General Butler Speaks to the Bonus Army

Gen. Butler at the Bonus Army rally[General] Smedley [Butler], according to the New York Times, "evoked tremendous applause when he mounted an improvised stand," and with a "damn" and "hell" every few words, urged the vets to stick it out:

"You hear folks call you fellows tramps, but they didn't call you that in '17 and '18. I never saw such fine soldiers. I never saw such discipline.... You have as much right to lobby here as the United States Steel Corporation.... this is the greatest demonstration of Americanism ever seen."

.…The general gave another pep talk the next day, cautioning the veterans to "keep your sense of humor" lest belligerence cost them the considerable public sympathy they had already won.


Gen. Butler at the Bonus Army rallyCongress had just voted down the Patman Bonus Bill to pay veterans the two-billion-dollar bonus promised them in bonus certificates payable in 1945. Bonus Army Commander Walter W. Waters, a former army sergeant, and other leaders feared that their discouraged followers would now give up and return home.

When Waters introduced Smedley Butler to the huge crowd of veterans gathered along the Anacostia River to hear him, he was greeted with an enthusiastic roar of acclaim that echoed through Washington like thunder. They all knew Old Gimlet Eye, one of the most colorful generals who had ever led troops
into battle.

Source: Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House, 1973, pp. 3, 218-19.

The photos shown here are from In Search of History: The Plot to Overthrow FDR, History Channel
(This is the only video documentary on the coup plot.)