Skip Dillon, Son of the B.E.F.
Edited by Matt Dembicki and published By Fulcrum Publishing, District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, D.C., features 22 lesser known or forgotten stories of Washington, D.C..
In "Skip Dillon, Son of the B.E.F," artist Rand Arrington and I tell the story of the Bonus Expiditionary Force.
In 1924, the U.S. Government gave a bonus to veterans of World War I to make up for pay differences between soldiers, many of whom were drafted, and men who stayed home. However, this bonus was issued in the form of a treasury bond that wouldn't come to maturity until 1945.
After the Great Depression started, many of these veterans lost their jobs and began to seek immediate payment of the bonus in order to get their lives back together. In May of 1932, about 300 veterans left Oregon and headed across country by hopping freight trains. They planned to lobby the government for compensation just as corporations had. By the time they reached Washington, word had spread across the country, and thousands of veterans and often their families had decided to join them.
Though their efforts didn't meet their expectations, they would eventually have a lasting effect on the status of veterans in the United States, most notably the GI Bill, and inspire generations of mass protests in the nation's capital.
As part of my research, I conducted an interview with Thomas B. Allen, co-author with Paul Dickson of The Bonus Army.
Inspired in part by Dickson and Allen's book, The PBS short documentary March of the Bonus Army, narrated by Gary Sinise, provided us with valuable insight and visuals. You can read about and see photographs of tanks and cavlary in the streets of D.C. and the teeming masses of veterans and get a sense of events, but when you see those tanks rolling and see those masses teeming, it becomes more visceral. This thing happened. To the right, you'll find March of the Bonus Army in three parts, totalling twenty-seven minutes, posted to YouTube by Disabled American Veterans.
Finally, check out the montage of photographs from the time.