In 1924 Congress had agreed to give each veteran of World War I a cash award, to be handed out in 1945. When the Depression hit, suffering and joblessness made Americans desperate. Jobless veterans asked for their bonuses right away. In the summer of 1932, they formed what they called the “Bonus Army.” They marched, along with their wives and children, to Washington, D.C., to pressure Congress to release the money. The group set up shacks and tents and waited while Congress debated the bonus bill. When Congress voted against meeting the Bonus Army’s demands, many veterans left the city. About 2,000, however, vowed to remain. When the police tried to break up the veterans’ camp, conflict broke out. Two people died in the fighting.
Hoover responded by calling in U.S. Army troops. Veterans and their families fled as the troops burned their camp. Americans were horrified that the government had attacked war veterans, and they blamed the president for being out of touch with ordinary Americans.