So many on the right keep claiming that the military would never fire on American citizens if they were ordered to do so. WRSA comes up with a few examples of the military firing on American citizens. They left out an important one.
Congress had long paid a bonus to troops who fought in times of war, to make up the difference between a soldier’s full time civilian job and his soldier’s pay. Coolidge tried to veto the bonus for the troops of World War 1, but his veto was overridden.
Under the law that was passed, each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500 (equivalent to $7,900 in 2021), and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (equivalent to $9,900 in 2021). Deducted from this was $60, for the $60 they received upon discharge. Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years’ time, or 1945.
By 1932, many veterans had been out of work because of the depression, so about 17,000 of them camped out in two Hoovervilles that were located in Washington, DC. They went there with their families, hoping to be paid the bonus that they were owed in 1932 instead of 1945. The two groups numbered as many as 50,000 men, women, and children.
The camps were tightly controlled and well cared for by the veterans, who laid out streets, built sanitation facilities, set up an internal police force and held daily parades. A vibrant community arose, including churches in tents, kitchens, a library, and even their own post office.
They were told that the only way that they would be paid what they were already owed was to accept work in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Hunt, Virginia.
Some accepted that and went to work, others did not. The veterans thought that by sitting there and refusing to leave, the government would eventually have to relent and pay them what they were owed. Instead, they were given an ultimatum: leave by May 22, or else.
Hoover ordered police to go in and clear them out on July 28, 1932. When some of the veterans refused to leave, one policeman drew his service revolver and shot two of them, both of whom were killed. General Douglas MacArthur then rolled in that afternoon with 1,000 armed troops of the 12th Infantry and 3rd Cavalry regiments, 800 policemen, and six tanks, all supported by machine guns.
Patton, who was in charge of the 3rd Cavalry, had this to say:
“If you must fire do a good job — a few casualties become martyrs, a large number an object lesson. . . . When a mob starts to move keep it on the run. . . . Use a bayonet to encourage its retreat. If they are running, a few good wounds in the buttocks will encourage them. If they resist, they must be killed.”
The infantry charge was made with fixed bayonets and suppported by the use of Adamsite (an arsenic based vomiting agent). Hoover ordered the assault stopped once the veterans had retreated across the river, but MacArthur chose to ignore the president and ordered a new attack, claiming that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the US government. A veteran’s wife miscarried. When one 12-week-old infant died of respiratory complications caused by the chemical warfare attack, a government investigation reported he died of enteritis. In the end, a total of three civilians were killed, more than 1,000 were injured (some by gas, including an 8 year old boy left blind for life) and 2 police officers received injuries.
The negative publicity of the attack on its own veterans was believed to be one of the major factors in Hoover losing the 1932 election to FDR.
Not only were MacArthur and his troops willing to fire on and use chemical warfare agents against veterans and their families, in many cases the veterans who were being fired upon had served in the same units as the soldiers who were attacking them with bayonets. In the end, none of the veterans received a single cent of what they were owed, not in 1932, not in 1945, not ever.
Don’t make the mistake of believing for one single second that the military today would hesitate to kill you, if so ordered.