Hooverville ~ a historical example

December 17, 2017

HOOVERVILLE “Bonus Army” Veterans’ Encampment 1932, historical precursor to “Occupy Wallstreet” in 2011

The Premise ~ No matter how many Americans protest or how valid or urgent the issues, it has little effect on the federal government:

This is what happened to WWI Veterans in 1932. It was the pit of the Great Depression and many of veterans and their families were literally starving in spite of a 1924 act of Congress made them eligible for a war ‘bonus’. Unfortunately, the law also allowed the government to delay payment until 1945.

The veterans were justifiably afraid they wouldn’t live to collect their payments and even if they did, it wouldn’t help their desperate families when it counted most. To this issue, a member of the House of Representatives (Wright Patman) introduced a bill in 1928 that mandated immediate payment of these bonuses, but it didn’t come up for a vote until 1932.

Thousands of unemployed Veterans and their impoverished families came to Washington to help get the bill passed. They camped across from the White House in a tent city that was called ‘Hooverville’, after then-President Hoover.

The Wright Patman Bonus Bill was finally passed in the House of Representatives on June 15th, 1932. Two days later, the U.S. Senate defeated the Bonus Bill (and hopes of the veterans) by a vote of 62-18. Since the demonstrators were mostly destitute and had no homes to return to, they held their ground until July 28th, when they were ordered to be removed from government property.

The police encountered resistance, and opened fire on the veterans and their supporters, leaving two WWI vets with lethal wounds. When President Herbert Hoover heard of the shooting, he sent in the U.S. Army with both infantry and cavalry units and half dozen tanks under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.


The cavalry on horseback charged, while the infantry, with fixed bayonets and andesite gas (an arsenical vomiting agent), entered the camps and drove out the veterans and their supporters, along with all the wives and children.

Personal belongings of the vets and their families were burned or destroyed. A total of 55 veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A 12-week-old baby (Bernard Myers) died in the hospital after being caught in a tear gas attack.