Bonus March


“You’ll be made the goat,” an acquaintance had warned Glassford when he stepped into the local leadership vacuum and assumed responsibility for feeding and housing the bonus marchers. “I suppose I will,” he replied. “But if I’m to be the goat, I prefer it to be with my conscience clear.”

A few months after the eviction of the B.E.F., he was hounded out of his job over an administrative dispute, but there could be little doubt of the real cause. Glassford conducted a survey of conditions among young transients of the Depression, turning in a report which contributed to the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps. He retired to a ranch in Arizona, ran unsuccessfully for Congress, returned to Washington in World War II to serve as internal security director for the Army Provost Marshal General, and, after the war, settled down in Laguna Beach, California, where he devoted his last years to his lifelong hobby, painting. He died in August, 1959, at the age of seventy-six.

Glassford went to his grave denying that he had asked for military assistance or had needed it after having put down the first two disturbances in less than ten minutes, but once the District commissioners had submitted their written request to the White House, President Hoover had no choice but to comply. It was a tragic circumstance that the name of a President who had first captured the imagination of the American electorate as a humanitarian should be forever linked with the specter of federal troops driving unarmed men, women, and children from the nation’s capital.

It was no less unfortunate for General MacArthur, who was called upon to carry out what he has always regarded as the most distasteful order ever given him. Admonished to “use all humanity consistent with the execution of the order,” he brought it off without gunfire and with remarkably few casualties. When it was all over, the Secretary of War was quoted as saying, “It was a great victory. MacArthur is the Man of the Hour.” Later Mr. Hurley denied the statement and ruefully delivered what well may be the historian’s final judgment on the Bonus March: “There is no glory in this terrible episode—no hero.”