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Oral History - Allen Franklin Gardner - Bonus March 1912 - G.I. Bill

Allen Franklin Gardner

Allen Franklin Gardner attired in U.S. Army uniform, 1940s.

Allen Franklin Gardner served in the United States Army with the 252nd Combat Engineers of the 82nd Airborne Division at the end of World War II from 1945 through 1947. The War ended as the division crossed the Atlantic Ocean en route to Germany. While in Germany, Mr. Gardner reported seeing factories designed underground to build airplanes and by the time a plane reached ground level it could be airborne. As part of the occupation forces, Mr. Gardner's unit witnessed the Russian occupation of Berlin, Germany.

Upon returning after the war, Mr. Gardner purchased his first home under the G.I. Bill, where he and his wife, Frances, raised a family of three sons. Mr. Gardner was member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Update: Mr. Gardner provided an oral history of his military experience prior to his death in 2006. Mr. Gardner's account began our oral history collection.

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Bonus March of 1912

Reprinted in part from wikipedia.com

The Bonus Army or Bonus March or Bonus Expeditionary Force was an assemblage of about 20,000 World War I veterans, their families, and other affiliated groups who demonstrated in Washington, D.C. during the spring and summer of 1932 seeking an immediate payment of a "bonus" granted by the Adjusted Service Certificate Law of 1924 for apyment in 1945. They were led by Walter W. Waters, a former Army sergeant, and encouraged by an appearance from retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most popular military figures of the time.

The Bonus Army massed at the United States Capitol on June 17 as the U.S. Senate voted on the Patman Bonus Bill, which would have moved forward the date when World War I veterans received a cash bonus. Most of the Bonus Army camped in a Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats, then a swampy, muddy area across the Anacostia River from the federal core of Washington. The protesters had hoped that they could convince Congress to make payments that had been granted to veterans immediately, which would have provided relief for the marchers who were unemployed due to the Depression. The bill had passed the House of Representatives on June 15 but was blocked in the Senate.

After the defeat of the bill, Congress appropriated funds to pay for the marchers' return home, which some marchers accepted. On July 28, Washington police attempted to remove some remaining Bonus Army protesters from a federal construction site. After police fatally shot two veterans, the protesters assaulted the police with blunt weapons, wounding several of them. After the police retreated, the District of Columbia commissioners informed President Herbert Hoover that they could no longer maintain the peace, whereupon Hoover ordered federal troops to remove the marchers from the general area.

The marchers were cleared and their camps were destroyed by the 12th Infantry Regiment from Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment under the command of Maj. George S. Patton from Fort Myer, Virginia, under the overall command for General Douglas MacArthur. The Posse Comitatus Act, prohibiting the U.S. military from being used for general law enforcement purposes in most instances, did not apply to Washington, D.C. because it is one of several pieces of federal property under the direct governance of the U.S. Congress (United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8). Dwight D. Eisenhower, as a member of MacArthur's staff, had strong reservations about the operation. Troops carried rifles with unsheathed bayonets and tear gas were sent into the Bonus Army's camps. President Hoover did not want the army to march across the Anacostia River into the protesters' largest encampment, but Douglas MacArthur felt this was a communist attempt to overthrow the government. Hundreds of veterans were injured; several were killed, including William Hushka and Eric Carlson. A wife of a veteran miscarried and other casualties were inflicted. The visual image of U.S. armed soldiers confronting poor veterans of the recent Great War set the stage for Veteran relief and eventually the Veterans Administration.

By the end of the route:

  • Two veterans were shot and killed
  • An 11 week old baby was in critical condition resulting from shock from gas exposure.
  • Two infants died from gas asphyxiation
  • An 11 year old boy was partially blinded by tear gas
  • One bystander was shot in the shoulder
  • One veteran's ear was severed by a Cavalry saber
  • One veteran was stabbed in the hip with a bayonet
  • At least twelve police were injured by the veterans
  • Over 1000 men, women, and children were exposed to the tear gas, including police, reporters, residents of Washington, D.C., and ambulance drivers.

The army burned down the Bonus Army's tents and shacks, although some reports claim that to spite the government, which had provided much of the shelter in the camp, some veterans torched their own camp dwellings before the troops could set upon the camp. Reports of U.S. soldiers marching against their peers did not help Hoover's re-election efforts; neither did his open opposition to the Bonus Bill due to financial concerns. After the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, some of the Bonus Army regrouped in Washington to restate its claims to the new President. Roosevelt did not want to pay the bonus early, either, but handled the veterans with more skill when they marched on Washington again the next year. He sent his wife Eleanor to chat with the vets and pour coffee for them, and she persuaded many of them to sign up for jobs making a roadway to the Florida Keys, which was to become the Overseas Highway, the southermost portion of U.S. Route 1. On September 2, the disastrous Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 swept many of them and their flimsy barracks away. After seeing more newsreels of veterans giving their lives for a government that had taken them for granted, public sentiment built up so much that Congress could no longer afford to ignore it in an election year (1936). Roosevelt's veto was overridden, making the bonus a reality.

It can be argued, however, that the Bonus Army's greatest accomplishment was actually the piece of legislation known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Passed in 1944, it immensely helped veterans from the Second World War to secure needed assistance from the federal government to help them fit back into civilian life, something of which the World War I veterans of the Bonus Army had received very little.

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G.I. Bill

Reprinted in part from wikipedia.com.

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the G.I. Bill) provided for college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs or G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.

The G.I. Bill is considered to be the last piece of New Deal legislation. However, the bill which President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching.

The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended. The American Legion (a veterans group) is essentially responsible for many of the bill's provisions. The Legion managed to have the bill apply to all who served in the armed services, including African-Americans and women. The fact that the G.I. Bill paid for a G.I.'s entire education had encouraged many universities across the country to expand enrollment. For example, the University of Michigan had fewer than 10,000 students prior to the war. In 1948, their enrollment was well over 30,000. Syracuse University also embraced the spirit of the Bill and saw their enrollment skyrocket from approximately 6,000 before the war to 19,000 students in 1947.

Another provision was known as the 52-20 clause. This enabled all former servicement to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52-20 Club (as it was known) was distributed. Most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.

An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. The G.I. Bill of Rights has since been modified but still remains on the books.

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Oral History Sites: Allen Franklin Gardner - GI Bill
Arnim Harris-USS Tangier | Robert Hawkes, Sr. & Jr. | Alonzo Hyatt Kelly |
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