory for FDR.
A similar march occurred a year later during the tenure of FDR. Roosevelt ordered the homeless veterans fed 3 meals a day, sent his wife, Eleanor, to lunch in the shanty town, and had 25,000 of these veterans hired into the Civil Conservation Corps. Yet, Roosevelt vetoed a bill to pay the bonuses early, but Congress overrode his veto, and the bonuses were paid.
As demonstrated by Herbert Hoover, left to Republicans, the poor, homeless, disabled, and military veterans would be bulldozed into a mass grave because social services would be deemed “wasteful spending” and not profitable. At least a Roosevelt Democrat would provide 3 square meals a day and give them jobs.